Perhaps you already read about this – Mark Zuckerberg voiced his support for the universal basic income, during his recent Harvard commencement address.
But what is the universal basic income? It is a form of social security and a concept rooted in historical sociology movements. According to this concept, each citizen should benefit from a regular and unconditional basic income, regardless of whether they work or not. This sum of money should cover the citizen’s basic needs, thus making sure each person is not a burden for society in the eventuality they cannot earn their living.
This leaves the question of who is supposed to provide the necessary funds, and where these money would come from. As in all social security systems, the answer consists in an algorithm combining various forms of taxation – specially aimed at enterprises.
Why universal basic income (UBI) – now?
As mentioned above, the universal basic income concept is in fact a social security scheme aiming at redistributing taxation money towards each citizen, in order to ensure a minimum living standard that would prevent major social disruptions due to the classical social security not being able to keep up with the modern society issues.
The moment of this idea’s revival has to do with progress and technology. There is an anticipated social impact associated to next-gen tech. Automation and robotics will take over an impressive number of jobs and occupations, and it seems like the calculations of possible outcomes are not extremely optimistic. There is no telling what will happen with those who will be out of jobs, or with those whose skills will not be needed anymore.
Since the main beneficiaries of the predicted digital revolution are the enterprises, various sociological and political thinkers wonder about acceptable ways of making companies responsible. In their opinion, businesses should contribute in maintaining the social equilibrium, even when most of their workers would be digital. The people in this scenario would compete for the limited human-targeted jobs left – a competition not anyone would win. The states are worried what would happen in the eventuality that people supporting themselves would become a mathematical impossibility.
Therefore, the fact that the universal basic income is re-discussed now is at least in part motivated by what we expect out of the digital revolution – in terms of social and occupational consequences.
Is this concept right or wrong?
Besides being just an idea, proclaimed by individual voices, associations and organizations, the basic income concept crossed into social policy once it became a pilot project in certain states, and it went through a public referendum not long ago.
Finland launched a two-year basic income experiment in January 2017 – here you may find an account on how the project is going, taken 4 months into it. Their take on the concept is a bit different, making the “universal” attribute inapplicable.
Another ongoing project is located in California, via the Silicon Valley – Bloomberg calls the experiment an “unconditional cash transfer” trial, and the main worries apparently are not focused on the money issue, but more on the way this basic income status would affect the human dignity and behavior.
Talking about what people want, or think they want, in Switzerland the basic income concept got rejected via referendum in 2016.
Did Zuckerberg manage to raise approval for the basic income idea?
While strongly promoting the idea of a basic income guarantee, Mark Zuckerberg did attract an array of pro, as well as con comments that spread ripples through the online and offline media.
The opinions are split, ranging from “distorted view of the world” belonging to a CEO, through the virulent Washington Times article qualifying the idea as being a “brainless world tax” and ending up with a rather predominant neutral depiction of the already famous Zuckerberg Harvard address.
Surely we will meet the UBI concept in the future, seeing how it comes as an answer to a future global issue, whilst it also managed to catch the attention of important tech leaders.