Universal Basic Income — could it work?

Gwynne Dyer

There’s a new idea that might be the solution to runaway populism. Well, it’s not that new, really — it has been kicking around in left-wing circles for a least a quarter-century — but it has suddenly gone mainstream. It’s called Universal Basic Income (UBI), and pilot programs to see if it really works in practice are being launched this year in four different countries.

It’s populism that gave us Brexit in Britain and President Donald Trump in the United States. It could soon give us President Marine Le Pen in France. But the fundamental lie of populism is that it can “bring the jobs back.” It doesn’t even admit where they really went.

Indeed, in the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, neither candidate ever mentioned the ghost at the feast. Trump promised to “bring the jobs back” from the foreign countries that had “stolen” them, mainly by ending free trade, while Hillary Clinton promised “a full-employment economy where everybody has enough to raise a family and live in dignity.” Neither of them ever mentioned automation.

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