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Did Finland’s basic income experiment work? [video] (bbc.com)
81 points by tagawa 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments

Basic income that isn’t universal is just a targeted handout.

A real universal basic income experiment has to be perpetual (so I don’t risk my career and future by not working) and universal for a country (so you get the effect on prices, jobs, rents, health, attitudes).

This is also why there may never be an experiment - the first experiment will be the first true attempt.

And even if you run the “experiment” on a global scale for ten years, that’s no guarantee that the next ten years will work out the same.

It’s really very simple: at our current stage of technological evolution, if everyone stops working, we all die.

The most universal and perpetual you can make it is probably one country (possibly e.g the EU or similar) and of course “perpetual” will only ever mean “until political will changes”.

It’s important to remember that there is a massive difference between adopting a UBI in a large welfare state like Finland as opposed to eg the US.

For a small UBI it’s effectively just a matter of first moving many different systems into a single one.

When I was a student I was paid $600/mo or thereabouts to study.

Now I’m a well paid dev and parent. We get a child grant for two kids of $300/mo and a daycare subsidy of around $2k per month for the two of them.

Those child grants/subsidies require no application or qualification. Obviously under a UBI a lot of that would be shifted into the UBI instead so instead of using subsidized daycare people would choose not to work for a while.

So I think it’s entirely possible for some of the Nordic welfare states to change to a UBI-like system. The payout might not be a living wage (as in this experiment) but it could replace student grants, minimum unemployment benefits, minimum pensions, daycare subsidy etc. For full time workers it would just be a huge tax credit (probably offset by an even larger tax hike)

Meanwhile I think it would be extremely hard for the US to do the same, because UBI without the intermediate step of a massive welfare state just isn’t going to be easy.

It's not that simple at all, otherwise no-one would be talking about it.

There are a number of competing effects, but at least one currently unanswered question about basic income is whether people are naturally lazy or naturally entrepreneurial. I.e. given an unshakeable safety net which means they are ok whatever they do, do people work harder to do better than ok, or sit on ok. There have only been unsatisfactory trials so far, but a number of results seem to favour the better result.

Here's another way of looking at it. Currently, people can get sucked into a benefit trap. They might have an income from benefits of £100 a week, which vanishes once they start work. So obviously they would lose out unless a job they can get provides at least £100 + travel and other costs. Basic income removes this trap by saying: "You get £100 always. But you also get to keep a large proportion of every pound you earn above £100. Go for it!

Under basic income, a person otherwise on benefits can walk round people's houses with a ladder and offer to clean windows - and gain from the process.

> if everyone stops working, we all die.

hm, interesting. I tend to have an opposite view - if we all start working just one day a week, everything will be just fine.

I cant't see how this experiment is set up, can give any answers to what effects general basic income has on the society. A selection of only 2000 people seems too small. 560 USD a month is not enough to get by in scandinavia either. If an experiment is going to prove that society wont't get ruined by general basic income, then an experiment has to be done on a much greater scale than this.

Finnish here. On top of that 560 people got support for their rent expenses. Depending on the amount of rent one could get more than 1000€ per month. It’s not much but you can get by with it. What went wrong with the experiment was that it included only people who were registered as unemoloyed so we don’t know how it would have affected home moms, entrepreneuers, students etc.

It's hard for me to understand why this called a "basic income" experiment then.

The central idea of basic income is that you get one fixed amount of income per month that needs to be sufficient for all expenses, including rent, and everybody gets the same sufficient amount of money no matter what he or she uses it for and no matter whether the person works or not. I'm writing "sufficient amount", because it is obvious that a basic income experiment that doesn't allow people to get by without working would not be basic income either, but a subsidy to the salary, as they already exist in many social welfare systems.

> I'm writing "sufficient amount", because it is obvious that a basic income experiment that doesn't allow people to get by without working would not be basic income either, but a subsidy to the salary, as they already exist in many social welfare systems.

This is not "obvious" at all, and there's no reason why we couldn't start meeting people halfway, in a sense. Realistically, no amount of BI would allow people to "get by" in a highly-desirable urban location like SF or the Valley. It would probably be priced for areas with a more manageable cost of living, and even there most folks would be supplementing it with at least part-time or "gig" work.

> Realistically, no amount of BI would allow people to "get by" in a highly-desirable urban location.

Isn't it part of the idea for a UBI?

If you can't live where it is expensive, go find a better job or move out.

UBI, at least my idea of it is far from easy, it is something to ensure your survival, but if you want confort, and choosing where you want to live is part of it, then you need to work. There is only so much money that can be allocated do welfare, and you can't give more to some people without taking it from others.

It means that if you are already living on subsidies, chances are that your situation is going to get worse with UBI. OTOH, part timers in poor areas will be much better off since they will get full UBI + pay with low expenses.

Maybe that's why UBI doesn't work. Not because it is an incitation to do nothing, but because it may be devastating to families who already live on subsidies. And if we don't remove existing subsidies, then there isn't enough money.

I kind of agree. A very low UBI that barely allows people to subsist will not solve any existing social problems, it might instead effectively become a subsidy for extremely low income classes without increasing vertical social mobility, and therefore in the long run further increase the gap between the poor and the rich that has been increasing since WW2.

Personally, I believe that the best way to decrease social tensions and prevent a dystopian impoverishment of the majority of the population is to lower the gap between the rich and the poor and to limit the amount of wealth that can be transmitted by heritage, for example with a Skandinavian tax and welfare model and by putting a strict upper bound on the amount of assets and resources that can be inherited.

It seems to me that UBI can only work as intended if it was fairly high, and that is perhaps not realistic for political and economic reasons.

If rent was covered, 560€/month is plenty. I lived in Sweden on 1500 kr/month (after rent and a public transportation pass) and that was fine.

> A selection of only 2000 people seems too small

The population of Finland is 5.503M. A sample size of 663 represents 6M population at 99% confidence levels. 2000 is more than a decent sample size. You may argue for the sample quality but the size seems beyond question here.

It’s not about sample quality or size - it’s about the behavior of a group when condition change, but the conditions didn’t change. For example, under a proper UBI I’d quit my job and start a business. Under this time limited experiment I never would have. In a proper UBI environment I might scale down my living to fit in only the UBI so I won’t be dependent on a job. Under a 2 year experiment I don’t.

There are some minor effects that don’t need universal+indefinite basic income to show up, but tbh those aren’t very interesting.

