Why some countries are considering handing out free money

CNBC

Imagine receiving a pile of cash each month from the government, no strings attached.

The concept sounds radical, but it's an economic theory gaining traction from Silicon Valley to the Nordics, called universal basic income. Free money experiments are underway in a handful of countries as governments face evolving workforces and strained welfare systems.

The International Monetary Fund defines universal basic income as "a cash transfer of an equal amount to all individuals in a country."

Universal basic income differs from other government transfers, like tax refunds or welfare payments, in that every individual receives the same amount. Recipients can spend the money however they like, and they aren't required to report how they spend it.

 

Who supports it?

Tech titans in Silicon Valley like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are some of the biggest advocates of universal basic income. They say free money could provide flexibility for workers who could lose their jobs to robots or automation.

But the idea has been around for centuries. Philosopher Thomas Paine proposed payments "made to every person, rich or poor" in his 1797 work "Agrarian Justice."

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