In 2013, a group of highly educated Europeans proposed an initiative to the EU, called Unconditional Basic Income. The idea is quite simple: all EU citizens should receive a guaranteed, unconditional sum of money, regardless of their status or wealth, and this sum of money should be high enough to allow for “an existence in dignity and participation in society” in their country.
What would you do if you would be guaranteed a decent living? Would you ever work, if you did not HAVE to?
On one side, it feels like winning the lottery, getting money (which unfortunately is the most powerful symbol of value that we have today) for nothing. I almost never play the lottery, and I am pretty much against it. I do buy the occasional scratch off ticket, every few years, and it is always just a game to me. I have never won more than the chance to get another ticket for free, and that is the gist of the gameplay mechanic that compels me to buy a lottery ticket every now and then. Studies show that winning the lottery can actually make you far more miserable than you’d think. I do not wish I’d win a big sum, because those free money would have no value to me, since I did not earn them. They would feel like a gift and I would spend them recklessly.
But would it be the same with the Universal Basic Income?
On the other side, I often wish I’d be able to take a year off – a sabbatical – to try out some of my projects and dreams. For example, I wish I would have more time to make the games I dream to make, but its close to impossible to do this when you have a demanding full time job, especially one in which you invest a lot of passion. The Universal Basic Income would allow me to test out my dreams without the fear of homelessness or death by starvation. So the free UBI money would be a way for the EU to encourage THIS citizen to dare more, and do more without fear of repercussions.
We already have a sort of UBI, in the form of the much debated social systems that allow so many people to live without being productive, unjustifiably based on the work of those that ARE productive. You will always hear debates about those who profit from these systems, no matter in what EU country you are. An universal basic income for all would cut these debates short, and also invalidate any debate about who gets the fewer and fewer available jobs and who does not. With UBI, jobs will automatically be distributed only and exclusively to those who really want them. You might argue that there are jobs that we MUST do, but no one wants to do, like handling the trash – but I would argue back that human ingenuity is limitless, and that I am sure there are people out there who see far more value in such jobs than we ever will, and would perform them out of a form of passion.
might will make some many people lazy, but it will also allow many others to be bolder when it comes to really follow your desire for productivity (aka your passion, as cheeky as it sounds). UBI will also re-brand the idea of working and having a job into something you do out of higher principles, and not because otherwise you’d starve. And it will therefore separate the lazies from the crazies :), thus generating extra wealth to those who really deserve it. If you are lazy, you will probably not afford a holiday in Bali, but you won’t expect one, either, would you?
We are reaching unprecedented levels of wealth, but it only goes in few pockets. I believe that, considering the rapid advancements we have done, especially in technology, we can afford to have UBI now – for everyone, at least in EU where there really aren’t that many people who starve, and where most governments could greatly restructure and improve their spendings.
As a conclusion, while I do not believe in getting something for free, without earning it, I supported the UBI proposal, because that would not exactly be free money, but instead the value our grandparents, our parents and even us worked so hard to achieve. I supported UBI because, as a EU citizen, I would like to be encouraged to lead a life in pursuit of my true meaning, and my true passion.
What about you?