It would have been a more interesting experiment to fund just 100 people for life, with the same money, even though that sample would have been smaller! But even with say 10k people funded for life, you wouldn’t see the most important effects on the job market, prices, rents...

> more interesting experiment to fund just 100 people for life

Are there any good natural experiments like this?

Some lottery winners take the annuity, maybe that is close? (Although they are selected both to play the lottery, and to have the sense not to immediately buy a ferrari.)

Some places have pretty generous disability pay, I wonder if people who just got it or just didn't might be a useful experiment?

> For example, under a proper UBI I’d quit my job and start a business. Under this time limited experiment I never would have.

What business would you start that takes more than 2 years to validate but takes basically no funding?

With UBI I’d be happy if my new business made 50% the money I need for my lifestyle because the UBI could provide the rest. I’m confident I could start a business that does that. But what it would validate would be that the business would not be sustainable when the UBI disappears.

So by “business” I mean a UBI subsidized hobby, basically.

I agree that the other critizism are much worse (too little money for a too short time).

But while a sample size of 2000 is statistically enough, a study this small can't find the effects of giving a basic income to an entire country. Giving income to one person changes that person, giving income to everyone changes the entire economy.

For an initial experiment this is actually fine. You first want to check that the effect on the individual is beneficial and people don't just stop contributing to society. But to draw useful conclusions you would need a second experiment that gives basic income at least to an entire community, preferably even an entire region, for a duration that allows people to forget about the "after".

>For an initial experiment this is actually fine. You first want to check that the effect on the individual is beneficial and people don't just stop contributing to society.

Is it though? With the knowledge that it will be over in 2 years you get a different sort of behavior then if it actually functioned as a guaranteed support net.

I would have found it much more interesting, if it supported people 10 year from retirement for those 10 years. They could just stop everything and dont have to care for after the project ends.

That is true, but they gotta start somewhere! Isn't it okay to start small and repeat it a few times, incorporating learnings from the previous round?

It might not actually be okay. Quantity has a quality all its own. Whatever learnings produced from a small scale study may not actually apply to a large scale implementation. It’s possible you could “learn” the wrong lessons.

A couple problems with these basic income experiments are that the participants know they are receiving their money for a limited time, which does not allow them to change their economic participation in meaningful ways. There is also the network effects to be considered. When only a tiny subset of the population is receiving basic income, the effects that you would like to study can’t be observed.

I don’t know how those two issues can be controlled for. Basic Income seems like a system where you just have to dive in a cross your fingers.

>Basic Income seems like a system where you just have to dive in a cross your fingers.

You do understand why people want to start small right? Because if the experiment fails on a large scale, the results are catastrophic to society. In my opinion, proponents of UBI had better find a way to conduct the experiment in a meaningful way on a smaller scale first if they expect to convince any rational person that it's worth pursuing on a larger scale. This idea of "well let's fundamentally change society in an irreversible way and hope it all works out" is absolutely a non-starter for me.

Its not irreversible. Just like you can start UBI whenever you want you can technically stop it too.

Yea, people would modify their behavior to account for it and thus just eliminating it outright would cause a lot of transitional pains, but thats no different than if western governments tried eliminating retirement income, subsidized / free medicine, public infrastructure upkeep, etc.

Yeah, I do realize that and I agree with you. It may be the best idea ever, or an economic disaster. I don’t see how micro studies can figure out which.

Fantastic point. These people were focused on getting a job, any job, so that when the 2 year period was over, they could survive. Which of course is a good thing, but really won't produce what the idealistic goals of basic income are. I doubt (m)any of the participants sat down and thought, now that i can survive forever, what can i do to change my life, build a company, chase a great idea, do something special.

Fair enough. It is then a tough balancing act between the amount of resources (money especially) available for such experiments and the desired size of them to be actually useful. Finland is very small and very homogeneous, so it reduces the number of variables they need to think about. And they are rich enough to afford such experiments.

Must be fun for those working on the such problems :)

Doing such a small scale trial prevents any of the impact UBI would have on the job market, so anything learned may not be relevant. Removing 2000 people from the job market doesn't mean much.

If you want a bigger scale experiment, you could have a look at the French RMI/RSA, it is not exactly a basic income, because it is given only to unemployed people. But, it is 550 euros/months, it has existed since 1988, and it is given under very loose conditions. It is now given to more than a million people. People that have recently lost their jobs receive another bigger help.

It is unclear what is the outcome. Some people will say that it is helping poor people, others will say that it demotivates people to find a job and is contributing to French high unemployment rate. It is really unclear.

edit: To receive RMI/RSA, one also need to be looking for a job, but it is not really enforced.


One of my friends received this. He was previously a rugby player and coach, but was feeling heavier and heavier every day. So he quit.

I think this type of income is best when 'between careers'.. when someone desires to walk a new path.

The alternative seems to be to leap into a new job, which could perpetuate misery.

But if a person has time to step away, and create stillness and clarity, then that decision can become obvious.

For him, the income was enough to live, for him to become a more conscious spender, and when he stopped receiving the money, he chose a new career in door-to-door sales which he's loving.

Unemployment benefits =/= basic income

Unemployment benefits (Chômage/Pôle Emploi) are only allocated to people actively looking for a job after they lost a previous job. They are typically 70-80% of your previous income and are granted for 2 years. It comes with monthly oversight and training program. Entrepreneurs are welcome to it and can ask to be given a lump sum and have dedicated training.

RSA (Revenu de Soliarité Active) is given to anyone, based on their resources: young graduates without a first paying job, refugees waiting for immigration decision, people who haven’t found a job in more than two years, even unpaid members of religious orders. It comes with medical coverage (“universal” medical insurance is based on your status in France).

Both are revoked when you find a job. It used to be possible that a part-time job would pay not much more than either stipend; because of that, both programs were described a possible “disincentives” by opponents (typically right-wing small-government, aka “Libéraux”). Even proponents saw a lot of edge-cases: people having to wait, seeing their hours cut or being fired soon after they changed status and struggling in the transition. To ease the transition, partial stipends were made possible.

