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Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has a radical idea for America: under his
leadership he would institute a national program that would pay every American citizen $1,000
a month, every single month for the rest of their lives.
While this has grabbed plenty of headlines in the warm-up to the official 2020 presidential
race, the truth is that Yang's proposal- which he calls the Freedom Dividend because Americans
literally can't not put the word Freedom in front of everything- has been around for a
very long time.
Yang's idea is to give every American over the age of 18 a government check for $1,000,
which would be paid for by a special tax and savings from the replacement of other social
welfare programs.
Basically, people would have the choice between signing up for UBI or keeping their current
welfare aid- and it's expected that most people would opt for UBI.
But what impact would $1,000 a month for every citizen really have on the average person
and the economy at large?
First, we have to understand the history of UBI in order to understand the proposed impact
to society.
Different forms of UBI have been around for centuries, but back in the sixteenth century,
some Europeans proposed UBI as a way to tackle some of society's worst problems.
Theft was on the rise across metropolitan Europe, and some members of the clergy and
government thought that instituting a guaranteed income would help decrease theft along with
other crimes.
The reasoning was sound: if everyone got even just a very minimum income, then there would
be much less need for crime- crime after all is historically committed by individuals who
are not hardened lifelong criminals, but rather desperate people in temporary dire straits.
Relieve economic pressure on people and as a result the crime rate should plummet.
The real father of UBI though is widely recognized as hunmanist Johannes Ludovicus Vives, who
lived from 1492 until 1540.
After observing the plight of the poor across Europe, he wrote a memoir to the Mayor of
Bruges in 1526, where he implored the mayor to consider implementing a basic income for
all citizens.
Vives argued that the government was far more capable at running charitable efforts than
private individuals, as they had the greater manpower and resources.
However, Vives' UBI was coupled with a clause that recipients show a willingness to work
if able.
Vives however also argued for UBI on religious grounds, highlighting that a moral and godly
society had a duty to its poor before its own prosperity.
This argument would echo the sentiments of Jesus, who proclaimed to all that believers
may live life abundantly- though sadly that sentiment has been, and continues to be, perverted
and misconstrued as meaning an abundant life.
Jesus's true meaning however was echoed by Vives, who argued that believers were never
promised the abundant life they thought they deserved, but rather to live abundantly through
good works, deeds, and charitable attitudes.
Vives even described individuals who enriched themselves at the cost of society as thieves,
who stole from nature and hoarded its gifts for themselves.
However, Vives also had a more pragmatic view for UBI, and argued that if people's needs
could be met before their situation turned desperate, then they would be far less likely
to turn to criminal acts.
Vives' idea for UBI was never adopted, though versions of it were implemented in smaller
His real legacy would be in the evolution of Europe's massive social welfare programs
during the Industrial Revolution, which secured things such as food and housing aid and pensions
for retiring workers.
Since then the idea of UBI has been brought up from time to time in various political
discussions, though the greatest development in the philosophy of a guaranteed income came
about in the 1970s and with the help of science fiction writers.
As the computer age dawned on mankind, it became clear to some that the development
of ever more advanced computers would eventually lead to a society where many jobs could be
done more efficiently, and cheaper, by a computer.
This led many to ponder the repercussions on an economy that depends on human employment
to function.
With the slow evolution of artificial intelligence and robotics, that future problem has only
come into sharper and sharper focus.
In essence, the problem is this: advanced AIs, especially when coupled with advanced
robotics, would almost certainly end up being more efficient and cheaper to operate than
human workers.
A robot after all never needs to take a break or calls in sick, and is not protected by
federal labor laws that limit its work day or force overtime.
This reduces the cost of labor to a fraction of what a human workforce would require, and
skyrockets productivity.
The simple laws of a free market system dictate that employers will make the shift to robots
and artificial intelligence as quickly as possible, no matter the consequences to the
human work force.
All across the American rust belt the effects of automation and globalization are already
evident, with factories that once employed thousands and provided a middle-class income
shipped overseas to cheaper labor markets, or with workers replaced by machines.
In a way, the future is already upon us- only things are set to get much, much worse.
That's because our progress towards artificial intelligence and robotics both only continues
to grow, and there are very few jobs that a machine can't do better than a human.
Police officers could for instance largely be replaced with an automated system that
detects traffic violations and issues tickets in real time electronically, and a fleet of
emergency response units could be 'piloted' from a remote location by a small contingent
of human operators- no different than a drone pilot today can pilot a combat mission in
Afghanistan from the safety and security of an air conditioned trailer in the United States.
Robot firefighters, with perhaps some minimal human assistance, could also provide far better,
and safer service than a fully human crew.
Waitresses, bank tellers, laborers, construction workers- there is almost no job that a robot
couldn't do better, more efficiently, and cheaper than a human.
So what happens in an economy where most of the human population has been forced out of
the market?
While some argue that the adoption of robots and artificial intelligences into the workforce
would create human jobs in order to support those systems, such thoughts are naive at
best- as a robot technician would be far more efficient, and once more more cost effective,
than a human one.
Perhaps a small amount of support jobs would be created for humans, after all you'd still
want a human in charge of a squad of emergency response police robots, but the net loss would
be greater than the net gain- especially as technology continues to improve robotics and
Clearly, most people would be jobless, as the only jobs that would be largely available
would be those that humans can do better than a machine: jobs that involve the arts or empathy
for example.
In order to deal with such an economic crisis, guaranteed basic income will become a national
necessity, or society as we know it could collapse altogether.
