Basic Income: And It’s Looking Better All the Time…

A new study shows that people are happier in countries whose governments have strong social policies. Turns out a high tax rate doesn’t matter as much when you, you know, get things from it. I skimmed the paper they linked to, and it’s important to note that the positive relationships seem to stem, if not exclusively, then most heavily from increased welfare spending, not necessarily overall government consumption in the economy. Since that is the focus of this article (basic income being pretty obviously a form of welfare) that is where I would like to direct your attention. Those more knowledgable or less time-restricted than I might find other conclusions in the text; I would love to hear about them.

So if you’re somehow still on the fence or in denial that a basic income policy is useful, there goes one counter-argument. However bloated and inefficient you believe the government to be, the end result is happiness.

(Even the seemingly wasteful has massive positive implications, by the way, and it’s a poor argument besides that the government should somehow be “maximally efficient”, to use sarcasm quotes.)

And if you believe the government to be bloated and inefficient, then you should be all in favor of a basic income scheme, to streamline what is already a powerful force in the daily lives of the citizenry.

If you somehow don’t believe such a plan will be necessary–which, if you have read any of the articles I’ve written on the subject, should be cause to pause and reflect–you don’t have to take my word for it: what about The Economist? I especially like the embedded video, where one professor talks about the automation of jobs that can be broken down into simple tasks that require limited faculties. Sound familiar?

I also like when he says it’s not a problem of wealth and prosperity, it’s a problem of distribution. We are an immensely wealthy society with the lion’s share increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few people in a myriad of different ways. There may be hundreds or thousands of billionaires and millionaires in the United States, but there are over 300 million people. We needn’t all be -aires of the above sort, but putting money at the bottom is better than putting it at the top by every measure I’ve seen–even in smaller (if 47 million people is “small”) concepts like SNAP. It is completely possible to allow the wealthy to live a life of obscene luxury and still provide a comfortable living to every citizen of the United States…provided we actually care about what works and not about what we feel should work.

And if you want to hear the story of someone who had one opinion and then, upon learning more information, changed his mind to support basic income (or if you’re just sick of reading my rants!) take a look at this guy. I especially like his idea for a Mars program. Need a billion dollars to go to Mars? Can we get 100 million people to donate 10% of their BI per year? Worldwide, pretty doable, I think. I’d certainly cut back on chewing gum and ice cream or whatever small luxury if it meant going to Mars.

Another good point he makes: a basic income is the minimum needed to meet basic needs, not simply a regular payment. So Alaska’s $5000/year oil dividend isn’t a basic income, though it is well-received conceptually.

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