My Weekly BIT, week of Sept 22 2017
Happy Friday everyone!
After last week’s announcement that Hillary Clinton nearly included Universal Basic Income in her Presidential campaign, it’s been interesting to read about the pushback from some other known politicians (Joe Biden!) and writers.
Here’s the big stories from UBI this week:
Joe Biden, Basic Income, and Societal Capital (Peoplespunditdaily.com)
This article rounds up article quotes from multiple publications, all sharing agreement with Joe Biden’s blog post rejecting the idea of UBI. Some common threads include the fear of losing the American work ethic, and the belief that paid labor is the central path to dignity and meaning in one’s life.
More of my thoughts on this are below.
Another common question about UBI is “if everyone receives it, won’t that lead to inflation or everyone just raising their prices?”
According to new research on a food assistance program in Mexico, where all villagers in an area received either cash or its equivalent value in food, it would seem the answer is “no”.
“[The researchers] find no statistically significant change in prices in villages getting the cash transfer. Their estimate is that prices rose .2 percent (a tiny change)”
While it’s not a perfect comparison to the US, this research does help address one of the common concerns of UBI.
UPCOMING EVENTS IN SAN FRANCISCO
At the end of 2016, in an effort to support work in the basic income movement, the Economic Security Project was founded. The Project is a two-year, $10 million fund that provides grants to projects focused on basic income like academic research, state and local campaigns, and cultural projects around economic security.
Learn more at Covo on Monday, September 25 for a conversation with Economic Security Project Co-Chair Natalie Foster and Creative Consultant Cara Rose DeFabio. They’ll share their work supporting basic income projects, the recently launched speculative fiction contest, and about the upcoming CASH Conference in San Francisco (www.universalincome.org/CashCon).
MY QUICK THOUGHTS
When I talk to others about UBI, many people seem to almost reflexively ask “but won’t people be lazy and do nothing?”
I usually respond “would you completely stop doing paid work if you received $1000 a month?”
Not ONCE has anyone ever told me “Yes”.
Universal Basic Income doesn’t prevent you from doing paid work. It’s ensuring your right to freely choose the kind of work you do, and to decide how much time you want to spend doing it.
While these commentators worry about UBI de-valuing the dignity and meaning of paid work, I never read about the same worries for those who already receive a form of basic income, like the children of middle and upper class families who aren’t forced to take any available job to survive.
There’s nary a peep about how inherited wealth might remove “dignity” and “meaning” from people’s lives, or how drawing passive income from investments is somehow inferior as “earning a living for one’s family”, even though these kinds of incomes often vastly exceed any UBI proposal.
And let’s not even mention the millions of the working poor, who are apparently paid in “dignity” and “meaning” in lieu of high enough wages to cover their basic needs.
Finally, there’s zero discussion about the dignity and meaning of unpaid work. It’s hard to think of something more valuable than caring for one’s children or family members. What about other unpaid work like volunteering, community building, open-source projects, artistic endeavours, and so much more? Do these options not provide dignity and meaning, and incredible value to society and our communities, simply because we aren’t paid to do them?
I believe UBI provides everyone the right to say “no” to labor they don’t believe is worth their time and effort, just as specific privileged groups of people can do today.
Employers will need to pay a fair wage for labor that needs to get done, and workers will have the basic resources to retrain for the paid work of tomorrow.
Entrepreneurs are incentivized to automate the labor that no one freely wants to do, no matter the pay. That’s how we can thrive as a society while we have an increasing amount of machines do this unwanted labor.
We can better value all types of work and free ourselves to say “yes” to more work we find meaningful and worthy of our time and effort, paid or unpaid.
That’s the kind of world I want to build, and I believe UBI helps build the foundation to get there.