An Introduction to Universal Basic Income

Illustration by Anna Slavina

Picture the economy as a giant vending machine. We spend money into the machine, and it produces goods and services for us to consume. But the economy won’t sell us what we lack the money to buy. Instead, those delicious goods and services will remain inaccessible, staring at us from behind their glass pane. To prevent this outcome, the economy needs a way to ensure that we all have money to spend.

Basic Income

Also known as universal basic income, or UBI for short, basic income is an unconditional income for every person. …

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Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Consumer Monetary Theory (CMT) is a framework for understanding the role of money in giving consumers access to the economy’s output.

The economy exists for the benefit of the people. A well-functioning market economy serves us all. It promotes our well-being by producing goods and services for us to consume. We are all consumers.

Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.
— Adam Smith | The Wealth of Nations | 1776


Photo by Breno Assis on Unsplash

In cities like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, housing prices and rents are high and rising.

The usual prescription for bringing down housing prices is to build more housing. On the face of it, this makes perfect sense. An increase in the supply of housing forces sellers to compete for buyers and landlords to compete for tenants. Econ 101 tells us that this will cause prices to fall. And it just might. But there’s a simpler way.

Last fall, I attended a panel discussion in which policy researcher Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center laid out his proposed solution…

Last Updated: September 23, 2019

I tend to see the same questions come up again and again regarding Andrew Yang’s $1,000 per month Freedom Dividend universal basic income (UBI) plan. Here are the answers.

2019–03–30: Won’t giving everyone money just cause inflation? 2019–03–30: Won’t people just quit their jobs? 2019–03–30: Won’t landlords just raise their rents? 2019–03–30: Isn’t the Freedom Dividend just socialism? 2019–03–30: Where is the money going to come from to pay for it? 2019–03–30: Won’t the VAT just be passed on to consumers? 2019–04–14: Are we really facing a crisis of robots taking jobs? 2019–04–14: Is $1,000…

Alex Howlett

Host of Boston Basic Income ( Founder at Project Greshm (

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