Why Universal Basic Income is Inevitable
Free money for everyone. Sounds utopian, right?
I will attempt to explain why I think it’s inevitable that UBI, in some form, is bound to happen in our near future.
Now before I go on, I want to say that this is an apolitical post. Meaning, none of my political or even religious views have anything to do with why I believe this’ll happen.
I’ll briefly touch on what side of the fence I learn more towards, but the main purpose of this post isn’t to say whether or not I’m for or against UBI. I primarily want to lay out some of the conversation that’s been circulating as of late.
So what is Universal Basic Income (UBI)?
UBI is basically some form of unconditional form of income, at a level sufficient for base-level subsistence, given by the government to all of its’ citizens regardless of income or work status.
Who are some of the high-profile people supporting UBI?
Some high-profile proponents of UBI are: Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Ng, Sam Altman, Bill Gross, Ray Kurzweil, and Chris Hughes.
There are currently tests being done all over the world
There’s a lot of feasibility testing going on all over the world. Some of the countries I’ve heard of, seriously discussing UBI and/or conducting some form of test trials are the following countries: Switzerland, Kenya, the Netherlands, India, Finland, Canada, and France. For example, Switzerland recently considered testing a $2,600 per month UBI.
In addition to this, for those of you familiar with Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) are aware that since 1982, all Alaskan residents have received an annual basic income of between $331 – $2,069 per year. And by the the end of 2016, this fund was worth $55 billion (derived mostly from oil revenues in that state). There are also sovereign wealth funds in many countries all over the world (i.e. Saudi Arabia), that have subsidized huge portions of civilian expenses and are also used as public pension funds.
Why all this talk about UBI?
Technology and the rise of AI and automation is increasing at a rapid pace.
According to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, we’re living in an AI renaissance: “We are now solving problems with machine learning and artificial intelligence that were … in the realm of science fiction for the last several decades. And natural language understanding, machine vision problems, it really is an amazing renaissance.”
Workers in the trucking/driving industry, airline pilots, lawyers/paralegals to even surgeons are already being affected by automation and AI. And continued advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology will continue to displace many workers.
Proponents of UBI claim that such a system could help close gaps in equality, by meeting everyone’s basic needs via a guaranteed flat income.
Here’s a graphic showing how many jobs are at risk throughout the world:
Timeline for AI/Automation to Exceed Human Intelligence According to Leading Experts
Here’s a graph that shows impending milestones in the near future, where AI will exceed the capabilities of humans:
How much would it cost?
In a country like the US, it would cost $3.2 trillion to pay out $10,000 per year to ALL of its’ citizens.
And most plans (also suggested by Bill Gates, see article link at the end of this post) for universal basic income suggest taxing robots. So in this situation, the government would tax corporations to replace lost revenue from the numbers of human workers that become unemployed due to AI and automation. This would allow corporations to use AI to enhance their productivity, while at the same time help offset the inevitable loss in jobs.
What does this mean for you and me?
One thing that I don’t want people to take from this is a sense that all of our financial worries are now no longer relevant. That big government will one day take care of all of us. That would be a very dangerous take-away. I think it’s important to have some sensible discussion around topics like this but it’s equally important, if not far more important, to play it safe by assuming the worst possible case scenario. Because worst case, if you believe you’ll receive UBI down the line, and it keeps you from preparing yourself financially for the future; to find that it never comes to pass. OR, it eventually ends up happening, but far after our individual life times. Then you’re screwed.
Which side of the fence am I on? For or against UBI?
I’m a capitalist at heart. It’s one of the main reasons why I came to the US. Because of the stable structure and history of capitalism this country has safeguarded for those who immigrate to its’ shores. That said, I also have a soft spot for the poor and less well-off. Especially those who, outside of their control, were born into severe poverty and unfortunate circumstances. I feel that as technological advances continue to occur, and wealth increases globally, it would deeply sadden me to think that may still be huge swaths of the world where people struggle to have the most basic of things, like water, shelter, and food. So that’s where I stand on this topic. I think having a free market society is best for the economy as a whole. But I am for any program that would help the most destitute of this world, the poor and the oppressed, and the children and elderly who can’t take care of themselves.
If I’ve peaked your interest, here’s some additional reading I found online pertaining to UBI
In case UBI doesn’t work out, you may want to read the following posts to prepare yourself for financial independence!