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Basic income is just the beginning as Finland looks to citizen-driven governance (sitra.fi)
111 points by greifswalder on Sept 30, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 136 comments

It'll be really interesting to see how this basic income thing plays out over the next few decades. Basic income is most easily testable in small, high income, relatively homogeneous societies that agree on a more communal way of governing. So, the Nordic countries, see Finland.

What is most interesting is how many optimistic and as yet untested claims that basic income advocates make. See this article. Paragraph after paragraph about how this program will work, what the advantages will be, but we don't really have any hard numbers, and even once we get them in a limited setting in Finland, or with random people across the US, we have studies that aren't generalizable, and we have very few. If n=29 means anything in this context, we've got like 2.5 (not a rigorously considered statement, don't hurt me).

The really cynical part of me notices how basic income is like the ideal political promise. "Hey, we're gonna give you money so you don't have to work, and when we do, society is gonna transform into utopia". We'll all be living in Truman Burbank's world, apparently. Because of course people won't squander their basic income (maybe on Bitcoin?) and if they do, so much for a social safety net.

The general populace (not those at the top) are seeing a bad economic situation, so of course their response is yes, meanwhile the people who are the biggest proponents of this as of currently are people like Altman, Zuckerberg, and Musk. The first two have political ambitions, the last is a utopian.

Of course when you break down the numbers, it doesn't work. How do you make up the 3 trillion a year it would take to give everyone $12k when you almost had healthcare repealed? What programs do you decide to cut and how do you expect the two parties to have a fruitful discussion about it (lol)? These guys will never talk about any rigorous plans because they don't have any that would make it through legislation. They also won't talk about how crushing and depressing and difficult it is to live on 12k (they have no clue).

It sounds like a future where the super rich throw pennies to the peasants and at that point it'll be a great excuse. We give you money, why can't you pull yourself up by your bootstraps?

Will someone lay out a realistic plan detailing how you'd implement BI in the US?

The reality is that if you want to cover everyone's basic needs with $12K, you need to radically reduce the cost of goods and services. How ? That's the conversation we should be having.

But that than becomes a painful and complex conversation, talking about huge changes in the structure and possibly quality of real-estate, healthcare, transportation and roads, universities, etc and maybe some core tenets of capitalism.

But there's no way for this conversation to be fruitful and have really big changes - until we have a real crisis - because that's how democracies work in general.

but here's a starting point, anyway:

1. Transforming real-estate, from a system largely aimed at profits, into a system that is focused on offering decent living conditions as cheaply as possible.

2. Inserting disruptive innovation and real cost reduction into healthcare. And yes, like all disruptive innovation , it probably means lowering quality, at least for some time.

> The reality is that if you want to cover everyone's basic needs with $12K, you need to radically reduce the cost of goods and services. How ? That's the conversation we should be having.

Why even insist on that $12K number in the first place, isn't that like approaching the problem from the wrong end?

It's something that always puzzled me about economic policymaking, regardless of which country; Changes seem to happen at a pace of years and only with static values, which makes reacting to our modern volatile and interconnected markets, in any useful way, impossible.

Case in point the basic income: Ideally the amount of money people get could be linked to the general living costs, adjusted to their area of residence, and some national economic index.

Sure the first one could be abused by people registering in more expensive areas while living in cheaper ones, but in the long run, and economic big picture this would only lead to rising prices (and basic income) in the cheaper areas, generated through the spending by the "cheaters".

Imho something really underestimated is how much of an economic boost a basic income would be, it'd be like the government directly subsidizing general purchasing power, and lot's of that will come back to the government in the form of taxes. It's like the opposite end version of corporate bailouts and tax giveaways.

Looking at a number like 7 trillion from that side, suddenly makes it way less intimidating and way more appealing. It's not like money is some finite resource that has to be mined in deep and dangerous caves; When it's about saving banks, Big Whatever or waging wars, against something or somebody, there always seems to be more than enough of it?

It would be even easier if a 'basic living standard' could be established. Something measured in terms like quantity of food & size of housing.

Money & markets are a fantastic system for taking the limited resources we have as a society and splitting them up. We haven't found a system that is more effective at increasing the average living standard.

Basic income screws around with some fundamental structures of the markets. It would be easier to reason about if we knew what resources were being guaranteed by the government back in the real world. It happens that physics cannot be legislated into existence; so we will need some planning to be done to make sure that the spirit of the law can be identified and met practically.

If you make $7tn from thin air and inject it into the economy, consumer price inflation will drastically rise, which for the most part ends up being a transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the owners of capital. All you will have done is make the rich richer as the cost of living rises by about $12k/person.

If you look up "Quantitative Easing" you'll see that making trillions from thin air is exactly what the world's central banks do. But instead of giving it to people, they buy securities from banks, who are, as a result, the primary beneficiaries. QE-scale market activities aside, this general method is also standard monetary policy and the means by which new money is created.

Seen in that light, BI provides the opportunity for a whole new economic policy lever, by channeling new money to people rather than banks.

"If you look up "Quantitative Easing" you'll see that making trillions from thin air is exactly what the world's central banks do. But instead of giving it to people, they buy securities from banks, who are, as a result, the primary beneficiaries."

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison since QE (so far) has been "sterilized" so as not to increase the money supply in the same way as you are suggesting BI would:

"Also, the Federal Reserve has mostly "sterilized" its bond purchases by paying interest to banks for reserve deposits. This removes money from circulation previously added by the Fed's bond purchases. The net effect is to raise bond prices, lowering borrowing rates for mortgages and other loans, without an inflationary increase in the money supply"[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing

Yes, the useful message here is that we can indeed inject trillions into economies without overheating them, if the right conditions and structures are used.

