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Free Money is Not so Funny Anymore: Confessions of a (Former) Skeptic of Basic Income

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Getting a tire looks simple to me. I’d simply get it repaired and go to the closest tire area. But Jayleene didn’t have $110 to save and was living from pay check to pay check. She couldn’t get to work, and she was fired by her supervisor. She couldn’t make her rent and was outside on the road — because she needed $110 at the perfect time.

Jayleene told me her story at a soup kitchen during my volunteer shift. Her encounter was the final straw that convinced me to support the thought of supplying a basic income, the thought of giving individuals an unconditional living wage, which has been backed by conservatives and liberals equally. The theory of basic income is growing increasingly popular all over the world, with Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada testing it already how it may function.

Can free money and basic income really work in the United States?

But so is the US. A study is already under its way in Oakland, California. It is financed by the well known Y Combinator, and we are talking about an unconditional income here. Participants of the study are to receive the free money and basic income, but will be unable to volunteer, work another job or move to another state. The study is curious to find out how the free money and basic income will encourage independence and liberty among the participating individuals.

Suspicious of the notion to give free money and basic income to all? Might be rather cynical if you first learn about the income strategy. For sure, nobody likes anybody to starve, be homeless or lack medical care. Government and nonprofits plan are designed to take care for these needs among individuals in our society. Non profits run various food banks, soup kitchen or other initiatives, but why give people free money to do whatever they need

Two important notions that you might want to give a thoughts. It is sometimes hard to believe some poor individuals that they will manage well their free money and basic income. Many of them may spend it on things like drugs, booze and tobacco. And, imagine if everybody receives free money and basic income – then I could imagine many people just quit their jobs and become opposed to being productive members of our communities.

Evidence that free money and basic income can really work well for everyone in society

Nevertheless, there are more and more signs that seem to contradict my first manner of thinking. A variety of studies have demonstrated that individuals that have been given cash didn’t spend it on tobacco, alcohol or similar “vice” merchandises. Other studies have shown that those given a cash transfer didn’t do less work. Instead, the signs demonstrated that individuals that have received cash transfers enhanced their income and assets and have experienced better mental and physical wellbeing.

Now, I couldn’t wait for more research like the Oakland study or another coming one, to be done by GiveDirectly. This non-profit, highly rated by the best charity evaluator on Earth, GiveWell, focuses on cash transfers to poor families in East Africa. GiveDirectly has determined to run one of the biggest studies of basic income to date, using $30 million to cover the basic living costs of poor East Africans for a decade to settle issues about the long term impact of this kind of approach. I could even attempt to sensibly forecast the future and reason that these new experiments will reveal effects much like preceding ones.

Hearing Jayleene’s narrative demonstrated the clincher. I decided to bite the bullet, admit that my view was incorrect and update my beliefs based on all the new information.

This could change our society forever

I understood the idea of free money and basic income has other advantages. First, it’s more straightforward to supply basic income than to finance many overlapping welfare bureaus, and a state could save many billions of dollars by just giving cash to the poor. Second, free money and basic income is able to provide some more dignity to individuals and creates less hassle for them than the present system. Poor folks like Jayleene are more conscious of what they really need than the authorities.

For every one of these motives, we should may come out openly, to renounce the doubts of basic income. Hopefully, the evidence in this article is good enough to alter your thoughts. Lots of questions on free money and basic income remain open, including the best way to finance a transition away. That’s more of a “how to” issue, than “if”.

Hopefully this story of a former skeptic of basic income will open further dialogue about the next steps associated with the issues of the “how-to”.

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