There is probably more than one way a basic income could work but I want to share at least one that I have considered to help people see that it might be possible.
First I want you to consider if there are people living with a basic income in today’s society? What provides for their income if they are? Why is there a basic income provided for them?
There are many people living on a basic income today. There are many different groups receiving a basic income and they receive their basic income under different circumstances and provided from by different sources. Analyzing these groups and sources could help us understand the opportunities for more widely possible basic incomes.
The first obvious example of people receiving a basic income is children. They are provided for by their parents because the kids can’t provide for themselves.
Another group is the mentally disabled, again, because they can’t provide for themselves they are provided for by loved ones.
The third group that receives a basic income is those on physical disability from the government. Again, the requirements is that they can’t provide for themselves so they are provided for, this time, not by loved ones but because the government has mandated that it is important for us to take care of others who can’t take care of themselves.
The final group that receives a basic income is the retired. Their basic income is slightly different from the previous groups because they have created their own basic income. The reason they need a basic income is similar, in that many of them might not be able to physically work anymore so they have to create a situation where income is provided for them while they can’t actively create it.
So the similarities between all the groups is that they need money to provide their daily needs and they aren’t working themselves to create the income. The first 2 groups, kids and mentally disabled, are provided for by loved ones.
The physically disabled are provided for by the government and the retired are provided for by themselves.
Which of these is most applicable to a world wide model?
First, the love model? Where does the money for the love model come? The money from the love model comes from working income of the parents or loved ones who care for the disabled or children. The guardians have to continually create new income to cover the needs of those in their care. If they lose their job the basic income provided for the loved disappear. The important idea here is that income comes from continued work/creation of value.
Unfortunately love, doesn’t seem to be working for the world. It doesn’t seem like we’ve produced enough love to take care of all the people who need it. Love usually comes from a place of closeness and stems from family ties. I want to believe we are one human family, but by our mass actions, we have shown we are not there yet.
The 2nd way, governmental care, has an income collected from the working class. This class is likely providing for some loved ones already, and are also providing a basic income for another class, the disabled, who they don’t necessarily know personally or love directly. At a fundamental level, the income from the government really comes from the same place as the money from the first group, from working people continually creating value.
The government assistance model for basic income has shown some more success in places that have more government oversight as well as a more robust economy that can handle more being “siphoned” (taxed) from the working populace. The difficulty here is that that the governments money ultimately comes from the working people. They are only able to support so many non-working people. .
The final group, the retired, have their money come from growth or dividends of capital from businesses that they are owners in, stock owners or direct private business owners, that they have accumulated their whole life. Dividends are actually income (value), produced by the first group, the working class, but that is not awarded to the working class! It is awarded to the owners of the business. This is a very important concept because it gives us a glimpse of where we can obtain income if we aren’t working. If you are a business owner you will gain some profits from the business you own.
It is important to understand a business idea here. Your employees must produce at least as much value as you are paying them. Most businesses employees actually produce more value than they cost the company. They have to if the business wants to show a profit!
Think of the business that you work for. You should ask, how does this business make money. Then you should ask “How much profit per employee a year does this business create?” You should also ask “How much profit do I create for the business a year?”
Good businesses know how much profit they make per employee. For example, Facebook makes $188,000 per employee per quarter! That’s $752,000 per employee per year. That is why starting employees at Facebook can make over $100k a year, because they add way more value than that to the company each year. The profit you make over the salary you pay the employees is the extra profit that can be paid to the business owners. They are awarded this extra income for taking the initial financial risk of starting a business, investing in capital, etc. It is just as easy, or even easier, to invest in a business and lose all your money if you are starting from scratch.
The important idea from above, business owners can potentially gain income from a business in which they are solely owners, they don’t have to be doing any work and that is a form of basic income we see today.
Somebody has to do the work, today. These are the workers. Now I am going to ask you to take a mental journey to a future with me where we can envision a business, started by a person where they invest a lot of their money into fully autonomous machines, such that there are 0 people actually working in the factory. There is solar energy provided for the plant. There are autonomous robots creating, whatever product you want and the maintenance is also handled by robots. There are 0 people working in this factory, but the factory is producing a product, something of value, that other people will pay for. In this scenario, there is still a business owner, there is still value being created and income coming in, but there is no work being done by any people. This is exactly the scenario in which a basic income is viable. Now let’s say this person’s autonomous factory makes shirts. Now another person has a 100% autonomous factory where he grows food. These 2 people can create enough food and clothes between them, while neither is physically working himself, to feed and cloth each other. Now consider a 3rd person who has no factory of his own. The 2 autonomous factory owners factories can produce enough that they could feed and clothe this 3rd man but will they? That is the critical question! I believe in an abundance economy, which is what you would have when everything is being created from 100% autonomous work, that the capital owners, the factory owners, would be generous people. My belief stems from some fantastically rich people today, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, who have so much wealth to be in the position of capital owners who have 0 necessity for work and who are working to give it away.
Since we now have one idea for a possibility for how a basic income would work I think it should be pretty obvious that the goal is clear. We should work to invest in factories and other methods of creation that are 100% autonomous.
Once we are creating enough to provide for everyone the desire and ability to distribute the spoils of this abundance should manifest rather quickly from either the care and responsibility we feel towards our fellow humans, when our own survival is not threatened, or from the fear that our survival will be threatened if we keep a large segment of the population under-cared for. Either way, there should be a path for care for all when abundance is possible.
I realize that the thought of fully autonomous factories seems fantastical. But it truly is not! Complete autonomy is just the final step in what has been happening for many years, at least since the start of the industrial revolution. The increase in productivity of any individual is the hallmark of our age. I personally am paid more than the average person because the tools and knowledge I have access to allow me to produce more. Full autonomy is the final act in that progression. Infinite creation with no input. If you can’t see that end you lack creativity. It is the ultimate efficiency, which is what our economy is working towards.
Some examples include the push towards autonomous cars. While there is certainly investment upfront, the final output, value add, work done, autonomously is the obvious outcome. The best thing about the investment is that once the investment is made in full self sustaining autonomy, robots fixing themselves, that is the end of the cycle.
Then the imperative question is, who owns the robots?
How does the value get to the people who don’t own the robots?
These are important questions and ones that must be considered. If you aren’t able to consider that this is a very likely future though, we won’t’ get there and the answers don’t’ matter.