Universal Basic Income and Decent Work

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

Normally I like to talk about you making a higher salary, the Fight for 15, and other ideas to help you empower yourself in your career. However, today, I want to talk with you about something that could help you even more.

Recently I read Rebecca Solnit’s excellent book, HOPE IN THE DARK. I am paraphrasing Rebecca Solnit’s HOPE IN THE DARK here. She was talking about the environmental movement, I’m going to talk about Universal Basic Income (UBI).

My definition of UBI is every single person getting $2,000 a month. To live on. Whether you’re a millionaire or homeless. When people get a UBI, just always knowing that money is coming in, so many good things happen. It allows you to go back to school, create a business, find more meaningful work, spend more time with your family, even pay bills on time, pay down debt, imagine!

This movement is bigger and more effective than it looks, because most people don’t see a single movement, they see a diverse mix of groups facing issues in different areas. But look, who believes in this?

Who believes in Universal Basic Income?

Mark Zuckerberg, you know, the inventor of Facebook? Him. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,” Zuckerberg said.

Also MLK.

Martin Luther King Jr., “Where do we go from here?” speech, 16 August 1967, in Atlanta, Georgia:

I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a new widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

Frances Coppola, “The Changing Nature of Work” (2013):

I fundamentally disagree with those who think that people must be “forced” to work, or that government should “guarantee” a job. In my view breaking the link between paid work and survival would be a good thing. If people are intrinsically of value, then they have the right to survive with or without working. I therefore think we should guarantee basic income, rather than jobs. Or, to put it another way (and root this argument firmly in human rights), we should guarantee people’s unconditional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”: after all, people who are forced to do physically debilitating and mentally unstimulating jobs in order to survive are effectively denied the second and third of these rights. If people don’t have to work to survive, most will find or create work that fulfills themselves and benefits others, and we will all be richer for it.

Buckminster Fuller:

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian- Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

If you provide a basic income, you send a powerful message: nobody wants to just sit there and do nothing, we trust you to find a valuable occupation. The idea of morality of work is one of the most insidious tools in the hands of power, and increases the bullshit jobs phenomenon.” – David Graeber, Anthropologist

Here is some research and some more things that Universal Basic Income would help accomplish. It’s an impressive list!

Who is doing experiments with Universal Basic Income right now?

What’s happening now is already remarkable, if not yet adequate to the crisis.

The movement has grown in size, in power and sophistication, but it needs to grow a lot more to be commensurate to what is required.

Canada, India, Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands. AND France, the UK, Switzerland and Italy have proposals on the table right now.

You may say I’m a dreamer…

If everyone who is passionate about Universal Basic Income and decent work who truly gets that we’re living in a pivotal moment, found their place in the movement, incredible things would happen.

There is a role for everyone, whether a 82 year old retired person writing a letter to the editor, to a 20 year old who wants to march on the state capitol for this issue.

Many people believe that voting with your dollars works. Sure, it’s a good thing but it’s not the key thing. You PERSONALLY aren’t underpaying people, you personally don’t employ people without pensions, sick leave or healthcare probably. You might even give to a progressive organization like the Social Justice Fund, but it can give you a false sense that you’re not part of the problem. You are not just what you personally do, but what you tolerate as part of the larger society. You are part of the system, and you need, we all need to to change the system. Nothing less than systemic change will save us.

Chris Bright- World Watch Institute – State of the World report “But the biggest obstacle to reinventing ourselves may be simply a paralysis of hope. It is possible to see that our current economies are toxic, destructive on a gargantuan scale, and grossly unfair- to see all this and still have difficult imaging effective reform… we are used to constant flux in the daily details of existence, yet the basic structure of the status quo always looks so unalterable. But it’s not.

Profound change for the better does occur, even though it can be difficult to see because one of the most common effects of success is to be taken for granted. What looks perfectly ordinary after the fact would have seemed like a miracle before it.

How do we get to where we need to be?

Ursula LeGuin says, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

We can follow the news on the BIEN website, donate, and even talk with our local lawmakers about UBI for our city or town or state or province.

Do you know a nonprofit that is working on UBI? Please leave a comment!

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