I believe that the next major step forward for humanity is to end poverty. We need to end poverty and there is no better way to do it than by directly ending poverty through a universal basic income.
Countries in the developed world could reasonably do this by some combination transforming current programs welfare programs like social security, unemployment insurance, SNAP, etc., into a basic income program, cutting spending on things like military, corporate welfare, etc, and increasing taxes.
But could a universal income program work on a global scale? I think we have to make it work somehow and that should be our longterm goal as a society.
But a global universal income is possible currently. The average income for all people in the world is approximately $10,000 USD/year, which is really a minimum for what we would need in terms of a basic income. To provide $10,000 per year would require a significantly higher average income.
Take the the United States for example. The average income in the united states is $69,000. With this average we could pretty easily provide $1000/month and with enough cuts to military that number could be significantly higher. So, let’s assume that to provide a basic income of $1,000 per month we need a average income to be in the $70,000 range.
On a global level we are really far from that, we are only at an average income of $10,000 per year. One thought might be that a global basic income would essentially be a massive stimulus that would jump start the global economy rapidly pulling the developing world out of poverty bringing the global income levels inline with current levels in the United States, which would then make a global basic income possible.
Unfortunately a global universal basic income isn’t a simple solution to world poverty, assuming it was simple to implement. The problem is that we can’t simply raise the global income to seven times its current level without raising natural resource consumption by seven fold as well. Massive climate change is already on the horizon and in many parts of the world ecosystems are in collapse. We need to massively reduce consumption not massively increase consumption.
So, unless there could be a major change in consumption patterns or a new technological breakthrough a global basic income is not a feasible possibility. A global basic income would require a radically new economic model.
The most obvious thing that looks like it could significantly skew the equation is renewable energy. If there was unlimited renewable energy freely available it would obviously have dramatic results on the entire economy. I’m guessing at that point a global basic income would be feasible but I don’t know enough about economics to really begin to make any sort serious claims about what such a future would look like.
Jeremy Rifkin in his recent book Zero Marginal Cost Society argues that in the near future an economic system that utilizes free unlimited renewable energy and 3-D printing will supplant the current capitalist system.
Could other technological or lifestyle changes make a significant difference? Again I don’t really know enough to say for sure, at least in terms of making enough of a difference to make a global basic income possible.
One of the most obvious ways in which we waste resources is through the consumption of animal products, especially those that are not produced locally and sustainably. Could reducing or eliminating meat consumption, adding significant amounts of renewable energy to the mix, more fuel efficient cars, a more sustainable economy, etc., make enough of a difference? Again I don’t really know the answer that question, but I think it is certainly a good question worth asking.
What I do think this topic does help to make clear is that those that are working towards promoting basic income should be equally concerned about renewable energy and sustainability. Without increased sustainability a global basic income is not possible.
Another way of saying this is that everyone can’t live like those in the developed world currently live. The Earth simply cannot support seven billion plus people living the way Americans currently live.
To eliminate poverty, or even seriously reduce it, we must also work towards sustainability.
Check out some of my other posts Basic Income: