Thursday, 30 June 2016

Back to Basics: Why a Universal Basic Income is the Ultimate Safety Net, by Saul Of-Hearts

For quite a few years, I have been enthusiastic about the idea of a universal basic income, an unconditional payment that every adult would receive regardless of whether they were in work or not. It's an idea that has appeal to people on both the right and the left side of the political spectrum. For those on the left, it could help lift people out of poverty, for those on the right it offers efficiency and removes disincentives to work. That is not to say that there are no possible political or economic problems with the idea that advocates would need to overcome. This book does not engage with those problems to any great degree, but it offers an interesting collection of essays about the potential benefits of a universal basic income.

The essay on women's domestic labour is particularly important. Women do a lot of unpaid work in the family and a basic income would be a possible way of making it easier for them to do this. This would appeal to both feminists who complain that women are unpaid domestic labourers and traditionalists who would like to see more women able to perform the roles of mothers and housewives. A basic income would enable more women to choose to stay at home.

This book provides a lot of insight into the financial struggles of those in the millennial creative/ intellectual class. It seems its not easy pursuing a creative or innovative career and make ends meet at the same time. Concern is expressed about the economics of some of the new peer-based models of entrepreneurship, such as Airbnb. One concern I have is with complaints made a few times in this book about 'dead-end jobs.' Does our economy depend to some extent on people being willing to do 'dead-end jobs?' Would a universal basic income make it harder to recruit people to perform those roles?

In itself this book is not a robust manifesto for the universal basic income concept, but it offers a lot of insight into why a basic income would be a good idea.

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