Universal basic income — giving people money who need it and with no strings attached — is a couple of weeks away from its biggest test in the U.S.
The Boston Globe reports, beginning next month, residents of one Massachusetts city will receive between $200-$400 a month to help them pay for food, bills or anything else.
The money will arrive at a good time; November welcomes in the cold weather in the northeast (and elsewhere), so the chance to keep the house a little warmer or to buy a heavier jacket will have real benefit.
Critics are sure to scream that UBI is the dream of all leftists: Hand out money to people just because you can. (Of course, these critics will have little to say about corporate welfare that is best [worst?] displayed through tax policies.) Supporters of UBI might borrow a line from an advertising campaign from many years ago and say, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”
Is it better to give $200 to a family now, knowing if they use the money wisely they could stave off health problems that would cost the state more later?
Of course, it is.
But in today’s America, the hard right defines anything remotely equivalent to “you getting something you don’t deserve” as a sign that socialism is soon to spread all across America, destroying initiative, hard work and commitment in its wake.
People don’t deserve a good life? They don’t deserve good food? They don’t deserve a house warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer?
Of course, they do.
UBI is not perfect. It’s widest experiment was conducted in Finland, and the results were far from utopian. As is true with any experiment, more evidence needs to be gathered in order to determine the best conditions for UBI. And that’s why what’s taking place in Chelsea, MA., starting next month must be looked at carefully.
UBI has potential, but it needs to be used knowing what it can and cannot accomplish.