Can giving everyone free money reduce the stigma of a guaranteed income?

National Post

Not many people noticed — perhaps because it appeared in a sociology journal instead of the economics literature — but there has been another fresh scholarly spelunking in the data ruins left behind by Mincome, Manitoba’s ambitious 1970s experiment with a universal guaranteed basic income.

Mincome is a Canadian event that was forgotten for decades, but it suddenly became retro-mesmerizing to the whole world a few years ago when the idea of a basic income returned to fashionability. It is the most extensive trial of a basic income that was ever performed — yet it turned out to be of not much use.

Boffins working for Ed Schreyer’s NDP provincial government had created a careful experimental design, offering guaranteed incomes (just under C$20,000 in today’s money for a family of four) to selected households throughout Manitoba and to the entire population of Dauphin. Unfortunately, the anticipated cost of the experiment was a wild guess, and while the payments to Manitobans were inflation-indexed, the budget was not.

In a time of volatile inflation that could and did surge into double digits, the result was that investigators could not do much with the information they collected. Captured on inconvenient paper and in obsolete computer formats, the data mostly ended up gathering dust in a National Library and Archives warehouse.

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