I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s going to happen at some future date when robots take over most of our jobs and when the traditional employment model gives way to a lifetime series of temporary jobs or “gigs.”
In the midst of this uncertainty, one group is looking at a radical idea. What if we abandoned the byzantine network of social service programs in this country in favor of giving everyone a universal basic income – let’s say $1,000 a month – to be spent however the recipient wishes.
For those who have lost their jobs to the machines and have no way of becoming employed in their former occupations, the income would help provide some of life’s basics. For the creative types among us, the income would free them up to pursue their art.
For the ambitious or entrepreneurial, the income would enable them to return to school or learn a robot-proof trade or start a new business. Without having to worry about getting our basic needs met, humankind would be free to tackle the big problems facing the world, such as what to do about climate change.
At least, that’s the theory.
Without the social service bureaucracy dictating how this benefit is spent, individuals and not the government would be responsible for making sure the money is spent wisely. If you spend your allotment on lottery tickets instead of paying the rent, too bad.
The Economic Security Project (ESP) — a loose coalition of technologists, investors, and activists — announced it’s committing $10 million over the next two years “to explore how a ‘basic income’ could…ensure economic opportunity for all” in the U.S. Coalition members include Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern, former US labor secretary Robert Reich, Rebuild the Dream co-founder Natalie Foster and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.
What would you do if you knew you had a basic income floor and you would be free to find ways to earn additional money doing things you really want to do? What about your clients – would they retire early or would they pursue some entrepreneurial dream?
And how would this impact the financial advice field? How does the promise of a guaranteed income affect people who are planning for their financial futures? Would they even need to plan at all?
It will be interesting to see whether this concept gains traction in the U.S. Voters in Switzerland turned down a basic income proposal for that country earlier this year.
In the meantime, it’s a big scary world for many people who are wondering what the next few years will bring to the economy. It’s your job to help take the fear out of it.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com.
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