By Scott Santens
Consider for a moment that from this day forward, on the first day of every month, around $1,000 is deposited into your bank account – because you are a citizen. This income is independent of every other source of income and guarantees you a monthly starting salary above the poverty line for the rest of your life.
What do you do? Possibly of more importance, what don’t you do? How does this firm foundation of economic security and positive freedom affect your present and future decisions, from the work you choose to the relationships you maintain, to the risks you take?
Roderick Benns, publisher of Leaders and Legacies, recently interviewed Scott Santens, one of the leading American voices for basic income policy. The New Orleans-based writer is an advocate of basic income for all people and he serves as moderator of the BasicIncome community on Reddit.
Benns: The very notion of a basic income guarantee frightens a lot of people, particularly in western societies like Canada and the U.S. Thinking of employers, how can they be convinced that basic income policy is a good idea? Won’t they be worried about finding people willing to work?
Santens: It’s kind of interesting isn’t it, that the asking of such a question directly implies that employers don’t actually pay workers sufficiently for them to work voluntarily. We all know that’s the case, but we ignore it. The rate employers currently pay for the jobs people don’t want to do is artificially low. It’s low because people have to choose between no money at all, and at least some money. That’s coercion. It’s an imbalance of bargaining power. It’s also a market distortion. Employers have no incentive to pay sufficient wages, so people accept insufficient wages and consider themselves lucky they don’t have to live hungry in a box in an alley somewhere.Read more
By Scott Santens
I think we should avoid letting our ideologies inform our opinions on matters of social and economic policy. What matters is scientifically observed evidence. I support the idea of providing everyone with an unconditional basic income not because I just think it’s the right thing to do, and the best way to make ongoing technological unemployment work for us instead of against us, but because such an overwhelming amount of human behavioral evidence points in the direction of basic income.
In their opinion pieces for the week-long series about universal basic income published in September by The Washington Post, I was struck by how both Oren Cass and Jonathan Coppage expressed a distinct lack of knowledge of the evidence we have available to inform our opinions on giving people money without strings attached, by citing none of it. Science involves testing our hypotheses. They both expressed the shared hypothesis that giving people additional income in the form of a basic income would somehow reduce social cohesion, and that it is growing social inequality that’s leading to economic problems and not the other way around. We can test such a hypothesis by simply looking at what actually happens when people are provided unconditional cash, and comparing it to a control group of those who aren’t.Read more