Time For A Universal Basic Income?

Is it time for us to seriously consider a universal basic income? (Also called basic income, basic income guarantee, universal demogrant, or citizen's income.)

George P. Dvorsky, Chair of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies' Board of Directors, Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist seems to think so. In a new article, he wrote:

The idea of a guaranteed basic income, also referred to as unconditional or universal basic income, is starting to gain traction in many parts of the world, both in developed and developing nations. It's actually a very simple idea: Everyone in society receives a single basic income to provide for a comfortable living whether they choose to work or not. Importantly, it's only intended to be enough for a person to survive on. The money for this social welfare scheme could come from the government or some other public institution, in addition to funds or income received from other sources. It could be taxable, or non-taxable, and divvyed up on a continual basis, monthly, or annually.

Advocates argue that a basic income is essential to a comprehensive strategy for reducing poverty because it offers extra income with no strings attached. But looking ahead to the future, we may have little choice but to implement it. Given the ever-increasing concentration of wealth and the frightening prospect of technological unemployment, it will be required to prevent complete social and economic collapse. It's not a question of if, but how soon.

Dvorsky points out that this is not a new idea; Thomas Paine wrote about the need for a Citizen's Dividend.

However, science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer wrote at wildly science-fictional length (as only he could) about this idea in his mind-blowing 1967 Hugo Award-winning novella Riders of the Purple Wage. What is it?

There is no more starvation or want anywhere, except among the self-exiles wandering in the woods. And the food and goods are shipped to the pandoras and dispensed to the receivers of the purple wage. The purple wage. A madison-avenue euphemism with connotations of royalty and divine right. Earned by just being born.

Here's Farmer's prediction of what happens:

"The mid-twentieth-century writers of the Triple Revolution document forecast accurately in some respects. But they de-emphasized what lack of work would do to Mr. Everyman. They believed that all men have equal potentialities in developing artistic tendencies, that all could busy themselves with arts, crafts, and hobbies or education for education's sake. They wouldn't face the 'undemocratic' reality that only about ten per cent of the population -- if that -- are inherently capable of producing anything worth while, or even mildly interesting, in the arts. Crafts, hobbies, and a lifelong academic education pale after a while, so back to the booze, fido, and adultery.

"Lacking self-respect, the fathers become free-floaters, nomads on the steppes of sex. Mother, with a capital M, becomes the dominant figure in the family. She may be playing around, too, but she's taking care of the kids; she's around most of the time. Thus, with father a lower-case figure, absent, weak, or indifferent, the children often become homosexual or ambisexual. The wonderland is also a fairyland.

"Some features of this time could have been predicted. Sexual permissiveness was one, although no one could have seen how far it would go. But then no one could have foreknown of the Panamorite sect, even if America has spawned lunatic-fringe cults as a frog spawns tadpoles. Yesterday's monomaniac is tomorrow's messiah, and so Sheltey and his disciples survived through years of persecution and today their precepts are embedded in our culture."

From How Universal Basic Income Will Save Us From the Robot Uprising.

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