Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income or UBI for short, has a growing number of advocates.

Much has been written about this subject over the past few years and trials either have been ran, or are being ran, in Netherlands, Finland, Canada, Uganda and Kenya.

The concept is simple, every person receives a regular sum of money from the government, with no strings, no conditions.

Detractors against this concept often state the following reasons against it:

  • We cannot afford it
  • It encourages the jobless
  • It will mean higher taxes
  • It will impact on productivity
  • It takes money from the poor and gives it to everyone, increasing poverty and depriving the poor of needed targeted support
  • It removes the incentive to work

The advocates believe:

  • It would remove vast amounts of bureaucracy from the various different unemployment benefit systems around the world
  • It reduces poverty and income inequality, and improves health
  • It would remove restrictions on people taking low paid jobs to top up their income
  • It would allow people to take temporary jobs without “messing up benefits”
  • Having enough money to feed, clothe and house yourself ought to be a basic right

It is early days for the trials, but for me, when you consider the coming growth of AI and robotics, this is a ticking time bomb. People will say that each new technology creates other industries and jobs, often citing the job market for looking after horses and horse drawn carriages and all the sundry items such as buggy whips being replaced by cars, mechanics, garages, fuel stations, etc. This is wishful thinking. The reality is that while some technology vocations may grow initially, the AI systems themselves will quickly absorb much of that work. And not every one can retrain in tech. There will be mass unemployment as AI and robotics becomes more prevalent. It is not a really question of whether this will happen, only of the timescale, will it be in 10 years? 20? Maybe 30 at the outside.

When you dig a little deeper (try this excellent article here), you realise that since the early 1980’s, the middle and lower classes have actually been either stagnant in pay and hours worked or worse off, while the top percentile is getting wealthier and wealthier.

What do you think?


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