Hi, I’m Dr. Neil Howard from the University of Bath. I research Universal Basic Income, also known as ‘UBI’, ‘Basic Income’ or ‘Guaranteed Income’. I direct two large-scale UBI experiments in South Asia and am involved in UBI research around the world.

A Basic Income is a simple, regular, individual, and unconditional cash payment to help people survive and thrive in cash-based society. It is a policy proposal to transform social security and the world we live in.

Many of the problems we face come down to income insecurity: poverty, illness, crime, depression - all can be understood as symptoms of the precariousness that so many people have to live with.

Researchers argue that a Basic Income would make sure that all of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, have a secure financial floor on which to stand and build. Evidence suggests that this basic security would increase health, wellbeing, freedom, creativity, trust, connection, and social cohesion.

I’m happy to answer any questions related to basic income, to social security reform, and to social transformation. Ask Me Anything!

Proof: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniofbath/53335993140/in/dateposted/

Comments: 954 • Responses: 68  • Date: 

picardythird81 karma

What is your opinion on Negative Income Tax vs UBI? They both seem to offer similar benefits, but NIT is less expensive to implement. NIT does require some slightly more complex administration, but biasing the means testing for false positives would draw it closer to UBI while still helping the people it needs to, without the broad costs involved with a flat UBI.

NeilHowardBath78 karma

This is a good little summary of the debate: https://www.scottsantens.com/negative-income-tax-nit-and-unconditional-basic-income-ubi-what-makes-them-the-same-and-what-makes-them-different/

Broadly-speaking, all things being equal, a UBI will be easier to administer.

picardythird35 karma

Easier to administrate, yes, but I think that an NIT would have less financial strain.

In my opinion, marginal utility is king in this discussion. $12,000/yr is huge for a poor family, but unnoticeable to a wealthy family. Thus, state resources should be focused on optimizing money distribution based on how much a person's life will improve if given that money. Someone with a net income of $100,000 (adjusted for COL) is not struggling to find food and housing, whereas someone with a net income of $20,000 most certainly is. Assuming that "basic income guarantee of some form is approved, here is $XYZ to accomplish that goal" is passed into law, I would argue that focusing that money toward uplifting those most in need would have the most positive effect.

NeilHowardBath144 karma

Yes I think there is a strong case for this. And in my empirical research experience, certainly those who are poorest appear to benefit most from receiving UBI.

One push-back I'd have though to the idea of rich folks not needing it simply - no problem, if we fund our UBI via progressive taxation then whatever we give to the rich will ultimately be taken back in incresed tax.

Of course, the rich can also fall on hard times though, and even someone earning 100k a year could get sick, lose their job, and end up in poverty. This is where having a solid and universal floor is helpful for everyone.

CMDRJonuss66 karma

Do you believe UBI is at all possible in a deeply capitalistic society like Europe or the USA?

NeilHowardBath117 karma

I do, yes.

Resources-wise, there is no issue in Europe or the US - we have the money; it's a question of how we want to use it. In this sense, I think the task is to build an evidence base and a movement calling for the govt to guarantee economic security. In the US, such a movement already exists.

Secondly, capitalist societies are based on the (theoretical) idea of free labour - we are free to choose what jobs we take; that freedom is what justifies capitalism and enables creativity. The problem of course is that unless you have the money you need to survive without taking shitty work, you don't have real freedom. In this respect, there's a contradiction at the heart of capitalist ideology that I think can be probed to open space for the push towards basic income.

Third, in liberal capitalist societies we already see elites calling for basic income as a way of supporting people in the absence of work (many of the Silicon Valley folks, for example). So they get it and they are lending weight to the idea.

There is more to say but I'll stop for now :)

sergius6442 karma

I mean... do we really have the money? Seems like the current budget deficit is gigantic and sovereign debt is ever growing - with our interest payments approaching the size of our defense budget. How exactly do we get the extra money for this? Seems like this requires a giant tax increase on Middle and Upper classes in order to subsidize the Lower class - and... how do you sell that?

NeilHowardBath53 karma

i think you'd struggle to sell that! what is not hard to sell to most people though is a major wealth tax - we are now experiencing levels of inequality not seen since the 19th century in the West, and people are fed up.

Alternative taxes too could be considered - carbon, land, data.

