Basic income will unleash opportunities, says Toronto-based CEO

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Floyd Marinescu about basic income, a Toronto-based CEO and co-founder of C4Media which produces InfoQ.com and the QCon conferences. Marinescu is also an angel investor, author, and humanitarian.

Benns: Tell me a little about your early life. Where did you grow up?

Marinescu: I was born and raised in Toronto and still live here. My parents were immigrants who fled from communist Romania in the 1970s. I grew up in a fairly poor, working class family, with an atmosphere that was somewhat typical of right-wing, eastern European immigrants’ views of the ills of government control, taxes, and the police state. What I came to realize in my exploration of basic income is that it will prevent the conditions that led to communism and other revolutions like it. I think basic income reduces socialism, too, as it promotes real republican freedom as economist Guy Standing points out. You reduce the size of government programs with efficient cash transfers, and you replace government behavioral interference in the lives of the poor and instead give people the resources for greater choice, freedom, and safety.

Benns: What was the turning point for you in your acceptance of basic income as a valuable policy tool?

Marinescu: I can’t find a clear turning point, but the main factors that led me to be more aware and serious about learning more about basic income was that I have a lot of experience at the front lines of globalization. While most people think of globalization in the context of  foreign factories, textiles, manufacturing, and outsourced programmers, my own business is structured in a way where I was able to leverage the global possibilities of recruiting for knowledge work and service jobs.  When I started my business, I immediately started hiring mid-level and entry-level operations roles in eastern Europe and other countries outside of the typical first world economies. Now I have almost 50 people of which only one quarter work from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the U.S. If it were not for globalization, my business might not exist as I could not have afforded so much staff in the early years.

On the other hand, if most other companies in Canada and the U.S. leveraged the same opportunities there would be even fewer and fewer jobs and increasing downward pressure on wages for existing jobs here. So you see it’s not just automation we should be concerned about that will take out jobs. Modern knowledge worker jobs can be hired anywhere. This insight is why I became so interested in basic income. Most of today’s companies are keeping costs low by building things in emerging economies but their main profits are coming from consumers in mature economies who have been experiencing slow and steady wage stagnation for the last 30 years. That is a leaky boat in my opinion and we on a dangerous downward spiral in terms of the health of the economy that will eventually hurt all levels of society.

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