Imagine, if you will, that every month without fail, with no questions asked, £1000 drops into your bank account. There’s no rules for what you need to spend it on, it is not means tested. It is universal - it’s for everyone, unconditionally, continuing for the rest of your life.
In a time where big ideas are so desperately needed, It is certainly a big idea, and has the potential to completely change the fabric of society, to change our understanding of work. As of now, many of the population have to work to survive, some of them are unable to find work due to disability or behavioural problems and thus rely on benefits to live. The mental stress this makes people feel is more than we would wish on our enemies, let alone those simply born into a more problematic lifestyle in terms of potential of social mobility.
Basic income changes this. Firstly, the main point is in the name itself. By ‘basic’, it means you will have enough to cover your basic needs. Rent, food, bills, all covered. By the same token, poverty and homelessness would be eradicated. Your right - as a citizen - is to have the most basic demands to survive guaranteed to you. This isn’t about buying middle-class lifestyles. When rent can cost £1200 on average in London for a family flat, two UBIs plus bills and food doesn’t leave much left to spend on luxuries. It is basic, and you get the basics you need for a equal starting point in life.
If this wasn’t life-changing enough in its simplicity, the greater societal change is actually the empowerment citizens will then get. Basic income gives the people the power to say no. They can tell an employer how many hours they wish to work, and can have a greater say in discussing their wage - the minimum wage would be a thing of the past. This potential empowerment is worrying to some of our population, but that worry is simply an indication that the current system is exploitative, it allows poverty wages, and those working those shifts have no choice but to take them.
Various trials around the world have shown no drop in motivation to work, but it has seen an increase in creative jobs, in people starting their own businesses. Student used the money to go back to school - no longer needing to work part time jobs to afford their studies. New mothers used the money as paid maternity leave, giving them the chance to raise their children. Due to this lack of drop working, all earned income is taxed to help pay for UBI.
It is still in its infancy - but the idea is big enough to turn some heads.
Flaws need to be ironed out but as capitalism has made us so tremendously rich, we should now be at the point where we can eradicate such embarrassing societal failures such as homelessness, hunger and in-work poverty.
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