Recently ieet.org published a poll on whether there should be a universal Guaranteed Basic Income. Of the 5 options, the one I voted for was for a guaranteed stipend for everyone somewhere between the poverty line and the median income of their society.
Here’s what I commented by way of explanation.
“In Descendants, George Clooney’s extremely wealthy father has taken the view that his son should be given “enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing”. The idea is that option 5, for which I have voted, would lead people to become like dissolute rich-kid playboys, squandering their guaranteed income on shallow entertainment, leading to economic collapse or early abandonment of the scheme.
It’s possible, of course, but I think the real reason so many people behave like that is that we haven’t yet broken the link in society between “work as productive contribution”, “work as doing things you get paid for”, and “work as doing things you don’t particularly enjoy while you’d rather be lying on a beach”. So the common urge, as soon as we find ourselves in a position of financial security, is to go and lie on a beach.
But the real message of the playboys is precisely the opposite, because they tell us that such a lifestyle will never satisfy us for long. This will need to be introduced with care (i.e. piloted), but it won’t take long before a vibrant economy develops on the back of this, an economy that, unlike the current one, is based not on fear and scarcity but on enthusiasm and abundance.
Fear and scarcity will still exist, of course. Whenever you pursue a project, you automatically start to fear failure, and because your project is ambitious you crave the scarce resources that are needed for its completion. But this will not be people’s primary motivation for getting out of bed in the morning, as it is for so many today. It will instead be passion for the projects they are pursuing.”