Silicon Valley is in love with Universal Basic Income. Before anyone writes it off, it’s something people need to seriously consider.
If you haven’t heard about the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI), maybe you’re missing something especially if you are tired of the debates over entitlement programs. This is an idea that is being embraced by Silicon Valley elites, so it’s not necessarily being taken as seriously as it could or should be. The basic premise is based on redistribution of wealth, but without a massive bureaucracy supporting it.
What UBI boils down to is setting a basic income level that everyone in a given country should receive, through employment and governmental support (if needed.) Those who do not make that minimum on their own would receive assistance to meet the level, period. That means no heavily bureaucratic programs that require millions of governmental employees to maintain. It would theoretically mean a simple payment each month to anyone who is not making that minimum amount of money, period.
While there are at least a million ways for the government to screw this up, and turn it into yet another monstrous bureaucracy, that doesn’t mean anyone should just shuffle this idea aside. It’s true that this wouldn’t resolve the issues of fraudulent claims for assistance, particularly in the case of people who manage to work under-the-table at least some of the time, it would effectively end the debate over minimum wages. In fact, it might lead to the abolition of minimum wage altogether, since it would no longer be necessary. It wouldn’t matter how much anyone is actually paid for any given job, since no matter what, they would at least end up with the UBI level of pay through simple payments from the government.
It can be assumed that Silicon Valley elites are embracing this for two reasons. The first is the fact that they realize it’s very likely that their personal tax rates would eventually go down radically, assuming that government would remove the existing agencies that manage public assistance programs. Secondly, they’re probably assuming that this model would be heavily reliant on technology, for managing reporting of incomes, and disbursing automatic payments one way or another. Yes, they are hoping to profit at least a little from this idea, but that isn’t a good reason to ignore the concept.
The key to promoting UBI will be connected with radically reducing government spending on bureaucracy, and directly funneling tax dollars to where they are intended. Needless to say, this will not be popular among the Washington elite, since governmental largesse is a key component to remaining in office. However, it is not impossible, if the people are smart. Our current bureaucratic system necessarily is limited in who it benefits, even when one takes into account the myriad of entitlement programs that are out there. All of those programs are limited in their scope by both amount of money in their budgets, and overhead for employees managing them. If the people are made to realize that the overhead would no longer be an issue, and that there would no longer be massive amounts of paperwork and procedures for receiving benefits, perhaps they would not see UBI as a threat to their own bottom lines. That would mean that just government employees would be the only ones screaming against this, and it’s likely that if the public is warming to the idea, they would have difficulty finding anyone to support their cause.
In a perfect world, we would not need to have government stepping in at all to assist anyone with their basic and financial survival. We don’t live in a perfect world. What we definitely know is that our current systems for dealing with the needy are unsustainable, and will eventually drag our entire nation down. Perhaps UBI is the direction we need to consider. At the very least, it holds the potential to solve at least a few of the problems that are currently upsetting Americans enough to cause them to protest in the streets. The bonus is that UBI looks like the most “business friendly” option on the table – that’s both small and big businesses. People can hate business all they want, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones making jobs – not government.