There was much talk about unmotivated people at the 2014 Basic Income Earth Network Ask Me Anything series hosted on Reddit last week. Among all of the concerns, how to get people off of the couch was among the popular questions. Multiple threads repeatedly discussed the idea that people will no longer work if they receive a basic income. Perhaps that sounds logical, although it is not as reasoned as commonly thought.
A fundamental purpose of an Unconditional Basic Income is to motivate. This is particularly true with a Citizen's Dividend, as the amount of income given is largely dependent on the value of the improvements made by working people. If people do not work to make improvements to the society, the dividend income diminishes in value as well. Further, the lessened risk with starting businesses and the increase of commerce transactions would likewise provide stimulation.
Most people want to contribute, it's a part of being human and healthy as noted in a research article by Time magazine in February of this year. The research showed that long term unemployment was as detrimental as divorce or the death of a loved one. Incentives to contribute are built in to our existence.
Actually, the current system and it's policies are more the reason for unproductive tendencies with factors such as means testing, welfare traps, corruption, the land and resource monopoly, wealth gaps, and income inequality as well as other forms of inequality, to name but a few, all contributing towards the suffering of humanity. It's effectual to think of a Universal Basic Income as an investment in humanity.
It’s effectual to think of a Universal Basic Income as an investment in humanity.
The UBI trials and experiments show that the lives of people improved and education was again a priority. Even people who are unproductive by whatever measure still spend money to buy basic living needs and that keeps the flow of money in the society moving. Money flow is great for business and great for the economy. There may well still be a percentage of idleness, although, like today, that percentage would be small and not nearly enough to outweigh the benefits of a Basic Income Guarantee.
Work could use a redefining as well considering a lot of beneficial work done such as care taking, charity, volunteering, education, activism, community service, artistic expression, etc., are not necessarily income generating. Also, there will still be people that want to increase their income just as there are people today that want to do the same. People have many reasons to be motivated.
The incentive is also more about living, and to live enjoyably, rather than to work drudgingly for a perpetuating neo-feudalistic pyramidal ponzi scheme of a socio-economic system that largely promotes wage slavery through forced employment and corporatism. Perhaps it is more to say that people would not work in jobs they consider to be meaningless or alienating rather than they wouldn't work at all.
Notable people supported the idea of a Citizen’s Dividend or Social Wage such as Thomas Paine, Martin Luther King Jr., and Milton Friedman. One of my favorite supportive quotes, which also touches on the work notion, comes from Buckminster Fuller:
“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.”
We can develop a world any way we wish to have it, and we have this current unjust system largely because there is a lack of education and empathy, both of which are solvable. We are all in this together and we have an abundance of resources available. Working together we can all create the peace and freedom we yearn for.
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LAWRENCE BOSEK is the Executive Director of Progress.org. He enjoys educating on technology and healthy green living. After 15+ years of consulting in the technology industry and educating in college classrooms, he has expanded his focus to assist in the healing evolution of the noosphere through education and meditative well being. Lawrence also enjoys the natural beauty of the Earth and sky, progressing socio-economic justice, and writing essays as well as poetry. His poetic picture book, entitled Garden Of Love, touches on social-environmental awareness and the evolution of consciousness. Currently, Lawrence is busy advocating for an Open Source Civilization, completing a Ph.D. program, and continuing to be a part of the evolutionary upliftment of humanity.