Can you call your nation first class if it is not progressing toward a universal basic income? An idea that dates back to the 1500s, the idea of giving everyone a basic income regardless of employment status is the future of our economy. Throughout history a range of noted figures have advocated for a universal basic income such as Thomas Moore, Thomas Paine, Martin Luther King, Jr, John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman. Even recently, Elon Musk told CNBC that "There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation." And, an Oxford University survey reports that in the next 10 to 20 years, 47 percent of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by automated technology. As automation claims more jobs, manufacturing jobs become more scarce and countries look for answers to massive amounts of people in poverty, we must consider the universal basic income as a solution.
There are examples of basic income programs all over the world. Uganda, Italy, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland and Kenya are all experimenting with basic income programs this year. And, here inside of the United States, Oakland and San Francisco are piloting basic income programs. In fact, Alaska has been providing a universal basic income through its dividend program to residents since 1982. And, many Native American tribes provide a basic income to tribe members. When I lived in Miami I read about the Seminoles who provide nearly $10,000 a month to each member. A universal basic income is not a wild idea and it has many benefits that could help every nation solve their coming economic uncertainty.
Some argue that with a guaranteed basic income there would be no motivation to work. Actually, a more likely scenario under that system would be that people would have the option to say no to work they do not want to do and yes to work that really inspires them. Because the basic income would take care of basic needs, citizens would have the freedom to pursue entrepreneurial passions that they avoided under our current system. I can speak from experience that it is much easier to be an entrepreneur if you don’t have to worry about money. When I helped launch United Leaders I took a retail job and borrowed money from my parents so that I could afford to live until my business was sound enough to pay me. Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents that can afford to give their kid money and not everyone can work two jobs or more at the same time. More importantly, they should not have to. We should be encouraging entrepreneurs to pursue their passion without hesitation. If we are worried about innovation, a basic income would jump start innovation.
Another benefit of a basic income is its effect on the most vulnerable members of our society. I firmly believe that a country should be judged by the condition of the poor people who live there. A basic income can lift everyone above the poverty line, improve health, reduce crime, reduce debt and increase savings. People will have more money in their pockets to spend. They will buy items that are basic needs and also big ticket items- important factors in a consumer based economy. A universal basic income would move us off of the welfare state. Instead of means testing for benefits, every citizen would receive the benefit of a basic income. We would be improving our economy and creating a better society by providing everyone with access to capital, eliminating the need for many government entitlement programs.
The arguments against a basic income are very weak- it will cost too much, people will not work, it will lead to inflation. Because a universal basic income will replace many government entitlements it will save us money in the long run. People will still work even if they have a basic income. In fact, they will be incentivized to pursue jobs and business opportunities about which they are passionate. And, a basic income will strengthen our economy because of increased spending, creating a stronger consumer base, investment in automation and stimulating economic growth. A basic income is not the only answer we need to our future economic challenges but it is a huge step toward creating an economy that is fair for all of us.