A universal basic income could absolutely solve poverty. Eduardo Porter has a column up with the provocative headline "Why a Universal Basic Income Will Not Solve Poverty," which intrigued me because my understanding from reading coverage by Vox's own Dylan Matthews and others was that a UBI most certainly would solve poverty.
Having read Porter, I remain unconvinced. His argument turns out to be something more like "a universal basic income would be expensive" or "a universal basic income is an example of a poorly targeted public policy. " The former is clearly true, and the latter is at least something clearly worth talking about. But Porter's own numbers make it very clear that a UBI would eliminate poverty in the United States and would do so at a price that, though high, is within the realm of possibility. What are we talking about here, again? For the past 80 years or so, the United States has had a program called Social Security that, among other things, mails a monthly check to old people. Eduardo Porter's UBI math. This is the most comprehensive, rigorous test of universal basic income to date.
GiveDirectly, a charity that gives money directly to poor people in Kenya and Uganda, is launching a big new project: a basic income.
A basic income — also called a universal basic income (UBI), guaranteed minimum income, citizens' dividend, demogrant, etc. — is a regular payment to a group of people just for being alive. Normally, basic income proposals call for the payments to be administered by the government, but there's nothing in principle stopping a nonprofit like GiveDirectly from doing it.
So it's giving the policy a shot, and will give about 6,000 people in Kenya a guaranteed flow of cash for the next 10 years or more. In doing so, GiveDirectly is testing out an idea that's rapidly gaining interest in Finland, Silicon Valley, and Ontario, Canada, and could radically transform welfare policy in both rich and poor countries in the future. Why a bunch of Silicon Valley investors are suddenly interested in universal basic income. Basic income is having a moment.
First Finland announced it would launch an ambitious experiment to see if it would work to give everyone in a given area is given a set amount of cash every year from the government, no strings attached. Now the Silicon Valley seed investment firm Y Combinator has announced it wants to fund a basic income experiment in the US. YC's president, Sam Altman, announced on the YC blog that the company wants to hire a researcher to "work full-time on this project for 5 years," and supervise an experiment wherein Y Combinator will "give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we’re flexible on that and all aspects of the project. " Basic income as an insurance policy for the robot takeover Shutterstock Y Combinator — a startup incubator that counts Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit among its alumni — seems mostly interested in basic income as a response to technological unemployment.
What Y Combinator's study could add Rob Hurson. Finland's hugely exciting experiment in basic income, explained. The headlines are shocking: "Finland plans to pay everyone in the country $876 a month"; "Finland plans to give every citizen a basic income of 800 euros a month"; "Finland plans to give every citizen 800 euros a month and scrap benefits.
" The reality is a little less wild. Finland is definitely not close to paying "everyone in the country" or "every citizen" — not yet, anyway. Basic income: the world's simplest plan to end poverty, explained. Basic income is having a moment.
The governments of Finland, Ontario, and Utrecht are all launching tests of the policy proposal, under which everyone in a given country would get a set amount of money every year, no strings attached. The charity GiveDirectly is set to give basic incomes to 6,000 people in Kenya, and the tech industry powerhouse Y Combinator is funding an experiment evaluating the idea. Andy Stern — the former head of the major union SEIU, and a close confidant of the Obama administration — argues at length for basic income in a forthcoming book, Raising the Floor.
Nobel prize winnig economists like Christopher Pissarides and Joseph Stiglitz have gotten on board recently as well. Bernie Sanders even expressed sympathy for the idea, although he stopped short of endorsing it. A guaranteed income for every American would eliminate poverty — and it wouldn't destroy the economy. Eliminating poverty seems like an impossibly utopian goal, but it's actually pretty easy: we can just give people enough money that they're above the poverty line.
That idea, known as a basic income, has been around forever, but it's made a comeback in recent years. And it's a sign of how far it's come that opponents of the idea are beginning to feel the need to make arguments against it. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, in The Week, is the latest to present a case against, and grounds it almost entirely in the findings of a series of experiments on a variant of the basic income known as a "negative income tax" conducted in the 1970s, which he says show the idea is doomed to failure. Not so fast — the experiments raise valid worries, but they hardly herald doom, and still suggest that a negative income tax could eliminate poverty at a manageable cost. The 1970s experiments President Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who designed his negative income tax plan. The problems with concluding too much 1.