The Fall and Rise of the Basic Income Movement

 - Basic Income Earth Network

Forty years ago today—February 7, 1980—was a small milestone for the Universal Basic Income (UBI) movement: Milton and Rose Friedman dedicated an episode of their television show to a form of basic income guarantee called the Negative Income Tax. This episode might have been the last gasp of the UBI movement’s second wave, which came very close to the centers of power in the United States and Canada in the 1960s and early 70s but had been declining for nearly a decade.

I’m a little embarrassed that this TV show and its accompanying book was my entry into the UBI movement because I disagree with the Friedmans on so many other issues now, but I have to give them credit.

Although Friedman brought his fame and Nobel-Laureate credibility to UBI and related policies, that broadcast did little to stop the decline in UBI’s popularity. It gradually vanished from mainstream politics in the United States and in most countries. It remained an idea for academics, minor parties, fringe activists for decades, only to emerge—seemingly out of nowhere—as a growing worldwide movement over the last 10 years.

So, that day wasn’t a huge milestone for the UBI movement. But it was a big day for me. It was my 15th birthday. I watched the show. I was enthralled with the idea. So, today is my 55th birthday and 40th anniversary as a UBI supporter. That’s probably a good time to write a personal account of what it’s been like following the UBI movement as it fell and rose again.

I’ve written a history of UBI’s three waves of support already both as an op-ed and as an academic article. I’m not going to repeat what I said there. This personal account is about how it felt to watch the movement fall and rise.

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