IEET > Rights > Economic > Basic Income > Vision > Advisory Board > Nicole Sallak Anderson > Technoprogressivism
Universal Basic Income—The Foundation of a Technically Advanced Society

The 2016 Presidential elections are well underway. As usual, many topics will be discussed, but there are many other important policies that will be left untouched. The scripted, binary world of American Politics leaves out much of importance during its process, preferring instead to emphasize fear tactics as a means of garnering votes.

One of the more important issues on the table for me is Universal Basic Income. This is not welfare, or assistance, or social security. This is a guarantee that every single human being in our society has shelter, food and health care. UBI is a call to finally use our technology to provide the most basic needs to all our citizens.

It isn’t altruism that drives me to the viewpoint that human life is important enough to protect. It’s pragmatism, and I believe that futurists need to consider UBI as an important step to achieving a more prosperous and technologically advanced society.

Welfare Isn’t Only For the Poor

The system of welfare, social security and other social support systems that we currently employ are based on the desire for those who have, to lord over those who don’t. Layers upon layers of administration exists for the sole purpose of deciding who is worthy of support, who is actually needy enough, and who can be given help. Each year we heap on more requirements, the most recent being restrictions on buying steak and salmon with food stamps. This behavior is inherently childish. It supposes that some of us are better than others. 

Here’s a very simple suggestion: what if we got rid of EVERY safety net, from SNAP to Social Security to Unemployment, and pooled that money together to create a guaranteed minimum income of $30,000 to be paid to every living American, eighteen and older. In addition, we cut our military spending and add that money to the pool as well.

Now many will say, $30K!!! That’s outrageous. But remember, one war in Iraq has cost us TRILLIONS, so please don’t say we don’t have enough money. In addition, all the administrative costs of lording over the current assistance programs, i.e. deciding who is worthy of help, go away. Now there are only two qualifications for receiving assistance: Are you alive? Are you over 18? Done.

This is for everyone. Hillary’s grandchildren will get $30K a year as well as the immigrant’s child. ALL are worthy of welfare, not just the poor or elderly. All of us are worthy of food, shelter and health care. And this $30K will cover that, if you’re frugal.

Look up the word, welfare, in the thesaurus and see the many synonyms: well-being, abundance, euphoria, contentment, thriving. Who doesn’t deserve this?

Universal Basic Income Allows Freedom

So now, at 18, you get $30K a year, for the rest of your life. The government has no say in how you spend it, or what you do with it. However, $30K will not get you a Tesla, or an apartment in Silicon Valley, or NYC. Here’s where the freedom lies; Capitalism still exists. You want to live a more opulent life, then use the money to go to college and become a software engineer, or doctor, or financial wizard. There’s no stopping you. Earn as much as you want, continue with business as usual. This isn’t socialism, this isn’t a mandatory maximum wage, rather it’s a guarantee. The sky’s the limit. Go be Elon Musk if you want. Or drop out of college and invent the next big thing. More power to you. With everyone now fed and sheltered, the market place demand for your product has grown.

UBI would also open the door to tax reform and simplification. The first $30K earned each year is NOT taxed, regardless of your total income or net worth. Anything you make above that, whether in wages or investments, is taxed at a simple rate across the board. Consumption taxes on luxury goods can also be considered.

Most importantly for futurists: UBI will allow technological advancement. When a farmer is guaranteed a basic income to pay her bills, she might be more willing to try a new sort of crop and take the economic hit a few years. Or when fast-food workers are replaced by robots, they can still thrive while figuring out their next step. Experts suggest that within 20 years, robots will replace 40% of our jobs. (Yes, each of the highlighted words in that sentence link to an article about the robot revolution that’s coming.) This is great for efficiency and technology, but not for humans if we don’t have any way of making an income. This means that many industries will AVOID technical advancement, rather than embrace it, because of the fear of losing their jobs and their livelihood. Take that risk away and watch the world change from one where many go hungry to one of abundance and health.

What Would You Do?

Many people fear that giving money away to others will support those “bad” people, like stoners, unwed mothers, and immigrants (Their words, not mine.) I hear this argument all the time. To me, UBI is about supporting humanity, plain and simple. We’ve been on this abundant planet long enough, the time has come to make it a good, safe and clean home for everyone. A guaranteed minimum income frees us from the fear of failure, and gives all of us a chance to start again, over and over, throughout our lives. Our tit-for-tat way of dealing with one another is only getting in our way and slowing us down.

Rather than fear what others would do with the money, let me ask you this, what would YOU do with a guaranteed minimum income of $30K a year?  Would you:

Raise a child?
Care for an elderly relative?
Start a new business?
Go to college?
Get your PhD?
Paint beautiful scenes on hospital walls?
Write that screenplay?
Direct that documentary?
Leave your abusive spouse?
Tutor children in math?
Retire and raise goats?
Live simply in a tiny home?
Form a band?
Invent new technologies?
Work in the Open Source Movement?
Run for political office?

