The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) gets a bit of a run in the circles of economic empowerment, community development and wealth/income inequality management that I spend time in.
The idea being that a UBI is guaranteed to people so that they never fall below a certain income threshold. They are all given a sum of money each month to do with what they will. The sums are usually fairly low, say $15,000p/a in many cases, but they'd obviously be adjusted depending on the country/economy they are being given in.
This idea gets a big run and a lot of publicity, and certainly I agree with improved economic empowerment objectives, but I have some unanswered questions about it.
1. How do you stop the inflationary price increases of regular, necessary items? If bread is $1.50, how do you stop it going to $3.00 when the retailers know everyone will have a guaranteed minimum income?
2. What are we aiming for with a UBI? Most often it's to raise the living standards and equality of opportunity for low socio-economic communities and individuals to ensure they are going to be ok.
So the idea I have developed, is the idea of a Universal Basic Outcome (UBO). A UBO would exist to raise the base of opportunity for everyone by creating provisions for everyone to have housing, their daily caloric requirements met, non-tiered education (no additional, bonus, exclusionary education for those who wish to pay more), water + power, and healthcare.
This is not 'Equality of Outcome', which is an impossible and impractical dream, but why do we need the mechanism of commerce to give people money to then spend on services/necessary goods, while we still leave the possibility open that children and entire communities, even entire countries, could be homeless, starving and without access to utilities?
We already guarantee medical care and certain levels of education. At the scale of 'everyone', meals would be mere cents each, we'd better manage food waste and production. The benefits of improvements in food production technology and management would be better utilised for the benefit of everyone.
This wouldn't mean an end to capitalist/market opportunities, if you wanted different food, you could buy it, but you'd never, ever, be without food. Your basic nutrition needs would be met, but if you wanted some free-range Wagyu Rib-Eye, you would be able to purchase it.
You'd never be without shelter or opportunity. Construction capacity would be in aid of ensuring that communities have access to one another, sustainable, diverse, high-utility construction would be incentivised, rather than simply high profit per sq/m construction that seeks to maximise profit, often at the cost of quality, diversity of use and environmental concern.
With improvements in technology and delivery methods, education could be improved to be more accessible, inclusive and equal, opening the door to lifelong learning opportunities and preventing area-code and countries of origin from being the prime divisions in educational access.
After decades of an unfettered increase in the levels 'up' that people can go, raising the ceiling of economic achievement to the point that we have individuals 'earning' billions in a year, it is time to raise the level of how 'low' a person can go. Bringing the floor up in line with the economic growth and ensuring that no human being, in this time of unprecedented economic and technological achievement is ever without the basic necessities that we all need to foster connection, community, health and access to opportunity. A UBO does not prevent the upward mobility of individuals, it simply raises the level of 'the worst you could possibly do'. I think that's an amazing opportunity, and a much better use of our coordinated time and effort. Harnessing these advancements and securing a better future for humans, the environment and the world as a whole. This may be a starting point for a conversation, and it won't happen overnight, but I think a UBO is a great starting point for looking at what is possible for humans as we enter what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder
Just Be Nice Project
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.