Today is Labor Day. Which is why it was the perfect day for groups within the basic income movement to pronounce it Basic Income Day. That’s because one of the key things the basic income movement stands for is the decoupling of the link between work and the money that we need in order to live.
This is not about my personal opinions, though I have very many of those. For me, a universal basic income is going to be an essential part of surviving the century for our species, and the longer we delay the more catching up we will have to do later.
So, what is a universal basic income? The basic income movement encompasses many different visions and is one of the few areas of policy that unites those on the libertarian end of the spectrum (Milton Friedman) and the socialist (Chomsky). But the broad principle is simple. Everyone gets money given to them directly on a regular basis by the government, with no qualifying criteria other than citizenship of the place governed.
There are many reasons why people favour a universal basic income. The pressing practical reason is most frequently given is the increasing automation of the workplace. Will technology mean that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around by the end of the century? Opinion differs, but if so then it is essential we address that problem. Many would say it is essential we address our society’s obsession with valuing people’s rights to the basic means of living according to their productivity anyway.
Libertarians focus on the possibilities for a basic income replacing many state benefits and kickstarting entrepreneurialism on an unprecedented scale (experiments in Africa and Asia have shown that free money does, indeed, give a tremendous boost to the starting, and sustaining, of new small businesses).
Socialists focus on the social safety net that a basic income would provide, freeing up citizens from what they see as meaningless and often counter-productive capability testing.
There are other reasons that cross such lines. Some point to the fact that one of the main factors that prevents women leaving abusive relationships is financial insecurity – a guaranteed basic income paid directly under all circumstances would give them a security net that would enable them to reach safety. And some point to benefits to mental health by removing pressure at critical points of vulnerability in a person’s life.
But what is of most interest to us here (though all are relevant, especially the entrepreneurial considerations, essentially providing many indies with start-up capital) is the potential that a basic income has for unleashing a new wave of creativity. For me the key points are these.
- If you had a guaranteed income that met your basic needs, you would be free to write what you wanted. This may be exactly the same as what you write now, but for some of us it may not.
- If you weren’t desperate for sales, you could spend more time writing and not be a slave to marketing (which may help you build the body of work that would end up growing your readership organically).
- You would have time. It would buy you a shorter week doing the work you have to do, and that means more time for the stuff you love to do. And that includes writing.
- It would ease the mental pressure that grows from the financial and time pressures so many of us feel and that can be so creatively paralyzing.
You can find out more about all kinds of basic income schemes through the Basic Income Earth Network. And you can join the Artists for Basic Income group on Facebook to discover the many ways it can help those of us in the arts. And if you want my full opinion on the subject, this piece is a good place to start.