The idea and actual practice of basic income is gaining traction but there are still some big hurdles. People who like the idea of basic income are also probably people that would use it wisely. Alas, we humans are not all alike, which is usually a good thing but means sometimes some of us are less than responsible decision makers.
What is Basic Income?
If you are reading this I will assume this is not your first time hearing about it but just to be on the safe side, a quick summary. Basic Income would give everyone a low, safe income regardless of work. The idea being like social security for everyone. This would make up for the fact that job demand is shrinking due to technology and automation. How it would be paid for and such is part of the current debate, but I want to focus more on the human nature aspect.
Does Basic Income Get Abused?
The challenge I see is the same challenge with food stamps. Food stamps are important aid for low income families. But there are many ways to game the system for our bad habits. Once I was in a grocery store where a nice gentleman offered to pay for my groceries and then I would give him 80% back in cash. Obviously he was trying to his launder his food stamps to buy beer. (Maybe tequila)
Basic income is meant to make certain people are not homeless nor hungry. It frees them from having to do menial work in order to survive and the idea is that all people have more choice to pursue their passion or start a business.
Lovely in concept. But that cash handout and a lack of things to do besides watch Netflix will lead to more substance abuse and bad behavior. I wonder how much current governments don’t already know this and that is why they are always fixated on creating more and more non-value jobs. (Just saying)
Basic Income As a Bridge
Now it might start to sound like I am against basic income and I am not. But at best it is a bridge to a better way of doing things. Cash is handy because it can be used to buy anything but it also leads to not spending it wisely. At best, if we want to accomplish a better society that is cleaner, freer, fairer, safer and less stressful, we need to do more than hand people cash every month.
It is a way to address poverty right now and worth experimenting with, but long term the money will simply keep getting aggregated at the top more and more efficiently.
So What Solves The Problem?
You can also accomplish the same thing by simply updating human rights and making certain things free, which is where we are heading in a hodgepodge way right now anyway.
- Free Efficiency Homes — Based on family size you get a nice but small home with many of the amenities we currently have in the home instead in central community centers.
- Free Healthy Food — When the healthy food is free and unhealthy food has a cost, health care costs go down.
- Utilities — As electricity is generated more cheaply and cleanly, utilities will become free.
- Local Basic Transportation — Instead of owning cars, the ability to get into a driver-less car and move about locally is a basic human right.
- Healthcare — Universal Healthcare.
- Entertainment — Provide free access to entertainment.
But here is the rub. Right now middle class people are reading this thing and thinking “no way. I don’t want my tax dollars going to other people having a cushy life.” This is short sighted and dangerous because most of the middle class jobs will be gone in the not so distant future. You are planning for your need, not someone else’s need. You just get to experiment on the poor people first.
“You are planning for your need, not someone else’s need. You just get to experiment on the poorer people first.”
The advantage of this approach should be apparent right away. You cannot game this system because everyone has access to housing, food, healthcare and services. Does this mean everyone will have the same house, the same food, the same everything? No. With technology like 3D printers printing houses and boats, we can have everything even more custom when we want to. We will all be freed up to chase innovation and create new entertainment while non-value jobs are eliminated or taken over by automation.
I am not writing this to answer every question out there. And in many cases I do not know some of the answers. But I do know that trends will either leave us enslaved by a system we cannot resist or escape from, or living a stable, secure life where innovation and abundance rules the day. Join the discussion by signing up for my email list.