Self-driving cars may arrive at some point in the future, but that's not why we need a guaranteed income. The future is already here: the gig economy of Lyft drivers, part-time workers, and contract employees is exploding and income inequality hasn't been this bad since 1929. My story illustrates the unfairness in today's economy -- nearly half a billion dollars for three years worth of work. Today I work on how a guaranteed income for working people can rebalance the economy and reinvigorate the American Dream.

Looks like my site got the Reddit hug of death! We're working on getting it back up and running, but in the meantime you can check it out on Amazon


Edit: I'm headed out for now to do a livecast with Scott Santens at 2pm Eastern!

I'll drop back by later this afternoon as more questions come in. Thanks!

Comments: 129 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

aGorilla91 karma

I can't afford your new book, and if I bought it, I would just be adding to the inequality.
Have you considered releasing it for free on the web (even if it's at a later date)?

ChrisHughesFairShot11 karma

All the proceeds from the book go to a non-profit combating income inequality. The publishing agreement doesn't enable me to release the full book online, but I am able to share an excerpt:

cbrian1321 karma

Do you regret founding Facebook?

ChrisHughesFairShot14 karma

I don't regret it. Facebook has been a force for a lot of good in the world, and some bad. What I think is important to recognize today is the responsibility that Facebook has in our politics and society to make sure we don't just hear people we agree with and to ensure foreign powers can't manipulate our elections. The 2016 election, Russian hacking, filter bubbles, and the rise of fake news have shown the world that Facebook isn't just a place where we go for entertainment or to share photos of our kids; it's increasingly the primary source of news and political discourse in our country. That brings a lot of responsibility, and it seems like Mark and the entire leadership team is embracing that now and thinking carefully about how to update Facebook to make it better.

SubwayPizzaRat21 karma

How accurate was “The Social Network” movie?

ChrisHughesFairShot43 karma

Well it got some of the big picture elements of Facebook's founding story right, but missed the mark on a lot of the details. You will not be surprised to know that Hollywood took all kinds of liberties -- our dorm room did not in fact look like a luxury condo and (to my knowledge!) there was no sex in the bathroom. But it is true that the idea was hatched as a kind of experiment, and then exploded. Facebook's rise was fueled by powerful economic and tech trends -- globalization, automation, the rise of finance. We were able to raise hundreds of billions of dollars because of the rise of venture capital; Facebook exploded on the backs of smartphones that were made cheap by globalized supply chain networks. The dramatic rise of Facebook and companies like it is a historical anomaly made possible by many of the same policies that are making it harder for working people to make ends meet.

ya_boy_porter10 karma

Hey Chris! I have two questions for you:

1) What is your tl;dr version of how we can solve income inequality?

2) What is your most prized possession, something you've had before the FB days, that you have and will never get rid of under any circumstance?

ChrisHughesFairShot26 karma

  1. Sometimes the best solution is the simplest: a monthly stipend of $500 to every working American making less than $50k would lift 20 million people out of poverty overnight and stabilize the financial lives of 90 million people. We can afford this by bringing rates on the income of the 1% into line with the historical average of 50%. We know that when people get modest amounts of cash, they use it smartly, their kids stay in school longer, health outcomes improve, and they're happier. We have the power to rebalance our economic system and provide more opportunity to all -- we just have to develop the political will to do it.

  2. My books. I grew up an only child in North Carolina and books were my best friends. From about age 13 onward, I began to collect books to build a "library" of sorts. I carted them around with me from NC to boarding school, to Harvard, and later to California and now New York. They're my most prized possessions and the thing I won't ever be getting rid of.

janeetcetc3 karma

Hi Chris, how will guaranteed income change the gig economy companies that are pushing us in this direction? Will it make them more or less responsive to worker demand in the future?

ChrisHughesFairShot7 karma

The gig economy is short-hand for the new nature of work: unstable, precarious, and unreliable. You may have a job, but you don’t know how much you’ll be paid, or even when. Wages haven’t meaningfully risen in decades while the cost of living has continued to rise, and we live in an era when all of the new jobs we’re creating are in that gig economy you mentioned – part-time, contract, or temporary – which usually means unreliable income and no benefits like health care and retirement savings.

The problems that we need to solve for are financial stability and economic opportunity. A guaranteed income would provide stability, with workers getting a reliable $500 a month, every month, and opportunity. People could use the money to invest in themselves and their families. We already see that's what people do with the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is an annual cash grant -- no strings attached -- to the people who need it most. I talk about this in much more in the book I have that comes out today, Fair Shot.

aGorilla4 karma

with workers getting a reliable $500 a month

Did you mean to limit it to workers?
I thought the premise behind basic income was that everyone would get it. Kills stigma of 'welfare', and even the high earners have a stake in it.

