Universal Basic Income

Universal basic income. Sounds kind of ominous, doesn’t it? It is, but it may be necessary in the future.

Right now, the issue is mostly one for the left to hash out but there are growing numbers of those on the right who see it as a workaround for the welfare state, and those who see automation overtaking enough of the workforce to need one. Some see it as a way to finally reach Utopia; that effervescent place created in the mind of Thomas More back in the 1500’s. But More did not see Utopia as a real, or even achievable, place. More used Utopia as a measuring stick with which to judge the inequality of the times, which was everybody not of nobility lived in poverty. Others are looking at this through the lens of being able to dismantle the current welfare states across the globe and put the onus of responsibility back onto the populous to take care of themselves.

Those who see automation as a harbinger of putting mankind out of work are pointing out the numbers. (futurism.com)

Experts are predicting that up to 47 percent of jobs in the United States may be replaced by automated systems—and that’s all in the next decade. If that’s not enough, manufacturing jobs aren’t the only ones at risk. Automated systems are proving that they are capable of handling everything from “low-skill” work like flipping burgers and driving taxis to white-collar professions like managing hedge funds and preparing tax returns.

So, what is really going on here?

Well, all three viewpoints are correct to an extent. All three are agreeing here that a UBI is going to be needed in the future. What the three don’t agree on is how the UBI would be distributed.

Naturally, the left wants to expand the welfare state. (independent.co.uk)

Rather, to confront the problems relevant to the present age, the welfare system needs to become even more of a safety net. More specifically – it needs to be more comprehensive regarding how it takes care of the necessities of life.

Thus, we should welcome the proposal for “Universal Basic Services“ that researchers at UCL put out a few months ago. Generally much cheaper than a UBI, UBS offers something different: free housing, food, transport, education, forms of communication, healthcare and legal aid for all. Creating free, essential services – and not just distributing free money – could be the way forward.

Both of these policies could be part of a vision of progress for the tumultuous century ahead, but we must be clear about what we want: an updated welfare system, not the memory of one.

The right is looking at this from both an acceptance to the automation that is coming and ability to shed welfare systems in favor of a modified welfare system that puts responsibility of one’s actions back onto the people who receive it. The Adam Smith Institute has weighed in on the topic, stating the UBI to be politically and financially viable and could smooth the transition into automation.

Basic Income could help secure popular support for the changes that automation and globalisation will bring, while cash transfers allow the unemployed and retain the dignity of personal choice. More experiments in how to provide it could help secure the gains of growth for the decades to come.

Otto Lehto, Finland Green Party, member said:

“The theoretical case for unconditional cash transfers over command and control solutions has been strong ever since the birth of welfare economics. Now we have increasing empirical evidence from global field studies to corroborate the desirability of granting people a modest, universal income floor.

“A UBI streamlines the provision of welfare services and improves the autonomy and incentives of individuals. Allowing poor people to spend their money as they see fit stimulates bottom-up market solutions and cuts down on bureaucratic red tape. All this pulls resources away from wasteful rent-seeking into wealth creation.”

As usual, the technogeeks crunching the hard numbers of automation do not necessarily have a solid stance on how a UBI should be put into place, they are just aware there should be one. However, the numbers do not lie and automation will be devastating to the worker bee populations around the world soon. (theguardian.com)

By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the US, starting with customer service representatives and eventually truck and taxi drivers. That’s just one cheery takeaway from a report released by market research company Forrester this week.

These robots, or intelligent agents, represent a set of AI-powered systems that can understand human behavior and make decisions on our behalf. Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems. For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs like self-driving cars.

Of course, none of the published articles and studies take into account human nature. This is done purposely as no one wants to point out the obvious of differing cultures and their views of money and wealth redistribution. The UBI will be a stop gap measure in the short term to alleviate the stress of automation overtaking millions of jobs. However, basic human nature will see that it fails because greed and envy can not be bought out of the human psyche.

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About GretchensR 16 Articles
I am a supposed bitter TDS sufferer. An equal opportunity mocker of both the Red and Blue teams, I join fellow TNBers of being politically homeless.