Some also advocate for the creation of new fiat sovereign money curriencies to fund a UBI. Which in a sense is what the govt did qith QE, only that all went to banks, not people...

sergius6410 karma

Well, feels like you're kinda making general statements when this is really a mathematical problem. Show how a wealth tax could possibly be enough and then maybe people can start coming around on this issue.

NeilHowardBath12 karma

have a look at this cool simulator tool: https://conjoint.virtual-worlds.scot/

countblah28 karma

My city recently tried a UBI experiment, and there was a lot of unhappiness on all sides from what I recall (too small, perceived as a random giveaway, etc. etc.).

I'd really like to see actual data on UBI successes, especially when placed in the hands of the most vulnerable people who could take advantage of it (if there were the guard rails in place) to avoid worst case scenarios like falling into homelessness, hunger, etc.

Especially now, I don't sense the appetite for "my city shouldering the cost of another experiment" when there might already be good examples out there of success/failure, what they cost, who was helped or to what extent, etc.

NeilHowardBath8 karma

yes there is indeed lots of evidence out there. the problem is that it hasnt been systematically curated. i am part of a project trying to do that now - to create a global ubi knowledge repository. we really need one!

johnnydanja5 karma

Carbon taxes seem so counterintuitive. I believe they make sense as a corporate tax and even as a personal tax assuming you exceed a certain amount of carbon footprint. But a base carbon tax across the board just increases the cost of living for everyone and it’s not equitable. The government I believe would be way more successful putting money towards helping people transition away from non renewables.

chris853524 karma

I have to say while I applaud your goals, I think you have a conceptually flawed view of the forces that make society work.

Labor has never been free, and overly free labor becomes wildly expensive (as seen already with the inflation of labor due to covid money). I’m not going to place a judgement on that merely point out that power is what uses capital. And power wants cheap labor and I think you’ll have a hard time arguing otherwise.

The “liberal” powers you speak of in Silicon Valley I think you severely misunderstand how sociopathic they are. They imagine a Ayn Rand like world where UBI is more like rations for a large poor demographic in society while they remain in charge via control of those rations distribution. To believe they are allies in your notion of freedom is to misunderstand how they manipulate ideologies like yours for other end goals. Just look at Facebook, it’s about trading in the idea of your relationships — but we all know it’s about manipulating you for advertising revenue.

Second if you are honest with yourself you’re going to have to come up with a societally easy to understand argument as to why this isn’t just covid stimulus 2, which broadly resulted in the rich getting richer as most of the money went to poor and working class people who spent it on goods and services that recuperated and aggregated back into the hands of wealth. And that’s not even mentioning those who just yolod it on bitcoin and scams.

Ultimately covid as pretty strong proof that UBI can make inequality worse as those using it will not build engines of creation but rather consumption — which is fine — if you are ownership class.

I’d suggest if you really are serious about UBI you form a coherent argument on why communist Russia failed to work, specifically what it did to the population, and why the sort of communist style rationing is really different than UBI.

Just my two cents.

NeilHowardBath7 karma

inflation is significantly about corporate profits, not so much covid payments, as the IMF has itself pointed out: https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2023/06/26/europes-inflation-outlook-depends-on-how-corporate-profits-absorb-wage-gains

i also share skepticism of the ayn and world of the silicon valley types - not the world i want. i merely cite them to point out that capital is not necessarily against UBI, even if, as you rightly note, capital wants cheap labour...

harrison_wintergreen19 karma

we have the money

who is 'we' in this context?

NeilHowardBath16 karma

humanity/our govts. who else might it be?

scotsmanwannabe7 karma

And who would do the shitty work that has to be done?

NeilHowardBath24 karma

well classical economic theory is pretty clear on this - wages would have to rise in line with how shitty the work is to attract people willing to do it. so maybe it'd be you or me or someone else; but whoever it was would actually be paid decently for it. which is surely a beneficial outcome??

Zebulin2941 karma

How would you recommend talking about UBI to people who are skeptical of the idea? I get a lot of “no such thing as a free lunch” and “you can’t trust the government” comments when explaining the concept, and it’s hard to respond to those claims without appearing naive.

NeilHowardBath86 karma

This is a tough one. I have in the past tried using data - the data shows that people don't waste money when they get it, and in fact that they are more likely to work or engage in productive activity if they have economic security. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesnt.

Another approach is to turn the question around - 'You say you don't like the idea of people getting money for nothing. What about the rich who inherit their wealth without having to work for it? Do the rich stop working just because they don't have to?' Again, sometimes this might work and sometimes not.

