'Basic income' has come to be taken more seriously in recent years, with a number of small-scale programs now up and running around the world.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 6, 2022. It has since been updated.
The idea of "basic income," the notion the government should give every citizen a regular infusion of free money with no strings attached, has been around since the 16th century. However, according to Vox, this seemingly outlandish concept has come to be taken more seriously in recent years, with a number of limited basic income programs now up and running around the world. The idea—which has even found support from the likes of tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, libertarian economist Milton Friedman and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang—gained fresh momentum in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as the fall of the economy and federal stimulus packages failing to meet the needs of millions left people in desperate need of some sort of guaranteed income.
While there are many who stand against the idea of "basic income" for fear that it will disincentivize work, Twitter user Lori Summers believes the potential of a universal basic income would be a blessing for all. "When discussing Universal Basic Income, inevitably the retort comes: 'So you just want people to not have to work, is that it?' Accompanied by a smug smirk, expecting me to backpedal and hem and haw, say 'Of course not, that's silly.' Except...yes. Yes, I do," she tweeted in a now-viral thread.
"People shouldn't HAVE to work. People should WANT to work. Sharing in the labor of building and maintaining a society because it benefits everyone should be desirable, not forced. It shouldn't be something we do because we'll die otherwise," Summers added, before painting a picture of a world where everyone received a universal basic income. "Imagine a society where survival didn't depend on a job. Imagine how that would alter the fabric of... everything. Imagine if you could leave a job without fearing the loss of income or health care. Imagine the power of the worker in that society," she tweeted.
Universal Basic Income — Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and @AndrewYang have all professed support of it.— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) June 5, 2021
Not everyone is on board.#GZEROWorld @gzeromedia https://t.co/j4ok3iCeSf pic.twitter.com/qdCUIB1To4
"If a person could survive without a job, imagine what employers would be like. They'd have to treat their workers fairly and make themselves attractive to entice workers. They'd have to offer a better option than other employers and make people want to participate. Places that have offered UBI have seen the results: most people do want to work. The people who choose not to are generally young parents, students, people with disabilities and the elderly. people have a desire to contribute, for our lives to have purpose and to be useful," she wrote.
I've been researching the idea of Unconditional Basic Income since 2013. Here's a list of findings I've compiled from various UBI experiments, unconditional cash transfer studies, and cash dividend research.— Scott Santens 🧢⬆️🏄♂️ (@scottsantens) September 14, 2018
The data speaks for itself.
Data: https://t.co/gTtB9g78KU #basicincome pic.twitter.com/LVAqwP6WY6
As Summers points out, evidence collected from small-scale basic income trials around the world so far suggests that getting a basic income tends to boost happiness, health, school attendance and trust in social institutions, while simultaneously reducing crime rates. "And before you say it, yes, some people will take advantage. That is true for absolutely everything ever. You think people don't take advantage of the economy we have? Like, say, the 1% who grow wealthier while their employees have to work three jobs and use food stamps?" she continued.
What are the benefits of a universal basic income? pic.twitter.com/ZhkfHFMFru— Basic Income Canada (@basicincomecdn) January 1, 2022
"They can only do that, by the way, because people are so terrified of losing a job and the destruction that would follow that they tolerate mistreatment, disempowerment, the destruction of their unions, healthcare, retirements and even their bodies to avoid it," Summers explained. "That would not be the case if everyone were guaranteed a baseline survival income. Your boss couldn't treat you like shit because he knows you can't leave. You CAN leave, and you will. What if desperation didn't motivate everything? Imagine the impact on health, relationships, parenting, well-being, crime, violence, progress. When you aren't desperately scrabbling for the rent, you can spare a neuron to contemplate long-term problems."
"Imagine a society where the terror of destitution wasn't a constant thrum underneath everyone's existence. Imagine the creative works that society could produce. Imagine the children it could raise, the elderly it could care for. Imagine the inventions it could produce. Now, imagine knowing all this and thinking 'NOPE. We can't have all that, because someone I don't like might benefit from it. So to avoid that, the rest of you can all hang.' And there you have modern conservative thinking," she concluded.