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What Would Society Look Like with Universal Basic Income?


What Would Society Look Like with Universal Basic Income?

Laurie Penny

hat would you do if somebody gave you a few hundred pounds each month to spend on whatever you wanted? Would you quit your job? Retrain and look for a better one? Spend more time with your kids? Get those vital repairs done on your house? Eat better food?


It occurred to me recently that a huge change has taken place over the past 100 years or so, at least in developed countries. 100 years ago, there wasn’t enough to go around. Now there is. Our whole economic system is based on the past, based on a reality where there were no totally just solutions. That’s changed.

If there is enough to go around then it’s simply criminal to force some to do without. If we can provide the basics for everyone – food, shelter and health care – it’s criminal to deny these to some.

Yet, despite economic reality changing, here in the US, about 20% of children live in poverty, a fraction that hasn’t changed substantially in 40 years, even as the society has gotten richer. Only an economist could fail to see that putting more money in the hands of those who don’t have enough would be a good thing and that it’s barbaric to perpetuate a system where the filthy rich get filthy richer while others go hungry.


I think the entire spectrum should be “treated.” That is, in order to prop up a guaranteed minimum income, there should also be a maximum income. No tax shelters, no phony offshore bank hideaways, no bank laundering.

Suppose this capped income is tied (percentage-wise) to the minimum income? Then, instead of the big money moguls moaning over a miniscule increment to the minimum wage, they’d think twice. After all, their income CAP would be relative to the guaranteed income. As a matter of fact, adding on to the idea of taxing Wall Street transactions, the maximum income cap would mean that any funds exceeding it go directly into the “cookie jar” that pays for that minimum income guarantee.

There was a time as many pundits relate where the company CEO made about 45X what the average employee earned. Now, it’s likelier that the CEO makes 500X what the “lowly employee” makes.

A set of legal protocols that instituted both guaranteed incomes (at the bottom) and capped incomes (at the top) would redefine “the math.” In the process, a more humane society would result and when people have that guaranteed income, it puts a major dent in Black Market Economics like the sale of street drugs and the gangs that have grown up to maintain that system of commerce.

Remedying the black market economy would put a dent in the number of police needed and perhaps return the Judicial system to one that prosecuted real crimes and wasn’t used as a pretext for re-engineering the new Plantation System. (In it, largely Black Labor is routinely farmed out at pennies on the dollar.)


Isn’t the larger question why we need any income at all?

If we don’t have to buy anything - meaning we don’t have to sell anything - then competition as the basis for an economy is rendered moot.

A family doesn’t engage in acts of commerce

And if a family is what we desire humanity to be

Why should we?


It’s been a long time coming: "We should 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.” Buckminster Fuller


My understanding is the Province of Ontario is exploring this option up here in Canada. I am not sure as to how it will be done exclusive of other provinces just yet.


The Incan Empire operated for some time without anything that could be called money.

My mother and father indicated that during the depression on Canada’s prairies there was little to no money yet buildings were built and people raised food and were fed. I am sure we can come up with some system that is better.

What always amuses me about the concept of money is how a person with 6 billion dollars can lose 5 billion dollars. Where did the 6 billion come from and where did it go? How come is a house of the exact same and size in Vancouver worth 1.5 million while another in Spuzzum goes for 20000$? The value of a single baseball card , a piece of cardboard a few inches square with a picture of Honus Wagner is some 2.8 million. This is more than most people will make as wages in an entire lifetime.

They are just numbers that do not really represent anything that is real and tangible so why the need for it?


Corporations will never allow this. Look at how hard they fight the minimum wage. What would they have to do to get people to sling their burgers and mop their smelly bathrooms if no one were forced to do it? Also, lording over desperate peons is 90 percent of the thrill for the sociopaths that run corporations. They can’t all go into politics and need some outlet for their sadism.

This entire system is based upon force, and it will fight to the death any diminishment of its coercive power, which is in fact its only power. The wealthy will commit global mass murder of the “useless eaters” once mass unemployment as a result of automation tips into open revolt. Those that own the “means of production” (in this case, the robots) will simply do away with “surplus humanity” through wars, assassinations, engineered pandemics, mass poisonings, whatever it takes.

Understand, guaranteed basic income is a beautiful idea. And in this world, beautiful ideas are targeted and destroyed.


Scarcity. More people want one of those original Honus Wagner cards than there are cards. So a tussle ensues and is resolved with this phantasm called money.

In fact, the crisis of material over-abundance and the end of scarcity is what is driving talk of guaranteed basic income. There are more and more products rotting on shelves with no buyers because the buyers are all broke. This will only get worse as robots and A.I. advance.

