Basic Income is a growing movement around the world, with many actions taking place in diverse locations and online. But some still consider this a nice idea for the future, not something that needs to be urgently implemented. This couldn’t be further from the truth and here are 12 reasons why.
1. People are dying
The current philosophy behind social welfare all over the world is that people who are vulnerable and unable to pay their way are not deserving of aid without strict conditions, for fear they won’t want to better themselves. Apart from the absurdity of this notion, this philosophy leads to unreasonable requirements followed by cruel punishments on people who need help. These conditions only serve to filter out the most vulnerable. The end result is people being driven to desperation and in some cases, taking their own lives, or otherwise dying due to their impossible circumstances. This is not ok and needs to stop.
2. People are being made to work as slaves
Another policy designed to prevent people living dignified lives without onerous work is what’s called ‘workfare’ (also known as JobBridge and other titles), which forces those in need to work for nothing. In some countries, those who refuse this slavery have their only income withdrawn, with obvious consequences on health and wellbeing. Humanity has always striven to improve the condition of the human race, to reduce suffering as productivity and technology improve. Now we are in a situation where those who can be helped are instead treated as slaves. This is damaging to the economy and immoral. It has to end.
3. We can end poverty
Since humans began organising themselves in cities, poverty has plagued mankind. For centuries people have considered this a blight but have not been able to tackle it once and for all due to a lack of resources. Indeed, utopian fantasies dreamed of a time when we could guarantee a life of freedom and dignity for all. Now we actually have this ability, to end this form of suffering and guarantee the means of survival for everyone. We must take this opportunity and be remembered as the generation which ended poverty.
4. The Mental Health Epidemic
Huge unemployment figures all over the world have led to a concurrent rise in suicides, especially in men, which researchers suggest may be due to extra societal pressure on them to maintain a job. This is at a time when there are increasing numbers being treated for depression. It is well established that suicide is linked to unemployment, because of the stress, pressure and stigma of being unable to provide for yourself and your family. Basic Income would not end suicide or depression, but it would reduce the pressure suffered and reduce some of the burdens which lead to these and other related problems. How do we know this would happen? Because one of the main findings from the Basic Income pilot programme in Canada was an improvement in health outcomes, especially mental health.
5. Involuntary Labour is Wrong
According to a Gallup poll from 2013, only 13% of people in 22 countries are ‘actively engaged’ with their work. While many people enjoy their work, huge numbers of people don’t work because they want to, they work because they have to in order to put food on the table. This is unnecessary in the world of abundance we live in. People should not have to live meaningless, painful lives for no reason. As a species we should be striving towards a contented, dignified life for all, not forcing people to live in misery because of some backwards sense of ‘duty’.
6. The Physical Health Epidemic
Apart from the above mentioned mental health epidemic, there is also a physical health epidemic in the west. Obesity and diabetes are growing and heart disease is the number one killer. The number one reason people in Europe give for not caring more for their health is that they don’t have the time (p35), they’re too busy working. People drive to work and sit in front of their desk all day, most people get an hour or so for lunch, certainly not enough time to cook a healthy meal and then are too tired to do so once they get home. Add to this the damaging effects of stress which is also on the rise in the west and we have ourselves a crisis. As mentioned above, the Basic Income pilot programme in Canada found an improvement in health outcomes during the programme. With more time and less pressure, people would finally be able to properly look after themselves.
7. People Need to Look After Their Children
We consider it a basic right for people to be able to look after the needs of their children and there are great advantages to a parent who can stay at home to properly care for their child. Unfortunately right now, people are too busy working and too tired afterwards for this to happen. This is why childcare costs have continued to increase since the 80s. With a Basic Income, parents would finally be able to dedicate the necessary time to looking after their children. Again, we know this because that’s what happened during the Basic Income pilot programme in Canada.
8. Basic Human Rights
In 1948 at the UN, the leaders of the world came together to enshrine what they all agreed were basic rights that every human was entitled to, regardless of their country, religion or any other factor. One of those Human Rights was written as Article 25:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”
Our world has certainly not lived up to this ideal, despite many convoluted policies which attempted to. Now we have the chance to put that failure behind us and give everyone this right which they are entitled to but which has been denied to so many for so long.
9. The economy needs the boost
The global economy recently suffered through it’s greatest decline in decades and is currently in a persistent phase of stagnation, wages are barely growing, unemployment remains high and so does income inequality. Various studies of Basic Income pilot programmes or similar programmes have shown that there is a boost for the local economy and entrepreneurship after a Basic Income Grant is instituted. Given the state of the global economy, a Basic Income would be much appreciated as a boost to local economies, benefiting middle and lower income households around the world.
10. Automation and the inevitable replacement of human labour
Automation has been steadily increasing since the industrial revolution, picking up pace in the 70s, bringing us to the point where we are at the brink of multi-purpose robots entering the home. Robots have already become part of many people’s daily lives through the iPhone’s Siri and automated checkouts in supermarkets. This trend will only continue as robots and algorithms become more intelligent and cheaper to make. We don’t want to hastily react to this process in 20 years when it’s already too late, nor should we impose regulations to stop this advancement. We need to act now to encourage this progress without causing the destitution of millions of humans. Experts say as many as 45% of jobs are vulnerable to replacement by robots, we can’t afford to wait anymore.
11. The disabled deserve better
The disabled cannot be called ‘scroungers’, they are disabled through no fault of their own, however they are still people and they deserve to be treated with the same respect as anyone else. In our world, however, they are generally treated worse than others. Apart from the daily discrimination they face, in order to receive financial help, the long-term disabled have to jump through a number of hoops to be deemed eligible by a sceptical government. This causes unneeded pressure and suffering and in extreme cases can lead the disabled person to take their own lives, with shocking tales of cruelty by government workers(p10). Then there are those who are only temporarily unfit for work, they are often not incapacitated long enough to be eligible for disability benefit but are unable to look for work and so are also ineligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Insurance. They are not at fault for their situation but are made suffer for it, even moreso than an able-bodied person. A Basic Income cannot undo the disability and the disabled would likely need some extra protection from the government, but we can guarantee a simple, dignified means for the disabled and their carers to be given the same rights as anyone else.
12. Those trapped in abusive relationships need a way out
One reason people trapped in abusive relationships stay in them is because of their financial dependence on their abuser. This can put the victim in a very difficult catch-22 situation from which they have effectively no way out. A Basic Income provides that way out, someone being abused now has the means to break free from their oppressor, without falling into destitution or worse.
Basic Income is not an academic, hypothetical discussion, it is a necessary policy which we need to start implementing immediately to stop this suffering. Learn how to help by joining our email list or click here for more ways to help.