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The Almighty Buck Politics

VC Firm Y Combinator Launches an Experiment In Universal Basic Income (fastcoexist.com) 440

New submitter Gordon_Shure writes: Silicon Valley startup financer Y Combinator, remembered for successes like Airbnb and Dropbox, is launching an experiment to give people a Universal Basic Income. At present, the plan is for hundreds of participants to get repeated cash payments unconditionally. Then, assessors will record life consequences like changes in work patterns, self-employment, artistic endeavors, or idleness.

Recent focus on UBI in Finland, Switzerland and other countries see proponents claim a basic income will — in a world facing structural unemployment due to jobs taken by automated AI, robotics and machines — combat poverty and work insecurity. Others remain unconvinced.
What do you think about the significance of what this kind of small-population study would show?
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VC Firm Y Combinator Launches an Experiment In Universal Basic Income

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:07PM (#51511375) Homepage

    An interesting experiment, to be sure, and I'm glad that someone has the money to try it out.

    It's hard to know until you're actually in the situation, of course, but I think that if I had a minimum income in addition to what I make now, I'd drop down to working part time and spend the balance volunteering and pursuing music again.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:15PM (#51511431)

      As somebody who is very heavily opposed to communism and socialism, I'm interested in seeing the results of UBI (which is neither communism nor socialism, rather just a form of welfare) however I wouldn't want it anywhere I plan to live anytime soon, because it's one of those things where once you have it, it's practically impossible to take away, no matter what kinds of problems it creates or doesn't actually solve.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@wo[ ]net ['rf.' in gap]> on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:54PM (#51511741)

        As somebody who is very heavily opposed to communism and socialism, I'm interested in seeing the results of UBI (which is neither communism nor socialism, rather just a form of welfare) however I wouldn't want it anywhere I plan to live anytime soon, because it's one of those things where once you have it, it's practically impossible to take away, no matter what kinds of problems it creates or doesn't actually solve.

        You do realize you're paying for other people's laziness/unemployability all the time, right?

        Anytime any politician says "We will cut back benefits to the lazy and all that" it's really code for "We, the 1%, want to pay less taxes supporting your sorry asses". Because the homeless won't suddenly decide that because their government benefits are cut back, they will suddenly work. A lot of homeless ARE working - they don't make enough to pay for rent, food and other necessities. The ones that aren't, are generally unemployable - mental illness, drugs, alcohol or other problems keep them from holding even the most basic of jobs.

        These people will not magically become productive members of society by cutting benefits. The working poor won't magically get better paying jobs (in fact, they'd likely lose their existing jobs), the mentally ill will not become employable (they need medical treatment, but they can't pay for that), etc.

        Instead, those people will just become what the desperate do - steal/rob for the money and basic necessities they need. So instead of paying for their support through taxes, you're paying for them through increased crime, increased prices as stores have to cope with more shrinkage, increased security, etc. And yes, you can jail them - pay for more police officers, more courts, more jails. And medical bills - medical treatment inside the ER is the most expensive treatment option available - and the only one available, so you pay through increased insurance premiums helping people who can't pay at all for some of the most expensive medical treatment available.

        Yes, it's all well and good to "be responsible" and "take care of yourself" and all that, but there will always be a segment of society that can't or won't. And it's either pay through taxes to take care of them, or abandon them and pay through other societal costs.

        The only real question is - will basic income be done right? Because the basic income gets you basically very little - accomodations inside a large barracks-style room (you get a locker for your stuff, but that's it - you sleep with 8/16 other people at night), shared washroom facilities and entertainment, and 3 basic nutritionally complete meals a day.

        That's what it really pays for - the absolute basics with very little discretionary money left over. Enough to live on, and for a few people, positively all they really need. If you want more spending money so you can live in more private accommodations, eat better food, have cash to pursue a hobby or anything else, then you need to do something to make extra money.

        Sure, a few people will be happy to lounge around with the basics - that's fine. But a lot more people will want to improve their lot in life - I mean barracks style living only appeals so much.

        Really, what happens is basic income transforms work from a necessity of survival (you can count having to steal or mug people as an occupation those without jobs have to do to survive), to a means to improve yourself. Eventually people want to have a private bathroom in their living arrangements, or private laundry, or watch more than just OTA TV, etc. So you work as much as you need to feel satisfied.

        And it's sort of essential as robots and everything takes over - because those people whose jobs have been displaced aren't going to be able to find new replacement jobs no matter how much extra training they do.

        • by tricorn ( 199664 )

          A Basic Income doesn't have to be "barracks-style living". My thinking on a UBI is something on the order of $2000/month. Sure, in some places that won't get you much, in others you'll be quite comfortable. Yet, how many people here yearn to live on $24K/year and wouldn't take a job (if available) to improve your condition?

      • it's one of those things where once you have it, it's practically impossible to take away, no matter what kinds of problems it creates or doesn't actually solve

        That describes pretty much any political or economic system.

      • As somebody who is very heavily opposed to communism and socialism

        This is exactly why this is being trialed...to soften people up to communism.

        Imagine what comes next after we collectively embrace communism.

        <img src="84_mac_ad_in_r3v3rs3.jpg"

      • As somebody who is very heavily opposed to communism and socialism, I'm interested in seeing the results of UBI (which is neither communism nor socialism, rather just a form of welfare) however I wouldn't want it anywhere I plan to live anytime soon, because it's one of those things where once you have it, it's practically impossible to take away, no matter what kinds of problems it creates or doesn't actually solve.

        You offer no advantages to starving and restricting health/legal access to the poor. Your method increases the crime rate, as people who have nothing, will do anything to survive.

        A person on the production line doesn't have a well endowed 491K. You know what it's like, food, medicine, rent money has to be juggled.

        I too am opposed to communism, where the state owns it all. Democratic socialism is what makes a world class country.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's a temporary study, so here's my prediction:

      People currently living beyond their means will continue to live beyond their elevated means.
      People capable of affording their current lifestyle will invest the additional income.
      People who tend to make bad decisions will quit their jobs and pursue fame by some manner. Any success in this group will be seen as a strong argument for the UBI even if it proves to be statistically consistent with other people who drop their lives to pursue fame.

      • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

        People who tend to make bad decisions will quit their jobs and pursue fame by some manner. Any success in this group will be seen as a strong argument for the UBI even if it proves to be statistically consistent with other people who drop their lives to pursue fame.

        If you replace the word "fame" with "success" (because seeking fame is much less universal than seeking success in life), isn't this the point of the safety net provided by UBI?

        So yes it is interesting, but not invalid. Other interesting aspects:
        - The percentage of failures and what kind of failures from those who take on risks, as compared with non-UBI
        - The overall economic growth and stability of this group, as compared with non-UBI

        Of course these must be controlled for various biases that come with such

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:33PM (#51512131)

        It's a temporary study, so here's my prediction:

        People currently living beyond their means will continue to live beyond their elevated means.

        What does this even mean when you have a global economy with surplus capacity? Machines/People are sitting around not making stuff because those living within their means just want to save, and those living beyond their means are being told not to borrow the money those living within their means are desperate trying to shove into their bank accounts through the finance industry. An entire economy can't save for next year's harvest by hoarding piles of green paper.

        People capable of affording their current lifestyle will invest the additional income.

        By desperately trying to find someone to borrow the money off them, even though negative real interest rates would suggest you ain't going to find any takers.

        People who tend to make bad decisions will quit their jobs and pursue fame by some manner. Any success in this group will be seen as a strong argument for the UBI even if it proves to be statistically consistent with other people who drop their lives to pursue fame.

        As opposed to doing a job we could easily automate but won't because those of us who still have utility value ensure (through housing benefits, tax credits) that subsistence level humans can out compete robots for all the rubbish jobs.

        I'm not a fan of lazy people. But I don't think it makes sense to have them do jobs that robots could do under the threat of starvation, simply so that I can feel better about some kind of puritan work ethic that was beaten into me as a child.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pr0t0 ( 216378 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:23PM (#51511505)

      I'd drop down to working part time

      While filling the remaining time with volunteering and strengthening the arts is noble, maybe even desirable in some sense; I'm guessing this modification to your work schedule is precisely why the UBI would fail on a larger scale...at least in the United States. It would seem to me the only way, or maybe just the best way, to judge it as a success is if not much else changed beyond lowering the costs of supporting those who cannot support themselves.

      If a reduction in workforce productivity coincides with the UBI, a claim will be made that humans are lazy and will not work if they don't have to. Maybe they are correct. It was certainly the claim as to why Communism, or maybe Marxist Socialism, was or would be an inevitable failure. I'm not an economist, so my opinion on the matter is largely uninformed.

      The UBI is interesting in principle, particularly if lowering the costs of supporting those who cannot support themselves can be achieved. If a measure of dignity and self-sufficiency can be returned to those people as well, all the better.

      I personally wouldn't change my life at all.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:43PM (#51511667) Journal

        People dropping down to part-time work will increase demand for other people to fill in the gaps. It's better to have two people working part-time than one full-time and one idle, and the financial cost is the same either way.

        With all the productivity gains in the last 45 years, we should be down to a 16-hour work week if the increases were divided equitably between employers and employees. So, since that didn't happen voluntarily, looks like the invisible hand is going to impose it on businesses whether they like it or not :-)

        • overtime needs to have an X2 at the 55 hour a week level and the salary min needs to be like at least 50-60k + even have have a forced OT at 65+ hours a week.

          For places like dunkin donuts it cheaper to have an manager working 50-60+ weeks at 30-40K then it is to hire more staff.

          We need to look at moving full time down to 32-35 hours a week as more automation takes over and you are the 1 guy left doing the work of 3 people pulling at least 50 hours or more each week with no room to have any time off.

          • The convention here is 1.5x until 50 hours, 2.0x for 50-65 hours, etc ... Unless a union contract specifies mandatory overtime, just leave after the regular number of hours, or insist that they pay overtime. An easier way is to accumulate an extra hour a day by working straight through lunch and taking every second Friday off. Worked for me :-)
      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Forgefather ( 3768925 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:53PM (#51511733)

        I'm not entirely convinced that the number of net work hours will even decrease. It is an interesting experiment, and I will hypothesize that the results will be determined by the financial state of the person that started receiving the UBI. I think that the largest change in behavior will come from people in the middle to lower income levels. People with very little income level will most likely have most of the money consumed simply escaping debt, which is usually what has them locked into lower income levels while the middle class will see the most change.

        I predict that most of the middle of the road people who show up for a paycheck will cut back on hours worked during the day while most of the 'doers' will increase their average time worked. I feel that with more security on the financial side the people who are more naturally inclined to take risks and push the envelope will lose the largest disincentive to making a startup in their financial insecurity in the event of failure. Thus I predict certain groups will end up working even more hours than they were before because many people today work for reasons other than a paycheck.

        Regardless of number of hours worked I feel that this move will have significant upward pressure on wages. With people cutting back hours due to disinterest there will be a decrease in the supply of labor and most of all UBI gives every single person bargaining power in terms of salary. For people of all income levels having an income that gives you the time and luxury to find a good job with a good salary gives you tremendous advantage in salary negotiations, which, properly leveraged, can translate to salary increases even in what were traditionally minimum wage jobs. Who wants to slave behind a cash register for 8 dollars an hour when they aren't desperate to feed their kids?

        In the end the question will be whether those that choose to make do with the basic income can be supported by the the ones that choose to work, but the idea can certainly generate benefit for everyone involved through increased wages and a decreased number of people who show up to fill a seat.

      • Why do we need all these workers? We're reaching the point where some factories are coming back from China, because it's a 100 person job in China, or 4 + robots in America.

        The ideal is if there isn't enough work for everyone to bother themselves with a 40-hr work week.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        We are going to have to reduce our working hours as automation means there is less and less work to do. It's also better for individuals to work a bit less and for the company to just hire more people.

        Where it tends to break down is with small companies where there might only be one or two programmers, for example. There are solutions, like tax breaks.

        The countries that are trying this are ones that value quality of life a bit higher than corporate profits, and not coincidentally are also pretty well off.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        While filling the remaining time with volunteering and strengthening the arts is noble, maybe even desirable in some sense; I'm guessing this modification to your work schedule is precisely why the UBI would fail on a larger scale..

        How many additional people engaged in volunteer work does it take to make significant improvements in community well being that government could never achieve?

        And by volunteering, I don't mean that bullshit volunteering that passes for community involvement at the corporate level

    • Not really all the interesting.

      In any economy you do this in that isn't already under tight controls ... the economy experiences an inflation period that effectively consumes the UBI payment and now people are worse off than they were before.

      • now people are worse off than they were before.

        In aggregate, this would almost certainly be true. But UBI is not supposed to create wealth, it is supposed to redistribute it. The "losers" would be people that work and pay taxes. The "winners" would be people that don't. So inequality would be reduced, at the cost of lower production through reduced incentives. But is the reduction in inequality enough to justify the reduction in productivity, especially when compared to alternatives like EITC [wikipedia.org]? We don't know, and that is what this experiment is des

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          In aggregate, this would almost certainly be true. But UBI is not supposed to create wealth, it is supposed to redistribute it. The "losers" would be people that work and pay taxes. The "winners" would be people that don't. So inequality would be reduced, at the cost of lower production through reduced incentives. But is the reduction in inequality enough to justify the reduction in productivity, especially when compared to alternatives like EITC? We don't know, and that is what this experiment is designed to find out.

          Actually if it's really to replace other welfare services the biggest losers would probably be those that genuinely need the disability benefits, because the UBI has to be tuned real low so all the minimum wage people don't all quit. Ordinary people might depend on UBI from time to time then do seasonal work or part time or work full time for a while when they feel the cash is short. But if you're really not in a condition to work and that's how your next 30 years will look like it'd be really depressive.

        • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:55PM (#51512359)

          The question is whether it actually would reduce productivity. The summary mentions "a world facing structural unemployment due to jobs taken by automated AI, robotics and machines." If you believe (as I do, and as the people behind this study clearly do) that we're heading toward a world where productivity isn't driven by human labor, we'd better start figuring out how to support all those people who won't be needed to maintain productivity.

          Besides, there are many kinds of "productivity", and economists are much better at measuring some than others. A parent who stays home to raise their children may be contributing far more to society than if they were running a cash register at the grocery. But conventional economic measures only include the latter while ignoring the former.

      • Re: Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

        by maple_shaft ( 1046302 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:10PM (#51511905)
        Despite the fact that the elephant in the room that macro economists are scared to death of is the drop in demand for goods and services in a mature economy. This causes natural deflation in a free market void of central bank interference. Japan for the first time is offering negative interest rates, a country that struggled with dropping consumer demand for decades. We are seeing the same things in the US and other countries where central banks are practically giving money for free with the hopes that it will trigger investment and demand. That and quantitative easing and creating new money out of thin air yet runaway inflation STILL does not occur! Most people work just hard enough to make just enough money to live a comfortable life with a few luxuries, but with productivity at record levels, not only do we have less and less need for productive workers for capitalists to make money, things that we have today that 40 years ago were toys of the rich are now common and cheap for the masses. Demand for more and more sophisticated luxuries is not continuous, it tapers off for most healthy functioning adults. This is clearly true or marketing services wouldn't be a billion dollar industry, using psychological tricks to convince people of needs that they don't have. This is only sustainable for only so long before we realize that demand cannot increase forever, constant growth cannot be sustained, and the value of human labor is approaching zero with productivity and automation gains. Universal income will not cause inflation as food and necessities on the supply side already surpass the possible demand from the population as a whole. With needs, we don't demand more food when our bellies are full, we don't demand additional homes and healthcare than what is necessary for us to stay alive. Everything else is a luxury and is a want not a need but in most people wants are limited too without psychological tricks. UBI will clearly not cause inflation, it is a necessary step towards a post consumer economy and society.
        • by Sibko ( 1036168 )

          UBI can't increase inflation - ever. It's not adding money to the economy, it's redistributing what already exists.

          It's not the same thing as just giving everyone a million bucks. UBI is essentially a reformation of pre-existing welfare that gets rid of all the overhead and administrative costs involved in deciding who gets what.

          Taxpayers on the high end (the upper 20% certainly) are paying tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in taxes. They avoid what they can, but they stil

      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh.gmail@com> on Monday February 15, 2016 @02:23PM (#51512687) Journal

        Ah, the "rising tide causes inflation" idea, which is incompatible with any existing theory of how inflation works. I've even seen some people suggest that increased minimum wages would trigger the same effect. According to this idea, it seems that the only force keeping inflation in check is the desperation of underpaid workers.

  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:07PM (#51511379)

    Does the study include some "middle-class" test subjects so see how well they do after paying higher taxes ?

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:40PM (#51511649)

      I am not intimately familiar with the tax regime where ever you live, but every where I've ever lived, as your income goes up your taxes go up incrementally only on the additional income.

      e.g. if you make 10,000 you get taxed, 0$
      if you make 30,000 you get taxed 0$ on the first 10, and then 10% of the next 20, for a total of 2k

      if you make 50,000 you get taxed 0$ on the first 10, 10% on the next 20k, and then 30% on the next 30k. For a total of ~12k.

      In super progressive taxation, it can get up to 60% and beyond. But that rate only starts on the dollars OVER X$.

      So you don't "lose money" by reaching a higher tax bracket, you just make progressively less with each additional dollar.

      Ie... your first thousand dollars you keep every penny of those dollars, but your 200,000th dollar you keep only 45 cents of that dollar.

      So,even if I'm in the top tax bracket, and you give me another 10,000 in income I'll take it. I'll only keep 4,000. But that's still 4,000 more than I had. And if I'm smart, and invest it or shelter it I get to keep more than if I just use it as more walking-around-money.

      Making more money and "Paying higher taxes" still means I took home more money than if I hadn't made more money in the first place.

      So this all boils down to: "Does the study include some "middle-class" test subjects so see how well they do after paying higher taxes ?"

      Why EXACTLY do you see this as a likely issue? Are you just unfamiliar with how taxes actually work? Or bad at math? Or is there some genuine issue that arises where you live if someone gave you a bunch of money that it would somehow ruin your life?

      Its true there are some edge cases in tax law, where as your income goes up you no longer qualify for certain deductions or subsidies, but even then its nearly always a zero sum game. And worst case you end up with the same amount you started with despite receiving more money. But these usually only affect the lower/barely middle class.

      The only "trap" to suddenly making more money is not being aware what you can keep, and spending more than you actually were entitled to keep, creating a tax bill you don't have money to pay. (e.g. if you make 50,000 a year set aside money to pay a tax bill for someone who makes 50k a year, and someone gives you a new 10k in income, going on a 10k vacation with it is pretty stupid.)

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        I don't see where the parent claimed that the higher taxes would be through being elevated by UBI. His point was that the money has to come from somewhere (given the current state of economy, taxes), and in his example he believed the working class would carry a higher burden than the UBI would offset. You couldn't fund a UBI out of anything even vaguely pretending to be a 'fixed' currency without taking it from those with money, and contrary to people who sharpen the pitchforks, the 'wealthy' don't have

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:08PM (#51511381)

    Sounds a lot like Patreon [patreon.com] where people will pay you for "self-employment, artistic endeavors, or idleness."

    But has just ended up turning into a grandstanding for a certain minority of people.

    My prediction is the money will flow to the loudest and most offensive grandstanders and people that could have been helped by this will most likely be ignored.

    Then again I don't earn $4.7k/month not doing anything for FreeBSD under a name very containing FreeBSD.

    • Does Patreon allow you to make a one-time payment yet? That's why I've never used it. Last time I checked, which was admittedly a while back, you could only schedule a recurring payment, and I'm really not that into the videos I'd be funding with Patreon that I want to sign up to support them unconditionally.

      I still want micropayments so I can just send someone a buck or two when I like their video. Some of these videos have a million likes, some people have numerous videos with shitloads of likes, there's

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Geez, any excuse to have a dig at her, huh? I think this is what the kids are referring to as "butthurt".

      It's kinda like Nickelback. Shitty, shitty music that makes you angry when you think how many people gave them money and encouraged them to carry on making it. But hay, sometimes things you dislike are popular, get over it.

      • The more you post, the less I'm convinced you aren't the neckbeard on Reddit with the purely coincidental exact same username.

  • Where is the money to provide this "Universal Basic Income" going to come from? How will employers that still have a workforce respond in terms of existing wages? How much inflation will this cause? What will happen to home prices/rents/leases/etc costs? Don't seeing it working realistically until human nature changes dramatically...
    • Where is the money to provide this "Universal Basic Income" going to come from? How will employers that still have a workforce respond in terms of existing wages? How much inflation will this cause? What will happen to home prices/rents/leases/etc costs? Don't seeing it working realistically until human nature changes dramatically...

      I completely understand your cynicism because I agree but I don't see an amount specified in the article. If it's something meager like $7K-$15K then I'm not sure it would truly change much of anything. I mean in the US, I think we more or less already have this under different names and parameters? I would be of the opinion that welfare, medicaid, medicare, social security, and the standard tax deduction all touch the spirit of a "universal basic income" except through complex rules, inclusions, and exc

      • But if this is to ultimately be for ALL people, the money needed to provide it will be staggering... After all, people who still have jobs will still get this money, right? Why bother to work if the deadbeats are still getting a check for doing absolutely nothing...
      • medicaid, medicare need to be on there own system as in the us the health insurance systems are messed up at all levels and a lump sum payment will not fix it unless there are big changes to the over all system.

    • First off, all social benefits would be re-evaluated and possibly combined into your UBI. Unemployment, food stamps, welfare, and others. Their supporting bureaucracies would be eliminated as well as we'd only need one much smaller organization to pay out the UBI. There would be some shifting of taxes but the UBI would be non-taxable income.

      Second, the UBI is only seen as being about $18000-20000 dollars. It's enough that you don't 'have' to work or panic if you lose your job, it's not Who Wants to be a

    • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

      Where is the money to provide this "Universal Basic Income" going to come from?

      If implemented at large (not just this experiment), it would likely be from an addition to current progressive income taxes.

      How will employers that still have a workforce respond in terms of existing wages?

      I think the minimum wage would need to be removed, assuming the UBI is large enough. It wouldn't be necessary anyway, since people's basic needs are theoretically met. And since nobody would ever feel they need to work for 50 cents an hour just to survive, employers would have to compete on wages anyway.

      Otherwise, it depends on where the increase in taxes to compensate for UBI comes

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:12PM (#51511413)

    I'm an electrical engineer. I've worked in lots of neat jobs.

    A few years ago I realized none of those technical jobs would get me off the hamster wheel; having enough investments so I could eat, pay for basic living expenses, and then make nifty things and services instead. Financial independence. This is not the same thing as being filthy rich; for an accurate number, it involves having about $500k in liquid assets under investment generating income. Assuming you're willing to live someplace cheap. (I am)

    I'm not from money, quite the opposite, and am unwilling to risk it all on ability to raise capital. I didn't understand how the rich stayed rich. I know what not having money to buy food feels like. Not going there. Ever again.

    I looked at where the money is, and there's lots of it in financial-related industries, particularly if you're good with numbers - and even "advanced" financial math isn't that difficult relative to engineering.

    My goal - through a career change and making other investment a life priority - was to get off the hamster wheel. I've devoted 10 years, or a measurable percentage of my life to this so I can enjoy the rest. I'm 6 years into my plan, and on track to make my goals, along with my wife, who shares my ambition to be free. ...but look at this!

    Guaranteed income offers everyone that chance. Go do what you want to the net benefit of society. Remove that worry and fear. Remove the stigma. Hell, call it a citizenship dividend.

    People will work; it's in our natures. What will change is what and how they work; most (many) jobs are pointless and should be automated. They WILL be automated in short order. Once this happens you can become a prison state, ripe for chaos; or you can adopt a scheme like this one.

    We live in the future. This will be interesting.

    • by liquid_schwartz ( 530085 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:25PM (#51511525)

      People will work; it's in our natures.

      I'm not sure I agree with your premise. I know that some people will always work. Myself and my mom for example. My two sisters probably wouldn't. My ex wife, a childhood friend, and a few others I know all avoid work as much as possible. Fun experiment, ask a lazy person do help you and see how fast they are busy that day. I am not against the citizen dividend as long as the citizens have to something other than breathe to get it. Work and pay taxes, great you qualify. If you're retired or not working a paying job then you have to do something else. I like what Maine has done with regards to people who want free stuff, where you have to volunteer a certain number of hours to qualify. Everyone I know on disability is doing a big fat nothing to help the world that helps them. This is wrong. I'm not against helping people, however money for nothing is a bad idea.

      • by Compholio ( 770966 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:08PM (#51511885)

        ... Fun experiment, ask a lazy person do help you and see how fast they are busy that day. ...

        I am most interested in this because I find that lazy people get in the way of real work since you make them look bad if you get anything done. It would be very interesting to have the workplace composed solely of the people that actually wanted to be there.

      • money for nothing is a bad idea

        Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The only way to know for sure is to discard anecdote-based assertions like yours and do the research.

        However, I think research on this topic has to be done on a larger scale and a longer duration. A five-year study might tell you a few things but the participants are going to make their decisions around that five-year time horizon. Also, scattered individual participants will likely act differently than people would in a society where everyone understood that work was optional

      • by Daemonik ( 171801 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:40PM (#51512197) Homepage

        People always point to someone else and say "they don't work" or "they're wasting their money".. it's usually never that simple. Our system of employment is very hit or miss, and isn't really capable of even determining what jobs a person would be good at or find interesting.

        Fun experiment, ask a person if they are busy that day and offer them some money to help you instead of assuming they should for free, see how fast they come over. Your "lazy person" may have just figured out that busting their ass for nothing isn't the best thing they can do with their time.

      • , however money for nothing is a bad idea.

        Way to beg the question.

        It's entirely possible that the extra work done by the few innovators not flipping burgers offsets the other costs to all the lazy people. And society as a whole benefits.

      • by narcc ( 412956 )

        Everyone I know on disability is doing a big fat nothing to help the world that helps them. This is wrong.

        They're disabled. That means they're limited in some physical or mental way that prevents them from performing tasks a person without said disability can perform.

        Further, not all (or even most) disabled people do nothing. I suspect that the majority want to contribute. It's just human nature. Some disabled people can do certain kinds of work, but many cannot due to circumstances arising from their disability. (Transportation being a major issue.) I know one kid, very bright, who suffers from a pretty bad

      • Everyone I know on disability is doing a big fat nothing to help the world that helps them.

        Do you know why they doing nothing? Retraining for a desk job might not be a viable option. It requires time and money. Often more money than a disabled person is able to afford. And even when one does retrain, it can be very hard to get employment. Also, the disability system has perverse incentives to not retrain (because, if you can be retrained, you are not (legally) disabled).

        I know a former nurse who was force out of clinical practice due to an injury. At the time, she was lucky the hospital she worke

    • Wow this is such a different take from me. I'm also an electrical engineer. I got tired of the hamster wheel, but not because of the financial serf-dom side of things (I never found the pay an issue), but because it was just incredibly boring. Even working for great companies on cool projects generally boils down to doing a whole lot of mundane form filling, process following and politicking. The days of being able to do neat engineering work just got less and less, and as you get older you quickly realise

      • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

        The days of being able to do neat engineering work just got less and less, and as you get older you quickly realise that nobody generally wants to create the 'next big thing'. They just want to do a bunch of small marketing driven improvements to maintain profits for as long as possible and sweat capital (just look at the iPhone/iPad).

        It's funny that you use the iPhone/iPad as examples, since they were exactly products of somebody trying to build the 'next big thing' (and succeeding). I don't think you can

        • I meant that the iPhone/iPad were the sorts of fun projects that most engineers would love to have worked on when they were first designed, but now it is just 'make it thinner' and 'remove a connector' incremental engineering. Nothing against Apple - it just illustrates that even the most NBT companies still end up with lots of jobs that are very boring.
  • Expect the concept being shut down in the US because of "looking like an evil commie plan" in 4... 3... 2... 1...

    I won't be surprised if :
    - This US experiment will be one of the first to happen actually in real life (given the speed of politics here around in Europe. Specially in Switzerland).
    - This experiment will bring lots of useful data.
    - Right wing politics won't let it be in the US.
    - Meanwhile, northern european country (I would bet mostly on scandinavian and germanic) will manage to implement it succ

    • by jiriw ( 444695 )

      Actually there already have been some experiments to look at the possible effects of a UBI. One of the more famous ones was in the '70's in Canada [wikipedia.org] and, indeed, various Scandinavian countries and some other European countries are seriously looking into UBI. Finland was flirting with the idea nation-wide but they seem to have backed down a bit. Swiss citizens forced a referendum about the subject onto their government by collecting 125,000 signatures and in the Netherlands some municipalities want to experime

    • It was tried in Canada with positive outcomes [wikipedia.org]

      A final report was never issued, but Manitoban economist Evelyn Forget conducted an analysis of the program in 2009 which was published in 2011. She found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating. In addition, those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did. Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.

      Imagine that?

      • The problem with that experiment is that it wasn't done in an enclosed system - that population was able to import goods and services from outside its local geographic area.

        Does that study include a trade balance change for the population, or a change in real wealth produced?

        Without seeing that data, I would wager that population group became more of a resource sink.

        Yes, I can definitely see benefits of lower work stress and the like, but did the population that was given "mincome" maintain its previous out

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:23PM (#51511509) Journal
    They will only be paying people for five years. If someone paid me for five years, I would be constantly worried about what would happen at the end of five years. I wouldn't want to re-enter the workforce with degraded skills, etc.

    But if I knew I would be getting that money for the rest of my life, it very likely would affect my habits.
    • Of course it would affect your habits! People would in a better position to be selective about what jobs you take, forcing employers to stop the race to the bottom. People working fewer days would mean more work spread around, so less unemployment. More time to improve your skills if you so choose, or to work on family life so you avoid the costs (financial and emotional) of a divorce later down the road. Less stress.

      When this was done in Manitoba, there was an 8.5% decrease in hospital visits. That's a LO

      • Of course it would affect your habits! People would in a better position to be selective about what jobs you take, forcing employers to stop the race to the bottom.

        That only works if employers know that enough of their desired employees have that option that they (the employers) lose their leverage. When Ford started paying workers twice what other manufacturers did, they were a large enough employer that other companies had to compete for the same people. Y Combinator's experiment will only be 300 people. That's not enough to change the behavior of employers who lose out on those 300 people.

  • If economic problems could be solved by such simplistic policies, it would have been done thousands of years ago and we wouldn't be discussing it.

    Virtually no one takes pleasure in the suffering of others caused by economic circumstances, and likewise we fight for our own economic stability. When I think about the benefits of getting rich (which I am not), it's not about the stuff I can buy. It's the peace of mind that comes with having more control over my own circumstances, knowing that I'm not one unfort

    • If economic problems could be solved by such simplistic policies, it would have been done thousands of years ago and we wouldn't be discussing it.

      Nonsense. In order for a UBI to make sense, you need A) Sufficient economic surplus that you can actually afford to pay one and B) Not be labor constrained. Neither of those conditions applied until very recently.

      • In order for a UBI to make sense, you need A) Sufficient economic surplus that you can actually afford to pay one and B) Not be labor constrained.

        Sort of - but who is the "you" that is affording to pay the UBI? Is it those people who control the means of production?

        Who is going to make them keep producing things for which they don't get any benefit? If you are not forcing someone to produce, it boils down to what the owners of means of production see as a reasonable price (in terms of excess production) to

        • by tricorn ( 199664 )

          One could argue that the people with the majority of the income and wealth are there because they "forced people to give the fruits of their labor" to them. Most people living paycheck to paycheck work a lot harder than a lot of the fabulously wealthy ever did.

  • Can't think of it as a pure goodwill/social thing... VC is not going to run the government. I'd be thinking what possible 'business model' there would be, say signing new-grads up for this and restrict them to study/work with certain orgs, and reap benefits there? Seems like Y combinator is already doing something similar: paying meager contribution to keep 2-3 'founders' alive while work their ass off? They are simply expanding on the idea on accelerator. Instead of working for 1 start-up and for a ve
  • I'm curious as to how a small study might provide insight when you apply it to a non-self contained ecosystem.

    It is one thing to offer basic income, but unless you price control basic necessities (housing, food cost, clothing) I fail to see how the system works. In a small pilot (say a few hundred people in a city) it might work out that basic income is great (since prices are set by the majority).

    To be clear, I'm not against the principle of a universal basic standard of living: I think society would be b

    • Yeah, this is one of my points of contention with UBI. Essentially I think it belies an incomplete understanding of the problem space. Namely: money doesn't equal wealth, although it is related to it.

      A good example is how universal health insurance doesn't really ensure that everyone has health care: it only affects the demand side, not the supply side.

      Unless there is something about UBI that addresses the question of "How do you ensure that production of goods and services is maintained at the same level

  • >> What do you think about the significance?

    That everyone who "invests" in it is a moron.

    Also, that over half the participants will be magically be someone's brother-in-law, cousin, college buddy, or connected to someone at the sponsoring firm.

    You want to see a real-life experiment in "universal basic income"? Go visit the "streets and san" division in Chicago and nearby suburbs.

  • Someone posted on Twitter an interesting alternative to UBI; adopting a negative tax rate. I.e., if your income is below a threshold, then you are paid money by the government instead of paying taxes. This would prevent people from getting the UBI if they didn't need it, and also provide for those who need the assistance.

