Imagine if every month the government deposited $1,000 into your checking account, with nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy, but it has become one of the most influential and hotly debated policy ideas of our time. Futurists, radicals, libertarians, socialists, union representatives, feminists, conservatives, Bernie supporters, development economists, child-care workers, welfare recipients, and politicians from India to Finland to Canada to Mexico–all are talking about UBI.
Economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how a UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor, South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in expectation of a world with advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labor.
Lowrey examines the potential of such a sweeping policy and the challenges the movement faces, among them contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and, most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing. She shows how this arcane policy offers not only a potential answer for our most intractable economic and social problems but also a better foundation for our society in this age of turbulence and marvels.
An excellent discussion of the principles of Universal Basic Income (UBI), with illuminating case studies from across the world. The majority of the text concentrates on the United States economy, political structure and social systems, but the ideas translate to both developed and underdeveloped countries
Other types of social reform are also discussed. Some ideas, such as universal Child Benefit and access to healthcare both endemic in British society, since the twentieth century, although it has to be said the successive government in recent years have actively worked to dismantle them.
The UBI principle is not new, but perhaps it has never been more relevant with a growing social divide between the rich and the poor, exacerbated by technological developments reducing the needs for routinised jobs. The idea that everyone should receive a basic income regardless of status would bring most out of poverty and improve their quality of life.
This book shows the cost while high is not prohibitive and the improvement in people’s lives, which may ultimately reduce health and social costs, immense. Funding such a scheme is not the only issue, the population’s mindset needs to change, to accept everyone’s right to have a decent life, whether or not they have money, a high earning job and good health.
Women could be the primary benefactors from UBI, often they assume the role of homemaker and carer of elderly relatives. They are penalised for this in financial and social terms. Even though by doing so they allow countries to make a significant financial saving. They also improve the lives of their children and relatives by providing them with a caring, supportive environment. These are roles I have personally undertaken, and while I gained immeasurable emotional benefit from doing this, I have suffered in career terms and financially.
Written in an informative, easy to read style, well-researched with clear, representative arguments, this book is worth reading, whether or not you are interested in economics.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing -W. H Allen via NetGalley in return for an honest review.