In 2014, serious voices from Pope Francis to Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, have lamented ever-widening inequality. Others have expressed concern that "the second machine age" of digital technologies will entail the massive elimination of jobs.
Few, however, have proposed policy solutions equal to the scale of the problem. But there is one proposal -- perhaps the next big social idea -- that has emerged: Unconditional Basic Income.
The UBI is a monthly monetary income granted every month, unconditionally, by a political community to each of its members from birth. Depending on the nation, in Europe and the U.S. it would probably be $2,500 per adult and $1,500 per child. It must secure a minimum livelihood and enable a participation in society. It is unconditional because it constitutes a human, civil and legal right and shall be provided without proof of need and without obligation to work, search for work, or performing any services in return. Yes, you're being paid to live, work and participate as you please. This is not a utopian hand out, a socialist smorgasbord or high five for couch potatoes; the UBI is the only solid socio economic strategy we have available to us that will solve our intransigent social issues while stimulating the economy through the newly gained purchasing power of more than 50 million citizens (who are now no longer poor) and who now have the ability to participate meaningfully in the economy. And there are many ways to pay for it: through reworking our tax system, by instituting a consumption tax, eliminating income taxes and putting in a small wealth tax; and there are many other ideas that should be discussed and reviewed.
Some social movements have begun to promote the UBI, notably in Switzerland, where over 100,000 people have signed a petition that will put the idea forward in a national referendum in 2015 or 2016.
Ultimately, the UBI will enable us to rewrite and renegotiate our social contract with each other because with the unconditional basic income you are given access and opportunity to participate in the economy and society as you see fit. When everybody receives the same basic amount of money to secure a livelihood, the social and economic playing field will be leveled, making equal opportunity and access real, while unleashing incomprehensible amounts of human energy and potential. UBI cures the disease of most social ills once and for all and does not just treat its symptoms. The positive outcome of a UBI is manifold: it gives respect to all; it includes all; it liberates human creativity; it eliminates poverty; it empowers women; it reduces unnecessary government bureaucracy. The UBI will have a drastic effect on reducing crime since poverty, lack of work, meaning and education, and unhealthy social environment and family structures, are its root cause. Even more, the UBI, in creating a fairer society, will help advance environmental issues as people are no longer stuck in the poverty trap and can now make their community and environment a priority. Finally, UBI respects human work and therefore income is not as a result or reward of your work but as the enablement of your work. Work becomes biography and we are all set free.
Check out HuffPost Live's full interview with Piketty below: