Mark Zuckerberg – Basic Income

Update 9-22-02017

It looks like Y-combinator is embarking on a basic income  experiment similar to what I proposed Mark Zuckerberg do. This is a good thing as it’s still an individual/private group doing experimentation that government can’t/won’t do.

“YC will select 3,000 people across two states and divide them into two groups. The first group will include 1,000 people who will receive $1,000 a month for up to five years. The second group of 2,000 people — which the study will consider its control group — will receive $50 a month.”

Original 5-29-02017

Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech for the Harvard commencement ceremony this year (2017). In it he advocated for a universal basic income, which is something I’ve been thinking and reading about for a few years. The most important question about a basic income is “Who pays for the basic income?” Some people have thought about this more than I have. You can read about how one guy thinks we should pay for a basic income here. There have even been a few basic income programs in the past. You can read about one happening in Finland here, as well as in Kenya here.  

When you have an idea as big as a basic income you need a path to get there. You don’t just implement a basic income to a whole country. I am often trying to figure out how to implement ideas fast, not necessarily perfectly.

I am excited that someone with as much wealth (from Facebook stock ownership) as well as a desire to change the world for the better (as self reported by Zuckerberg multiple times) is interested in a basic income. Luckily Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire and his stock is rising, literally. Facebook is worth more every year. This gives Zuckerberg the rare opportunity to implement his own basic income study! No one can stop him! And if it goes well he will be able to prove to people that a basic income is a good thing that should be implemented wider.

If Zuckerberg owns $63 billion in Facebook stock. it should grow at at least 4% a year, which means he could sell $2.5 billion a year, and use that to provide a basic income. Which means he could give 25,000 people a basic income of $100k a year!

Since this is a test and that’s a lot of money and this is supposed to be a basic income, he could provide an income of  $30k to say 500 people, this would be $15 million a year, a pittance that Zuckerberg wouldn’t even notice! I think he should do this for say 5 years, and see what happens with those people.

We need this kind of leadership to show us that this type of program could work.

$30k*500 people =$15 million *5 years = $75 million over 5 years.
How much to manage this program? $25 million maybe? (maybe way less!) For a cool $100 million over 5 years.

Until someone is willing to run this type of program and shows that the people who receive the money come out more successful than otherwise, and that they aren’t just being lazy, it won’t receive large scale acceptance.

I believe this is a program Zuckerberg should take on with his new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC (not a charity, which is fine, I think businesses can potentially make more changes in the world than charities, or at least it takes all kinds!). If he wants to contact me to discuss further why I think he should do this he can find me at hooglandaxel@gmail.com

Alternatively, he could contact the nice people at Give Directly, who I mentioned earlier. They seem more versed in administering something like this and could probably run the program for less than $25 million!

Millions Could Die From Drought/Starvation

I read “The Last Hunger Season” in 02016 about the NGO One Acre Fund, who is working in Africa to provide seed, fertilizer and planting techniques to help farmers there produce more.

I am currently listening to the book “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty” which is talking about how providing seed and fertilizer is not enough, if the farmers there can’t sell their food into a developed market, they will have to sell when the price is low which puts the farmers in basically the same place they were before all the help.

The Last Hunger Season was published in 2013 and Enough was published in 2010. I figured that it’d been enough time that maybe the actions being taken by the people would be having an effect in Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries in Africa that they are working in.

Imagine my surprise when the first article I find when searching “Are Africans hungry” yielded the below headline “United Nations issues ultimatum as millions face starvation” and with this comment in the article “More than 30 million people need food assistance in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia due to conflict and drought….Wars in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan have devastated households and driven up prices, while a drought in east Africa has ruined the agricultural economy.

I like to think I keep a pretty close watch on major news. I had not heard any ultimatum about millions of people starving in Africa lately, have you?

After I continued searching for a few more topics related to Kenya, Ethiopia, Africa, etc and getting in a short Facebook discussion with a relative about what causes a country to have a lack of food, greedy leadership, actual lack of food, etc, I found the below articles.

Looming ‘catastrophe’ in East Africa proves why world must tackle climate change, says Oxfam

Issuing a “desperate” appeal for the international community to meet a request from the United Nations for about £1.5bn of aid, the charity also said the worst drought in living memory demonstrated why the world must act to reduce global warming. While some still deny the severity of climate change and question the need to combat it, others are struggling for their lives as climate change makes a bad situation worse,” Oxfam said.

Kenya: Do Not Be Fooled, Food Shortage the Result of Misrule and Graft

“Anyone with a modicum of education today knows that while drought may, indeed, be a natural calamity, famine is man-made, an outcome of mismanagement, incompetence and criminal dereliction of today.”

I get pretty sick of seeing articles from fellow Americans that are discussing their “problems” like too many GMO foods or how they think climate change is not real because of a bad snow storm. I’m also frustrated by people driving gas guzzling trucks around while you have a perfectly good option of buying a Prius or even better a Nissan Leaf! Now I am not a perfect person myself. I own a few old vehicles that are not particularly environmentally friendly. I am still not sure what exactly to do with them. We don’t talk much about “how to make the world a better place for everyone” and I am not sure why we don’t do that? Why is the 3 year drought in Africa not a headline?

