Notes On Universal Basic Income

  1. Most countries spend some percentage of their tax revenues on social security/welfare.
  2. The world has been getting richer for a century, and is going to keep getting richer. This means welfare is going to expand, without raising taxes or allocating more taxes towards welfare. The same tax dollars are just going to buy more welfare.
  3. With sufficient technological advances, countries will start to be rich enough to implement UBI without raising taxes or de-funding non welfare related government programs.
  4. At that point, “Elect Me Because You’ll Get Free Money” starts to arguably be the best political campaign platform in history.
  5. UBI probably needs a lot more wealth than we have today, but that wealth is likely coming. A century ago today’s welfare would have been unthinkable. Again, this is mostly a result of economic development, not policy shifts. It’s just sufficiently cheap now to provide welfare.
  6. Example: a hundred years ago an egg used to cost ten times more in necessary average work hours. Today the same welfare spending would buy the same welfare receiver 10 times as many eggs.
  7. People worry that no one will work if there’s UBI, but the right way to think about this is not “what if no one works?” but “what if no one works and the world is 10 times richer?”. Answer: let them not work, it’s fine, we’re rich enough.
  8. Not long ago it was impossible to not work. You’d starve and freeze. Fast forward 50 years of economic development and there are several countries (Germany for example) in which you can not work and have a roof over your head and food on the table.
  9. German society and economy are fine. Nothing is collapsing. It’s just rich enough to afford letting some people not work. At some point it’ll be rich enough for 20% of the people to not have to work, then 50%, etc.
  10. Of course, all of this depends on the continued exponential growth of technology and the economy. But there’s good things in the pipeline, so this seems not crazy.
  11. One day I hope we’ll look back at today and think that it was a tragedy that billions of people had to spend half their lives doing something they didn’t like because they needed the money.
  12. When everyone can do what they want and not what they need, the human project will have advanced considerably. I hope to see it in my lifetime.