Third, probe deeper. 'When you say you can't trust the govt, what is it you're concerned about the govt doing?' It might be something like the govt impinges upon autonomy or is too detached from people to really understand their needs. But probing inquisitively and wiuth genuine openness helps go deeper into what people really care about, which inevitably will be things we all care about and so can connect around.

OdderGiant51 karma

I like to think about it as the dividends a citizen gets, for owning a share of their nation.

NeilHowardBath18 karma

this is nice

AusHaching-12 karma

This is a shockingly naive statement. Let us hope that your ideas are never put into practice at scale.

NeilHowardBath13 karma

What's naive? Please do say!

AusHaching7 karma

Obviously, nothing I can say will convince you. But maybe some other people can draw their own conclusions.

Let us do a bit of math, using my native Germany. Germany has a population of about 84 million people. If everyone got UBI and the payment was 1.000 € per month - which is poverty -, we need 84 billion € per month or roughly 1 trillion per year. Which is a bit less than 1/3rd of the German GDP.

But wait, you say, UBI will replace other government programs. It will not cost that much. Except that it does not. You can not replace health insurance with UBI, because health expenses can be a lot higher than 1.000 € per month. You can not replace pension payments, because people actually paid for them and are entitled to their moneys worth for the contributions they made. You can only partially replace unemployment benefits, because they can be a lot higher than 1.000 € per month. And so on.

So we are looking at maybe 800 billion € additional payments, after deducting some benefits that can be replaced with UBI. That would mean that UBI alone would increase public expediture by 50 %. UBI would cost more than ten times as much as defense and about 5 times as much as education and research.

Where would that additional 50 % of revenue come from? From taxes of course. The details would need to be discussed, but for UBI to work, the 50 % increase has to be there, so someone has to pay.

If you think that in any democracy, a 50 % increase in taxes to fund a massive redistribution program will ever be majority position, you are shockingly naive. And if it was implemented, everyone who was able to leave would leave for greener shores, because the people who actually keep the system running would not want to be bled dry.

Now you will reply that in your utopia, everything will work out fine. I just don't want to live in a country in which 70 % or more of the GDP is approriated and redistributed by the state. We had that, it was horrible, no thanks.

NeilHowardBath9 karma

Have you seen the work of Wilkonson, Pickett, Johnson et al. on the health case for basic income? Some fantastic microsimulation modelling of the cost savings effects of basic income as an upstream public health intervention that impacts budgetary calculations.

There's also important work out there on using additional taxes beyond the basic tool of income tax to raise appropriate funds (from enclosed commons such as those that make billions for big tech, or through carbon levies). This work suggests that the kinds of rought calculations you elegantly lay out above are too limited to give us a reasonable picture of overall fiscal impacts.

If you google UBI calculator there is a cool tool to play with on this too! :)

Redditistheplacetobe-1 karma

The entire idea of UBI is, for starters. Your understanding of how money works is flawed, which is very apparent even to me in a foreign language.

NeilHowardBath7 karma

Please enlighten me! I am genuinely curious as to these flaws and would love to read more.

Chemfreak35 karma

Do you have any peer reviewed or other scholarly sources regarding your claims of evidence suggesting it would increase wellbeing, freedom, creativity, trust, connection, and social cohesion?

I've always been pro UBI and believe it would solve lots of problems. But I've never been able to get solid data regarding it. I'm one of those types that likes to have hard data to back up my arguments, just hoping you have a reference or two with good data since I can't find them.

NeilHowardBath35 karma

Absolutely loads of empirical evidence! You can find lots of it here: https://basicincome.stanford.edu/

LibertyLizard27 karma

Do you see UBI as a replacement for or a supplement to other social safety net programs? And if it replaces them, how will society address people with exceptional needs beyond the average person who might get more support under current programs?

NeilHowardBath19 karma

i would imagine a rationalisation of social security programmes such that many were rolled into a UBI. evidently though any just social security programme would need to account for and resond to additional needs. there are interesting proposals around 'UBI plus' for doing this. e.g. : https://citizen-network.org/library/an-introduction-to-basic-income-plus.html

pistachioshell27 karma

Hi Neil, if UBI does get implemented then how would we keep that money from just going directly to our landlords? Wouldn’t UBI be reliant on other social safety nets like rent and market controls to avoid lining the pockets of the already-wealthy?

