Paid to be You

I am willing to bet that you have said something similar to the phrase, “I should just get paid to be myself.” at some point in your life. Many have dreamed of a life where we enjoy free time devoted to exactly what we want to do. Not simply what we end up having time to do. You may be surprised to learn that some influential people of our time feel the same…for slightly different reasons of course.

According to http://basicincome.org there are 5 characteristics to Basic Income:

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3.  Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.
  5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

So this would mean that you will get a basic payment in cash for being a citizen. You may be asking yourself why this would actually happen. Well, it isn’t a new idea as it has been proposed back at least as far as Thomas Paine but it has gained recent momentum.

Several countries have experimented with various forms of this Universal or Basic income, even the U.S. There are current studies as well taking place in places like Finland and Africa. But, why? Alright, there are several reasons I suppose.

The major reason this has come to light is because of automation. That means, simply, your jobs are being replaced by robots. Nothing like Rosie from the Jetsons or the Matrix version of a takeover but more like iPad revolution. Think about the service industry, like a fast food joint for an example. How difficult will it be to push the picture of the food and insert/scan your payment? Not hard at all. Perhaps they will have some employees to bring the food to you or the drive-thru but that won’t last either. Basic jobs will be lost to machines.

One must remember that it doesn’t take a unique person to do many jobs. Robots do not need to be better than you as a person, just do the job for cheaper than it costs to pay you. No breaks or holidays required and repairs will be the only complaints from the machines. This will happen and it will be within your lifetime most likely. This technological revolution is not something we can fight, though some will try.

The question is how will many afford to live if so many jobs will be taken over by automation? One answer is the basic or universal income. Those influential persons I spoke of so many paragraphs ago include the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and many others in Sillicone Valley such as the Y Combinator crew.

I will not get into the logistics of this system today, I don’t want to. What I will say is that it is definitely a feasible option that has the potential to improve many, many lives and establish financial stability where little existed before. This is still only a band-aid slapped upon a gaping wound of inequality. This will need to be done correctly and there must be care taken to make sure cost-of-living doesn’t destroy any advantage this may bring.

What seems more reasonable is to invest in making education more affordable. Not just 4 year degrees but the valuable two-year degrees and certifications. Creating subsidies to build an incentive for job creators to offer better wages. Actually rebuilding our infrastructure and hiring people from the very communities being repaired to do the work. There are many answers to the questions about problems caused by income inequality and poverty but little action to make those answers a solution.

 

Picture Credit: Joe Wolf via http://freakonomics.com/podcast/mincome/

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