They will be different for BI, naturally.

A lot of economists are freaked out about the effect quantitative easing might have on our economy going forward. But even the highest, recklessly dangerous levels of QE3, that only amounted to about $1,500/yr for each US citizen. BI people are advocating for 10x that, for the smallest proposals under consideration.

It's not the mechanism, it's the scale of it.

> consumer price inflation will drastically rise

Excuse me being naive but why? It would be a unique situation and as such any predictions of what's gonna happen are purely hypothetical.

Your last point is kind of moot as it could be used to argue against any kind of wage or income increase for poor and middle class "They just all gonna spend it paying their landlords".

If the basic income accounts for "average living costs" then ideally the average rent should be calculated too and factored into it, so landlords can't just jack up rents and expect their tenants to "reach through" their UBI.

A UBI would give the poor and middle class at least some bargaining power with employers, that's already progress. The whole situation about affordable living space becoming rarer and protection of tenants are valid concerns, but you can't expect a UBI to fix everything, different issues need different approaches and solutions.

That's kind of flawed thinking though. If you link UBI to the 'average living cost' - it means landlords can raise prices ad infinitum.

But that's not an issue with UBI but rather with landlords having such free reigns over the rents they are charging.

Rent control and protection of tenant rights are ongoing issues, especially in countries where renting is the prevalent mode of living, as such many countries governments are trying plenty of approaches.

The issue with the US being that it's a rather touchy subject to discuss, but its nonetheless relevant because more U.S. households are renting than at any point in the previous 50 years [0]

So a discussion about that particular topic is most certainly needed, but you can't expect UBI to fix every single problem on its own, no solution is ever as simple as that.

[0] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/19/more-u-s-hou...

Yes, that’s my point. The BI proposal is flawed as it leads to hyperinflation.

you need to radically reduce the cost of goods and services. How ?


The US free market has been very successful at radically reducing the cost of goods and services. Where it has failed to do so are in areas that are not free market, like health care.

It seems like the health care system has been gamed in the USA so that health insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies get a huge profit. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think this is the case anywhere in Western Europe/Canada or most other countries that have a functional health care.

The massive regulation and government interference in health care in the US has definitely resulted in companies gaming it for profit.




Health care costs are high in other western countries as well. They are just paid indirectly, from the much higher taxation level.

No, USA pays much more than any other developed country, see: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS?year_hig... (below graph is sortable table)

Is that really true? I was under the impression when people talk about the cost of healthcare they aren't talking about the cost of insurance. Unless you're saying the taxation somehow subsidizes healthcare in addition to providing insurance?

For example, medication is more expensive in the US right?

> Where it has failed to do so are in areas that are not free market, like health care.

Alternatively, the free market has failed to work in certain areas forcing the government to get involved to attempt to fix things. If the free market worked for health care, we'd be using it.

The free market, whatever that really means hasn't been involved in healthcare in the US since WW2.

Not disputed, so what? What point are you making? That we need to give the free market another try so it can fail again? Healthcare lacks basic price transparency, consumer choice, even the ability to know what you're buying before you need to buy it. The free market solution to something like healthcare is insurance, how's that worked out? It's not something that can work well in a free market.

I'm a capitalist, I believe capitalism is awesome, however capitalism doesn't work on everything, just most things. It's not a golden hammer that will solve all problems.

You stated that if the free market worked with healthcare, we'd be using it. But we don't know if it would improve the situation since it's been so long since the market was free in any sense.

Look at Lasik eye surgery for a counterpoint. Yes, this is regulated by requiring licensed practitioners, but it's not controlled by insurance companies, Medicare/Medicaid etc. The cost for this procedure has dropped dramatically, while the procedure itself has improved in the last decade.

> The US free market has been very successful at radically reducing the cost of goods and services

At the expense of generating poverty either in the form of people working two or three part time jobs (so that "costs" like healthcare can be avoided) to barely make rent or abroad, in factories where one needs to extend nets to prevent suicides.

The US has been the greatest bootstrapper of poor people into middle class and wealth history has ever seen. The US was populated by poor immigrants with little more than a suitcase. Wealthy people didn't immigrate to the US. Look at the statistics on height, longevity, and infant mortality from 1800 to today. It's a little hard to argue that the free market impoverished people.

As for healthcare, that has not been a free market in the US at least since WW2.

The linked PDF talks about how, 50+ years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared an "unconditional war on poverty in America."

Yet as of the publication date, 31st December 2006, data indicate that more than 12 percent of U.S. residents still live below the poverty line.

For 2006, a family of four was considered in poverty if its annual income fell below $20,444. For a couple under age 65, the poverty threshold was $13,500, and for an individual living alone, it was $10,488.

For another example, West Germany turned to the free market from about 1948 to 1970, resulting in an incredible rise from the devastation of WW2. East Germany did not see any results remotely similar.

Before you say "The Marshall Plan" most of the MP money was given to France and Britain.


Poverty is where we all started from. Free market is the one responsible of the reduction of poverty in most western countries.

To see the result of tightly controlled market, check out Venezuela and the old Easter European communist regimes.

In support of this, have you happened across Deirdre McCloskey, and her tomes Bourgeois Dignity and two books that follow.

She does a decent job of thrashing out, at length, why the dignity to participate in the free market by innovating and bringing those innovations to market is the thing that created the modern world. In her own words she gives a "full scale defence of capitalism."

The suicide rate at Foxconn was less than that of the general Chinese public. The people in poverty in America are well-off as measured by consumption rates.

