The freedom of a basic income is the whole point

By William Clegg

For many people today, especially modern day economists, a guaranteed, basic income is believed necessary to address the rapidly changing job market due to the automation and ‘robotization’ of labour intensive jobs.

For others a basic income is required to provide much needed reform of patronizing and often small-minded, or even mean-spirited welfare programs.

But they both are wrong – at least for what the primary reason a minimum income should be about.

Yes, a basic income could help address the growing concerns about both unemployment and welfare issues. A basic income could easily provide much needed succor to employees at time when jobs are increasingly in transition and vulnerable to automation. A basic income could also help eliminate the stigma of welfare and empower recipients to order their lives as they see fit, rather than as bean counters demand.

However, the fundamental purpose of a basic income is really about furthering freedom of the person over their own lives. The freedom to manage the limited time one has in this life in order to serve our own needs first, over those of employers and welfare bean counters. That is, if the government of the day is sincere about promoting and furthering the freedom of its citizens.

A basic income is about:

  • The freedom from the spectre of destitution and homelessness that haunts our precarious workforce and the subsistence wages that unskilled labour is forced to accept because jobs can be shipped offshore at a moment’s notice.
  • The freedom to leave the workforce in order to deal with family concerns as they arise, or to be with infirm and dying friends and family, or to take time for personal rest and recovery.
  • The freedom to volunteer one’s skills and abilities to local non-profit agencies, amateur sports and community projects, thereby, enriching one’s community as well as one’s self.
  • The freedom to pursue higher education and training goals, or to explore a different career. The arts community would explode with creativity once its practitioners were freed to perfect their vocations.

But make no mistake, a guaranteed basic income is the next evolutionary step in personal freedom — and jobs automation and welfare reform are simply providing greater impetus for the concept. Yet it is the freedom of individuals to order their lives as they see fit, rather than as employers or bean counting bureaucrats demand, that is the cornerstone of a guaranteed basic income.