Universal Basic Income is a concept being pushed by many people and organisations, particularly those working on the ground, or ‘grass-roots’ level, touting it as a band-aid to many of the problems they are working so hard to relieve. UBI was conceived with the understanding that our economic system explicitly denies sustenance to those who do not work. UBI presumes that the reasons for not working are not as important as the Right — we should have to have food and shelter. Many places have some sort of welfare system in place, but there are often daunting bureaucracies and strict stipulations for one to qualify as a beneficiary of such socialism. It is easy to get ‘lost in the system’ of welfare, spending so long on a waiting list that one ends up stealing the food before a cheque arrives. Or one is deemed ‘not disabled enough’, or is not believed that they have worked hard enough to find a job.
UBI guarantees a basic income enough for everyone to survive in their locality, without the bureaucratic structure which must decide who is or is not worthy. Under this system we as a society do not have to go through the arduous motions of scrutinizing every case and continually monitoring them to decide who gets help from the system. UBI allows everyone to be relieved of the underlying stress of eating and sleeping somewhat comfortably while worrying about what one is going to do to enrich themselves or their world. It does not matter whether one is sick or studying, they do not have to earn their right to eat.
Part of this philosophy is that people who are hungry will do anything for money to buy food – they will get any job they can just for the sake of it, or they will steal it, and of course both of those options have many negative consequences surrounding them, from the spread of mental illness to the enormous penal system we as a society must maintain.
Another part of this philosophy is that people who do things just for money are not good for society – most of the evils in this world are committed not by evil individuals, but by psychologically normal people acting for money. Be that drug cartels, war mongers, slave trading — the root cause of these operations is money.
To say that this idea is worth pursuing is itself a revolutionary statement. To believe UBI worthwhile is to believe our system inadequate. The necessity of UBI undermines the supposed security that our system is said to provide us. Those of us on the ground can see this system not working.
The Finnish government seems to agree with the idea of UBI, as they are currently drawing up plans to introduce a national basic income. If everything goes through parliament, the plan is to abolish the existing government welfare scheme and hand out 800 euros per month to every Finnish citizen. A public poll commissioned by the Finish Social Insurance Institution concluded that 69 % of Finland’s citizens support the basic income plan. Finnish Prime Minister Juga Sipilä commented “For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system.”
Switzerland is joining in on the action, holding a referendum on the prospect of a basic income.
However, it must be kept in mind that this is not a solution, it is a band-aid, there to close a wound while we heal. A total welfare-state is not possible or desirable. However, a UBI would relieve a lot of pressure while we work together on the creation of the first-ever sustainable society. Concepts that reduce the necessity of UBI increase the viability of the system. Concepts that increase its necessity are long-standing aspects of our system, and as that system continues to run out of steam UBI will become more necessary. The sustainable solutions we have available will not be ready tomorrow even if we start today, and today, tomorrow, and the next day, people in every country would benefit from a bit of the pressure being taken off their chests. Maybe this slight reprieve would make them better able or more willing to help us in the creation of the better world we envision.