I watched this great video by NubmersUSA.org and Roy Beck about immigration. After that short presentation it’s pretty simple to understand that immigration is not the answer to helping most people in the world improve their situation.  

On a positive note, and recognizing someone who seems to be trying to help in Africa, I want to highlight Akon Lighting Africa. Akon, a rapper turned businessman, is working to provide solar lights, which can lengthen working and learning (productive) hours, provide safety (lighter places are safer) available to the people he is helping.

I also want to recognize Mobius Motors, a company that is working to provide rugged, durable, vehicles, built for the African market.

Are these entrepreneurs, working to solve problems and still make a profit, the right answer to solve all the problems in Africa? If so, how can we in the developed world help these types of companies accelerate their growth and impact? Is it even our problem to consider helping people in foreign countries? Shouldn’t we worry about all the problems we have in our own country?

I will admit that I don’t have the answers to these types of questions. But I think about them a lot. I think the best thing I can do for now is raise awareness of these issues and get other people thinking about them also, and that’s why I wrote this post.

What do you think?
Did you know there was a 3 year drought in Africa causing starvation to 30 million people?
Do you think entrepreneurs are a more effective way to solve problems than charity?
Do you help support anyone in a foreign country through Charity (Children International or Imagine Missions) or loans (kiva.org).
Do you think we should intervene militarily to displace bad governments or should we let people solve their own problems?

The Inevitable

“Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past. We will be guilty of criminal negligence, without extenuation, if we permit future famines.” – Normal Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Lecture

What things are inevitable? Some technologies might be inevitable but they may also be difficult to see from a distance in time. Some events might also be inevitable and they may also be difficult or impossible to see coming. But some are not impossible to see coming. Some inevitable we can predict and if they are positive things, we should consider how to advance their arrival.

I want to look at a few things that were achieved that seemed impossible at one time but later became inevitable and finally happened. I want to use those past occurrences to consider what future things might be inevitable, and what we can do to accelerate their coming.

The two things that I want to highlight that happened in history are the moon landings and the eradication of smallpox. How incredible are those 2 things? How often does the normal person think about them? I suspect not very often. I only think about the moon landings a lot recently in light of the recent explosion in popularity in space stuff. I am looking to them for inspiration for what I believe to be an inevitable occurrence, the landing of a human being on Mars during my lifetime.

The eradication of smallpox from the world is another incredible achievement. I suspect before the first vaccine was discovered there was little realistic thought about eradicating a disease. The average person probably didn’t really think that there was a way to beat smallpox or any other disease. They probably hoped and prayed they didn’t get it and that was that. Now that we have eradicated smallpox and rinderpest (I’d never heard of it either) and almost eradicated polio, what is next?

I propose that we should fight the easiest to eradicate problems, those problems for which we already have a cure. Problems we don’t have to invent new cures to fight. The easiest is hunger. You and I are probably not hungry. We have plenty of food available to us down the street but many places don’t.

We often think of Africa when we think of third world countries. We see videos of people starving and are asked to send money to help. It’s good to help those types of things and the claims are true. The people need help. But what is the right type of help? We could send food aid but as the old saying goes “Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” I am a fan of organizations like One Acre Fund which works with farmers in Africa to provide them with high yield seeds and planting techniques to increase the yields of their small farms (usually less than one acre) from less than enough to feed a family to enough that they are able to save some for their families as well as produce some food to sell at a market.

I believe it is inevitable that one day there will be no hungry people in the world. We already produce enough food that we could feed everyone in the world if it was distributed evenly. Unfortunately, it is not. Some people have access to $300 meals every night. Some people live on $300 a year.

I hate making comments about “the rich”. Many have accumulated their wealth through creating products, businesses and jobs which provide for the people that buy the products and livelihoods for the people who work  in their businesses.

I also don’t like to criticize people who save for retirement. It’s great to save for retirement, usually through investments in businesses, via the stock market, or by starting your own business.

I am trying to think about how to encourage the average person to think about the people who are in dire need more. I have read a number of books that I believe will bring a sense of urgency related to helping others to anyone who reads them.

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty – Peter Singer

Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty  –  (Audible) Roger Thurow, Scott Kilman

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth – R. Buckminster Fuller

Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help  –  (Audible) Larissa MacFarquhar

Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least  –  Jessica Jackley

I hope after reading this you will be encouraged to learn more about the hungry of the world and how we might be able to help them.

There are many thoughts on why people are hungry and I am never focused enough to talk about just one. I always try to encompass every reason and contingency and consider if I’m wrong. This often leads to inaction and I hope that I can work on myself to be more willing to invest in ways that I think will lead to the reduction and eventual elimination of starvation in our world.
You may want to read this article that will get you thinking about some big issues related to hunger that you might not have considered yet.

10 of the Most Common Ways World Hunger Is Misunderstood Could the way people think about hunger be the greatest obstacle to ending it?
There is also a book (which i haven’t read yet) that is related to the list above.