Social welfare keeps people in Ghettos and drives them into a life of criminality, drug addiction, tax and social welfare fraud, and pretty much ensures that their children will never get any higher education and move up on the 'social ladder'. As if someone in France could live off 550 EUR/month - and German welfare levels are similar, to make this clear. The levels are unrealistically low, because politicians are detached from the reality of being poor, most of them have never even remotely experienced that life, and the budgets for social welfare systems are extremely high in percentage of GDP. Moreover, social welfare recipients are not a large voter group. So the budgets are cut down every now and then.

The whole idea of real BI is that everybody gets it indiscriminately and that it's high enough to be able to live off it.

RSA is not at all a basic income... Basic income should be unconditional and would affect every one in our society.

RSA just prevent people from dying too soon.

I still don't understand how UBI will be paid for. If my calculations are correct, even 560 USD per month would require Finland to increase tax revenue by a third in order to fund it, if the UBI was provided to everyone in the country.

That already seems hard enough. How realistic would it be to give even more?

Any realistic UBI scheme works by adjusting marginal tax rates to compensate. Everyone gets the BI but it’s effectively taxed away from those with enough other income. Assuming the BI replaces many of the current benefits, it can be implemented by only slightly increasing tax rates for the highest income brackets.

That's a fairly optimistic assumption though.

Finland currently has unemployment at 5.4% and working age economic inactivity (i.e. people who do not pay income tax but are also mostly not eligible for benefits) is closer to 30%.

If the state is paying out the equivalent of a livable income to >5x as many working age people as before that's a big increase in [net] income tax burden on the employed. Given that many of these economically inactive people are not looking for work by choice (probably because they don't need the money), there's a big question over whether that's an income tax burden worth imposing.

It is true that the best place to fund UBI is not from a pure income tax. In the same way raising the minimum wage inflates the general cost of goods, but at a lesser rate than the poorest earners see their incomes rise, having a UBI with a (preferably progressive with annual per-capita credit) generalized transnational / sales / exchange tax across the whole economy would work better. That would include income, but it wouldn't exclude capital gains, trade, consumer purchase, etc.

Lots of people net $0 or a negative amount.

The payments are not contingent on anything, but people earning enough more than the payments are getting less basic income than they are paying in taxes towards basic income.

Hypothetically let's say you raised taxes by a third across the board. Only people who's taxes went up by more than that 560 a month would be paying more than they received in UBI. So it's a little bit deceptive in terms of how much taxes would need to increase by. The tax increase and monthly UBI amount should be tuned together to have the desired redistributive effect.

Good point. It would be interesting to see some studies on the expected tax increases to make this work in practice.

There would still be the potential problem of people choosing not to work (affecting tax revenue), but this is much harder to predict of course.

> There would still be the potential problem of people choosing not to work (affecting tax revenue), but this is much harder to predict of course.

I know a lot a people who don't have a job, but do a shit tons of work. Think of all those retired people building stuff for the family.

People who really don't want to do anything exist, some of them are mentally sick and need help, but I think every one want to do something (at some point in their life).

One aspect of UBI in Finland that isn’t talked about as much as it used to be, is that it was meant to replace the rather extensive National health benefits notably the handicap pension. The argument was to save on the management cost of those programs.

Some people with a significant handicap, typically those who benefit from assistance to afford a powered wheelchair, were against it because it was likely that their benefit would be greatly reduced. There is also a large portion of the country that is considered handicapped for not obviously somatic reasons (depression and alcoholism) that would lose a lot. I have never heard any Finn disagree with the support that the latter group receives but I would assume that the assistance that they receive is controversial.

The initial goal there was to reduce the cost of managing all assistance programs (not to reduce inequality which isn’t necessarily seen as a major problem as long as everyone has a roof & eats) and was more a fringe right-wing idea.

The idea of UBI is that you will replace most of current social support methods, reducing the administrative cost.

The disagreements I often see are on how large portion of social support can be replaced by UBI. In your calculations, how much of the 560 per month would be needed to be supported by new taxes?

Unemployment benefits are more than $560 per month in Finland apparently, so this wouldn't be able to replace that (certainly not in a way which makes the administrative cost unnecessary).

The general idea is that you do not get UBI on top of current unemployment benefits, and by having a universal income a lot of benefit programs will become obsolete.

One can for example look at people with part time and compare the average dependence on social support vs those who are unemployed. The assumption is that those with some income are part of fewer benefit program and interacts with fewer social administrators.

Do Finland have a similar system to Sweden where Unemployment benefits depend if the person paid a unemployment insurance when they were employed?

I'm not familiar with the Swedish system but in Finland the unemployment benefit depends on whether you paid an unemployment insurance fund a membership fee during your employment. It's something like an insurance except the fees don't cover most of the costs and the state covers them instead.

Arguably, the tax increase is zero: all the money is immediately returned. What matters is the redistribution: who pays more (and how much) and who gets more.

Also, for those who pay more, part of the tax increase is fictitious, since it would be compensated by their UBI. Someone paying $2000 before and $3000 now would not actually see an increase of $1000, just $440.

> Arguably, the tax increase is zero

You can't really argue that, because that applies to all taxation. It is like answering "Who is going to pay for the army?" by saying "the money is given to soldiers who spend it, and put it back into the economy - so really it costs nothing".

The flaw in that thinking is that, by design, a UBI will involve the consumption of real resources (like how maintaining an army involves lots of sunk resources including people's time) that could have gone into something else that creates more resources. The consumption of resources is going to appear as a cost to someone, because the people and activities consuming them didn't directly create anything.

At the moment we have an economic system that ensures consumption of real resources is matched by creation of real resources, using money as a measuring stick to prove that nobody in the chain of production believes value is being lost (net value, anyway). The cost of short circuiting that, as UBI does, is never going to be 0 and someone will have to pay it.

In the soldier's case, they will spend their time and then get paid that money, with which they'll spend more resources. So for each tax dollar that enters, more than one dollar of resources is spent.

In the UBI's case, this is not true: the expense of resources is exactly the same, the State is just taking away the decision on which resources to spend it on from one group (net tax payers) to another (net tax receivers).

> At the moment we have an economic system that ensures consumption of real resources is matched by creation of real resources

But that's true with UBI as well (assuming it's done with taxation instead of issuing currency). If you give part of your paycheck to another person, the resources accounting is still net zero (society-wide).

> So for each tax dollar that enters, more than one dollar of resources is spent.

That is true; which imposes an interesting upper bound on army size before the economy collapses.

> In the UBI's case, this is not true

A UBI is exactly the same, except that the resource burn is smaller than employing someone in the army because instead of being guarenteed to waste a soldiers time there is only potential to waste a citizens time, which is an improvement.

