The European Sting
Five years ago, when I first heard about it, the idea had been all but forgotten. Most people I talked to had never heard of it either.
Now, suddenly, it’s everywhere.
What I’m referring to is, of course, basic income. This is an unconditional cash transfer that is enough to your cover basic needs. It is guaranteed to everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor, overworked or out of work.
From Scotland to India, and from Silicon Valley to Kenya, policymakers all over the world have become interested in basic income as an answer to poverty, unemployment and the bureaucratic behemoth of the modern welfare state.
The idea is also attracting growing popular support. In a public referendum, 68% of Europeans would vote in favour of basic income (up from 64% the previous year), revealed a large surveyconducted in 28 European countries.
Faster than I could have dared to hope, the discussion has catapulted into a new phase.
In 2017, I published my book Utopia for Realists. Since then, I have seen the focus of the discussion shift, from utopian dreams to real first steps. We have reached the point where it is no longer enough to philosophise about what could be. The time has come to start putting together concrete plans.
I realise that is easier said than done. Firstly, we have to establish what we actually mean by basic income. Proponents differ widely on how much it should be, how we should fund it, and who should be eligible to receive it.
By now, I have talked to many people on the other side of the debate – the opponents of basic income. Their objections, I have discovered, consistently hinge on two fundamental concerns.
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