Note that a social safety net is not inconsistent with free markets.

> you need to radically reduce the cost of goods and services

Yes. Starting with housing, most people's #1 expense (and, complicating matters, many other people's #1 investment).

Only because we live in a weird generational "reset" society, for lack of a better term. Instead of parents passing off their house/savings to their progeny, it's expected that each person must start off from zero when they come of age. We should be promoting solid wealth creation and stability, and the passing of it to future children.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's why in developed societies capital (and most forms of wealth) tends to accumulate in the hands of the few over time.

A "reset" society would have, at the very minimum, something like a 90% inheritance tax and much much higher capital gains tax, as well as provisions on land value tax so high value scarce land cannot be hoarded as well.

I'm honestly not sure how one can look at the countries who are doing well right now and say what you said. It's like opposite land.

Because we're not concerning ourselves with the plush lives of the top few percent.

The parent comment is referring to the majority of middle and low income families who's children come of age with zero wealth.

All of the countries doing well have a problem, right now, where middle income earners can't afford to buy homes in the cities people want to live in, while the top income earners are saying things like young people can't afford to buy houses because they're blowing all their money on smashed avocado on toast.[1]

1. https://twitter.com/60Mins/status/864065346516377600/video/1

We should be promoting therapies which lead to healthier, longer lives. Dependence on generational wealth transfer throws an incentive kink in that.

I don't see any reason why you can't do both? Then the problem becomes one of how to "promote generational wealth transfer" while "keeping people health and living longer". I don't buy the whole "you need to work yourself to death in order to get ahead" stuff.

Also, no need to make your children "rich". Just make sure they have things quantitatively better than you had. Just having a home for their children to subsequently live in without worry is definitely attainable for most people if they don't do anything stupid.

I was trying to imply “live forever” without saying it since that results in a bunch of ignorant responses (not yours). If you don’t die — which should be the end goal, no? — how do you leave a sufficient amount to your kids while keeping enough to live well yourself? If you never move into a nursing home — because you are as healthy at 65 as you were at 25 — then how do they stay in your house?

I’m against burdening our young people with debt, for sure, but I don’t see generational wealth as a long term solution to that either.

> Transforming real-estate, from a system largely aimed at profits...

I think profits from productive use of land (rent, farming, logging, tourism, etc.) is fine. It's the speculation on family residences as if it they were an appreciating commodity (like gold or oil) that seems to be the current issue.

The free market meets demand better than any planned system.

Let it find a way to make a profit with allow free people to decide how to spend their minimal viable income.

Then again, I think the minimal viable income needs to be $30k/year to everyone. A reverse income tax if you will. This would spur more economic development than any other program the government has ever tried.

The alternative is not necessarily a planned economy. Consider a Georgist land tax, for example.

How would that make land affordable to everyone? Seems like the opposite to me - since the tax would have to be high enough to replace all other taxes, land would be incredibly expensive.

I never said that was a goal.

One problem I’ve thought of with UBI is that it may very well make everything more expensive. Since people will have more money they will not need to work as much. When people don’t work as much, of course the amount of goods and services decrease. And when supply decreases, prices go up.

To me UBI is basically a simplification of how paperwork is done, and how things are paid and what is paid. It doesn't mean the state gives more money overall.

People and companies pay taxes, which are then redistributed across each other. There are several department who take care of all that money. It's immensely complicated. The accounting of all that is horrific.

The UBI stems from the negative income tax, meaning that instead of paying X and getting paid Y, the government just make a calculation and you get a result of what you owe or are owed.

One could go even further than that and consider salaries. If everyone gets the UBI, that means companies only have to pay for the difference in salary, and the state pays the rest. Company taxes may increase, but they would have to pay much less in salary, so it evens out.

Overall the UBI might seem a little utopian, but the goal is to make things simpler in term of paperwork so that people don't end up with nothing when their paperwork is not in order. It would also make it much, much easier for everyone to understand who pays what and why. Tax accounting is awful. The negative income tax tries to levy this problem.

But in general, I totally agree with you, implementing the UBI is a gigantic project that has huge consequences, both political and economical. I don't know how it would be done, because I know nothing about tax accounting and the legislation around it. But at least that means there is are work to do and a will to do it, so that's a good start.

Good post, but nothing to do with the article.

Excerpt: "The state will have difficulties in replacing the huge reductions in income tax returns with other forms of taxation. But there are also other things that the nation state can continue to tax in the future. For example, property consumption and different steering taxes aimed at changing people’s behaviour, are possible new avenues of income. There are considerable opportunities in steering taxes, as the data available and ideological resistance against absolute bans increase their importance. The heightened discussion in recent years about the expansion of tax co-operation between nations could also lead to actions that strengthens the tax base in the future global and digitalised economy."

I think we've all been duped into upvoting a completely AI-generated article based on a catchy title and a bunch of positive fluff thrown in.

The problem is that's very light on specifics. It's a bunch of hand wavvy suggestions about how we'll figure it out. The entire article had that kind of fluffiness to it, as do most discussions of basic income. These substanceless articles get posted over and over again and heavily upvoted and discussed in various places. I'm honestly hoping for something with more content, which is why I posted that.

I'm guess if I'm making obvious errors in logic, someone will point them out.

Yeah, I think there are real discussions to be had about basic income. I'm extremely skeptical of it, I don't see how welfare without any means-testing is politically sustainable long-term. So we'll have welfare on top of it, and the cycle repeats.

That said, do you agree the article was written by AI? Try to read it again. It reads like a markov chain of ideas loosely chained together.