ChrisHughesFairShot4 karma

There are a LOT of different ways to provide a guaranteed income. You could do a carbon fee and dividend, provide $1k a month to everyone including Bill Gates, provide it through quantitative easing, etc. I've spent the last couple of years talking to Americans who could benefit from a guaranteed income, and what I've heard consistently is that people want to work. (Psychologists consistently show that people want to be of purpose to their families and communities and are happier and healthy when they are.) I imagine a guaranteed income to be a supplement to wages and other benefits. But we have to expand the definition of work to encompass people who work but who are in jobs that are traditionally unpaid and ignored by the law, like people who take care of young children or the elderly or students. This would qualify an additional 30 million people for the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit I propose, providing a modest form of stability to many of our country’s hardest workers. For people who can't work, that's exactly what the social safety net (food stamps, housing vouchers, disability benefits, Social Security) is for.

redd49722 karma

Hey thanks for doing this.

A lot of critics argue that in order to do a proper UBI, you would need a big increase in taxes. Do you agree with this assessment and/or do you think that the UBI should only act as a supplement to other sources of income?

If you do agree that a UBI would necessitate a big tax increase, how would you do it, corporate tax, capital gains, income taxes et cetra.

ChrisHughesFairShot12 karma

To fund a guaranteed income of $500/month, we would need to close egregious tax loopholes and raise taxes on the one percent to be in line with their historical average of 50% on income OVER $250k. (So if you make $300k a year for instance, you are paying an additional $7,500.) I continually make the case that in the long term, this should serve the interests of the poor, middle-class, and rich alike because it will spur economic growth. A recent Roosevelt Institute study found that a guaranteed income of $500/month to all Americans could add a point every year to our total GDP, a huge increase. That's a level of growth that all Americans would likely welcome.

lfortunata1 karma

Hi Chris, I think it's wonderful that you're thinking about how to fix inequality. I would love it if you could address the following concerns that people have about universal basic income.

  1. That in order to provide a meaningful amount of UBI to people, the cost for such a program would be out of this world.

  2. That providing universal public goods like free education and healthcare are cheaper and have higher returns on investment -- in addition to providing a greater sense of social cohesion.

  3. That UBI is being proposed as a fig leaf over the actual issue at hand causing inequality, which is inequality in ownership. Would it not be more beneficial to offer every citizen ownership in a fund of American companies?

ChrisHughesFairShot7 karma

  1. The cost for $500/month to working adults making less than $50k would be just shy of $300bn per year. Let's be clear: that's a lot of money, even in the context of the federal budget. But it's half of what we spend on defense, and just a bit more than the Republican tax bill passed last December will cost. If we can afford tax cuts for corporations and the one percent, let's not pretend that we can't afford a boost to the bottom lines of working Americans who haven't seen a raise in decades.

  2. We need a better education system and smarter healthcare policy. But we also need to be clear-eyed about what works. We have poured more and more money into education and healthcare for decades and have seen only modest gains. But we have a LOT of evidence (which I detail in the book) that the EITC meaningfully improves health and education outcomes for kids. We want better educational and health outcomes, but the data suggests that the most effective way to get them might be through cash. Here's one study comparing the effect of EITC to pre-K investment:

  3. Some people argue for a sovereign wealth fund, which I think is a promising idea. Alaska has one, and it is no coincidence that Alaska has lower levels of income inequality than any state in the nation! The tricky thing though is the math: how much money and who gets it? The math is tricky if you want to get to a meaningful level and provide it to a broad base of people. And when people receive it, does it throw them off of other essential government benefits? The EITC is a proven framework that would provide a cash boost now, to the people who need it most, and be in supplement to existing benefits rather than come at their cost.

llanox1 karma

How do you feel about crypto currencies?

ChrisHughesFairShot5 karma

I love talking about crypto currencies and how they might work in the future -- and how a guaranteed income might be built into some of them. In my work, I'm super focused on the problems of the here and now and generally leave questions about what the world will be like in 2030 and 2040 to futurists. Right now, most of the Americans who I talk to who could benefit from a guaranteed income have never heard of crypto currencies, including BitCoin. As the reach of the currencies grows and expands, I'm looking forward to a time when we have an even broader conversation about how they might work and how to ensure their adoption ensures broader-based prosperity and economic growth.

largecockhole1 karma

Hey Chris, how receptive have politicians been to your proposals of a basic income?

ChrisHughesFairShot4 karma

I think like a lot of Americans, politicians are craving some fresh ideas in our politics. Michael Tubbs, the youngest mayor of a major city in the US is leading a demonstration of a guaranteed income in Stockton, California. Congressman Ro Khanna and Senator Sherrod Brown have talked about a meaningful expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the framework I argue we should use to build a guaranteed income in America. But we have a long way to go to get back to the early 1970s when the President of the United States (Richard Nixon) and leaders in the House and Senate were supportive of the idea!

annalaurelei0 karma

Do you think that a guaranteed income can erase years of racism, sexism, and classism in our economy?

ChrisHughesFairShot6 karma

Nothing can erase the shameful history of racism, sexism and classism in our country. But a guaranteed income can be a step in the right direction to righting some of these wrongs. The expanded EITC for people making less than $50k that I propose in my book would disproportionately support the incomes of people of color and women. A guaranteed income by no means is a silver bullet here – we also need equal pay for equal work legislation, to support the #metoo movement, for our leaders to pass policies to address police brutality; but helping to stabilize the financial lives of people struggling to make ends meet will provide stability and opportunity immediately and directly in their lives.