Just my thoughts
by Aditya Hingne

Basic Income I-Search

My introduction to basic income best comes through an explanation of my culture. I am a U.S. resident on the path to become a citizen. Currently, I still hold an Indian passport. Therefore, I believe that I should still keep up with the news of my parent's motherland. So, I was reading an article on The Times of India (basically the Indian equivalent of the New York Times) and I discovered an article talking about Andrew Yang and his policy on basic income. This was surprising to me for a few reasons. Why would an Indian news outlet write a paper about Andrew Yang? Andrew Yang certainly has his followers as proven by the fact that he is one of the mere ten Democratic candidates to qualify for the September 2019 debate, but he isn't being considered as a frontrunner at the moment. It was my second question that really peaked my interest in this discussion. Why is basic income becoming such an international topic? As far as I knew basic income was a method of making sure every citizen would receive payment of the government without any factors holding that person from receiving his payment. I'm not sure how is that even possible. America has the largest economy in the world at around 20 trillion - China's in second place at around 12 trillion - but does the government have enough money to give its pay its citizens a basic income? That's just my concern for the United States. Clearly basic income is a global topic, so how would other countries manage this monetary situation. How would this basic income affect normal earning methods. Would this mean that through basic income, someone who's unemployed would still make enough money to provide for himself. Wouldn't that just make people lazier? This led me to the overarching question that I wished to answer: How would basic income effect the American way of life? The first step was to properly define what basic income is. Luckily there was an official website called basicincome.org which would detail information regarding basic income. In that website basic income was defined as, "a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement" (Basic Income). The website lays out two types of basic income. Full basic income is "a policy strategy to eliminate material poverty and enable the social and cultural participation of every individual" (Basic Income), while a partial basic income is a lower one. The organization concedes to the fact that they have not attempted to define what monetary payment qualifies as full or partial. Supporters of basic income vouch for this idea for two reasons: social policy and economic policy. Supporters claim the governments of the world cannot operate the two policies separately; basic income may be the solution to poverty relief and full employment.

Surely with basic income being such a global topic there must have been some place that already implemented it. That question led me to a podcast by NPR, a media organization established by Congress. The podcast mainly went over the basic income experiment in Finland. I am not an economist but to put it in the simplest of words: the welfare system in Finland is not favorable. Therefore a group of people in association with the Finnish government have created an experiment where 2000 unemployed Finnish citizens were randomly selected (did not volunteer) and were mailed 560 euros a month. There won't be an official analyzation of the experiment for another few years since the experiment is so new. However from the responses from those were experimented on were fairly positive. Basic income allowed them to have enough money until they could find another job. Despite the boatload of information in this podcast the experiment took place in Finland, which has different policies from the United States, and it only provided money for those who are unemployed. The basic income plan proposed in the United States would pay all citizens. This podcast highlighted another angle to basic income which has only recently began to be associated with economic discussion: robots. People have been increasingly clamoring at the idea, which is slowly becoming a fact, that robots will begin to overtake many jobs. Mark Zuckerberg framed the policy of basic income as "a cushion to try new ideas" for the exponential possibility that artificial intelligence and automation will take over a multitude of middle-class jobs.

Before tackling the artificial intelligence angle, the next piece of research on how UBI would affect human society was through a political filter. How do politicians differ on this topic? Surprisingly, there wasn't a clear divide on which side supported UBI and which did not. Many republicans as well as prominent democrats have supported UBI. According to the news article by CNBC, most of the divide between American who support basic income and those who don't has to do with the "debate as to whether robots will actually take people's jobs" (Clifford). After discovering two different types of sources both discussing artificial intelligence I decided to explore further research on that angle. The magazine article by the New Yorker claims that "if you job can be explained, it will be automated" (Lepore). Therefore there will be three class division in the near future. The elite who have adapted to this technology, the humans who provide services directly to the elite, and the unemployed victims of automation, also referred to as the "useless class" (Lepore), who will need basic income in order to compensate. Despite the strong stance, the article later admitted that people have "people have consistently adjusted to advancing economies" (Lepore).

So there are many answers for why basic income is required to save workers, but wouldn't basic income just discourage people from finding other jobs if they were already given money to survive by? The question presented me with Scott Santen's blog. Santen has written for many well-known publications and has been on news programs as an expert on basic income. He approaches the question in an interesting way. His main argument revolves around the fact that "we are one open society" (Santen). Those who work for themselves believe that people will stop working if they are given basic income. However, the American system works in such a way that you normally end up working for someone else. As long as the amount of basic income provided is not some outrageous amount, people will naturally have to come to work for someone else. Unfortunately that wasn't very clear so an article by Adi Gaskell on Forbes gives an example of Basic Income already present in the United States. Alaska provides people with $2000 per year. This has no effect on full time employment and actually was found to raise part time employment by 17%. Like the Finland experiment, the data has not been properly analyzed so the meaning behind this isn't clear, but it is an indication that basic income will not change our way of life. So far all the information about basic income leaned too much on its positives. In a way that's good because it outlines that most people believe it is a promising idea that is worth implementing. On the other hand the negatives must also be weighed in. An essay by Robert Rector and Mimi Teixeira provides examples of past experiments to highlight the downside of basic income. For them the main issue is that basic income will increase the scope of the government. This expansion would power may lead to a dependence on the government for individuals who should be able to provide for themselves. Since basic income does not discriminate against any individual, it blurs the line between all sorts of people To connect with the other sources, despite the threat of artificial intelligence adopting basic income would decrease social aid for those who have a legitimate problem and cannot support themselves.

Throughout the research a common statement was rolled around: not enough data. There has not been any examples with significant observations and data collections of basic income for anybody to conclude how basic income will surely change the way of life. An artificial intelligence revolution is an almost guarantee, but there are many aspects through which one can approach this reality. A similar situation occurred during the industrial revolution which led to "unprecedented economic and social disorder" (Lepore). Despite this policy makers should not ignore that technological growth in the current 21st century is exponential, especially when compared to the growth of the industrial revolution which has been categorized as linear growth. There is more room for damage. However, there are too many variables to suddenly begin a wide scale basic income program. Economic as social factors such as "hyperinflation and wealth inequality" (Santens) will always be at play. Furthermore, the topic is quite new in mainstream politics, so not enough people even understand it enough to even formulate an opinion on it.

If I were to pick a course of action the U.S. government would find a way to gather enough money to pay American citizens without causing inflation. Then there needs to be strict guidelines upheld in order to prevent disturbance with other government activity and to ensure that only the necessary amount of money is being given to the people. There will be benefits, but there will likely be consequences as well. The meticulousness by which basic income is handled by the American government will tell the tale on how it will affect us.


Lepore, Jill. "Are Robots Competing for Your Job?" The New Yorker, 4 Mar. 2019, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/03/04/are-robots-competing-for-your-job. Accessed 2 Oct. 2019.

Scott Santens, www.scottsantens.com/. Accessed 2 Oct. 2019.

"About Basic Income." Basic Income, basicincome.org/basic-income/. Accessed 2 Oct. 2019.

Clifford. CNBC, www.cnbc.com/2019/06/27/free-cash-handouts-what-is-universal-basic-income-or-ubi.html. Accessed 2 Oct. 2019.

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