> the State is just taking away the decision on which resources to spend it on from one group ... to another

Yes. Group 1 is the group that will decide to create more resources with what they are given and Group 2 are consumers. We know that is true in practice, because if it wasn't a UBI would be pointless.

> If you give part of your paycheck to another person, the resources accounting is still net zero (society-wide).

That is not so. If you get given your paycheck automatically you clearly have not created any real resources. If you spend it, you are clearly claiming something of value. For the overwhelming majority of people in the overwhelming majority of cases, the resources are for immediate or medium-term consumption, and the society wide net is reduced resources.

That's why automation and taxing those who use automation to generate income should be the driving force behind UBI.

Let the robots do the grunt work.

What if it was more like a negative income tax than UBI?

I'm actually more interested in what happens with lower amounts that aren't enough to live on. On the margin, this should still have some good effects, and is more likely to be implemented.

not enough money, not enough people and too short (you know its ending somewhere soon, so you´re not really free. and the participents still seeking for jobs, because the experiment is ending.). so this test is basically just donating a bit of money to random people, not a basic income experiment (for me at least).

I didn't get picked for this, but if I did, like you say, I wouldn't have started a business knowing it would end in 2 years.

May I ask why not? In my opinion 2 years is plenty of time to validate a business and see if it's ramen aka UBI amount profitable.

One part of UBI I still don't understand and have a hard time finding an answer for:

If everyone gets a basic level of income no matter what, won't the base level just be pushed up higher? So instead of a flat costing for instance $500 a month, it will cost $1000 month because everyone can afford the $500 flat.

I can't see a scenario where a government doesn't have to increase the UBI every year.

>So instead of a flat costing for instance $500 a month, it will cost $1000 month because everyone can afford the $500 flat.

In this scenario, presumably all businesses raise their prices to the total UBI amount. But now people on UBI who could previously afford multiple goods and services no longer can, because each business demands the entirety of their UBI, participation in the economy is infeasible. Therefore, most of those businesses go under, being unable to actually sell anything and make a profit (bear in mind that this inflation also applies to business owners, and any costs of doing business as well.)

This won't happen for the reason renters don't ask for your income and simply demand 100% of your income as rent nowadays - economics isn't that simple. No one is going to buy a flat if they can't also afford utilities and food while living there.

OP did not write that rents would go up until l00% of people's income. IMO what he meant was that certain flats that used to be priced at the level that everyone could afford them, would go up in price when everyone's income would increase because of basic income: and they would keep going up until they reached the same equilibrium that they used to be in beforehand. Of course this would not just apply to rents but to all scarce commodities.

I think OP has a valid point; similar things happened after the influx of high income tech workers in SF, or for instance in some European countries after governments gave tax advantages to house owners.

Wouldn't UBI lead to a population decrease as the people living in poverty (for whatever reason) are the ones that reproduce the most? It sounds to me like housing costs should decrease in the long term as the supply becomes greater than the demand.

I have a somewhat sinister view of this. In my opinion, it would play out exactly how you described, and when it did, proponents of UBI would demand control over private sector pricing in order to stabilize. And since you can't just "undo" large scale UBI, government control over private sectors would have to be given, or the ratcheting up of costs and UBI would continue indefinitely. UBI is a foot in the door of more government control over life and business.

I theory (feel free to e skeptical), it works like this:

Higher taxes mean that it's harder for rich people to consume a lot. So they would no longer be able to afford a mansion, and the building manager would convert it into 10 apartments and one luxury apartment. The rich person would still be able to afford the luxury apartment, but there would also be 10 more "normal" units available to people relying on basic income.

The problem is that rich people don't consume in proportion to their wealth... most is usually invested. So high taxes don't necessarily free up consumable resources very effectively, and could have consequences for future tax revenue.

>The problem is that rich people don't consume in proportion to their wealth... most is usually invested

Money that is invested doesn't vanish, the companies they invest in use that money to produce more goods. Assuming the cost of labor goes up with UBI, less of the profit will go to the investors and more will go to the employees, effectively taxing their investments.

I think we are in agreement. My point was that it's nor clear that rich people would consume less, so the money would come from them divesting assets to pay the taxes.

It would probably push prices up, but the impact on individuals would depend on their non-basic income.

Say I earn nothing, then a UBI of $100/month comes in; I have increased my income by an infinite percentage.

Say I earn $10,000 and the same UBI comes in, I have increased my income by 1%.

This results in a general flattening of the income v. population percentile curve, effectively flatting out income differentials and promoting equality.

Things do go haywire if the governing thought is "everyone should get enough money to buy an X" in some scenario where there are Y people and (Y-1) Xs floating around. It doesn't matter how much money people have if there are not enough goods.

One might ask in a first place : who needs $10,000/month to live (including water, food, private place to sleep, and some entertainment) ?

If some people can live with $1,500/month, how come other receive so much and for what?

I guess it's related to "capitalism", "liberatism" or whatever. But please can someone explain to me like I'm five ?

Adding value. Lets say there is something in your life that you care about and costs you $100 a month. If I find a way to provide you with the same value for $20 a month and manage to do it at a cost of $10 a month, if I can persuade you to do business with me, you get the same value for $80 a month less and I get $10 a month in profits. If I manage to convince 100,000 people to also save $80 a month, I get $10 * $100,000 or $1m a month - not by taking away from others, but by saving them money.

Of course, plenty of people get money in ways that doesn't align with this ideal, but as an entrepreneur, that's the way I think about things and I have no problem with receiving $1m a month if I do so by saving others money and/or providing them with goods or services that they choose to purchase and that makes them happy.

What a single person can live on may be quite different to what a family would need, especially with school age children.

Some people might be happy living a simple life, some may want the fancy house and car, or want to travel whenever they can.

>who needs $10,000/month to live

Those who have a monthly mortgage payment of $9000. Substract $500 (or more if the government doesn't help you with their costs) for each child in your household.

The law of supply and demand will always force the cost of goods to go up if there is not enough supply vs demand. You're right there is no scenario, without technological improvement, in the long term, where items get affordable just because people have more money.

But there are some items that are in oversupply that would always be affordable so giving someone money to buy it will probably help. I can only think of virtual goods as goods that are always in oversupply. A place to live is not one of those items.