NeilHowardBath5 karma

I think it'd have to be accompanied by other progressive measures, yes, for sure.

noidwa26 karma

I don't at all believe in UBI because once everyone starts getting basic income, inflation is increased by that much and that money won't buy the same amount of resources.

Secondly, as a society is it healthy to encourage dependency on govt? Why would any earning member want to feed unemployables?

NeilHowardBath21 karma

There's no real evidence to suggest that UBI would be inflationary, I'm afraid.

As for dependency, there's now quite a lot of evidence from pilots around the world that in fact UBI encourages independence, autonomy, risk taking, investment, and creativity. Far from dependence, it actually appears to be a trigger for peoples' growth. (This can largely be explained by the fact that it frees people from stress and the want associated with poverty and insecurity).

As for why we might want to fund UBI as a society, in the end I think it comes down to how much we believe in our fellow humans - if we see all people as capable of positive contributions to society, our task is to create the conditions that enable contribution. In this sense, a UBI is more likely to be win-win than many other alternatives.

TheRealRacketear12 karma

You can't use the results of pilot UBI program and project it across society as a whole.

Once everyone starts collecting UBI the advantages of it will quickly dissapear.

NeilHowardBath16 karma

How do you know? And what makes you so confident?

We saw close to universal payments during the pandemic and no inflationary consequences. We have had pensions or child benefits in europe for decades and no inflationary consequences. Inflation depends as much on additional policies (e.g. rent control, house building, localised farming subsidies) and on elasticity of demand as it does on purchasing power.

AirborneEagle17 karma

One can postulate that this is a problem without proof because, as yet, no pilot program has been large enough to trigger this phenomenon.

It's not unreasonable to hypothesize that, when every landlord knows that every applicant for a lease has at least $2K a month (making up a number here) to spend, that lease rates will increase to move that money from the renter to the landlord.

I'm a fan of the UBI concept. However, I've not seen any real attempt to address this, quite likely, outcome.

NeilHowardBath12 karma

Indeed it is not unreasonable, and for this reason I think it essential that any honest propoment of UBI be open about the fact that it alone cannot fix everything. Housing crises are likely to be fixed by more houses, land taxes, rent controls etc. So UBI has to be part of progressive policy rather than the be-all-and-end-all!

IamMillwright9 karma

No inflationary consequences? Are you missing the massive inflation numbers over the last 2 years or so? I think the proof is pretty obvious that 'free' money given to people just doesn't work.

NeilHowardBath9 karma

Are you familiar with the International Monetary Fund? This is what they say about recent inflation https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2023/06/26/europes-inflation-outlook-depends-on-how-corporate-profits-absorb-wage-gains

noidwa-3 karma

You don't need evidence for common sense, it's economics I am afraid.

And you think that a person who is not able to earn minimum wage can show creativity, risk taking? If he was that capable he would have been earning money already and wouldn't need UBI.

Lastly, believing in fellow humans is not a good example, nature makes some ppl less capable. Even in a pride of Lions some cubs are weak and they die. You can't possibly save everyone.

NeilHowardBath5 karma

this is a very outmoded view of human nature and a limited view of social causality, im afraid. there are multiple structural factors determining what people can and do earn, and we have known this for a very long time.

whole_scottish_milk-5 karma

There's no real evidence to suggest that UBI would be inflationary, I'm afraid.

We literally just had a test run with COVID furlough payments and are now seeing record rises in inflation as a result.

NeilHowardBath12 karma

not as a result. the IMF is clear that profiteering is the major cause of inflation: https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2023/06/26/europes-inflation-outlook-depends-on-how-corporate-profits-absorb-wage-gains

kootenayguy24 karma

If UBI replaces other social welfare programs (as it is less expensive), what happens when an UBI recipient blows all their money on day one of the month? With the social welfare programs (social assistance, disability payments, unemployment insurance, etc) gone in favour of UBI, won’t someone who ‘loses’ their UBI to a drug habit just be out of luck? As a society, do we just watch that person die on the street because ‘we gave them money, and they wasted it’?

NeilHowardBath14 karma

Important question. For my own part, I certainly do not believe in reducing all social welfare to UBI. I think we still need public health, education, social work services etc, and better ones than we do now. So people facing problems such as these would have to be helped by professional support services, as is the case now.

TADodger13 karma

I love UBI, but it attracts wackos. You're doing the legwork to actually test it, and they're here downvoting you and making bizarre assertions ("I don't believe X, which you've experimentally tested, but you can't convince me I'm wrong on Y, some bizarre consequence of UBI that only exists in my head").