Me too, I don't see how something that assumes a lot of good faith is going to work when many countries have trouble with popular support for their current restrictive and measurably effective programs. The only way I see it happening is with some sort of sovereign wealth fund. But that usually requires control of a resource or technology. Which most countries don't have anymore and probably won't have for many decades.

Also in the article:

"With digitalisation, increasingly precise data is recorded about almost all activities. In other words, our activities are registered and measured in more and more detail. In principle, this opens an entirely new opportunity to tax, for example, work performances and collect payments for the use of different commodities such as roads. Thanks to digitalisation, all exchanges in society can be made transparent and taxed fairly in real time. "

Basic income as the smokescreen for an invasive state panopticon that uses taxes to monitor and control personal behavior will be the result, more or less.

I can already tell you how and why it will be bad:

By living on a basic income provided to you by the government, you become dependent. That dependency is a weakness that gives the government greater power over you. What recourse do you have if the government removes your basic income? If we eliminate all other forms of income, say via automation, so there are no jobs you could turn to - what choice do you have? Go on to a rural agrarian existence, or die?

What delightful power and leverage a basic income gives the government over its population.

Automation fully reduces the power of citizens, by making them economically useless, not BI.

It's probably the thing we need to fight, somehow.

Do you believe automation can have no net benefit for society, then? Is there no future where increasingly all of the basic needs of people can be taken care of by automation, freeing up humans to do creative work?

I would like to understand your viewpoint.

The point is I think: Problem is somebody invests in the automation (algorithms and hardware) and then own all the results from the automation.

You seem to assume that the proceeds from automation would be evenly distributed. Why would it? The reason most people today can eat is because they (or people close to them) are needed as a workforce.

In the past once things got too bad then people went on strike etc. and taxes were raised and wages improved. But if the basic need of the robot-owners are met without any humans working for them, strikes fail to be efficient. One can only trust in the benevolence of the people owning the capital and the inertia in the current laws and the democractic system to keep things somewhat stable...

Why would the people owning the capital even invest in those robots if most people won't be able to afford the things made by them?

I think the idea is that the scenario where most people can't afford to purchase goods is going to creep up on us.

They only would need to sell to other robot owners. In a borderline case, a small group could own and operate a whole tree of technology required for a modern living standard, like a self-sufficient farm that buys nothing from the outside.

While possible, this is usually not efficient, though.

We are medieval creatures, we long for a purpose, no matter how small, no matter how trivial. If the machines take the purpose, all the fruit-baskets in the world wont fill that hole.

Is "machines taking all the purpose" a logical conclusion? I don't see a future where machines will create all of the popular culture in the world. I choose to support human-powered culture now, and increasing automation would not change my mind on that.

A UBI would enable humans to do more work that society either can't or won't automate. Care of other humans is an example. Yes, machines may be able to take on some of that role, but never all of it.

Do you think Usain Bolt considers his life meaningless because a car is so much faster than him?

If that car would race againist him every race - yes.

Purpose can be found in many things unrelated to wage labor.

> freeing up humans

What a nice euphemism for unemployment, because that's what it does.

Some might consider "employment" a euphemism for slavery. It goes both ways.

Automation certainly can benefit society (the majority of whom are workers), but in the way in which it is used at the moment does not benefit them in the fullest sense; they can take advantage of lower prices, but they can't take advantage of having much more free time to pursue creative hobbies, science, education and entertainment.

There are at least two possible solutions offered; the first is UBI in which everyone gets sufficient money to live off. Where exactly this money comes from and from what profits is up for question, and raises interesting questions about profitability in industries where there is higher organic composition of capital. The second option is one in which automation isn't used for profit at all, it is used simply to reduce working hours via ceasing commodity production and instead only the manufacture of use-values. In my opinion this second option (frequently called Socialism, endorsed by the likes of George Orwell, Einstein, Oscar Wilde, Marx and Engels) leads the way to an even greater emancipation and heightened productive capacity of society, given that there would no longer be any need to ensure high employment (high employment across industries is necessary for workers to buy back the products that they make, which generates profit). The second option also deals quite well with the psychological issues of living in a commodity-producing society brought up by the likes of Marcuse and Adorno.

Although the UBI solution to the problem of rising automation has rightfully earned the interest of many, I do not believe it goes far enough to ensure a more free, equitable and democratic society for all.

Edit: Regarding UBI, what is the incentive to stop companies from "offloading" the duty to pay a fair wage onto the state? I'm not really up to scratch on UBI details, so a response would be appreciated.

The problem with socialism without free market is that it has been tried many times, and it drastically lowers productivity, leading to deficits. People start spending their copious free time in lines waiting for the rare and insufficient goods to arrive. If you think USSR was long ago and this time it will be different, look at Venezuela.

This was not a problem with Socialism, it was a problem with the form of economic planning used. We must also bear in mind that there are forms such as market Socialism. Neither the USSR nor Venezuela paid attention to cybernetic planning; scientists in the USSR were repeatedly shut down by bureaucrats for suggesting it.

There exist modern planning methods, though still academic, such as those elaborated by Cockshott and Cottrell in Towards a New Socialism, it's worth a look if you haven't seen it already.

Nobody is suggesting rigid five year plans any more.

Agreed on your last point, far more than UBI is needed to achieve a "more free, equitable, and democratic society for all".

Currently I have to pay the government if I work (taxes). If I don't pay, I go to jail. So my only other choice is not work and go on "rural agrarian existence, or die".

So, let's see, work and pay the man, or don't work and the man pays you, hmmm...

