Imagine a world in which all citizen of a country received from their government just enough money every month to make a living without being forced to work? That is the revolutionary idea of the basic income :
A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.
If you have French citizenship, you’ll get — for example — 800 euros every month, no questions asked. You’ll keep receiving this amount of money monthly on your bank account regardless of what your occupation is. Those who want to raise their standard of living can have a job to get an additional salary, but having a job would not be something mandatory to survive any more.
As many other enthusiasts, I see the basic income as probably the world’s simplest plan to eradicate poverty and misery. Now that almost every individual needs to pay to get access to the most basic commodities, it should be a right to receive at least enough money in order to survive. The basic income would work as a safety net and would enable everyone to fulfill their basic needs: clean water, food, clothing, shelter and primary health care.
In addition to helping the less well-off, there are several other benefits a basic income would provide for our societies. I’d like to share my top 3:
1. Valuing volunteering activities
Most business projects within our global economy have become harmful for our planet and a realm of finance has grown completely disconnected from our real needs. The way money is distributed to workers today doesn’t reflect the true value each of us has created. For example, several non market exchanges don’t lead to any wage but actually bring more concrete value to our societies than many business projects. Those who care about nature and animals, those working directly with people in need and the like should be able to engage fully in these activities that create real positive impact for our world. But today, these volunteers are forced to perform a day job they don’t necessary like but pays the bills. This is a great loss for our societies. These voluntary initiatives are undervalued although they truly participate in caring for the planet and people. I believe the basic income would reward the engagement in voluntary activities better while helping us move away from unhealthy profit-centric activities. Thus, we could reshape a much simpler, fairer and more humble society.
2. Helping people find their gift
Most people aren’t passionate about their jobs: many work just for the money, not because they truly believe it’s their best contribution to this planet. In the end, their potential is left behind, locked, and our societies consequently suffer from this lack of fulfillment. But finding our gift is hard to achieve within a system that only allows a few weeks of vacation and never lets the mind really rest!
Unconditionally receiving a monthly income would help us afford necessary breaks. During these periods of time, we could step back from society, take time to be more with ourselves, explore things we are interested in and think deeper about our true life mission. Step by step each of us would be able find what their real contribution to this world is, how we create a lot of value for ourselves and others.
These changes would inevitably impact the education we receive. Today the traditional schooling system is very job-oriented due to our mainstream economy. For instance, if you’re good in arts, society may suggest that you work in advertising instead because being a full-time artist will probably not make you enough profit to survive. This is sad because in the end we lose the opportunity to explore deeper points of interest that have more meaning to us other than profit-centric activities. Receiving a basic income would create a new order for our societies as it would enable many of us to discover our passion and live for it.
3. Strengthening alternative economies and fostering entrepreneurship
Although many projects dealing with alternative economies have grown fast these past years, they have not been able yet to really challenge the main — growth based and destructive — economic system. The reason is simple: most of us who are interested in alternative projects can’t afford to fully develop these initiatives because they need an income and pay the bills. In the end, most keep working within the main economic system as an employee although they much rather participate in creating a new breed of community-centric projects such as green energy cooperatives, community gardens and farmers’ markets, local currencies and new banking systems. All these new local alternatives take time to grow because too many people are stuck within the main economic system. However, getting a basic income could change this story. Entrepreneur-minded people would know that they’ll keep receiving a small but sufficient amount of money every month that would allow them to set up alternative initiatives in their communities. As a result, it would give new economies a true opportunity to challenge the current main model of doing business. I believe the basic income would definitely foster the emergence of alternative projects and would seriously help the world make its transition toward post-growth economies.
What’s your opinion on having a basic income? Do you believe it’ll make society fall into chaos? Or that people will become lazy and play video games all day instead of engaging in productive activities? I’d be glad to read your thoughts.