I gave up on UBI online discussions and communities because of the nuts. How do you stand them? Why do you stand them (instead of researching something else)?

NeilHowardBath14 karma

hehe, thank you :)

I'm here because I was invited and figured why not!

Rest assured that most of my time is research, teaching, oteher kinds of activism :)

MorkSal12 karma


Are most UBI programs set up with diminishing returns?

By that I mean, we had a pilot program in Ontario, Canada, where for every $1 made, the person would receive $0.50 less UBI until they zero out. (As an aside, the current gov scrapped the project before it finished. Even though they said they wouldn't).

This makes the most sense to me. People still make more money working, but also have a safety net.

What other types of UBI are there?

NeilHowardBath36 karma

I think under every UBI proposal that exists people will make more money by working. The idea of UBI is to provide a kind of minimum safety floor that people can always rely on, not to disincentivise work or make work unproductive. If a UBI is permanent and universal, it will provide a floor to all - and then anything anyone earns will add to that.

chainmailbill25 karma

If only certain people get it, and it’s based on specific criteria, it’s not universal.

NeilHowardBath13 karma

correct. the U also stands for unconditional in many cases. either way, my own strong preference would be for both universal and unconditional.

Annual-Mud-98710 karma

Hi Neil, is there anything we can learn about UBI from the pandemic and programmes like furlough in the UK? We were basically giving people guaranteed income then, albeit only those who had been employed.

NeilHowardBath8 karma

Great question. There is lots that we can learn and there are some studies doing that learning. One of the most important learnings is that govts can mobilise the money and the capability to deliver it to everyone if they want to. So arguments claiming that UBI is unaffordable or impossible to administer are far harder to defend now that we've experienced emergency basic income during the Pandemic.

Redditistheplacetobe8 karma

Do you really believe this to be true if said theory would have to be applied indefinitely ?

NeilHowardBath7 karma

I am strongly persuaded that UBI is possible, yes, and strongly persuaded that it could have transformative effects for society.

shitdayinafrica10 karma

What are your thoughts on illegal immigration and refugees accessing the UBI? It seems that countries with UBI would be desirable destinations.

NeilHowardBath8 karma

yes this is a huge question and UBI theorists havent really tackled it. those that have have indicated that stronger borders might be necessary. i am honestly not sure what the answer is here beyond something truly global...

AcaAwkward7 karma

What motivation would a person have to be productive if free money is coming in every month?. How can you trust laziness and vices won't affect the recipients?

NeilHowardBath13 karma

Thanks for the question. How can I trust?

1) all the data from all the pilots that have been run show clearly that people dont waste the money, dont stop work, dont sit around. to the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming that people invest, create, connect - in short, that productivity is released. I am a social scientist - it is my job to be convinced by the evidence!

2) everything i know about human nature. we are not primed to sit around doing nothing; we are primed towards purposeful activity. UBI is about releasing that energyu to work towards our purposes.

3) the rich dont need to work. but many of them still do. why?

churchin2229991116 karma

if the pilots are temporary, it seems obvious that people wouldn't quit their jobs. I wonder how can we actually test how people would behave with a temporary program?

NeilHowardBath6 karma

some pilots are quite long - one in kenya is for 12 years!

undercoverCIAnus6 karma

i see you haven't replied to anyone asking about international implications. When 1 country provides UBI and others don't, how the markets would shift their exploitation to focus on easier targets.

I'm in favor of UBI, but i think there must be consideration of how capitalists would answer to the implementation of it.

I wonder if UBI isn't some pie in the sky idea to keep us from pursuing the only real solution to poverty, which would be ending capitalism.

To me UBI seems to presume 2 things: 1. that capitalists aren't intentionally working to keep the poor poor; and 2. that once UBI is up and running, that they won't destroy it.

So, repeating my previous unanswered question, how do you think UBI will work on an international level?

NeilHowardBath8 karma

sorry, no intention not to reply, i think i just missed questions in the flow of other questions and being offline to pick my kids up, hang out, and put them to bed :)

the old marxist idea that you cant have socialism in one country unless you have it in all countries could well apply to UBI. I would also worry that a UBI in one country could have negative spillover effects on others. Also on anyone resident in a country (or illegally present in a country) who doesnt receive UBI. wouldnt that create an underclass reserve army of labour? maybe. and it's a worry.

i think the most utopian (and potentially ideal) proposals are for a global UBI that is internationally administered. there is a lot to recommend those. (one eg here: https://twitter.com/EqualRightOrg/status/1687101860426194945?s=20)

IrritableGourmet5 karma

What's the benefit of giving money directly vs expanding programs like Section 8/SNAP/etc?

