Basic Income (BI) is a generic term for proposals calling for a cash benefit or minimum income to be paid unconditionally to every adult in a population, on an individual basis (rather than a household basis) without a means test or work requirement. For example if Taiwan were to implement the Basic Income Guaranteed proposal (BIG), every resident of Taiwan (from a certain age onward) would be entitled receive a weekly, monthly or yearly subsidy regardless of their current income, wealth or family status. The main premise of basic income proposals (such as Living Income Guaranteed) is to create “an economic and political mechanism to ensure the establishment of Fundamental Human Rights of the public through allocating an allowance on a monthly basis to every eligible individual that is currently in a position of being unable to sustain themselves and/or the people in their custody (What Is Living Income Guaranteed?, 2013).
While advocates of basic income cite such ideas as human rights, democracy, technological unemployment and higher birth rates as reasons for implementing a basic income, opponents claim that, giving money to people for nothing would only encourage laziness. Even if it were a good idea, they say that, there just is not enough money to pay for such a proposal. Let us have a look some of the arguments for basic income and then you can decide how basic income might affect the population where you live. What do you think? If you were guaranteed a basic income each month, just enough money to live a dignified life, would you choose to sit around all day and play video games or would you motivate yourself to contribute to society, perhaps by finding a job, creating a new job, participating in political discussions or just doing whatever you enjoyed doing?
Basic Income and Human Rights
While human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security are legal-entitlements that (should) belong equally to everybody, over half of the world’s population are still not permitted to live according to their human rights, simply because they do not have enough money to pay for the basic goods and services necessary to do so. This condition, called the unequal application of human rights is caused by allowing the world’s wealthiest individuals to own and control most of the world’s resources; thereby, creating false conditions of scarcity throughout humanity. Scarcity or a shortage of resources has forced billions of people to live in slave-like conditions just to survive. In fear for their lives, due to a lack of food, water or shelter, people have few choices but to do whatever it takes just to survive, even if this means working less than $2.00 a day. Scarcity within populations has changed the nature of people’s relationships to one another. Human relationships ought to be based on human rights and the principles of equality; however, when there is scarcity of food and water, these relationships change from that of equality to that of master/slave.
Nobody wants to live and work in slave-like conditions; however, when people do not have enough money to buy the food and water that is necessary to live, they are left with few options but to work as slaves, steal, fight or die. Basic income proposes to correct (to some extent) the unequal application of human rights, by providing everybody with just enough money to ensure that they are able to pay for the goods and services necessary to live according to their fundamental human rights. In other words, ensuring that everyone has at least enough money to survive would increase people’s ability to pay for the most basic goods and services needed to live according to their human rights, thereby removing the conditions that force them into slavery.
Basic Income and Democracy
Recall that, democracy, as a form of collective decision-making is dependent on people being able to participate in the decision-making process. Therefore, when it comes to measuring the quality of our democracies, the question to ask is, how equal is everyone’s opportunity to participate in all of the decision-making processes of society. To answer this question, all we have to do is look at the distribution of wealth within the population. Those with more money have more opportunity to participate, simply because they are able to pay for more participation. Clearly, basic income by itself is not going to elevate a low functioning democracy to a pure democracy. However, it would go a long ways towards giving the most disadvantaged people more of a voice in politics, thereby better incorporating their needs into the decision-making processes of government.
For example, the United States has approximately 580,000 homeless people who are not represented in government simply because they are not provided with an equal opportunity to vote. Why? Because, they do not have the means (equals money) to take time, out of their survival-schedule, get on a bus and go to vote. America’s so-called democratic government claims it does not have the money to solve the homelessness problem. Nevertheless, when it comes to spending 1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) dollars to upgrade nuclear missiles, the US government has no problem finding the money. To put this into better perspective, consider that the USA has allocated 400 billion dollars to create a new fleet of F-35 Fighter jets. That is enough money to purchase a $600,000 home for each homeless person in the USA and still have money left over to feed him or her. Why do wealthy democratic nations still have homeless people sleeping on the streets? Because a corrupt world system of money also corrupts our democracies. Consequently, more money equals more opportunity to participate in the democratic system. How much influence do you think homeless people have in your governments? Why have governments not yet eliminated the problem of homelessness?
Basic Income and Education
It is no secret that, lower-income families often have to accept a lower standard of education or no education at all because of their financial status. Kindergartens, cram schools and daycare centers cost money. More money to spend on education means higher quality options. Even when education is subsidized by governments, many children still do not have the opportunity to go to school because they have to work to help support the family. A basic income of the amount of money necessary for families to live dignified lives would go a long ways towards ensuring every child is able to receive an education. How do you think a basic income would change the lives of university students?
Basic Income and the Birth Rate
Although many believe that, the birth rates are decreasing due to the high amount of pollution in the air and chemicals in the food, another possibility to consider is that of insecurity. Faced with the high costs or penalties associated with having children, more and more young couples are choosing to put off having children until they are more financially secure. Some are even choosing not to have children at all. Though, a basic income by itself is probably not going to reverse declining birthrates, it would at least, provide an additional layer of financial security for parents and potential parents by reducing the financial burden of having children. Some basic income plans even call for parental guardians to receive an additional sum of money for each child they care for. Would a basic income influence your decision to have or not to have children? Do you think parents should receive extra money for each child they care for?
Basic Income and Gender Equality
Basic income is a hot debate among proponents of gender equality. Some say that, basic income has potential to overcome the gender divide simply by satisfying the principles of gender equality, meaning both men and women would be receiving exactly the same treatment. Others, however, argue that a basic income would only increase the incentive for women to reduce their participation in the labor market, especially given women’s weaker attachment to the labor force due to their traditional roles as homemakers. (McLean, 2016) What do you think?
Basic Income and Technological Unemployment
Technological unemployment refers to unemployment that is caused by technological advances. Automated machines, such as robots and computers that can think and learn are taking the place of human labor because they are more efficient. As a result, more people, especially university graduates are finding that, traditional jobs are no longer available. Although, new technologies will also create some new jobs, the main concern is that, there still will not be enough jobs to sustain a growing human population. Basic income advocates argue that, the only way to keep the capitalist market going is to keep money moving within the system by ensuring that everyone has money to spend. What do you think; if robots can do all of the labor, will humans even need to continue working for a living?
Equality, as a measurement of each person’s opportunity to live has largely been ignored by governments focusing on the economy and the GDP rather than on the quality of people’s lives. This is a consequence of human-interactions being tied to money within a malfunctioning money system. Whereas, money should be used only as a tool to price and exchange products, we have instead defined money as the primary value, thereby downgrading the value of life to that of a product. This is why; we humans destroy the life of the sea and the forests of the earth, transforming the life into money within the human competitive race to consume. In order to save this planet and humanity, we must reverse the course of the human race. This means letting go of the idea of money as value, and replacing it with the value of life. From here, we are able to redesign the money system to one that functions equally for the benefit of all life. Basic income is a step in the direction of reversing the course of the human race, ending the disregard for life and establishing the principle of equal life.