A place to live is one of those examples i think, just not in the regions which are in demand. With a declining population and a push to live in more urban environments, there is quite a lot of living space in regions where its not attractive to live. You can witness the trend in Germany where alot of villages are dying out, as there are no jobs in the region and they are to far off for people to drive every day to work.

I see, that the trend to increased rent prices balancing out UBI would apply to in demand regions, but not at all in areas that would otherwise go unused. Most countries do have an extreme oversupply of living space, even before a population decline.

Let's go further with this. It's reasonable to assume that a UBI's cost would have to be offset by increased taxes, this would have to be progressive or the UBI would be pointless. So there would be a cutoff somewhere on the income distribution where the UBI payment would be offset by increased taxes, let's say at $80,000 to have a number. Making less than that, UBI would increase one's total take-home. Making more than that, the tax to support UBI would lessen one's total take-home.

The places with highly desirable real estate and high prices (e.g. SF and Manhattan) are already unaffordable to people making less than $80,000. So UBI would not increase the ability for residents to pay rent in those areas. Rather, it might actually decrease their net income, so by GP's argument it might lower rents in those areas. But in small towns (like City You've Never Heard Of, WV) with a low median income, UBI would increase net income. So it might increase rents there except those small towns are already emptying out as people leave to seek high-paying jobs in big cities, as you said.

So I think UBI would lead to rental/COL costs homogenizing somewhat rather than simply going up. It seems like this could solve several problems at once.

I think you could argue the developed world has an oversupply of food.

The biggest problem I can see is housing, if housing supply is constrained then I suspect any UBI will just end up in the pockets of landlords. Perhaps universal housing would be a better idea.

You're right in a sense. But the only reason is that the governments subsidize the production.

People bitch about farmer subsidies but without them, farming would be a much more volatile business and farmers would be much more unlikely to be in the business. Thus cutting supply and making food much more expensive.

I wouldn't classify it as being naturally oversupplied. It's a result of the way governments manage the food production.

Are there no other flats on the world that people can sell for $900 and undercut the competition? Why what you described doesn't happen right now?

There's a shortage of flats, so there's no need to undercut the competition.

I came here to say the same thing. We’ve already seen it play out in the US with college tuition costs where loans are effectively guaranteed so college tuition has risen to a new equilibrium point to reflect that.

In large part I feel like that phenomenon emerges from how significant a good degree can be on your future income. For many people its the best investment they make - $200k with interest and four years now for several million of extra income over their working years.

So if you raise loan allotments and grants more people are now eligible to go to a very restricted and finite pool of schools, especially "top" ones, the first response will be a price rise because the supply of admissions into desired schools doesn't go up at all.

What should happen in a naive sense is that with more money available for quality education top schools would expand their enrollment and more top schools would emerge, but respectively for the former there is a strong NIMBYism in making a school less "exclusive" and for the later go ahead and try to found a new Ivy League University in 2019.

With UBI the market for most of the goods a UBI is meant for, in particular food, power, and amenities are all much more responsive markets. Prices go up for a moment but higher prices means more profits per unit which attracts competition and scaling up production to meet increased demand.

The exception of course is housing because the housing market is anything but a free one, especially in the US. But in the same way addressing the university "gatekeeping" epidemic of prestige and exclusivity cannot be solved by jamming money into those without access you similarly cannot just dump money on the poor and expect housing to arise without fixing why the economy is jammed when it comes to meeting demand for housing.

UBI isn't a panacea to decoupled problems in the economy. It only works for goods actually operating in a free market where the increased demand can attract investment and growth to meet it. A lot of things, including medicine, housing, infrastructure, and education do not operate in a free market and thus adding or subtracting money from any given group to try to get it for them isn't going to work. But it can work for things like furniture, clothing, etc.

Would universal basic income reduce crime by making it easier for employees to decline immoral tasks?

Interesting question. I think one could reasonably expect it to decrease economic crime, where the motivation of the act is to avoid poverty and starvation. This would include both compulsion by one's employer, and also crimes of theft by the unemployed.

It may conceivably increase other types of crime, possibly in unexpected ways. Give people time and freedom and just enough money to stay alive, and not all of them will become artists or entrepreneurs. Many will just get bored. Some fraction of those will direct that boredom in destructive directions, like vandalism or drug use. Others, resenting the system, might find a sense of purpose in political activism, which could lead to civil disobedience.

So I don't think it's easy to predict.

>Many will just get bored. Some fraction of those will direct that boredom in destructive directions, like vandalism or drug use.

You have an excellent punishment option in that case that may well be more effective than prison: remove their right to basic income :)

I'm a fervent supporter of Universal Basic Income and that very threat is why I want it Universal. Let's fix our societies' failings without the threat of death, hunger, and forced exposure to the elements.

In the case of vandalism, I agree completely removing their basic income would be too much, just fining them like we already do is enough. For things that would land you in prison though, forcing you to have to work like you already have to under the current system seems less cruel than the alternative. Note that under UBI there's going to be a surplus of job opportunities that no one will want to do like cleaning toilets and such. So it's less a threat of death and hunger, and more a threat of having to resort to shitty jobs.

>under UBI there's going to be a surplus of job opportunities

I'm not so sure of this. If those jobs really need doing, then the pay will just go up until they become attractive. There won't be open positions just hanging around indefinitely, in case people decide they want a job.

I'm wary of making removal of basic income a punishment for anything - it seems like a moral hazard. From my point of view, the entire point of basic income is that abandoning people to their own devices, possibly to starve, just isn't the way a well-to-do first world country should be treating people. That argument doesn't change regardless of what crimes you've committed - that's why most first world countries no longer have the death penalty and regard it as barbaric.

Furthermore, if basic income becomes viewed as a revocable privilege instead of a right, there will be great pressure to get more and more "undeserving" people off it, ostensibly for their own good but really just to save money. We already see this behaviour in the way the recent UK government has been treating the people under its draconian "Universal Credit" system - since its introduction, "unemployment" (as measured by claimants) has plummeted, but the number of people on the street has skyrocketed. Clearly people in bad situations are being booted out of the system, by hook or by crook.

You really don't want this attitude in your social safety net.

Prison labor undermines UBI. If you can force someone to work why would you pay someone else to work?

I think that to answer the question in the title, looking at two persons only is the wrong approach.

