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The Benefits of Universal Basic Income

Automation could destroy 73 million American jobs and 800 million jobs worldwide by 2030, according to the Mckinsey Global institute. Jobs that require human interaction, such as doctors and lawyers are less susceptible to these changes. Many have called for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to remedy this problem.

In the U.S, there is a Democrat by the name of Andrew Yang that is running for office on a platform of UBI. Yang proposes that we give every American citizen 1,000 U.S dollars a month or 12,000 U.S dollars per year.

I believe this proposal is a good start, however, we should distribute the UBI based on income. For instance, those in the top 1% of earners should receive 750 U.S dollars a month, while the bottom 25% of earners should receive somewhere in-between 1,250 to 1,500 U.S dollars per month, depending on income.

Yang plans to pay for this with a 10% Value Added Tax, which is a tax on big corporations. Europe has a 20% VAT tax and if the U.S only taxed half of that, we would be bringing in 800 billion U.S dollars’ worth of revenue.

I agree with this tax and would even go further by adding extra taxes on corporations that pollute the environment. Yang also wants to pay for the UBI by cutting a big portion of the $600 billion a year we spend on welfare programs, food stamps and so on.

Here, people would have a choice of either keeping their current benefits or receiving the full UBI. I agree with this notion, but I also think we should explore other alternatives such as a slight decrease in defense spending.

Another benefit of UBI, according to Yang, is that it would get our social institutions back on track. For instance, Yang believes that the UBI would save us the trillion dollars we spend on health, incarceration and homelessness services.

Yang calls the UBI the “freedom dividend” to appeal to the average American voter. As an idea, UBI could be perceived by the average American voter as socialist or communist, two words that the average American fears. However, the UBI allows for innovation and a free market.

A UBI allows for true freedom to choose one’s path regardless of luck, environment, social class, intelligence etc. A UBI encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. Yang’s approach to capitalism is to upgrade it into what he calls human capitalism.

This “human capitalism” is this idea that people are more important than money and markets should serve the interests of the people. Yang proposes a system of government administered digital social credit system that rewards people who help others and the community at large.

Some people ask: what is the point of giving people free money? I would say that the UBI pumps money into the economy, therefore it makes the economy stronger while also supporting small businesses. Those who feel as if they do not need the UBI can give it to the charity of their choice.

UBI should be popular on both the political left and right. For left wingers, the UBI embodies this idea of a state that provides for all its people. On the right, the UBI could be seen as a way for people to show personal financial responsibility.

The right could see a UBI as an alternative to an expensive welfare state. Lastly, the right could see the UBI as a way to recirculate taxes fairly, since those paying taxes will get a UBI.

A common critique of UBI is that if it is implemented the government would only provide a UBI and disregard other benefits. I argue that we should still focus on things such as universal health care and paid maternity leave along with the UBI.

A UBI will help poor and middle class workers that have been disadvantaged by globalism and technology. This would prevent any more populist uprising in the U.S and Europe. Global capitalism has shown tremendous promise, but it has reached a breaking point and now we must fix it.

The modern leftist approach of big budget spending coupled with big welfare states is now becoming unsustainable. The left must become more imaginative.
The problem with current day capitalism is not just the low minimum wages, it is the exploitation in the unfulfilling work itself. Here, automation is a virtue and will help eliminate jobs that are needless and exploitive.

A UBI can be the true social justice cause of the modern political left, since it would give marginalized groups a fair chance at the modern economy. Common concerns arise about how the UBI will be distributed and about the possibility of the money being misused.

This is why I propose that all UBI’s be put into a personal bank account. Cash withdraws should be forbidden. Not only this, but only transactions relating to basic needs such as food and shelter should be approved.

In1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that in our day we would only need to work 15 hour weeks due to technology. Why hasn’t this happened?
Anthropologist David Graeber coins the term “bullshit jobs” to describe the around 30-40% meaningless jobs in our economy. Graber describes bullshit jobs as workers in middle management, PR, human resources and financial consultants.

Humanity has a unique opportunity. People can avoid meaningless work with the rise of automation and UBI and the corporations can exploit the A.I and cut huge costs by not hiring people.

We must change our notion of the meaning life. No work that an A.I could do better should not be a “moral obligation”. This is a unique opportunity to allow humanity an alternative to the exploitation of capitalism while also keeping the prosperity that globalism and capitalism bring.

There has been a number of UBI experiments, like a 2 year one in the city of Barcelona. There has yet to be a quantifiable study that can tell us anything concrete yet. We should start experimenting with UBI on a local level first.


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