Guaranteed Basic Income—Now Is the Time

Updated on August 17, 2019
Duane Townsend profile image

Duane is an avid reader and follower of all things social, spiritual, and political. Duane is a committed leftist across the spectrum.

Collective Investment in We the People
Collective Investment in We the People | Source

Guaranteed Basic Income Is Not a New Idea

There is a concept commonly called Guaranteed Basic Income, the Citizen's Dividend, or Basic Income Guarantee. Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), British philosopher says: “A certain small income, sufficient for necessities, should be secured for all, whether they work or not. A larger income … should be given to those who are willing to engage in some work which the community recognizes as useful.”

Guaranteed basic income, an idea promoted by American revolutionary era writer and founding father, visionary Thomas Paine. It is a concept that has been supported across the political spectrum. Right-wing libertarian economists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. To liberal/progressives such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Democratic Socialist Erich Fromm, humanist philosopher and social psychologist.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon delivered a speech outlining his proposal for an 'income floor', a program he called, the 'Family Assistance Program' (FAP). This was to replace the traditional welfare system of the day. Nixon's program would include the working poor, in addition to the jobless and indigent. FAP would subsidize the income of those working to above poverty levels and provide the unemployed enough income for shelter, food, healthcare and other necessities. Nixon's program passed in the house by a margin of 243-155. It stalled in the Senate.

In 1970, Representative William F. Ryan (D-N.Y.) championed a proposal by the National Welfare Rights Organization on the house floor:

"A guaranteed annual income is not a privilege. It should be a right to which every American is entitled. No country as affluent as ours can allow any citizen or his family not to have an adequate diet, not to have adequate housing, not to have adequate health services and not to have adequate educational opportunity — in short, not to be able to have a life with dignity."


Basic Income Guarantee: Invaluable Benefits to Society

Here is a restaurant napkin analysis of how this will work financially. Presently, there are 234 million Americans of adult age. The poverty level for a single adult is approximately 12,000 dollars/year. This can be adjusted for local economy. New Yorkers couldn't live on $12K/yr., while Kentuckians could live on less. The cost of the yearly payout would be almost three trillion dollars (2.8). Basic Income Guarantee will bring an invaluable return on investment. So much so, that the 3 trillion dollar annual cost would be a bargain.

For that annual societal expenditure, our communities will experience major return on investment (ROI), such as:

  • Lower crime
  • A vast reduction in poverty
  • Lowered healthcare costs
  • Less infant mortality ( the U.S. ranks 27th of developed countries)
  • Improved school performance
  • Lowered inequality

Including other less quantifiable, preferred ROI to society. The intangible gains associated with Basic Income Guarantee include:

  • A collective sense of material security
  • Heightened community involvement
  • People will be free to imagine and create, garage inventions and art
  • The rediscovered ability to effectively plan one’s life
  • Reduced societal stress, improved collective mental health

Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), encapsulates the new vision of financially sustaining human beings:

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Less Demand for Human Labor

Capitalism is at a cross-roads. Marcus Wohlsen of Wired writes:

"Traditionally, increased productivity correlates with economic growth and job growth, since human labor has historically driven production. A robot workforce, however, can drive productivity and growth on its own, eliminating jobs in the process. That might mean the whole paradigm of exchanging labor for pay starts to break down."

The ever-evolving advancement of software capability and technological advancement has made the prospect of job growth for human beings problematic. Frankly, with a growing population and more technology-driven 'work', human labor is becoming less 'valuable'. That is the less-spoken-of factor in wage stagnation. The technology replacing labor trend will not be reversing. This is a sea-change in society. It will make a permanent underclass unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, because they won't have a livable wage job, straps, or boots. All of this is not to say that the notion of gainful employment is going away, it is saying that there won't be enough jobs, at livable wages to support a nation based on consumerism.

This technology isn't simply replacing blue collar labor. David Rotman of MIT Technology Review writes:

"Countless traditional white-collar jobs, such as many in the post office and in customer service, have disappeared. W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete."


