The idea of guaranteeing people’s income–a basic income guarantee–has gained a lot of currency of late. There has been a flurry of articles and think-tank chatter, growing support among the Silicon Valley set and even some early experiments.
Utrecht, in Holland, for example, has an interesting pilot. As Quartz explains:
A group of people already receiving welfare will get monthly checks ranging from around €900 ($1,000) for an adult to €1,300 ($1,450) for a couple or family per month. Out of the estimated 300 people participating, a group of at least 50 people will receive the unconditional basic income and won’t be subject to any regulation, so even if they get a job or find another source of income, they will still get their disbursement
Council alderman Victor Everhardt told a local publication that he sees the policy as a test of how people will react to having their needs met and not having to do anything extra. One big question: “Will someone sit passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?”
The pilot, overseen by University College Utrecht, is one way of doing basic income. People have proposed everything from a universal benefit open to all (even people with money already) to a more conditional arrangement based on existing income. The advantage of universality, aside from morality, is that the program is cheap and easy to administer.
Meanwhile, mayors from both Edmonton and Calgary have also came out in support of some kind of basic income guarantee.
As we discussed before, a basic income is an idea that begins to make sense given the deep changes in the labor markets of western countries. The impact of automation, the move towards part-time work and “flexibility,” the micro-working of the sharing economy–these all represent threats to the traditional idea of a job, and the social contract of employment that goes with it. These could one day necessitate radical thinking about how people pay for their lives. We’ll see what these early efforts tell us about feasibility.