There are approximately 244,673,000 adults in the US, which means that this question really over two million answers, for each of us has our own desires, needs and wants.

While the Democrats and Republicans are sure to leave UBI out of their discussions, there are many third-party initiatives that include it as important. The Green Party is one. In an article,  Transhumanist Party founder and first presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, mentioned many futurist parties that include some form of UBI in their platform. They have to, for their futuristic goals are held hostage until we can change our economic policies from scarcity to abundance thinking. This is the thinking that made Silicon Valley.  UBI completes the promise. Futurists looking to learn more about UBI should read Marshall Brain’s write up in IEET.

Lastly, dear Libertarians, you too can find UBI as part of the freedom you desire. Matt Zwolinski’s article on Cato Unbound is an excellent source for actual numbers and the effectiveness of a guaranteed basic income. Check it out and start thinking about what you would do with $30K a year.


Noble thought for an ideal world, but that does not change human nature for some that would become central planners[1].

[1] Animal Farm

It’s not about equality, it’s about sustenance. It’s not even an attempt at equality. You would be free to pursue anything you wish, you may wish to pursue an income, to get rich even. If so inspired, one could donate their entire basic income to their favorite cause.

Some people greatly enjoy their job, look forward to doing it. Likewise, some people seriously hate their job. It’s also important to remember that there’s a significant difference between having a job and working. Millions of unemployed people work very hard every day.

Basic income wasn’t conceived to homogenize, but to empower, inspire, and encourage growth.

A balanced budget with a main street liquidity complement might be feasible:

WF: ~160mn workforce of ~320mn population
FPL: ~$12K Federal Poverty Level (sustenance)
MW: ~$27K Median Wage
ZeroToFPL: ~45mn number below FPL
FPLtoMW: ~35mn (WF/2 - ZeroToFPL) number between FPL and MW

Minimum = ZeroToFPL X FPL = $540bn
Maximum = Minimum + (FPLtoMW X FPL)/2 = $750bn

A pre-taxed Basic Income[1] would currently run about $540bn base with an additional $210bn tapering costs from FPL to MW to eliminate the poverty trap.

We currently spend around $1tn[2] on welfare of where about $430bn is Medicare/CHIPs. It may be suggested to limit participation to the current working generation (age 16-64).  That would cover the base amount without raising taxes, borrowing or saddling more debt on current working generation that is employed. The other funding up to $210bn could come from reducing costs in other areas of the budget.

Current SS retirees may be aged out. Current contributors to SS (stakeholders) may be given option of being bought out (generously) or aged out. Minors (age < 16) are excluded.

The existence of a pre-taxed basic income main street liquidity complement would help stabilize M2 Velocity[3], especially during recession.  Unsuccessful businesses would be able to fail with less austerity and less loss of main street economic activity. New opportunities for an increased amount of successful entrepreneurs may provide for more stable capital reformation.

CAVEAT: Correct my math if/where necessary,... and significant.

[1] The Negative Income Tax and Basic Income are pretty much the same thing

[2] Crs report: welfare spending the largest item in the federal Budget | Congressional Research Service

[3] Velocity of M2 - United States | tradingeconomics

1. Our entire federal budget is about $4tn. The plan described above for giving $30K to 245mn would cost over $7tn.

2. The individual Federal Poverty Level for sustenance is about $12k, not $30k.

3. The plan does not empower, inspire or encourage growth for the economically productive who have to pay for it. At $30K, most would just quit their jobs.

NOTE: Show a desirable and viable economic plan with a balanced budget and people will listen. This is not.

The tax rate should be changed from having a minimum tax free threshold of $30,000.
Something like you lose $0.75 of your minimum wage benefit for each $1 you earn for the first $20,000, then $0.5 for the next $30,000.
That way people still have an incentive to do a job which pays less than $30,000.

An interesting concept though I would consider it just a step along the way to a just and better world.
In Australia Justice Higgins held that and employer and manufacturer of harvesters,f McKay was obliged to pay his employees a wage that met “the normal needs of an average employee, regarded as a human being in a civilised community”, regardless of the employer’s capacity to pay. This became known as the legal concept of a basic wage. The salary was said to be that which was sufficient for a n unskilled worker to support a wife and 2 children in frugal manner. At the time that was judged to be 7 shillings a day for a six day week. In this Australia was a world leader and for 60 years a very egalitarian country. 
I have contended that incorporated in that judgement the proposition that the employers and corporations operated in our economy with the permission of the society. It also implies that failure to live up to what would be considered fair and reasonable the ability to operate could bbe withdrawn. It is my understanding that chartered corporations could loose their charter to operate if its conditions were breached. Perhaps this could be re-introduced as another step towards a fair, just,  responsible and reasonable economy and society.
Mervyn K. Vogt

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: A Truly Major Issue, helping decide the fate of democracy

Previous entry: IEET Audience Divided on Role of Reason in Morality