I think it would be more interesting to see what people with jobs would do with that money. As someone working in Finland who can pay rent, bills, buy basic food, and other monthly essentials, it would be nice to have money left over to actually spend on myself.

The money would be taxed away, of course.

A six minute video of two anecdotes cannot possibly (and did not) answer the question in this title. This is click bait garbage.

Which is why I no longer click on BBC articles.

In contrast, the national broadcasting corporation in my own country (the ABC in Australia) still does fairly good reporting.

TLDR: Misleading title, waste of time. "Finland is analyzing the results to see what lessons can be learned." - that's all the substance there is.

It's just a video of two randomly picked persons of this experiment, which doesn't tell anything.

Thats exactly how I felt at the end of the video. They just ended it, and now they are analyzing the data. It does not say if they will restart the program after their assessment or if they will just end it for good.

From the people in the video, what it seems to show is that it can give people some confidence to pursue what they want to do, but at the same time, it does not seem to permanently change their life.

I think a longer term study is needed. Furthermore, it is not clear if people will start doing more altruistic work if they have UBI like contributing to open source or working at a non-profit organization.

I'm currently in an EU country receiving a 2 year stipend of 750 euros a month as I attempt to build a business.

The magic of having that money come in each month is that it removes the cognitive load of uh oh, how do I survive? allowing me to fully devote myself to work.

Rather than slack off, I work 16 hour days, 7 days a week.

It's not enough to have a social life, or do much of anything, and that's fine. After all why would you be out playing if you've a business to run?

Perhaps it doesn't work on a wide scale, but for the sincere and serious, basic income is a gift. And one that I believe every recipient is obliged to repay in the form of job creation, tax revenue or some kind of contribution to society.

In the same way that washing machines 'liberated' women in developing countries[1], UBI could be a similar revolution - freeing up time and energy spent in drudgery and reassigning it to (potentially) more worthwhile and value-creating pursuits.


This is a great use case for ubi. I also think the US should open Medicare for small business. I think the biggest problem with ubi is the branding. It should be billed as alternative social security or something. Using ubi for starting a business is great. ( and good luck to you!)


What kind of business is that? How are you funding it? 18000 euros is rather insignificant on business scale.

Online software. There are additional grants available but it's true to say that if it wasn't a software biz (where the marginal cost is close to zero) it would more of a struggle.

But then there's always loans and other forms of capital.

TLDR: Two unemployed people are shown, each receiving 560€ a month with no strings attached. For comparison, median income in Finland is 2900€.

The woman doesn't seem to have learned any trade (at least it's not mentioned) and has only ever worked briefly at a factory. She took a job as a telemarketer that she liked. As the program ends, her financial situation will be unsustainable.

The man used to be a journalist and has been unemployed for five years. He's still unemployed after the program ends and will now have to "deal with bureaucracy again".

I love how they just didn't really do much and kinda slacked. People who think UBI will include people voluntarily going out to work at jobs that aren't fun... this study is a wrench in the works! I bet the younger generation will play fornite, league of legends, or scroll insta/snapchat all day.

(I would have also liked to see the study actually show it being a sustainable solution , but the ironic outcome is enjoyed nevertheless!)

I'm reminded of the KLF's cynical but observant "THE MANUAL: HOW TO HAVE A NUMBER ONE THE EASY WAY": http://freshonthenet.co.uk/the-manual-by-the-klf/

"Firstly, you must be skint and on the dole. Anybody with a proper job or tied up with full time education will not have the time to devote to see it through. Also, being on the dole gives you a clearer perspective on how much of society is run."

The name of the famous band, UB40 stands for "Unemployment Benefit, Form 40"

My mate spent a year on the dole living rent free at his parents learning how to play the drums.

He's now a highly paid insurance PM consultant.

I have a few other stories like this too, a few people I knew mucked around on the dole for a year, deliberately failing interviews, and decades later are now happy, successful, people.

You shouldn't experiment on long term unemployed as they are the abnormal cases, most people get back to work within 3 months if helped.

There's a simple thought experiment, if every month you get 100 unemployed people and 90 get a job but 10 are bad and don't, within a year you might look at the system and say 'look, it doesn't work, 120 people are bad and don't get a job, and only 90 get a job', where in reality 1080 got a job and 120 didn't.

Agree with your point on focusing on that particular sample. But I also heard and seen stories of people who take long (2-3y) career breaks and struggle to get back in, or do at a significant loss of seniority. It’s not so much an unemployment problem. They ultimately find a job. Rather a “damaged career path” kind of problem.

I don’t see how that’s relevant. We’re talking about long term subsidies and the often prevailing hope that this would enable new vocations and filling of underpayed but highly socially valuable functions (like family care etc)

I also happen to know many people through world of warcraft who live on their parents money, have no urge to win their own, simply live on little and have been playing for years now. They are not picking up new skills or doing something social.

I rather hope that someday money will be enough of a problem to motivate them to deal with their issues or just do something with their life, than keep things the same and hope for a change.

Again, you're focusing on the abnormal, rather than the normal, just like the parent.

You come across these people because they spend a much larger amount of time than normal people.

It's a basic consequence of simple stats that are very easy to misinterpret, and that's my point.

I don't think the woman slacked, she did get a job, but she was living above her means when it was clear that the program would end at some point.

I also think that this is exactly what this kind of UBI will do: Subsidize low-paying jobs.

The man on the other hand seems to have this outlook that since he used to be a journalist, if he doesn't get another job as a journalist, he'll get to collect unemployment benefits indefinitely.

I wonder if that's him gaming the system or if that's really how the system in Finland works.

> The man on the other hand seems to have this outlook that since he used to be a journalist, if he doesn't get another job as a journalist, he'll get to collect unemployment benefits indefinitely.

> I wonder if that's him gaming the system or if that's really how the system in Finland works.

If it's like Sweden, then he still has to apply for jobs and is pushed to go outside of his field if he is to continue getting benefits.

So many people identify strongly with their occupation. This man is a journalist and author and used to be able to sustain on that. It's as if switching field would be admiting defeat and losing yourself.

Subsidizing low-paying jobs is not a bad thing if you do what you love or you work on your own terms without having to worry too much about profits.

Slacking is what the current system conditions the long-term unemployed to do.

