Basic Income for All Could Lift Millions Out of Poverty … and change how we think about inequality – The Conversation

Extract from an article by by Ralph Callebert, Adjunct Faculty of History, Virginia Tech

The idea of a basic income for every person has been popping up regularly in recent years.

Economists, think tanks, activists and politicians from different stripes have toyed with the idea of governments giving every citizen or resident a minimum income off which to live. This cash transfer could either replace or supplement existing welfare payments.

Pilot projects and feasibility studies have been run or are under way in theNetherlands, India, Canada, Finland, France and elsewhere.

Even in the U.S., the idea finds support. Alaska, for example, already divides its oil revenues among its residents.

Most arguments in favor or against basic income have focused on its feasibility,simplicity, promotion of personal independence or effectiveness at reaching those who fall through the cracks of the welfare state.

However, the most important advantage of basic income may not be in its practical application but rather in how it could change the way we think and talk about poverty and inequality.

Benefits of a basic income

Giving every resident an unconditional grant, regardless of whether you are a billionaire or destitute, is a significant departure from our existing welfare state. The latter offers only limited and conditional support when working is not an option.

Support for a basic income comes from very disparate political and ideological circles.

Some libertarians like basic income because it promises a leaner state without a large bureaucracy checking people’s eligibility and policing their behavior. Others see it as enabling entrepreneurialism – the poor helping themselves.

On the left, many see basic income as an opportunity to plug numerous holes in the social safety net or even to free people from “wage slavery.” For feminists, basic income is a successor to the old demand for wages for housework.

Pilot projects suggest that simply giving money to the poor could successfully tackle poverty. In Namibia, poverty, crime and unemployment went down, as school attendance went up. In India, basic income recipients were more likely to start small businesses.

SOURCE: Callebert, Ralph. “Basic income for all could lift millions out of poverty … and change how we think about inequality.” The Conversation, January 16, 2016.

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