Imagine a society where every citizen gets £30,000 a year, paid for by the government, just for existing. Basic Income, also known as Unconditional Basic Income and Universal Basic Income, has been an economic theory for some time but has only recently become a feasible possibility. Jeremy Corbyn has been 'looking at' the theory, and several nations and states, including Switzerland and some cities in the Netherlands, have or will hold referendums on the topic (Switzerland recently rejected the plan but has been the first country to hold a vote for it). Ontario, Canada, is also looking to initiate a pilot project for Basic Income.
The concept is not a new one: from Thomas Paine to Richard Nixon the idea has been around, in various forms, for hundreds of years. Basically, Basic Income gives every individual a livable amount of income every year without means test or work requirement, regardless of any other income, regardless of background, sex or age.
There are some big questions around it – some economical (can it financially be done? Apparently, yes), others philosophical (what would we do with our time?). The time question is the most interesting one. Would we want to work? Well, a lot of would probably not, seeing as most of the population work in minimum wage, pointless soul-destroying jobs. Hopefully some people would still want to work (!), but the idea is they'd work fewer hours, giving them more free time and enabling others to also work part-time in their jobs, creating more work.
I literally dream of a world of Basic Income, where work and financial worry isn't the sole focus of our lives; where we're not wasting eight hours a day, five days a week doing mindless activities simply to exist; where we spend more time with our families and friends; where we have time to explore and develop other interests in life – spirituality, learning to play the violin, spending six months in Morocco painting. Being free from financial worry would enable us to pursue our dreams, and though – if that dream amounts to being a rock star, writer or painter – might not amount to fame and riches, at least we'd have the time and money to explore it. Alternatively, one could just become an alcoholic and watch YouTube videos all day and night.
"Socialism!" I hear you cry! It'll never work! Okay, let me try to sell you this one instead: Capitalism. A system where only the top 5% are the winners and the gulf between rich and poor gets wider and wider; where profit comes at the expense of everything from personal feelings to the environment; where corporations rule the world and have no accountability for whatever they do, whether it's destroy the environment or pay no taxes. Surely it'll never catch on.
Previously on Barnflakes:
Four-day Working Week
Introverts vs Extroverts
Aspire to be Average
The Offensive Office