That is, the alternative to UBI here isn't "no income"; we already have basic income in Finland, though it's highly dependent on enduring various activation measures that are mostly useless in providing actual employment (and, in a few instances, have turned out to be sweat shops that use the unemployed for unpaid labour). Accepting a low-income, part-time job tends to result in the automatic loss of several months of basic income, though the pay from such job might be significantly less - so, in a situation where there aren't enough jobs to go around, the rational thing to do is to avoid any actual work and to simply keep jumping the hoops.

The proposed UBI models are aimed specifially at unraveling these "welfare traps" and at reducing the attached bureaucracy.

My bet, based on what my heart says, is that if everybody could receive UBI, almost all people will do absolutely nothing; levels of depression and mental illness will go over the roof, which could very well end in violence.

Introducing UBI because of robots taking jobs reminds me of that quote, "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

It's so little money that I don't think people would do nothing. I agree with your concern about mental health. Sometimes well intentioned policy sets up an environment that encourages behaviors that lead to mental health issues (the opiod crisis for example).

>based on what my heart says

okay so I can stop reading there, because whatever that is will be informed by the culture surrounding you, which if I had to guess would be center to right american

Finland is already a welfare state.

People who think UBI will include people voluntarily going out to work at jobs that aren't fun... this study is a wrench in the works! I bet the younger generation will play fornite, league of legends, or scroll insta/snapchat all day

Yes and no. The B in UBI is basic, you won't starve or freeze but if you want nice things such as a new gaming PC, you would still need to earn to pay for that. Maybe in that world you would do just enough work to earn it, then not bother working again until you needed to upgrade - and that's OK.

I think it's very lucrative to turn to crime _occasionally_ when basic needs are taken care of. UBI guarantees not starving and having a roof over your head, while a new phone or even a gaming PC is just 1 crime away.

The woman seems to become dependent on the program. I thought it was interesting that she leveraged the income to take a lower paying job.

Sort of the exact opposite of the intention I would imagine. The idea would be to give people a leg to stand on so they can take risks, not hide in their confort zone...

> "The idea would be to give people a leg to stand on so they can take risks, not hide in their confort zone..."

560€ per month, in Finland, is not enough take people out of their "comfort zone". Check out the rental prices in some of the larger cities: https://www.vuokraovi.com

No, the comfort zone is staying with your low-paying job that couldn't even sustain you if it wasn't for that extra paycheck.

It's not really clear from the video, but neither of these people could possibly be living off of 560€ alone. The man even said that his financial situation didn't change significantly, so there has to be some other source of income.

The participants received other benefits too, the total was higher than 560 per month.

>The idea would be to give people a leg to stand on so they can take risks, not hide in their confort zone

I think many proponents of UBI overestimate the ambitiousness of the average person.

I think many proponents of UBI overestimate the ambitiousness of the average person.

Nobody in my family has ever taken even minor risks like say, traveling abroad (for work or fun), starting a small business etc. I'm the first and I am only taking baby steps now.

Point being, we can't expect to give UBI for a few months and suddenly expect people to take big risks or become ambitious or attack huge problems. These things take time. Imagine a person who has seen his parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc being only salaried workers all their life, rarely moving out of their comfort zone. It wouldn't be easy for such a person to suddenly change (climb Everest, start a biz, spend a year writing a novel etc), even if their food and lodging is taken care of.

I don't know whether UBI is a good thing or bad. But I think both the for camp and against camp are too quick to jump to conclusions - these are social experiments not Math problems. They will take time and we can only learn by trial and error. And what works in one community might not work in another, even within the same state/country.

And I suspect that it will like result in even more ressentment from people who chose to stay at home on a meagre UBI against people who chose to work and earn a lot more. In other words it could have a politically explosive outcome (populist, socialist parties getting elected, etc).

I think you underestimate how little this experiment gave people.

This did not eliminate risk at all.

Why? Without a consumer class it's impossible for everyone to be entrepreneurial. I think it makes very good sense to leverage the income and take a lower paying job. Maybe in so doing, she's able to consume stuff made by someone entrepreneurial, something she would absolutely not be able to do if pushing it to the limit to maximize her own income.

There's no "consumer class". Every person is a consumer, including those who are entrepreneurial. Being entrepreneurial simply means you are in charge of what gets produced. The market then decides whether what you are producing is actually needed. If it isn't, you go out of business. Resources get re-allocated.

The efficiency of this process is the whole argument on why capitalism is superior to other systems.

Subsidies and other special favors distort this process, to the point of overproducing things that are not needed and underproducing things that are. The danger I see is that UBI is exactly such a subsidy.


"The class of persons able to buy goods and services other than those that satisfy their basic needs. ..."

That doesn't seem like a common term and I'm not sure that's what the parent was referring to. Either way, my argument stands.

In other words, we learn absolutely nothing about the question the story is titled by?

thanks :D

Pretty surprising stuff since here in Spain the unemployed make about 400 euros a month after they have ended their actual unemployment benefits. This last resort income is for two years. They must attend courses on job skills like cook, welder and so on though. All these courses are free.

It's not for life, but it takes out of poverty most people.

The problem with Spain is that there literally are no jobs, and those courses are a charade.

As long as there is a need to be filled (like food) and a way to fulfill needs (like fishing), there are jobs.

There are plenty of jobs to be created, also in Spain.

In economics needs aren't actual physical human needs. The homeless need shelter and the starving need sustenance, but they have none because they don't create economic demand for it because they have no money.

People would only build the homeless man a house or sell the starving mother a fish if they had something to give in return, at least in the naive purely free market economic sense, but that is how macroeconomic observations on supply and demand operate - irrespective of choices made outside of economic rationality.

First you are assuming that there really are needs to be filled. For example in the case of fishing there are limits to how much you can fish, set by the EU, which maybe we've hit already.

Second, jobs don't exist until they are created; saying that they could be created doesn't help unemployed people. Someone has to take the (sometimes very high) risk.

Yes, I am assuming that there are needs to be filled. Is this incorrect? Does not people want stuff, also in Spain?

The limits on how much can be fished is a good point (but I assume the limits is in place to avoid over-fishing, which would result in no fish at all).

Stating that jobs don't exist until they are created may not help unemployed people, but I still believe it to be true.

And I bet that once somebody getting those 400 euros a month decides to take that risk, they will not be entitled the support money anymore.

Of course, but in any case, someone who lives off welfare doesn't have the money to start a business. The only option is to ask a bank for money, and they won't give you shit if you're living off welfare.