One is total dependency in which you can't exist without the government giving you an income. The other is the government being dependent on you and taking part of your income as their revenue source. In the first case, you're the dependent; in the second case, the government is the dependent.

Further, keeping with your example, it's not: don't work and the man pays you. It's: don't work and become entirely owned by and dependent on the man (who is the source of everything you have).

You're forgetting something, you can still choose to work and collect the basic income; that's rather the point. BI does not make you dependent on government, it simply allows you the option, which by the way gives you more control in your life as it allows you a safety net thus allowing you to take more chances in your pursuit of work because you can now turn down bad work.

A lot more people would be taking a crack at running their own small businesses with such a safety net in place.

You will be no more "owned by and dependent on" the government than you are on whoever pays you salary right now.

I'd rather be dependent on someone I can talk to, and whose personal wealth is a function of my ability to produce than the State who I have basically no influence over. Both ultimately have their own interests at heart, but the first situation is more likely to turn out better for me if I do good work.

Sooner or later your "good work" will be automated. The choice will be not "work or don't work", but "govern or be governed".

So, pretty much same as now, only you will have more freedom if you're OK with being governed.

Or less freedom. Just depends on how you look at it.

How do you think our freedom will be limited (compared to now)?

Yeah, but that guy rather wants you replaced with a robot.

I hear this "dependency" argument over and over again, and it rings so very wrong in my ears. Survival depends on so many other people. Just ignore the flow of money for a moment and consider who depends on whose work most.

UBI is discussed mainly as an alternative means-tested welfare (at least in Europe). Which of the two makes you feel more dependent on government if companies don't offer you enough for your labour: A) you have to explain to some official that you are in need, prove that you are actively looking for work, open your financial situation and report what you are doing; if you don't comply with their suggestions your benefits will be cut; or B) you have an unconditional right to the money, they don't get to judge your situation, and you won't lose the money if you find paid work.

In addition, the assumption that government will somehow impose its own will against the majority of citizen and cannot be controlled implies that democracy is corrupt, in which case there is no point to debate its policies.

I like the ideas of negative income tax a lot more, we can help people live better, we can even give some people money, but we cannot ignore effort.

A proper income tax credit system, which adjusts based on income, is also the solution to eliminating the regressive, backward minimum wage approach that simultaneously punishes low skill labor and small businesses the higher you raise it.

It's also vastly superior to the basic income, which is extremely regressive as it gives money to everyone, including the very well-off top 1/3.

This is a bit of a silly conversation. UBI would obviously have to come with a restructuring of the tax levels, so UBI and Negative Income Tax are mostly the same in terms of outcomes. The difference is in presentation.

By the way, negative income tax is not the same as a tax credit. That's quite different, since a tax credit can only be offset against taxes you owe, and is therefore very regressive, since the poor already pay little income taxes.

That is a striking perspective. While I was already hesitant about UBI, I had never considered that it effectively expands the power of the government.

There's no reason that government can't be vastly reduced in a world that is capable of sustaining UBI. The only way UBI works is with massive increases in automation and productivity. At that point, why is a large, powerful government needed?

And further to the point, why can't collection of taxes and distribution of UBI be fully automated, taken away from governments altogether?

"Will someone lay out a realistic plan detailing how you'd implement BI in the US?"

I have been open-minded about BI, however, the so-called "opioid crisis" in the United States has made me more skeptical.

The accounts I have read in books and periodicals have confirmed my own experience growing up in a poor, semi-rural town: poor whites in the United States already have resources that are effectively equal, or greater than the basic incomes being proposed.

Poor white people in rural America have a roof over their heads (perhaps not their own) they have some amount of disposable income (walmart, unemployment, disability, whatever) and they almost always have access to grandmas Buick or dads Chevy truck. They are very likely to be obese. These people killing themselves with Heroin have food and shelter and cars.

Their problem is that there is no point to their lives. They have no narrative to attach themselves to and no meaning to their days. I don't see how Basic Income solves this, since they have what amounts to a (admittedly, precarious and haphazard) basic income already.

> They also won't talk about how crushing and depressing and difficult it is to live on 12k (they have no clue).

Ignoring medical for a second - $12k/year is actually not bad in many parts of the US.

In fact many college students get by on less for living expenses and have a great time to boot.

The struggle and depression comes from being unable to better yourself and in many cases actually hurting your health etc in the process.

Replace existing monetary policy (that creates money by buying securities from investment banks) with BI.

The incumbent beneficiaries will fight it tooth and nail, of course.

> Because of course people won't squander their basic income (maybe on Bitcoin?) and if they do, so much for a social safety net.

Why don't people do it on existing benefits?

Perhaps some kind of education or support along with the free money could be beneficial?

1. Government spending on public works and services. 2. Loans to private sector businesses who are positioned to use that new money productively.

As far as I understand, these are the primary ways new money is issued into the economy (money created). In general, these two methods work fairly well. The first enables worthwhile works and services to be provided that the private sector is unwilling to provide, while the second helps ensure efficient usage of new dollars to create goods and services.

However, there are situations where these two methods are insufficient. For example, after the 2008 meltdown, cheaper loans to businesses hardly increased growth..like pushing a wet noodle. The problem was a lack of dollars in the pockets of consumers. The businesses were chasing too few dollars. Fiscal spending on infrastructurr is often proposed, and certainly can help, but is often inefficient, and diverted away from consumers into corporate coffers.

I believe that a variable basic income where newly created money can be put directly in consumer's pockets could give policy makers a third tool to ensure optimal economic growth.

There actually is a small movement in the EU called Quantitative Easing for People which wants exactly that: Why not give central bank money directly to people instead of as loans to businesses?

