Improving capitalism: the promise of a basic income guarantee

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Michael Schmidt, a Canadian entrepreneur, chemist and engineer. He was previously the founder and CEO of Listn, a mobile music startup based in Los Angeles California before its multimillion dollar acquisition by Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment. He is now the CEO of Dovetale.com, a partner at PurifAid, a board member of K-Swiss and a member of the Canadian Leadership Committee for the G20. 

Benns: From your perspective as an entrepreneur, why is the concept of a basic income guarantee useful to society?

Schmidt: Basic income is all about voice. Some people want more while some people want less. By guaranteeing everyone has the absolute minimum you can guarantee, as a nation that the basic needs of life are met. It’s a win-win for the market and those who are in the market. It’s a fundamental improvement on capitalism and even democracy, because everyone now has a minimum amount of voice.

Read more

Redefining work as a measure of our identity in the world

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Michael Vertolli, a PhD student at Carleton University who studies artificial intelligence in relation to human cognition. He believes that basic income is one of the only ways to move forward in a future of large-scale automation.

Benns: What is the connection between automation and basic income? Why should we be considering this social policy change based on automation trends — hasn’t this always been predicted and yet we still seem to have jobs?

Vertolli: The short answer is that the belief that “we still seem to have jobs” is a misleading perception held by people whose jobs have yet to get significantly affected. This means it is held by people in the middle-class range with medium-difficulty jobs that require one to think. The problem is systems like AlphaGo, Google’s Artificial Intelligence that just beat the world champion at Go, demonstrate that even these tasks can now be learned by sufficiently powerful AIs.

Read more

Basic income doesn't emphasize divisions between poor and working people: PhD candidate

Roderick Benns recently interviewed David Calnitsky, who is a Canadian PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completing his thesis on the Mincome experiment with basic income. The experiment took place in the 1970s in Dauphin, Manitoba. He has recently published part of it as an article: “More Normal than Welfare”: The Mincome Experiment, Stigma, and Community Experience.”

Benns: What were two or three of the most revealing aspects of the Dauphin, MB experiment with basic income, in terms of how it changed people’s lives?

Calnitsky: My recent paper is on social stigma, and broadly, the “dignity problem,” which I think gets insufficient attention in these debates. Participants with experience in the welfare system wrote about the pervasive indignities inflicted on them. Meanwhile, when asked about Mincome, people viewed the program as a pragmatic source of assistance. According to people’s accounts, participating in Mincome didn’t damage your standing in the community.

Read more

The economy, jobs, and basic income

By Alan Gummo 

The economy is in trouble so we’re in trouble. We’re worried about a general slow-down in activity, job losses, high personal debt levels, inequality, precarious employment, the hidden costs of underemployment and poverty, and so on. There’s a lot of debate going on about what to do. While many and varied prescriptions are being put forward, everyone from left to right seems to agree that more jobs should be created. 

Fair enough. We definitely need more jobs. Jobs are useful in supporting individual livelihoods. 

Read more

An alternative view of basic income pilot projects

By Terrance Hunsley

*Editor's note: This column is the view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Basic Income Canada Network.

Since the election of the Trudeau government, there has been increased interest in the concept of basic income (also known as guaranteed income, and negative income tax). The confluence of liberal governments in Ottawa and seven provinces, as well as two NDP governments, suggests that a political consensus may be possible to take a historic step forward. A guaranteed income, or negative income tax has been held up as a noble objective to eliminate poverty, an efficient replacement for a labyrinth of means tested and over-bureaucratized programs, and a more effective insurance system for the new economy, for a long time. It could also provide a significant offset to increasing income inequality.

Read more

Basic income and the witches of Salem

By Alan Gummo

The ‘Witches of Salem’ refers to a group of people who were believed to be witches, that is, possessed by the Devil, in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s.

The witch stereotype became very popular and demanded a public policy response; it drove the establishment of a specialized tribunal to deal with it. Some twenty people were put to death because of it. It has since come to symbolize injustice. I could mention other policies based on other stereotypes, but there’s no need to belabour the point by dwelling on other disasters.

Read more

Basic income: new life for an old idea

By Solomon Israel

CBC News

In Ottawa, a federal MP is pushing for government research on the subject. Ontario's provincial budget announced a pilot program to try it out. In Quebec, a cabinet minister has been assigned to study the topic.

The mayors of Calgary and Edmonton are both on board. And the Manitoba Liberals are promising their own trial if they win the April 19 provincial election.

Basic income is capturing political imaginations in Canada.

Read more