UBI Would Provide Each Citizen a Guaranteed Income Regardless of Skills, Wealth or Economic Contribution
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
THE MERITS OF BASIC INCOME
Let’s start with a possibility: that artificial intelligence and automation will displace millions of workers in the coming years.
What then will be the social consequences of discarding significant sections of society for being less efficient than machines? How will those who cannot adapt react to the realization that the jobs that provided them with purpose and identity no longer exist? Will they accept their role? Or will they form into potentially disruptive constituencies that tear at the fabric of society?
As economists and policy makers grapple with these questions, one solution has moved to the forefront of their discussions: Universal Basic Income (UBI). The UBI model consists of providing a guaranteed paycheck to each member of society to cover their basic needs. Evangelists argue that such a payout liberates people, enabling them to focus on more valuable activities such as developing social relationships and civic engagement. Others hope that by countering scarcity, UBI will quell the murmurs of discontent by fostering a more harmonious post-work society.
But will this really occur? Freed from the daily routine of work, will people suddenly pursue their true calling as entrepreneurs; become more creative, socially active, politically involved?
The evidence suggests otherwise. Human beings are not easily adaptable to change. The effects of long-term unemployment are therefore deep and psychologically damaging.
Research shows that increased levels of suicide, crime, domestic violence and opioid use are all outcomes of unemployment. The US Centers for Disease Control notes that the country is already gripped by an ‘opioid overdose epidemic. How bad might it get when millions can no longer find work?
Rather than help, consumer technologies may actually add to the problem. Millions already suffer from addiction to smartphones and video games. Add to this the attraction of virtual realities, and the lure of disengaging into online fantasy worlds becomes increasingly pronounced.
What will be the psychological damage suffered by human beings that have lost their place in the hierarchical structure of society? We can project but we don’t really know.
All we know is that building an viable model to address the coming situation will be one of the greatest economic and political challenges of the twenty-first century.