I love the idea but I am afraid the EU is much too conservative, anxious and in general not an institution serving its people to do something like that.

But what a marvellous world that would be to live in.

More citizen participation in democracy is a great thing, but not as simple as it sounds. Legislating is a complex, time-intensive job. Most bills are long, nuanced and require real study to understand and vet. Armchair voting based on sound-bytes by casually engaged citizens can't work. We need paid people that are dedicated to the activity.

Additionally, legal deal making is a necessary evil. If two parties are at odds with which direction to go, and simply cannot come to an agreement, one way we deal with that is by offering exchanges of laws. One side reluctantly agrees to go forward on one thing, in exchange for the other side compromising on an unrelated thing that they feel more strongly about. That's why many bills contain a cornucopia of seemingly unrelated mandates - it's how we are able to move forward at an impasse. How would independent citizens negotiate with each other?

That's argument for arguably one of the most interesting new ideas in "democracy" of this century: "liquid democracy"

It allowed for people to choose to vote on individual issues. But when they recognised the complexity of certain issues, or just couldn't be bothered to make up their mind, it allowed to delegate their voting power to someone they trusted. You could delegate single issues, topics, whole fields of politics or even everything, and the recipient could do so again. The result would be a sort of "net of decision making".

Of course the concept's prominence came and went with the rise and fall of the Pirate Party...

Interested parties will have to explain their laws to voters, convince them that it makes sense to legislate their thing and not a competing law.

The second one is very easy. Allocate voting points to every citizen. This way, they shop for laws they want every year.

Is there a compromise where we just increase the number of highly-paid and highly-skilled representatives?

Most people misunderstand basic income. What they're thinking is "basic income means that everyone will get enough money to fulfill their basic needs". But you can achieve that in the current system, by transferring more money from taxpayers to the unemployed. (Assuming Europe, where unemployed are eligible to small amount of money.)

Basic income is not more welfare, it's a relatively small change to the structure of the welfare system:

1. Simplification, everyone gets a constant amount of money. It has some advantages but some of the current complexity has good justifications. It allows us to give more to those who need more.

2. Bigger pay jump when you decide to work. I think this is the strongest argument for BI.

3. You get the money automatically, no need for paperwork.

4. Cultural and mindset change.

5. It ignores entirely the macroeconomic results of printing tons of money, which doesn’t end well for society even if widely and directly distributed.

Printing tons of money is what is happening even without basic income, BI is the way forward to free human from boring labor. Probably no one has a macroeconomic plan. But the basic idea is simple and powerful. Robots do the menial and boring job of humans and they are taxed that is distributed to people and people spend on robots for services and the cycle continues.

The debate about basic income is based on the wrong premise in the sense that people evaluate it based on two different viewpoints of the world.

Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is based on the assumption there will be no jobs for most humans in the future.

What we have today is CBI or Conditional Basic Income which is conditional based on the assumption that you can motivate people to find jobs and that jobs will be available for most. If there are always going to be plenty of jobs then UBI makes no sense.

But if you believe that there be fewer and fewer jobs for humans, then UBI make a ton of sense.

I am of the latter belief.

>> Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is based on the assumption there will be no jobs for most humans in the future.

That is not true. It could work very well in today's society. And UBI is not designed to have every other guy slacking around, you will still need incentives to work (i.e. paychecks).

Basic Income can, in theory, have wonderful effects without much changing the working world: Taking the pressure off people and a give them a hell lot of freedom and a stronger stance in negotiations.

No this is where I believe you and many others go wrong, especially, if you like me are a proponent.

It's an argument you can't win as there is no and will never be evidence that it could work. That's political territory IMO.

In my view, you will be much more likely to succeed that discussion if you manage to make it rational and about whether there will be jobs in the future than whether it's a better way to architect the current situation.

What about the other benefits of UBI, like increasing the bargaining power of labor?

Do you believe that basic income wouldn't be able to give workers a greater ability to say no to low-quality jobs and wages, forcing (1) automation or (2) an increase in both to attract workers?

Imho UBI could maybe even increase what little jobs will be left. People on UBI might only be willing to work part-time at reduced pay as the UBI makes up for the difference, employers would compensate by hiring two people for the same job and would generally have to be way more appealing to employes as the power-dynamic of that whole situation would be equalized.

The far bigger barrier are probably gonna be cultural notions anyway. Right now we are basically conditioned to constantly work, be looking for work or at least give the appearance of being "productive" in some way or another, it's a giant rat race that seems to be constantly accelerating.

Imagine a society where "working" more than 3-5 hours per day would be frowned upon, an utterly absurd idea to us, even tho it's realistically quite possible humans could live like that.

UBI will always make it worthwhile to take a job because you wouldn't have to give any money back.

Financially, yes, economically, not necessarily. UBI greatly reduces the marginal value of the money you get from the job (since it's no longer the difference between paying for basic necessities or not), and since jobs have a cost, even if it's non-monetary, UBI may tip the balance against taking it.

Not sure what you mean.

If UBI is, let's say $40000 a year and you do various jobs that land you $10000 you now have $50000.

Why wouldn't I take that?

Because the jobs may suck, and while earning $10k is much better than $0, earning $50k is not that much better than $40k.

Which will be greatly countered by the fact that if you make $10K more than anyone else you are going to be one of the richest people you know. That $10K extra can buy you a lot of things.

Again, judging UBI based on how things look like today is exactly where the discussion goes wrong.

UBI makes sense if you accept the idea that there are almost no jobs left for humans.

It doesn't make sense in a world where there is plenty of jobs.