For right now, UBI is a nice political debate that neither side needs to take particularly
serious, but in the very near future it will almost certainly become a critical necessity.
But what if we adopted it today?
How would that change things for society and people?
Well, some research indicates that an added $1,000 per month, per American, would help
stimulate the American economy.
There is a lot of solid thinking behind this too, as the extra money would certainly help
turn many people who today are more savers than consumers due to a low income, into consumers
who purchase goods and services.
This would pump the government money back into the economy, and generate greater tax
revenues from added economic activity across the nation.
This added tax revenue wouldn't completely make back the UBI dividend handed out, but
the added economic activity would mean that businesses would earn more and thus be able
to invest more into growing their businesses.
It is also believed that entrepreneurship would also increase, which would further help
stimulate economic growth and ultimately, greater tax revenues.
The core idea is itself a proven concept already.
After World War II the United States faced an economic crisis in the making.
Millions of young men had returned home with no peacetime skills and poor or no education.
Yet where many saw a looming economic disaster, the US government saw a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to invest in its own future.
Thus the Montgomery GI Bill was instituted, granting free college education to any military
The MGI Bill proved to be a huge success, and the rapid ascension of the US as a scientific
superpower and the dawn of the space age both are largely credited to the hundreds of thousands
of new engineers and scientists that resulted from the MGI Bill's benefits.
Guaranteed Basic Income however is a far greater investment than fifty thousand dollars for
college is, and currently many believe that the US government couldn't afford to run Andrew
Yang's UBI proposal without running a national deficit.
Some economists also argue that the results of economic studies showing that UBI would
grow the economy by a whopping 12.5% over ten years, are themselves flawed.
They argue that UBI spending by individuals would be concentrated on consumer goods, rather
than the capital goods which are very large engines of an economy.
The detractors of UBI argue that an individual with an extra $1,000 in their pocket every
month would likely use that money to purchase consumer goods- things such as clothing, food,
and entertainment.
This would then feed that money to businesses who would invest in consumer goods to offer
back to the consumer.
It is feared that UBI would encourage a greater consumption economy which would not invest
as heavily in capital goods- or the things that improve the value and efficiency of an
For example, detractors of UBI argue that an individual with more money in their pocket
would go to a market and buy oranges, and the farmer who runs the market would invest
that money in growing more orange trees instead of in buying tools to improve his or her farm.
In this case the tools are a capital good as they would improve the efficiency of the
farmer's farm, and allow him to engage in other activities that added value to it.
In essence UBI detractors fear that the extra income would mean a temporary gain, with a
long term loss to the economy.
This argument seems, well more than a bit silly.
After all, only a poor businessman would choose to use his or her extra income on generating
short-term economic gain.
Additionally, an infusion of cash into the economy means that there would be an even
greater opportunity to invest in capital goods than would exist without this infusion of
Over the short term though, the argument that UBI would run a national deficit is accurate-
though again this ignores the long-term benefits of an economy with more consumer activity.
The economic growth and resulting tax revenues would take time to catch up with the expense
of UBI, but would eventually hit a tipping point where the economy has grown enough to
pay for UBI.
In essence, the question over UBI becomes one of investing in our economic future.
There are however some good points brought up by detractors of UBI who highlight that
a guaranteed income will mean an increase in unemployment.
While nobody believes that a significant number of people would choose to live off a measly
$12,000 a year, many people would likely not feel as pressured to quickly find a job after
losing one thanks to the safety net of receiving a free $1,000 a month.
People would take longer to find work, and proponents argue that this means there would
be more satisfying employment, while detractors state that this would result in an economic
In reality anybody who thinks that an extra $1,000 a month would keep people from looking
for work, likely has never lived on $1,000 a month.
The average rent in the United States is $1,191 a month, and this figure alone is evidence
enough that people wouldn't simply opt to take 'work vacations' because of UBI.
However, some individuals with a small amount of savings may indeed choose to look for more
enjoyable work and not feel the pressure to immediately find work that they do not like.
This might in fact cause a small economic slowdown.
However, this figure is likely to be so small as to be statistically insignificant- again,
with $1200 in rent due every month and the collapse of the American middle class, not
many people would be able to afford to live on $1,000 a month even with savings.
In the end though the effects of UBI are still quite unpredictable.
We can model and try to forecast the impact of an extra $1,000 a month on the economy
all we like, but people are themselves strange and unpredictable beings.
With a free $12,000 every year, perhaps most people would opt to save rather than spend,
and make long-term big ticket purchases which would not generate nearly as much economic
Or perhaps an influx of $1,000 every month per American would lead to an increase in
prices and a nullification of any advantage UBI has.
Or, perhaps proponents of UBI are correct and it could serve to greatly stimulate the
economy and create more opportunity for people.
Ultimately nobody can accurately predict the effects of UBI, and the only way to find out
might just be to implement it.
What is for sure though is that pending a self-made apocalypse, artificial intelligence
and advanced robotics will one day drive many, if not most, humans out of the economy.
In that inevitable future UBI may be less a political football for candidates to throw
around, and more a critical necessity to keep our society from collapsing altogether.
What would you do with an extra $1,000 a month?
Tell us how you'd spend it in the comments!
Now go watch “Spend $1 Billion Dollars In 24 Hours or LOSE IT ALL Challenge.”
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What If You Got $1,000 A Month, Every Month?

35 タグ追加 保存
王惟惟 2020 年 1 月 30 日 に公開
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