Universal basic income is a concept that pertains to giving an amount of money to citizens without any requirements or conditions other than being legal citizens and probably a certain minimum age (most likely what’s considered as the working age). Although the idea of handing out money for free is generally viewed in a negative rather than a positive light, maybe it’s time to rethink and reconsider our perceptions.
Ideally, the amount of guaranteed basic income should be enough to cover basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, but insufficient for everything else. That way, recipients will still be motivated to work — either as a part-time or full-time employees, or an entrepreneur with a small business — to earn more so they can afford not just their needs, but maybe some small luxuries too.
Although the possibility that some might become satisfied with simply receiving income without having to do anything else, the hope is that not many will go down this road. Instead, with basic income as their safety net, more individuals will start taking more risks — doing what they love, what they want to do, or what they’re passionate about, rather than working in some industry because they don’t have a choice.
Of course, giving free income to each citizen is no small undertaking. If it’s done, let’s say, in the U.S., a $1,000 monthly income for each of its 319 million residents will amount to around $4 trillion every year. And where will the funds come from? Most likely from taxes that will have to be increased, especially for individuals who can afford to pay higher tax rates.
But will the cost be worth the benefits that free income is suppose to give? Just think — with guaranteed income, one will no longer be forced into doing something he/she does not want to because he/she knows that even without having to work, at the very least, there’ll be food on the table. Which means basic unconditional income might become instrumental in ending one of the world’s oldest problems – human trafficking. No one really believes that anyone who has a choice and is in their right frame of mind will voluntarily sell their body for money, right?
And what about the many who are forced to stay in jobs they don’t want because they have no other choice? As more people have the luxury of actually choosing what job they want to do, the threat of robots replacing the human work force may then be solved too. The jobs people don’t really want to do, will be the jobs that robots will take on. It’s a win-win situation. Robots will not displace workers, instead, they will replace workers who want to be replaced.
When people aren’t forced into anything, they’ll be able to do the things that they really want to do. And of course that will mean happier people and a happier world.
Although it might be too presumptuous to assume that having guaranteed basic income may lead to a happier world, you have to admit that it’s not impossible. And with all the threats we’re facing — from global warming ending our planet, to AI taking over, and gene manipulation giving birth to superhumans – having something to look forward to is quite a welcome change. That’s why it’s encouraging to note that the move to push universal basic income is gaining momentum. There’s still hope for us after all.