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Perhaps the most well-known concept, currently being tested on a small scale in places like Canada and Finland, is universal basic income. It’s a simple idea really: every citizen, regardless of employment or income, receives a periodic check from the government, enough to survive on, but nothing to write home about.

The premise is that by giving the entire society a financial cushion without strings attached, governments could save money by eliminating costly social programs like welfare and unemployment benefits, in addition to creating incentives for individuals to take risks, start businesses, change jobs, return to school or try a new career.

Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian and basic income advocate, gave a talk on the subject at this year’s TED Talks conference and received a standing ovation.

“Poverty is not a lack of character. Poverty is a lack of cash,” he told the crowd. “People in poverty tend to eat less healthfully, save less money and do drugs more often because they don’t have their basic needs met.”

Davis, of Washington’s Everett Community College, is also a big proponent: “Most people would benefit,” he said, arguing it could spur entrepreneurship by giving middle-class households some financial breathing room to take risks they would otherwise spurn.

Still, critics of basic income point out that getting a check from the government may help, but it doesn’t come close to the sort of fulfillment that comes with having a job that allows individuals to fulfil their potential.

“Discussions about a guaranteed minimum wage are interesting and might work in some cases. But they are like giving the hungry food relief,” says Calestous Juma, a professor of international development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “Humans don’t exist to shop. They aspire to have purpose in life, to enhance their competence or mastery and express their individuality through autonomy and creativity. This suggests to me that broader access to emerging technologies would benefit society more than palliative guaranteed minimum wages.”

Here’s another sticking point for universal basic income: Why not give money to everyone, even the wealthy, and not just to those who need it? Advocates argue, not without reason given widespread support for universal programs like Medicare and Social Security, that targeted programs are easy targets for future elimination, exactly because they lack a broad-based backing. The other issue is that means-testing incurs a whole set of costs and social judgments that cloud the simplicity basic income is trying to avoid.

How exactly does this work?

Money is simply a construct that allows exchange. Exchange of what, exchange of produced goods and services. Rather than finding someone who has what you want/need and hoping that they need what you produce, money allows that exchange. Money in of itself has no other value.

Government cannot, unless it produces all goods and services in an economy, simply provide all persons with: housing, clothing, food, utilities, transport and luxuries. Even then, government requires capital to produce these goods and services.

This is essentially the communist model. All production in an economy is controlled/owned by the state. This has failed so often now, surely the lesson is learned.

The article seems to mix ‘universal basic income’ with some form of welfare payment. If that is what it is, then who is actually footing the bill? It will be those that still pay taxes. In which case, all you are arguing for is an expansion of the welfare state.

 

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