What’s the solution? Freeing people of economic exploitation is a non-starter to the wealthy. That is their privilege, not yours. Again, I think they will go on a global murder spree to get rid of anyone not needed to service their gleaming mega-technology.


Bob Blain in his 2004 book lays out a comprehensive idea for this. The Most Wealth Through the Least Work through Cooperation. There are now too many humans to work fulltime for work available and this may get worse with robots. His recommendations include reworking the concept of Gross National Product.


Unless these “beautiful ideas” are in the interests of tptb…


“It’s simple because it is the only concrete, even vaguely workable solution that has so far been offered to tackle advancing inequality”

But the truth is it does almost nothing about inequality. While there would be a minimum income, without a maximum income everything for sale including life necessities would simply be bidden up until the basic income was in the poverty range again. And as long as some people have more money than others, democracy is unsustainable. That is, it can work for a while but eventually, even tiny differences will accrue, slowly at first and exponentially all along until some have enough to hold all the political power, as they do now. It’s taken generations for this to happen and there have been fitful temporary partial returns to fairness (the New Deal, for example, or reaction to the robber barons of the 1870s, 80s, and 90s–the Gilded Age. But the spasms never restore what was lost–not nature, not physical or psychological health, not all the institutions or traditions of equality and simplicity. The extravagant always becomes the new standard; call it The “Dallas” Syndrome. The force of inequality feeds on inequality and as soon as the hoopla and struggle are left behind just for a weekend celebration of accomplishment, there’s a nibble, nibble, nibble starting at the roots again. Rent seeking, aggrandizement, entitlement and the force of theft in the night by the narcissistically aggrieved, the lurking neo-Romanovs.

The only solution is to have the minimum income equal the maximum income. In fact, the solution is to not have income at all, but a national cooperative in which nature is the principle and as the healthy ecosystem/s a community is based on and in accrues interest (by growing, or deepening relationships and diversity) everyone in the tribe shares equally. In the end, it can’t be national either; only a global tribe sharing equally in the only true wealth–physiopsychologically healthy people in a society whose nurturing reflects a shared vision of the biosphere: humans ensconced in a network of cooperative relationships arranged from birth on in concentric circles–mother, nuclear then extended family, community, interest or passion and professional networks, village or town, cooperative city-state, watershed or bioregion, continental confederation, world confederation. None of it can happen without the beginnings in equality–minimum income same as maximum.


When I was in college in the '70’s, I made a speech on communism. Not the kind that was in Russia and Cuba but the idea of people getting an equal compensation for their work. At the end of the speech I remember someone scoffing at the idea. What I remember thinking to myself was that he just doesn’t get it, he’s truly part of the system that supports this hierarchy, this class system. It’s great that Laurie Penny could have the foresight to see about 40 years later the same thing that I proposed. (And I’ll wager that I was not the only one!)


I agree, that may be one reason, but more relevant today is they are invented by stimulating, via advertisment, unsustainable and unnecessary ‘aspirational’ desires for endlessly new shiny things, markets, etc, to sustain the socially unjust neo-liberal system wherein a minority can become rich and every ones else gets exploited. Neo-liberal capitalism must grow, grow, grow to survive, rather like cancer cell,.


UBI is one of the most exciting, socially transformative ideas being discussed in the poltical world today. Gentle socialism via the side door, by a kind of osmosis.


You can say the same about gold. What use is it? You can make pretty things from it but it’s only value is simply beause of its scarcity. And how long have humans craved gold for that very reason? I have it, you don’t and therefore I will wear it round my neck to show how much better I am than you. Now on your knees peasant…

The organising principle of modern economics is that without the threat of starvation, homelessness and poverty, people will not be motivated to work.
This is precisely why corporate America and all government agencies beholden to corporate America have no interest in eliminating homelessness. Homelessness is the hell into which you fall if you are not a "productive" member of corporate society (or have sufficient inherited wealth).

Point 2 - Those who sponge off the rest of us - the banksters, war profiteers, corrupt politicians and trust fund babies - receive a heckuva lot more than a “Basic Income” while doing absolutely no productive work to receive it. Why shouldn’t the rest of us receive a piddling basic income that sets us free too?


Productivity would probably soar, as all the ones who don’t wanna work are gonna get out of the way and let the ones who love what they do enjoy it without listening to constant whining.

One issue i see it would create a two class society: ones that lead productive lives and ones that are on the stipend.


True, but they didn’t have electrical connectors back in 793AD when the Vikings began raiding Christian churches and slaying the monks in search of gold or when the Spanish Conquistadors plundered South America etc.


The strange thing is is money works on TRUST in our fellow species. If a gorilla could communicate and you tried to take its banana off it in exchange for a lump of round metal which you explained could then be used to buy 10 bananas in the future, I don’t think it would give you its banana.