Some business require money to start, some don't. Starting some kinds of business look pretty much like getting a job. (But then, there are also certainly laws in place that put a few barriers on starting those last one.)

I think UBI should lead to self-actualization in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_need...

Could a virtual economoy be a better place to do a proper UBI experiment? Maybe like a Tamagotchi MMO. I'd play it.

Will rent seeking landlords just raise rent? If everyone has a BS degree, isn't that just the requirement?

I'm very much interested in the findings. There is probably more to it than this 5 minute video can show.

I’d like to see more case studies.

I could see people taking license to putz around for 2 years, while others try and use the opportunity.

Is humanity mostly lazy or mostly productive?

Of course UBI “works”. There are some rich people who enjoy never having to work, and they are quite happy with that.

The problem with it is that it cannot be universally sustainable.

Really? I mean sure has some unsustainable qualities but what if it turned out it worked for long enough to carry into a different phase of the business cycle?

Retirement plans are already unsustainable, retirement age is raising everywhere in the world. UBI is basically a life-long retirement scheme, requiring at least 10x more resources.

There's a difference between unsustainable and underfunded.

Retirement schemes are currently funded with such creative approaches that Enron would be ashamed of. No stone left unturned: continuous refinancing with future taxes, securitization, implied zero default risk, assumptions of constantly growing economy, and more. Even then, US direct social security is 25% of all budgetary expenses, and with Medicare/Medicaid it is around 60%, much larger than anything else. Unsustainable means unsustainable.

That's a problem with America's dodgy retirement scheme, not retirement schemes in general. In Australia for instance, the government enforces mandatory saving for retirement, but neither the citizen nor the government are able to access the money before retirement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superannuation_in_Australia. This means that peoples' retirements are actually funded by real savings, not by wealth transfer from younger workers, so it doesn't matter if the retired population significantly outnumbers the working population. Singapore has something similar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Provident_Fund.

I too am in the Australian Super. This (what you write above) is mostly true except there are moments in our system, the defined benefits hole for federal employees which required the government to make a sovereign fund and the ever-present question: where are the workers, to make money, which the superannuation fund investment managers can then profit from, to pay out super?

I was totally shocked when I learned about how bad the US superannuation regulations are. Raiding funds. funds which invest in the company you work for as their main investment. Permitting early access to funds for things which might look neccessary but really underpin other systematic failures (cost of homes/equity, medical bills for non-terminal diseases)

Aussie workers with a US fund incur costs, because the US fund isn't recognized as a tax compliant super fund. And you get a long tail overhang of the US IRS looking at your income on return to Australia.

Italy is doing something similar - everyone with low income can apply to receive "citizienship" income, something like 800EU a month.

There are strict rules to avoid fraud (that probably won't work, will explain why): the State will give everyone that applied an offer for a private job in different time spans and different distance - you can only avoid one time. Main problem is - there are no jobs that will pay more than that income, and people will try to avoid and keep the income for at least a year.

Surely, in my humble opinion, this is the way to go - together with stricter regulations on non-specialized work, where enslavement is going towards foreign population in EU countries.

Oh no, that's not the case at all. The joke (comedian-led) government of Italy is just misnaming unemployment benefits. They have a very foggy plan (and no ability to actually execute it), but it would include plenty of people trying to find unemployed a job close to home. Again, it's a populist joke.

I bet that it did not have a benefit. Giving money away without a stated goal leads nowhere. The idea of basic income will only work if the receivers are helped along to define what their goal in life will be. Most people have no clue as to what they want out of life. Giving people free money will only make things worse since now they lose the incentive to even try. At least when you have a job you work towards completing someone else's goal. With a basic income, you have no defined goal and you lose the stress of having to find one.

People are talking about mass unemployment because of AI, something that will cause societal chaos, so I can understand why governments and the elite would want to push for a basic income. But it needs to be done in a way that will not destroy people's incentive to help society.

We don't always see it but the only reason we have and are able to buy what we need is because someone got up and did a day's worth of work. Imagine a future where everyone has a choice of showing up to work. Some people will always show up, some people will never show up but the vast majority will show up depending on how they feel that day. A recipe for a chaotic society.

The finnish ubi thing was a joke because it's not nation wide and the amount paid is marginal. I don't see how you can glean any relevant info from that. Wonder what the ramifications are going to be if you're going to see stories of failures connected to not-so-good UBI studies and how they're going to be played by politicians or people against UBI?

>Most people have no clue as to what they want out of life. Giving people free money will only make things worse since now they lose the incentive to even try. At least when you have a job you work towards completing someone else's goal. With a basic income, you have no defined goal and you lose the stress of having to find one. [...] it needs to be done in a way that will not destroy people's incentive to help society.

This part seems more legit. What is the goal in life? Enjoyment of sense pleasure? Procreation? Creation of works of art? I don't know if the point of life can be slaving away roughly third of your waking hours to fuel a gigantic machine based on pointless consumption of material goods and the 'latest shit'. Then again, I also don't know why we need 7 or 11 billion humans on this planet doing those things and how it's going to be sustainable if more and more jobs are being automated away and more and more people are still supposedly going to be lifted from real third world poverty into low/middle consumer class. No doubt on balance everyone should try to be a force of goodness in this world, right?

>Imagine a future where everyone has a choice of showing up to work. Some people will always show up, some people will never show up but the vast majority will show up depending on how they feel that day. A recipe for a chaotic society.

I think this is a false comparison. The owner/manager class and employers no doubt are against ubi because it cuts into their power over others. In my opinion the main benefit of UBI is 'strongarming' employers to having to treat workers better because everyone gets paid enough to move on to greener pastures if they find their jobs paying too little compared to how they are treated or how they enjoy their jobs, allowing people from all walks of life no matter their starting position to be more mobile in society.

With UBI you would get paid more the more you worked and that's an incentive enough. Some people no doubt will cut back their hours or drop out of life with a bong in their hand but that's on them.

How does the economy work anyway? Money has purchasing power somehow correlated to the amount of effort people put into work and the cost of items and services usually reflect a value of time and effort? Won't UBI simply shift some of the ginormous cumulative pareto distorted amount the top whatever% get for simply being at the top to the ordinary folks in the form of a safety net? Productivity seems to be increasing throughout the history yet somehow and arguably perhaps rightly they go to the owners and managers.

In a democratic society we can wrestle some of it back because everyone's in this together like it or not and UBI could make for a fairer and less cut throat society.

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