Some believe Universal Basic Income is a Costly Deal. Yet others feel it would not Cost Governments Much.
Initially Published by Illumination on Medium.
Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
As modern societies grow more robust, spacious, and automated, the primary question arises; what happens to the job market? — Today, our societies are more interdependent, and collective norms are becoming more and more polarized and taking over individual autonomy. Hence, we as a society of followers are inclined to accept what is given to us to make a living. The latter trend has created many narratives at the political stage to bring a common consensus to support a system that would guarantee an unconditional basic income for everyone even if someone or an entity does not directly employ them.
Universal basic income (UBI) is also referred to as “total basic income, citizen’s basic income, basic income guarantee, basic living stipend, guaranteed annual income, and universal income security program.
The Universal Basic Income is nothing short of sociopolitical financial subsidization. Every constituent of society regularly receives a legally arranged and equal financial grant the government pays without checks and balances.
In a way, UBI is a form of the welfare program and minimum wage with the only difference that the former is paid to everyone in a defined community unreservedly.
Some see UBI as utopian based on its historical origin and in which the level is meant to be sufficient to meet a person’s basic needs at or above the poverty line.
Universal basic income has had many proponents during the past century but has faced significant backlash. For instance, in 2013, eight million 5-cent coins (one per inhabitant) were dumped on the Bundesplatz, Bern, to support the 2016 Swiss referendum for a basic income which was rejected by 77% to 23%.
Photo by Katie Harp on Unsplash
The most recent political debates around the fundamental income debate are regarding automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and the future of the necessity of work. As if the overzealous implementation of AI and Deep Learning (DL) will, indeed, significantly reduce the number of available jobs. Although the latter is a matter of significant controversy, the primary income proponents believe implementing UBI can help prevent or mitigate such problems. They do so by allowing everyone to benefit from a society’s wealth, which can facilitate a resource-based or post-scarcity economy. The economic bearing of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted some countries to send stimulus checks to citizens, epitomizing the universal basic income.
The general notion of government providing every citizen a regular input of unrestricted cash has been around since the 16th century. But it recently experienced a remarkable comeback. Even prominent icons have endorsed the idea of UBI, including billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, libertarian economist Milton Friedman, and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
The proponents of UBI argue that the latter is the only way to get societies out of poverty. However, those who oppose the universal basic income believe it will disincentivize employment by driving economies out of productivity and misleading individuals away from the sense of responsible earning. More so, they believe UBI, in the long run, would be too expensive for the government to reimburse every citizen sufficiently to live on regardless of being employed.
While the perception of universal basic income has been strained in various countries around the globe, its recent popularity in South Korea is surprising. Because South Korea is traditionally an East Asian country deeply influenced by “Confucianism,” they believe every individual must work and earn their own money. For the traditional south Korean, the idea of relying on the efforts of others is shameful. However, much of the reputation for UBI’s popularity in South Korea goes to Lee Wonjae, a journalist, economist, and founder of Lab2050. Latter is a tank based in Seoul that strives to create a new social arrangement for Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) age.
Despite the argument that the UBI is a costly deal, many believe it would not cost a government much. It would cost less than most people think.
Some advocates of UBI believe that the US government spends over $1 trillion per year operating more than 100 different wasteful anti-poverty plans that are complex to manage and proven to be counterproductive. A UBI for them promises to replace the existing system with a single, simplified, cash-based allocation. However good as it may sound, there seem to be merely too many unanswered questions.
No doubt, poverty predisposes people to be vulnerable to intimidation by the rest of the privileged community. For instance, if one of the spouses depends on the other person’s paycheck in a household, they may have to put up with the foul deeds of the one bringing in the cash to the family. Thus, providing both spouses with UBI gives them options. Therefore it will enable them to live by their will and not subjugation to the will.
Still, the idea of unconditionality around the Universal Basic Income places those working in the same category as those willing to work or even pretending to be eager to work controversial. In other words, UBI rejects the limits of eligibility criteria, which seems to contrast with what a healthy free market economy entails.
Today, governments pull public strings using societal engineering and fiat money in the closed market economy epoch. So, where do we draw the line between the economic liberty and the collective tyranny played through an “Unconditional Welfare Program?”