800 Million Jobs Will Be Automated Globally

The BBC reports:

"Up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by robotic automation, a new report from a consultancy has found. The study of 46 countries and 800 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute found that up to one-fifth of the global work force will be affected.

These disappearing jobs will not simply be low-skilled manufacturing work. The BBC reports, paralegals, mortgage brokers, administrative office staff, and managers, being especially prone to automated software replacing them.

Fortune writes:

"The notion that robots or automation will take on the jobs of millions of people is a nagging source of anxiety for many people. As has been reported, workers ranging from truck drivers—of which there are an estimated 1.8 million in the U.S.— to airline pilots to paralegals to surgeons are already being affected by automation."


Capitalism Must Be Reformed

Capitalism, as practiced for the last two centuries, has proved to be unsustainable for humanity and the planet. We're at a pivot point in human social evolution. Until the owners of capital realize that hoarding property and funds, extracting profit from the earth in a reckless manner, profit that doesn't circulate through the collective of humanity, will lead to collapse of society and the environment. When we realize that for over two hundred years we've acted more like a cancer on this planet, not as caretakers of the earth, or each other.

When this understanding dawns on those responsible, when we the people refuse to play along anymore, then the next phase in mankind's evolution will occur. Every month that passes, more people move closer to material insecurity. Worried the next new automated development will take their job.

Guaranteed basic income, a citizens dividend, is the idea for this time in history. No, it's not a panacea, we won't live happily ever after because of it. But it is more akin to the powerful pain reliever administered in medical emergencies. It soothes us, allows us to relax, as we collectively heal and transition to a new way to live on earth. What more people every day are realizing is that we cannot continue with the present system.

© 2015 Duane Townsend


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Great stuff Duane! :)

    • Duane Townsend profile imageAUTHOR

      Duane Townsend 

      4 years ago from Detroit

      Thanks Billy...thanks for reading.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I was going to read your article about guns and society but I didn't want to be depressed this morning. :) The whole gun lobby and "right to bear arms" argument wears me out.

      Now this idea has merit and must be considered. The last time I checked, our economy was 75% based on consumer goods. What happens to our economy when the consumers can't afford to buy those goods? From any standpoint or viewpoint one wishes to speak, it is in everyone's interest that our citizens have the ability to purchase goods...thus the basic income idea is worthy of discussion.

    • Duane Townsend profile imageAUTHOR

      Duane Townsend 

      4 years ago from Detroit

      Jo Anne there is credible evidence that over-population is a myth. The main idea in over-population is a myth is that cities are over-populated but the earth is not.

      I would provide some links as evidence, but HubPages frowns on adding links to comments. Check with me on facebook. :)

    • Jo Anne Simson profile image

      Jo Anne Simson 

      4 years ago from South Carolina

      Great ideas here. In order for it to work, though, we definitely need to limit human population. Free contraceptives to all women (and men) would probably take care of that.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      In Holland a couple of cities are experimenting with the concept of a basic income for all right now and everybody is really positive towards the idea.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting concept.

    • Duane Townsend profile imageAUTHOR

      Duane Townsend 

      4 years ago from Detroit

      Well said Tess. Thank you for reading...

    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 

      4 years ago

      Now if only we could convince the people who lack a generous spirit towards others... They cannot endure the thought that someone would get something for nothing, or that two cents of their tax dollars might go to someone who cannot and/or does not work...

    • Duane Townsend profile imageAUTHOR

      Duane Townsend 

      4 years ago from Detroit

      Jay...What you propose is feudalism. If there is a less desirable system than the present predatory capitalist system, it is feudalism.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      It seems a kingship would be an answer. The king owns everything and all are subject to him. The king is supposed to take care of his subjects. There would be one hierarchy which would be efficient. How well did kingships work?

      Capitalism existed in the time of kings and money was invented to assist in trade. What would happen if we took money out of it. Everyone works and is assured food, clothing, shelter and health care. If one does not want to work, he is cast out of the system.

      The biggest problem is population control. Fewer people means less demand. How about a target of 100 million people with high tech? A kingship might be able to get there. There are several methods of birth control including vasectomy.


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