Can Universal Basic Income Make Life Better for Everyone?

Man with his hands out holding a fist-full of money

Universal Basic Income (or just UBI) is a concept that has been attracting a lot of attention in the last few years. Having a minimal income for everyone as a means to stop poverty and improve everyone’s lives seems like a very positive and incredible idea, however, is it really the solution to all our problems? What other problems could this actually produce? If everyone has a basic income, there exists a real possibility that people might stop working, making society unproductive and humans lazy. Besides, this means no one would be doing any work at all, so things like farming or producing essential goods could become scarce – creating a new kind of crisis.

On the other hand, UBI could also become the solution for the existential issues that new generations are having regarding income inequality and the fact that the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer: If everyone has a safety net which they can depend on, or at least to survive on, this would eliminate the stress of having to look for extreme or unhealthy ways to survive while giving people more motivation to do the things that they actually want to with their lives, thus making a better society. This would also narrow the gap between the rich and the poor while giving people an extra motivation to travel, spend time with their families, and enjoy their lives. Is UBI a solution?

Ideas to consider for later

• Is society ready for such an enormous change?
• Do you think people would really just stop working at all even with UBI?
• Since what age should UBI be given? Why?
• Realistically speaking, could all countries apply UBI well?
• Is UBI really the only solution to overcome world poverty and hunger?

Useful vocabulary for this topic

Universal Basic Income A definite course of action or procedure followed by a government.
Momentum Driving power, strength or motivation that something acquires after an action or a situation.
Welfare Government by a rigid, complex and sometimes inefficient number or offices, administrators and processes that make things go slower.
Policy An overly simplified way of thinking about a person or group.
Minimum Basic Income Government program where the people receive a regular sum of money to cover their living expenses, whether they work or not.
Wealth A sum of money paid to a government for its support based on income levels.
Stereotype A great deal of money, property or possessions.
Inflation The minimal amount of money necessary to be above the poverty line.
Taxes A steady rise in the levels of prices.
Bureaucracy Assistance given by the government specifically to those in need.

If you’re having problems then have a look at the answers below.


Answers

Universal Basic Income Government program where the people receive a regular sum of money to cover their living expenses, whether they work or not.
Momentum Driving power, strength or motivation that something acquires after an action or a situation.
Welfare Assistance given by government specifically to those in need.
Policy A definite course of action or procedure followed by a government.
Minimum Basic Income The minimal amount of money necessary to be above the poverty line.
Wealth A great deal of money, property or possessions.
Stereotype An overly simplified way of thinking about a person or group.
Inflation A steady rise in the levels of prices.
Taxes A sum of money paid to a government for its support based on income levels.
Bureaucracy Government by a rigid, complex and sometimes inefficient number or offices, administrators and processes that make things go slower.

Video for class discussion

The video below takes in detail about the pros and cons of UBI and how it can be implemented. First, read the comprehension questions below and try to guess what the answers might be and then watch the video. While you are watching jot down notes and try to find the details to the questions. If you’re totally stuck, then you’re free to check the answers at the end.

Video comprehension questions:

a) In what year did the idea of UBI start to get momentum?
b) Some countries are considering UBI as an alternative to…
c) What is the Minimum Basic Income in the US?
d) What institution did the first study on UBI in 2013?
e) The richer you are, the more… you consume.
f) In the 1970 study in Canada, what proportion of working hours did people reduce?
g) UBI could actually trap people in poverty and promote…
h) What is the easiest way to implement UBI?
i) How much could the GDP grow after an implementation of UBI?
j) What do we work for?

ANSWERS
a) In 2017.
b) Welfare.
c) $1000 a month, $12000 a year.
d) World Bank.
e) Drugs and alcohol.
f) 10% of working hours.
g) Passive behavior.
h) By ending all kinds of welfare and using that money to finance UBI.
i) Around 12 percent over 8 years.
j) Social status, wealth, our place in the world and a meaning for life.

Reasons for having UBI

  • People would no longer fear to be homeless of without income.
  • The safety net would allow more people to escape poverty and find new ways to contribute.
  • People are highly capable and are willing to work for free. Open Source projects and volunteering would massively increase.
  • Activities that were previously unpaid, like caregiving, housewife, househusband, and other jobs will now be paid work.
  • More work will be taken over by machines and displace people, they will still need money to survive.

Reasons to not have UBI

  • It will breed a society of entitlement.
  • People may work less.
  • A small group of people will be then tasked with working for everyone else.
  • People would become more greedy.

Potential debating topics for use in class

• UBI will definitely promote laziness among a large percentage of the population.
• Do you think capitalists and wealthy people will accept “money just being handed to people without working”? Why?
• UBI is not a real way to solve poverty if you also don’t regulate the essential prices of things regularly.
• UBI should only be applied if ALL countries could apply it successfully.
• UBI should definitely give people the capacity to live a middle-class lifestyle; after all, people should be successful.
• No one needs UBI, just get a job and earn your money: it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, and it doesn’t matter if it makes you waste time on things you don’t like: this is how life is.
• People already have too much free time, and applying UBI would just increase that passive behavior.
• No UBI needed: just make the wealthy give a percentage of their money to all poor people, and that’s it.
• Welfare programs already exist for a reason, so UBI is not needed, just less bureaucracy.
• Work is overrated: machines should just do all our jobs and we should all be getting UBI to live like kings.

Conclusion

It’s up to you now.

Universal Basic Income is a very current topic that still demands many answers in order to decipher if this is a good solution for poverty and hunger all around the world. Every country is different and every culture has their own particular features, so achieving a reasonable and equal implementation of UBI would certainly be a complicated issue that might just be impossible to solve. On the other hand, UBI does have the potential to become the basis for the development of a much better and a much happier society if implemented correctly. Whether this is true or not, UBI is definitely an option to consider by all government and individuals.

Further reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income

Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for

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