In other words, it's NOT a mechanism for getting people to work it's a way to ensure that all those people who have no work still have some way to buy things and keep some economy going.

This is a poorly written puff piece that reads like it was generated by AI.

I think I could write a random article generator full of catchphrases they like, and it'd be upvoted like crazy here, Reddit, and Slashdot.

Indeed, the more closely I try to read the article, the less comprehensible it is. Notice a lot of HN commentators using the article title to jump on their soapbox, and nobody trying to engage the substance of the article, which is utterly lacking.

Here's the article's conclusion: "The emissions targets of cities and the C-40 climate leadership network promoting it — as well as YIMBYcon, an international group of grassroots city developers that operates through groups in Facebook and organises events — provide good examples of such inter-city policies and discussions. The YIMBYcon network shares international examples of city development and prepares concrete shadow plans."

My takeaway is that AI is getting better at writing gibberish.

The article is only an edited excerpt from this paper: https://www.sitra.fi/en/publications/from-pause-to-play/#1-t...

The English used is somewhat odd, but I can forgive that considering the authors are Finns.

Macroeconomically, giving the poor money through this kind of redistributio will stimulate the economy and in fact ultimately benefit the rich and large corporations! (As well as small businesses). The reason is obvious, poor people are obliged to spend it all, since they have to stay alive.

And they will spend it, on things they need to survive, like rent and food. Now the landlords, factory farmers, and Walmart have all the wealth. Oh, and massive inflation raises all the prices so your next check doesn’t go as far.

BI is extremely regressive in its effects.

> Oh, and massive inflation raises all the prices so your next check doesn’t go as far.

That is not at all clear.

Food is a competitive market. And even the poor in the US currently get plenty of food. Why would prices increase?

For most standard goods we could ramp up factory capacity and actually expect a decrease in cost/unit. We don't have a supply problem.

Rent is heavily tied to location which is tied to job prospects. There is close to a 10x spread for the same kind of housing dependent on city across the US.

When I was poor I had to go where the jobs were and just suck it up and pay the much higher rental price. This meant room sharing in an expensive city.

With BI I would have had a lot more negotiating power. How do you convince me to pay 5-10x more rent to move to your city?

> Why would prices increase?



You inject a double-digit percentage of all cash that exists into the economy year-after-year -- numbers bounded about in this very thread are on the order of 1/3 of all US dollars in existence, just for Americans to receive a minimal, poverty rate handout -- I guarantee you there will be inflation at levels that have never been seen since the founding of this country.

But isn't the idea to take that money in the form of taxes rather than just printing it?

It’s true, that’s why I’m surprised more countries don’t adopt it, it’s petty shortsighted from the elites not to support it is my point.

Personally I feel that the best solution to what you describe would be democratization of business and industry.

It does at least prevent the worst kind of poverty, like we have in South Africa for example, so it would be most welcome here.

“Democratization of business and industry” is a way of saying less regulation, right? I’m a mostly libertarian myself, and agree, but it’s not a popular opinion among progressives and BI supporters. They focus on “less regulation” meaning less accountability, rather than less barriers to entrepreneurship.

What I mean is mostly the idea of workers running and owning businesses to the largest possible degree and for all major institutions to be nationalized, such as banking, etc.

Indeed even most supposed “libertarians” even in the US want less regulation, meaning more freedom for big business to do what it wants.

Yes, but only because people that are willing to vocally self-identify with a powerless 3rd party platform already extremist in their views.

Us everyday libertarians are often more moderate, realizing that while there is nothing more efficient than a free market, sometimes incentives are not aligned with goals, and markets in those cases efficiently make bad outcomes. In such cases artificial incentives through laws and regulations create the environment in which free markets succeed at getting us what we want. Global warming is a prime example -- I'm a big fan of cap-and-trade systems, a very typical "free market on top of regulation" setup. We just think that by and large most regulations are not of this type and need to go, and in fewer cases we are lacking regulation we might want or need, like carbon trading.

But lack of regulation is NOT "more freedom for big business to do what it wants." In most cases, more regulation is what causes that. Most big businesses welcome regulation because of regulatory capture. They hate getting rid of regulation because it creates environments where they can be out-innovated by competition, old or new:


Actually the free market can often be irrational, inefficient and completely unpredictable. The free market (caring only about profits) is what has given us an environmental catastrophe.

If the regulation gets captured as you say that means less, or no regulation effectively and more freedom for the businesses. Regulation has to have teeth if we’re gonna implement it.

In economics "rational" has a very specific, technical meaning, specifically acting in the way that is most profitable. So I'm not 100% sure I understand what you mean when you say that free markets can be irrational by caring only about profits and I would suspect that we are speaking past each other.

Regulation doesn't "get captured." Regulatory capture is where a monopolist captures a market by means of regulation. For example, PayPal invented a new business model: digital money transfers. They then lobbied for and got expansion of financial regulations to make it very, very difficult to enter the money services business. So difficult that for 15 years until now they had no serious competition. Were consumers made safer by that regulation? No, because as it turns out the hurdles to getting approval to operate as a MSB really aren't consumer protecting at all, they're just that: very expensive hurdles, outside the reach of a startup. And the innovation we've seen recently with Venmo, Apple & Samsung Pay, etc. is what we could have had all along if they weren't granted a de facto monopoly that took an Apple-sized company to break.

For the U.S. this will be a non-starter. Most people in the U.S. don't want lower income people to have access to Universal Healthcare, Universal Basic Income is a joke concept in the U.S.

I disagree. Americans are very familiar with the concept of welfare. UBI fits into that paradigm must better than Universal Healthcare.


