While in many ways it feels like we live in unprecedented economic times, through another lens we have been here before. Dr. Carlota Perez charts economic cycles around technological breakthroughs, and she provides needed clarity on our current economic moment. In this episode, she discusses where we are in today’s economy, how we could proceed forward in a productive way, and the stakes in getting this moment right.
One of the most common questions we get about basic income is, “why should it be universal?” Or put another way, “what’s the point of giving Bill Gates $1000 a month?” In this episode, Jim and Owen dive into the debate and break down the benefits and drawbacks of universal and targeted programs, and whether a hybrid approach would be possible.
With India seriously considering basic income proposals, the movement is gaining traction in South Asia. This includes Sri Lanka, which is having a wide reaching political debate in the lead up to its coming elections. We spoke to Talal Rafi, who is helping to spearhead the basic income movement in Sri Lanka about the state of the movement and his activism work there.
Since LBJ’s Great Society programs revamped America’s social safety net, the average American has steadily taken on more and more risk, both through increasing costs of healthcare and education, and the growing precarity of employment, due to globalization, automation and contract work, among other factors. Jacob Hacker, professor of Political Science at Yale, has detailed this growing burden in his book The Great Risk Shift, the second volume of which was just released. Hacker joined the podcast to discuss this major trend in the economy and how a basic income could change the equation.
The second edition of the Great Risk Shift may be purchased here: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-great-risk-shift-9780190844141?cc=us&lang=en&
The basic income movement is gaining national exposure through the presidential campaign of Andrew Yang. Yang has now been interviewed by many major TV networks, magazines and podcasts, and he has qualified for the first two Democratic debates. Owen spoke to Andrew Yang as he was on his way to a campaign stop in New Hampshire about running for president, how basic income resonates in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, and how the politics of this might proceed if he were elected president but faced a skeptical Congress.
Finland recently concluded a nationally funded basic income experiment, focused on people receiving unemployment benefits. We got the first wave of findings from the data, and dove into the results with Ylikanno Minna, Senior Researcher at Kela. We discuss the data, what it means, what we can learn from this experiment (so far) and what we can’t.
Recently, a variety of basic income-esque legislation has been introduced at the federal level. Bills from Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Ro Khanna, Sherrod Brown and others provide cash dividends in some form. Some focus on working people, others on children and one bill would fight climate change and poverty through a carbon dividend. Owen and Jim break down each and discuss if basic income could (and should) happen through a piecemeal approach.
Recently the idea of a “data dividend” has received renewed attention, due to interest from California Governor Gavin Newsom. The idea that people are entitled to a cut of the profits from the data they are producing from their online activity, and even location data that companies are collecting holds some intuitive appeal. But how would this work, and is it a feasible policy? Chris Benner, author and professor in the UC Santa Cruz Sociology Department, joins the podcast to help elucidate the data dividend idea.
Italy’s Five-Star Movement rose to power campaigning on a host of proposals, chief among them a “citizen’s income,” a cash assistance program. While there are obvious thing to like about the program, there are problematic elements as well, including the inclusion criteria, and what recipients have to do to stay on the program. Owen and Jim break down the program and discuss whether or not the program should be seen as a step in the right direction.
In this discussion episode, Owen and Jim take on some of the major events of the last few decades, asking the question, how would things have been different if we’d had a basic income? The episode examines climate-related disasters, such as the recent fires in California, mass incarceration, and the election of Donald Trump. Examining concrete events in the past helps us consider how basic income might play out in the future.
In Germany, a group called Sanktionsfrei (“sanctions free”) is experimenting with a unique intervention into a public program. Germany’s unemployment benefit system, often referred to as Hartz IV, contains many punitive sanctions for missed filings, appointments and the like. Sanktionsfrei is randomly selecting 250 individuals receiving Hartz IV benefits and automatically reimbursing any fees they incur. While this is a financial help to some, the greater benefit may be the reduced mental strain of having to worry about meeting all of the requirements to get their full benefits. We spoke with Helena Steinhaus, one of the leaders of the Sanktionsfrei movement about this program and what they hope to accomplish.
Owen and Jim discuss Vice President Joe Biden’s recent objections to basic income, and the practical and philosophical points that come up around basic income and employment. They delve into why a basic income could be good for workers and how automation has both driven and skewed the basic income conversation. They also touch on the increasing precarity of today’s jobs and the highly valuable work that goes uncompensated. This episode originally aired in September 2017.
How would a basic income impact the disabled community? We delved into this question with social anthropologist Annie Harper of the Program for Recovery and Community Health, Yale School of Medicine. Harper, who works with mentally disabled people, describes the hopes and concerns a basic income offers. This episode was originally broadcast in November 2017.
How much would a basic income in the United States actually cost? What are the most common mistakes people make when calculating a basic income? To answer these questions, we spoke with Karl Widerquist, who has been studying and writing about basic income for three decades. Widerquist recently published a “back of the envelope” calculation on basic income which produced some surprising results. This episode was originally broadcast in September 2017.
We often talk about what effect a universal basic income would have on financial stability, but what about our mental state? Jim and Owen delve into the research around poverty and cognition, and explore the differences between an abundance mindset and a scarcity mindset. This episode was originally broadcast in June, 2017.
When considering the impact of basic income, we usually think of it as a standalone policy — but there’s nothing stopping us from imagining UBI as one piece of a larger policy framework. In this episode, Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of Institute for the Future, shares her perspective on a comprehensive framework for the future: Universal Basic Assets. This episode was originally broadcast in July, 2017.
In 2017, Hawaii became the first state to pass legislation on universal basic income, declaring that everyone in the state deserves basic financial security. The bill’s author, Representative Chris Lee, joined the Basic Income Podcast to discuss the legislation and his views on basic income. This is a rebroadcast of an episode that aired in June 2017.
Recently, we lost a basic income champion: Gerald Huff. Huff was a technologist, entrepreneur and, at the end of his life, author of Crisis 2038, a sci-fi novel that has basic income as a central plot element. Huff died of pancreatic cancer on November 17th. His daughter, Jane Huff, and basic income advocate Scott Santens joined the podcast to remember Gerald and discuss his novel and basic income advocacy.
Crisis 2038 is available now as an ebook on Amazon, and the paperback version is available for preorder.
Much of the momentum around basic income is at the municipal level: Stockton’s trial will start soon, Chicago is creating a basic income task force, and a handful of other American cities are exploring basic income or other cash transfer programs. For many mayors and city council members, basic income is an unfamiliar concept. That’s why the Stanford Basic Income Lab created a toolkit for cities interested in basic income. This guide covers everything from past basic income research to managing expectations and media narratives. Catherine Thomas, a PhD Candidate in the Stanford Psychology Department and Graduate Fellow in the Stanford Basic Income Lab joined the podcast to discuss this exciting new resource.
In 2010, Iran replaced their energy subsidies with a cash transfer program, which was originally intended only for poor Iranians, but was expanded to go to everyone. We now have ample data to examine the effects on labor supply and a handful of other social metrics. Much of our knowledge of Iran’s program comes from a study co-authored by our guest this week, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of Economics at Virginia Tech, and a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Salehi Isfahani explains both the economic impact of the program and the public reaction to it.