Great ideas don’t die, even when completely ignored or derided for decades.
Basic income – an unconditional government payment given to all citizens, as a supplement to or replacement for wages – is one such idea.
It’s an interesting idea because it acknowledges the drudgery of meaningless work, wage slavery and the need for more leisure. That most of us don’t really enjoy the work we do and we do it only to earn money is both anecdotal and the finding of many surveys. When we stop to think about it, we secretly acknowledge our disapproval of the rat race we have got ourselves into.
Modern capitalism, human growth & development efforts need the labour force. Workers (or employees) at all levels have their own needs and so require a regular income. However, when the needs invariably become greeds, a regular income is no more sufficient. We get into a vicious cycle of growing needs & the need for higher incomes. Over time, while a lucky few enjoy the work they do, the rest of us are pulled into the whirlpool of modern wage slavery with jobs we don’t like. There is no escape, with little leisure. With less leisure, we are unable to pursue our true passions. We end up being less satisfied with our lives.
Rapid technology development has introduced another dimension – automation & robots can replace & displace human labour. If we don’t continuously re-skill ourselves, we may soon be without jobs & incomes.
If the government provides a basic income, we may or may not want to work. Some of us may cut down our needs, choosing to live a simpler life with no or little work. Others may choose to plod on, to earn more money. However, basic income provides us the freedom of choice.
But, like many other great ideas, basic income is not easy to implement in today’s world and may have to wait its turn. Governments may not be able to afford it. Businessmen will oppose it. The still developing parts of the world may get stranded. We may not yet be ready to accept a world and people without work. More importantly, we may not know how to spend the extra leisure time fruitfully.
Even as the Swiss citizens will soon vote in a referendum on whether their government should adopt basic income, and few other countries are planning limited experiments with the idea, we may not be ready for a mass adoption yet.
But still, we can practice the idea individually. We can choose a basic income for ourselves. We can choose a job or vocation which provides that basic income. We can choose to avoid getting sucked into wage slavery. We can choose to have more leisure. We can choose to live the life we really want.
Are we willing to choose for ourselves, or let others dictate our lives?