Canada Will Experiment With Basic Income — Giving Out Salaries Just for Being Human
When robots come to take our jobs — not just assembly-line work, but truly every kind of job — humans will still need a paycheck to survive. Canada has a solution, and that solution is to simply hand out money for nothing. The idea is called basic income.
Buried away in Ontario's 2016 budget documents are unspecific plans for the Canadian government to start giving a guaranteed, unconditional salary away to a few people just for being alive.
"The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today's dynamic labor market," the budget states.
Canada isn't first in line to give basic income a try. In June, Switzerland will vote on a referendum to give out a basic salary of $2,500 a month, and pilot programs similar to Ontario's proposed test are popping up in Germany and Finland.
Welfare for everyone: Basic income has been around for about a century as a radical vision for welfare reform. It could allow people a safety net to pursue meaningful work, give control to people who have restricted welfare programs and compensate homemakers for their historically unpaid labor.
Critics of basic income question where the money will come from. Popular suggestions for funding the service involve progressive taxation and cutting other welfare programs. But there are bigger concerns about the recipients of those paychecks: Namely, what will people do if they don't have to work to survive?
Reagan-era capitalists will tell you that without incentive to work, everyone will sit back and mooch off the government. But economists and futurists will tell you that there's no body of evidence that supports the idea that welfare programs make you lazy.
The only way we'll know if basic income is our future is by dipping our toes in the water.