NeilHowardBath28 karma

Anything that gives resources directly to people will a) likely save money on expensive bureacratic admin costs; b) improve dignity by reducing the stigma associated with targetted transfers; and c) support people's autonomy to spend what they have on what they need.

andydude445 karma

In the potential event of mass technological unemployment and UBI, how do we continue to encourage citizens to pursue secondary and higher education in mass? Would an extra education level income be a good idea?

NeilHowardBath5 karma

I certainly think encouraging people to keep learning is worthwhile! And new tech means new things to learn.

Cash transfer incentives for school have already been shown to be effective at encouraging schooling as well.

pl2333 karma

The only UBI studies I've seen seem to amount to "these people were happier and could afford more when we gave them money," on top of not being able to account for long term effects. Have there been studies that do a better job of digging into some of these things?

NeilHowardBath2 karma

loads more documented benefits that than! dignity and wellbeing increases; reslience to shock; ability to invest and take productive risks; increased education. I would say check out the Stanford UBI Lab, BIEN, and the book 'Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India'. Also stuff on 'the health case for basic income'.

swizzlewizzle3 karma

How do you possibly get any usable data from trials/experiments that are temporary, when the whole point of UBI is that it is supposed to be a guarenteed “in perpetuity” deal??

NeilHowardBath3 karma

Good question. I think the key point here is that depending on how long the trial is and how poor people are, they will act in a trial as they would act if the trial were permanent. We know from lots of micro-economics and behavioural economics research that he very poor have understandably very short time horizons when making financial decisions, for example, so a pilot of 18 or 24 months will tell you a great deal about what they'd do under long-term conditions (as poverty ends, that would of course change - but still, from 24 months we can learn a great deal about how life would be in teh counterfactual conditions of stability and security).

baoo2 karma

I have only heard of small scale (deliberate) UBI trials where the results showed that the quality of life improved for a subset of an areas population that were recipients.

What I can't get past is that this seems to be flawed methodology. Of course lifting a subset of people above other people by giving only them money will positively impact their lives.

In Canada we have seen major inflation to the point where quality of life is noticeably worse for everyone now than in 2019. one of the theories I can come up with is that the COVID relief payments ($2000/month to anyone who wasn't working and applied) were actually the largest scale UBI test that's ever been done, and the after effects should be relevant to UBI conversations.

Can you offer examples, or otherwise explain how giving out baseline amounts of money doesn't just make the currency worth less, or something to that effect?


NeilHowardBath3 karma

there is major debate about the extent to which Covid payments have caused inflation. what this experience on Reddit has taught me is that this is the common assumption among many in North America. In Europe, we have no such assumption. The IMF attributes much (if not most) of inflation to corporate profiteering, which would suggest that liquidity injections are not automatically inflationary (even if they may well be be mildly, at least in the short run), and that parallel policies are necessary to protect the beneficial impacts of any transfer.

As for evidence, sure, it is a reasonable assumption that people's lives will be better relative to the counterfactual if they have more money or secure money. But it is still worth us demonstrating that in practice - and what social experimental studies have done is demnonstrate how and to what extent that is the case, providing major evidence in favour of UBI as a progressive policy.

Lots more info available on the basicincome.org website, the Stanford UBI Lab website, and on Give Directly's website.

bombayblue2 karma

How do you grapple the concept of UBI with the fact that we just tried out UBI on a national scale during Covid and it resulted in:

  1. Massive inflation
  2. Massive debt, with a much larger share of government spending going towards servicing the said debt instead of providing social services.

  3. No measurable improvement in living standards and arguably a decrease in said living standards due to point 1.

Seriously I can’t believe no one is asking this in the thread. We literally tried UBI on a national scale. What did it accomplish? Why did we stop if it was successful?

NeilHowardBath9 karma

the nationwide child credit scheme that ran during covid in the US cut child poverty faster and deeper than any other policy in US history. during a pandemic. it is simply false that living standards didnt improve as a consequence.

it is also highly contested that inflation is caused by covid payments - the IMF has attributed most inflation to corporate greed; there is also major supply chain disruption; multiple factors that are more likely to have been causal.

bombayblue3 karma

So the primary benefit you’re citing is a tax credit. In that case why don’t we just extend more tax credits instead of spending trillions?

