We live in a rapidly changing world. For example, during the life of my generation, I saw the rise and emergence of the technical possibility of work, predicted in the famous book “Future shock” (1970) by sociologist Alvin Toffler. This is when the employer can be even in another country, and you send him the results of the work performed using the Internet. Strictly speaking, I am a witness to the emergence of the Internet and the very concept of “remote work.”
Likewise, throughout 2020-2021, the pandemic in one fell swoop finished off any doubts about the usefulness of “remote work.” And it made the “gig economy” bloom in the Post-Soviet and Western world. It’s based entirely on the Internet and opportunities connected with the global network.
What social relationships had the “gig economy” and sharing services changed radically? Now, thanks to these services, you can take in your lease, for example, a car. Let’s imagine more distant (and fantastic) options. There is a theory that the era of hypernomads is coming soon. That is, all people will become nomads of the XXI century. They’ll have nothing of their own at all.
(This is a more digitalized option than US nomads living off-the-grid described in the Nomadland movie).
So, let’s check the perspective of a new generation. You rent a house, a car, gadgets, clothes, eat in cafes and restaurants, watch news and movies in streams, relax on an exchange like AirBnB or at resorts-services. And it gives you excellent mobility! Since there’s no permanent job either. Today you are needed to work in Africa; tomorrow, you go to Brazil on hyperloop, the day after tomorrow, you move to Japan. That is, where there’s a burning need for your skills and interests.
Such a turn of lifestyle is too radical “future shock” for the generation, which yesterday arranged meetings by wire phone and for which fax and photocopier were the height of progress. And for those people who in the 90s traded in the bazaars of the post-USSR, in other words.
2020 has shown us that advances that seem like “beyond the horizon” innovations to us, such as dominating remote jobs or selling NFTs, are not as fantastic as imagined. They have already come and became a crucial part of modern society.
There’s a massive discussion around Ayn Rand’s fashionable philosophy that “everyone can find a job (or start a business) that gives happiness.”
(Ayn Rand, also known as Alice Rosenbaum (1905-1982), was an American writer, philosopher, and playwright born in St. Petersburg. She’s the founder of the philosophy of rational individualism, which opposes collectivism. She expressed her views in several works of art, the most famous of which is “Atlantis shrugged”).
I am in favor of the middle attitude in this discourse. Yes, everyone can manage it – but with a combination of favorable factors and developing an adult attitude towards life.
Infantilism, it turns out, is a political and social phenomenon; it describes not only child behavior. This is an unwillingness to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions at the level of entire nations and communities. This is an unwillingness to take responsibility for the environmental issues, too. The opposite to it is the creation of a responsible citizens community.
The charms of modern capitalism in the form of a gig economy are not so pretty. They give income only to adherents of the principle “if you want to live, be able to spin.” Those people must be healthy and active individuals, which not everyone in society is.
A promising approach would be to demand a guaranteed unconditional income for everyone – for the unskilled, the sick, and the disabled for various reasons. The very concept of “laziness” could become a thing of the past in this case.
What is unconditional income, and how it works
The idea of an unconditional basic income provides that every citizen of a country receives a guaranteed amount of money from the government – regardless of how much citizens earn or work at all.
The conditions of the experiment in Finland were somewhat different: only unemployed citizens took part in it.
Another variation of this idea is unconditional basic services: when instead of a guaranteed income, citizens have the right, for example, to free education or treatment.
While the concept of basic income has become more popular lately, it is not new. It is first mentioned in Thomas More’s Utopia, which was published in 1516.
Today, different versions of the basic income idea are being tested in different countries. Adult residents of one of the Kenyan villages will receive a guaranteed $ 22 for 12 years. The Italian government is developing a plan called Citizen Income. In October 2020, the authorities of the Dutch city of Utrecht also experimented with an unconditional basic income under the code name Weten Wat Werkt – “Know what works.”
Why is it needed
Proponents of an unconditional basic income concept believe that it will help fight poverty by giving people time to look for work or get an education to acquire a new profession.
The importance of introducing a basic income, they say, is amplified by the robotization of many professions, as a result of which more and more people are losing their jobs.
Basic income – the experience of Finland and Germany
The introduction of an unconditional basic income has been debated in the EU for a long time.
There are supporters of regular payments by the state of a fixed amount of money to each citizen, regardless of his income level and without performing the necessary work. They argue that this would help smooth out regional differences within the European Union and enhance social and economic cooperation.
There was even a civic initiative, the authors of which intend to get the European Commission to develop a proposal to introduce an unconditional basic income throughout the EU.
In August 2020, Germany launched the country’s first-ever long-term study of unconditional basic income. It will last for three years. During this time, starting in the spring of 2021, 120 volunteers are paid monthly at € 1,433. Private donations will fund these payments.
Where Unconditional Basic Income Already Exists
The idea of an unconditional basic income periodically becomes the subject of discussion and experimentation. Finland is a recent example.
In 2017, Finland became the first country to test the idea. The experiment was carried out by the government agency responsible for social security (Kela). Two thousand randomly selected unemployed citizens got the opportunity to receive from the state monthly a minimum basic income of € 560 instead of unemployment benefits, without bureaucratic procedures and obstacles. At the same time, they were allowed to earn in addition to this amount as much as they want.
For two years, from January 2017 to December 2018, the state paid two thousand unemployed citizens a monthly payment. The goal of the experiment was to understand how this would affect their behavior. In particular, they will start looking for work.
The BBC concluded that the payments did not affect the employment rates of the study participants. However, they felt happier and less stressed.
Did the idea work
It all depends on how you understand the word “work.” Did the experiment help unemployed people find work, as the government hoped? No, not at all.
Saimanen said that while some unemployed people did find a job, their participation in the experiment did not in any way improve their position compared to the unemployed in the so-called control group, who did not receive a basic income.
Many people think that when talking about the concept of basic unconditional income, you should not think about reducing unemployment rates at all. In their opinion, if the goal of the experiment was to make people happy, then its results could be considered triumphant.
Of course, it remains a controversial question how active and working citizens will support (through the mediation of the state) passive and non-working ones. And how such a society will cope with environmental pollution and consumerism. The answers to these questions deserve separate essays.
And now, let’s dream. Let’s say you are a musician. Do you want to play a more expensive guitar? Work hard, develop your skills and life attitude, write music that will reach the target audience, and you will buy an expensive instrument. But at the same time, a basic income will provide you with existence at the level that you think only about your music and not about survival. This is the basic idea.
This is a prospect worth fighting for.