I admit, I find the idea of Basic Minimum Income fascinating, and I think that one day we’ll have to start shifting to some form of this for the simple reason that we will simply not have enough jobs for the majority of people to work. We’re already getting into a situation where almost all manufacturing jobs are gone, and the remaining ones will be done by robots, and the majority of jobs will be service industry ones that can’t support a family, so what do we do?
Basic Income is one definite solution, although I’m more in favor of a Negative Income Tax scheme, where you’re guaranteed a certain amount of money per year (say CAN$20,000) and any other money do you make is taken off that basic amount. If you make more, you get to keep it all (well, except taxes), and if you make less the government closes the gap between you and the minimum standard.
I guess the only issue is one of what society will look like if people work because they want to, not have to. Humans are lazy creatures by nature, and there’s no doubt many would simply take the money and spend their lives online playing MMOs and having cybersex. (Of course, these people probably won’t breed much…) I think we’d need a social movement to go with this shift, one which idealizes people who work hard and try to achieve something more in their lives. If we strongly encourage hard work and success as a social value, that might help to balance out at least some of the natural tendency of people to slack-off. Also, this system was tried in Manitoba, Canada as a test project back in the 1970’s called “Mincome” at the time, and there was only a very slight drop off in the number of people working during the 5 year period it was implemented.
The results showed a modest impact on labor markets, with working hours dropping one percent for men, three percent for wives, and five percent for unmarried women. (Mincome entry from Wikipedia.)
So, maybe I should have more faith in humanity?
Of course, this “minimum” should be barely above the poverty level anyways, which encourages people to get out there and work for something more to have a better life than just the very basics.
I’m not sure if this is just Communism 2.0 (which is how many will portray it), or a perfect balance between Communism and Capitalism (both of which are ultimately failures, only Communism died faster) but it might be worth a try. Luckily, it’s not an idea which is going away anytime soon, and sooner or later we’ll see someone try it in earnest and we’ll be able to judge the results.