The benefits of the child tax credit are incredibly well documented. The benefits of the personal payments in the CARES Act (which is actual UBI) are not.

NeilHowardBath2 karma

well tax credits and spending are kind of the same thing, no? plenty of folks in the Income Movement in the US are calling for a massive restoration of child yax credits because they are progressice moves in the direction of ubi

hellschatt2 karma

2 questions. These always come up when talking about UBI, and it makes it difficult for me to fully believe in this solution (although, I still believe it's a step into the right direction).

  1. Wouldn't giving everyone free money just mean more disposable income, which leads to everything being more expensive? I can see it working in small communities, but I cannot see it working for entire countries.
  2. Assuming we artificially freeze the economy from getting everything more expensive, do we have enough ressources in the world to serve everyone? I assume the demand for many products would increase while the companies wouldn't be incentivized to produce more supply, or simply can't produce more supply due to limited ressources.

I feel like for UBI to work we first need some heavy socialism and planned economy first. If a company could for example automate the entire food supply chain with AI, then giving everyone UBI probably wouldn't help, as the company could make their products simply more expensive (inelastic demand?). So, wouldn't a better solution be to regulate the company with the automated food supply chain directly? And that would of course lead to less innovation since companies get punished for it... I only see a vicious cycle.

NeilHowardBath3 karma

this is a good interview with one of the pioneers of UBI research discussing these issues: https://www.artforum.com/columns/hannah-black-and-philippe-van-parijs-discuss-universal-basic-income-247263/

iamparky1 karma

What would be the major drawbacks of UBI, or risks involved in rolling it out at country scale?

NeilHowardBath2 karma

Oooh, a very interesting question.

like any big policy change, it could fail to achieve what we want or produce unintended consequences. so there is always risk and we cant fully mitigate for it. that is not enough (and the evidence that it would be transformative is huge) not to try it.

potential drawbacks? one significant one is that it may lead to massively increased consumption, which would be bad for the planet. (although many suggest that consumption would likely decrease as people have more time to spend with loved ones instead of satiating themselves with consumer goods).

bman_781 karma

What is your favorite morning beverage?

NeilHowardBath5 karma

hehe, my favourite question! coffee, undoubtedly. (although when i was younger and went out all night it would probably have been a shot of some sort! 😂)

Geshman1 karma

What are some organizations fighting for UBI that I can follow and help out? If they are local I'm an American in IL

NeilHowardBath11 karma

Hey there! Thanks for diving in - the first question! :)

Loads of orgs out there fighting for UBI. The most important space in the US is the Income Movement: https://www.incomemovement.org/. These are good peoples, active nationally, and very worth getting involved with. We are in fact hosting a public talk series with two of the central figures in about an hour, which you would be welcome to come to: https://www.fribis.uni-freiburg.de/event/politics-of-basic-income-talk-series-stacey-rutland-shafeka-hashash-on-november-16-2023-how-to-grow-a-movement-the-importance-of-strategic-funding-the-case-of-the-us/

Globally, also worth checking out the Basic Income Earth Network. N

NeilHowardBath1 karma


'Focusing on the U.S. economy, the Financial Times reported on November 28 that, “Margins of retailers and wholesalers have exploded in the past two years. The basic story here is that a combination of broken supply chains, rising input costs, and high demand created pricing power for producers, who raised mark-ups. Those mark-ups … are fueling inflation.” '


WatchEasy0 karma

One of the major obstacles to the implementation of the UBI is lack of empirical testing. What is the closest type of prgram you've studied? Why UBI instead of CCT (conditional cash transfer)?

NeilHowardBath2 karma

there is actually now a huge amount of data from pilots around the world (including the one i run). we know so much about how beneficial the economic security that UBI provides is for people. we also know that unconditionality is effective and dignifying and no worse than conditionality. the evidence exists, so my sense is that the obstacles is more about awareness, political willingness, and of course entrenched ideologies and interests opposed to UBI and its liberatory potential.

under_armpit-3 karma

What happens when the majority decide I'm not going to work? I'll just take the free money. Where will the money to pay them come from? Or is it ultimately to take it from the top 1%?

NeilHowardBath4 karma

No evidence whatsoever from any experiment ever conducted that this will happen, im afraid.

(and yes i'd be taxing the hell out of the 1%, as many 1%-ers have themselves repeatedly called for)