Is the universal basic income a good idea?


What do you think about the universal basic income as a response to the uncertainties of the world filled with artificial intelligence? How should this universal income be financed? Will there be political support for it? How large should it be?


Universal basic income is popular in libertarian circle, they see basic income as a way to shrink the welfare state, you could take away food stamps or subsidies. Basic income would be the way for humans to maintain their lifestyle when labor becomes increasingly obsolete. It can also remove perverse incentives that discourage citizens from innovating, like the unemployment insurance. It’s an idea that has been around for a long period of time.

Recently there have been many experiments of basic income around the world, a nonprofit is running an experiment in Kenya and Ontario, Canada just launched an experiment in three different cities, but Finland is the country which is pioneering basic income experiments. It will be the first country in the world to pilot a basic income. In the beginning of 2017 the Finnish government started an experiment with basic income. ÂżWhat will people do when they receive money without working? ÂżWill they hang out at home instead of going to college? ÂżHow will they evaluate success? ÂżWill basic income make people more or less active?

The basic income is a very American idea, it was first mentioned by American founding father Thomas Paine. They did some studies with UBI back in the 70’s with Richard Nixon. They tested different variations around the country, but data showed people dropping and out college and work. Eventough, they were not statistically significant results (they were kind of rumors), people became afraid of what this would do to society and the idea of family so the program was ended.

UBI should start on developed countries, start small and expand over time. The problem with this is that the Constitutions of democratic countries say you should treat everyone equally and giving some people basic income and excluding others is, by definition, not treating people equally. Regulations would have to pass, and governments would have to design policies so that they can start small, adapt and expand and at the same time avoid violating the Constitution.

People have opposing views on UBI. Nevertheless, it is still going to be a few years until people analyze the results of the Finnish (and other countries) experiment. No one has solid answers about what basic income would mean to the tax code, happiness, labor, the economy, income inequality or robots and AI. Right now, all we know is economists around the world are analyzing data and trying to figure out what results of implementing this would mean for the economy.


I completely agree with you Emilio, yet one of the toughest questions regarding UBI is the amount given to each citizen. As a primary approach, there have been propositions to give each citizen about US $1000 in order to cover their basic needs which include social security and health (these numbers apply to the U.S, obviously in each country this amount would change). By doing this, government programs regarding these issues could reduce their budget and that same budget cut could be used to finance the citizens with UBI. The following proposition allows the low-mid class to cover it’s basic needs as well as recieve an extra budget, while not giving any citizen enough money to stop working. It’s a small step, but I believe this experiment could help the government analyze how efficient citizens are when given money and how they use it. P.D.: This BP is supported by CEO’s such as Musk and Zuckerberg.


As the basic income would necessarily imply the reduction of the welfare state, I believe there would be little political support outside from some developed countries. There are plenty of arguments that may appeal both to the right(why are we giving money to people that do nothing?), and the left (why would we eliminate social programs?).

In addition, we need to ask whether individuals will make good choices. Given that people tend to save too little for retirement, why would we expect them to do the same with other, perhaps more crucial issues, like health. I believe it could be a good idea, as long as it does not substitute health programs and social security and, as Emilio said, once labor becomes increasingly obsolete, so it would only work in a highly advance society.


I would like to concentrate in the second question because it is related with an assumption from the model that I found “peculiar”: “Robots autonomously enter employment relationships just as humans do, and no human can expropriate the wages or the profits of robots” (p. 217).

Now, there are always gains and loses in different scenarios.

If, against the mentioned assumption, all the “value” created in the economy by robots were expropriated by humans (say, through firms and/or government), then all these resources could be used for implementing the universal basic income.

On the other hand, following the assumption of no expropriation and trying to implement the universal basic income would imply all the political and social problems that Raul, Patrick and Emilio have already commented, but it would allow society to have more agents (super intelligent agents) making decisions about consumption, saving and investment.

So, the question is: what would be more efficient, to expropriate robots and implement the universal basic income or not to expropriate them and benefit from the economic decisions of many super intelligent agents?


I will like to share the video of the proposal of the Frente Ciudadano por MĂ©xico that will compete with the PRI and Morena in the next federal elections 2018.

The president of the Accion Nacional Party, Ricardo Anaya, (which is the biggest of the parties in this party coalition) argues in favor of the UBI. As @PatrickRank said, Anaya mentions Milton Friedman, Angus Deaton, Elson Musk and Mark Zuckerberg as supporters of the policy.

He mentions ten reasons why UBI is a desirable policy:

  1. Reduce poverty
  2. Reduce inequality
  3. Eliminate the Poverty Trap
  4. Eliminate burocratic procedure costs of other programs
  5. Eliminate the clientelar use of other social programs
  6. Promotes entrepreneurship
  7. Facilitates credit
  8. Stimulate the domestic market
  9. Aid to unemployed
  10. Value other jobs (domestic jobs)

It is in spanish with spanish subtitiles. I will try to find one in english.

I understand @JRMF is a sympathizer of the Accion Nacional Party, what do you think about his arguments @JRMF?


Hi Cut!
From the recent debates in various parts of the world, several dilemmas have arisen: whether if this income should be for everyone, only for those over 18, for those who are below a certain threshold of well-being; if it should replace other social or assistance programs, or join those already existing.

According to José Luis Alberro, who has a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Chicago, a negative income tax (NIT) could bring better results than the universal basic income. This idea is what Friedman said.
With a NIT, it can be assured that 26.8 million mexicans over the age of 18 have a higher income than the minimum welfare line (which it is 1,337.27 pesos-monthly in the cities and 955.09 in the rural zones) also can assured:

• That economic inequality is fought because with this negative tax you can given more to the one who have less;
• To the people who receive this help, it will be convenient for them to try to increase their income;
• Poverty in rural areas will be completely eliminated because the average net income of the beneficiaries will be 2% higher than the Welfare Line in rural areas;
• The average net income of the beneficiaries will also be equivalent to 66.0% of the Welfare Line in the urban environment; and
• The Gini Coefficient of income distribution will decrease by 7.8%.

In the end, I consider that an universal basic income will be too much and the government expenditure will be so much bigger year by year, so I prefer a NIT which I think is more focused in the people who really need it and the results will be better.


I agree with Anafer. Milton Friedman and many other people have proposed and alternative to the universal income, which consider more efficient, progressive and self-financed. I refer to the negative income tax (NIT). The NIT is a tax system which those people who earn less a certain level, meybe the level that guaratees a minimum standard of life, instead of paying a tax, they receive a transfer from the goverment. And those people with an income above this minimum income, they pay a uniform income tax. This tax policy has the adavantage to very progresive, simplier and more fairness. Here we can see that the tax and redistribution policy are both interconected. Universal income doesn´t talk about where the resources como from and maybe adds more istortions to the economy. Maybe the NIT has more probability to achieve a welfare state with a smaller cost than the nowaday tax system and universal income.
I share with you waht Milton Friedman thought when he proposed the NIT, hope yo enjoy it.



I would like to talk about how does the universal basic income works in Finland.

Finland’s nationwide pilot study of basic income generated widespread international interest from its announcement in 2015 to its launch at the start of 2017. In its current design, the experiment is restricted to those between ages 25 and 58 who were receiving unemployment assistance at the end of 2016. Nonetheless, it differs from several other contemporary so-called “basic income experiments” in that the experimental group–consisting of 2,000 randomly selected individuals from the above target group–receives cash payments (€560 per month) that are indeed unconditional, individual, and not means tested.

Given the date when this policy was implemented, there are no serious analysis that can prove if it worked or it didn’t.