> Most people in the U.S. don't want lower income people to have access to Universal Healthcare

This sentence is leaving me speechless. What a terrible interpretation.

That depends on where the US will be heading.

If there are plenty of jobs out there you are right it's a non-starter.

But UBI is based on the idea that there are not going to be any jobs. If you have any ohter alternatives to UBI I would love to hear them.

How come nobody discusses the countries which already employ universal basic income for their citizens like Saudi Arabia or the UAE?

I guess because it serves as a counter example to many of the claims of universal basic income so it’s intentionally left out of such discussions.

But basically Saudi Arabia and the UAE both have some form of universal basic income for their citizens derived mainly from their massive oil profits.

And the irony is for so much of their labor,

They use so much foreign labor that the percentage of foreign workers is actually larger than the percentage of citizens (at least in the case of UAE not sure about Saudi Arabia)

Basically almost all the labor is done by those who aren’t eligible for the universal basic income (only citizens get the universal basic income)

And their laws essentially make it impossible (or insanely difficult) to become a citizen

Because once a person becomes a citizen they are eligible for the universal basic income payouts, so you essentially get people sitting on their ass getting paychecks.

I mean I don’t see a progressive revolution of art, culture, and modernity with people “following their dreams” since they are untethered by paychecks

Happening in the UAE or Saudi Arabia which is what people say will happen if you had universal basic income.

Heck US, India, and Japan has tons of art/music/culture that they export and none of these three countries have universal basic income....

In fact sometimes I wonder if the massive oil profits played a role in keeping them so ultraconservative since it allowed them until recently to prevent half their population from getting an education and roaming/working/driving freely/indepedently around the country.

If universal basic income was so successful and didn’t kill people’s willingness to work, I feel like these two countries wouldn’t have to keep bringing in low wage foreign laborers.

Don’t get me wrong. Universal basic income sounds very cool.

But I’ll be honest if I got enough money to cover my rent/transportation/healthcare and I didn’t have any loans,

I would immediately quit my high wage tech job

And probably go to Hawaii to teach STEM to entry level college kids to prevent/reduce the number of college kids who drop out of STEM.

But instead since I have massive college loans to pay off because my parents didn’t give me a cent for college tuition or housing (they did give me food money thankfully),

I work in this extremely high wage but sometimes rather mundane “tech job”

So I can pay my college loans, housing, car, food, helping out my elderly parents, brother’s, etc.

Oh wait shoot I think I basically just said if there was universal basic income

I would end up following my dreams/passion instead of working a job mainly for the wage.

Lol whoops killed my own argument against universal basic income.

So I guess universal basic income might actually be cool haha.

But the thing is there’s no way to know how many will just sit on their ass doing nothing, how many will turn to crime or darker endeavors with all their new ideal time, and how many will actually use it effectively.

Like how can anyone do a reasonable analysis to predict the outcome of this system.

Human nature is a mysterious beast.....

I’m sorry I’m just highly skeptical on universal basic income.

It’s so counter to all the existing economic theory I was trained/educated in

That I guess it’s hard for my brain to accept it.

My apologies.

Interesting points about SA and UAE. My take would be that Basic Income requires a certain level of society. Just like democracy, which requires people to be informed and free of the worries of basic needs.

>> But the thing is there’s no way to know how many will just sit on their ass doing nothing

I absolutely agree but don't see it as an argument against BI. We can just approach it slowly.

"Just like democracy, which requires people to be informed and free of the worries of basic needs."

The world is filled with people that are uninformed (or would disagree with your definition of "informed", even). I don't think you'd be able to find any large group of people that would make this work to a sufficient degree if we go off your premise about them being "informed".

Yeah I agree with you that fear of the unknown shouldn’t be a reason to not try something new.

Although for many of us (myself included from time to time), it ends up being the strongest reason to resist change, especially when you happen to already be in relatively fortunate/satisfactory position.

Lol I guess that hackneyed FDR quote about “fearing fear” was a lot more poignant than I initially thought haha.

"For example, property consumption and different steering taxes aimed at changing people’s behaviour, are possible new avenues of income."

I like the overall sentiment, but these statements are ominous to anyone with a even a casual grasp of the history of the 20th century political developments around the world.

As PR,basic income proposals may fare better if branded as the "national inheritance".

Or perhaps the 'national dividend' where the stock certificate is citizenship given at birth.

What about "social security for all"?

I understand the impulse. What I like about the others are that they suggest that the payment is not charity or a hand out but a fairly earned profit from owning a piece of the American experiment.

The state does not defend us; rather, the state aggresses against us and it uses our confiscated property to defend itself. The standard definition of the state is this: The state is an agency characterized by two unique, logically connected features. First, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of ultimate decision making. That is, the state is the ultimate arbiter and judge in every case of conflict, including conflicts involving itself and its agents. There is no appeal above and beyond the state. Second, the state is an agency that exercises a territorial monopoly of taxation. That is, it is an agency that can unilaterally fix the price that its subjects must pay for the state's service as ultimate judge.

Based on this institutional setup you can safely predict the consequences: First, instead of preventing and resolving conflict, a monopolist of ultimate decision making will cause and provoke conflict in order to settle it to its own advantage. That is, the state does not recognize and protect existing law, but it perverts law through legislation. Contradiction number one: the state is a lawbreaking law protector. Second, instead of defending and protecting anyone or anything, a monopolist of taxation will invariably strive to maximize his expenditureson protection and at the same time minimize the actual production of protection. The more money the state can spend and the less it must work for this money, the better off it is. Contradiction number two: the state is an expropriating property protector

~ HH Hoppe

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