  • If everyone's average income went up by 25%, all prices would just go up by 25% as well and folks would not be any better off. At this point, someone who has zero other income will not be able to support themselves, especially with increased prices, and will still need government services like shelter and food stamps.

    We really need to focus on producing more healthy food, building housing, fixing roads and educating more teachers and doctors so that there are enough goods and services to go around.

    Direct go

    • What you are ignoring is a future where increased productivity has eliminated scarcity (see Star Trek for references). This is a real possibility given the exponential increase in the application of automation to all aspects of the economy. Not tomorrow perhaps, but not never for sure.

      • We don't have "replicators" that make something from nothing, Start Trek is a horrible comparison...
        • First off, Replicators don't make something from nothing. Secondly, if that is all the economic insight you got from watching Star Trek, perhaps you need to study a little harder.

    • Thinking in percentages does not help. And, your math is wrong. It works that way for inflation overall because business chooses to keep wages stagnant. But the poors having money means it gets spent, with a multiplier effect which decreases the 1 for 1 inflation hikes.

  • by pulse2600 ( 625694 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:50PM (#51511717)
    The money is not unconditional. First, the article does not specifically say they have decided on having no strings attached or not, just that they would prefer it that way. However even that is a lie. Right there in the summary, it says:

    "Then, assessors will record life consequences like changes in work patterns, self-employment, artistic endeavors, or idleness".

    If they are doing that, the money is not unconditional. You must provide this information or have someone study/watch what you do with your life. Those are conditions. Give me the money and expect nothing in return - that is unconditional. And this ladies and gentlemen is exactly why I don't want to live in a socialist shithole. If the nannystate provides us with our income or some portion of it, they will eventually (or immediately) require us to let them watch and analyze everything and anything we do with our lives. If you take this money, this is what you want for yourself and the rest of society. Period.

    No one who takes this money values their freedom. I never want to hear anyone who would even consider taking this money bitch about the NSA, CIA, FBI, TSA, backdoors, cryptography, or neocon wingnuts....because these leftist moonbat experiments will truly destroy the freedom of all humanity.
  • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:51PM (#51511719)

    The problem with a UBI is that it is (in theory) supposed to replace the multitude of payments through various government social programs with a single check or debit card given to every recipient every month, at which point the various government agencies that administer housing, food stamps, etc., can be shut down. Government bureaucracies never shutter themselves voluntarily, and it won't happen with a UBI, either.

    The UBI operates under the assumption that everyone manages money in a rational manner, which is completely at odds with actual experience. Many people will take their UBI and immediately spend it on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or bling, while ignoring the monthly rent, the electric bill, buying groceries for the children, etc. Others will be cheated out of their money by criminals or even other family members. So do we let those families starve or get evicted because the heads of household are incapable of managing money for themselves or their dependents?

    Of course not. Those people will need to be helped (sarcasm intended). So the various government agencies will continue to expand and spend even more money on housing, food, medical care, etc. The UBI won't even make a dent in entitlement budgets. Instead, it will become "free money" to be squandered on a thousand other things besides basic human needs.

    Anyone who doesn't think it won't happen need only look at inner city schools in the U.S. In theory, every child should be getting meals at home thanks to government SNAP benefits to their parents or guardians. In practice, schools give many kids a free breakfast and lunch every school day, and even give them food bags to take home for the weekend, because Mom or Dad can't be bothered to buy food for the kids with the SNAP money. Where does the money go? No one knows or even attempts to find out. They just give the kids free food and cross their fingers.

    The UBI will not change human nature. It will instead become one of the biggest entitlement boondoggles in the history of civilization.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @01:09PM (#51511897)

      Yes. We have problems now with welfare recipients using money for everything but it's intended purpose. I've donated coats to children that live in homes with cable tv and a donk with 30" rims sitting in the driveway. I feel sorry for the kids, they didn't choose their fucked up parents. I think any kind of basic living stipend should be in the form of food, clothing and housing. If they want money they should work for it.

    • Many people will take their UBI and immediately spend it on drugs, alcohol, gambling, or bling, while ignoring the monthly rent, the electric bill, buying groceries for the children, etc.

      [CITATION NEEDED]

      Do you have evidence this is true for welfare and other checks, or is it just how you feel? I suspect you've never been in the heartbreaking situation (which I'm glad you haven't experienced it!) of having so little income that you have to decide between food and the electric bill. I'm sure there are some outliers that can't be helped and will spend on drugs but you need to understand this is a small minority compared to all poor people.

      So the various government agencies will continue to expand and spend even more money on housing, food, medical care, etc. The UBI won't even make a dent in entitlement budgets. Instead, it will become "free money" to be squandered on a thousand other things besides basic human needs.

      Again, citation? Has anyone's plan specifically said "

  • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @12:56PM (#51511773)

    I find that when I try to discuss the consequences of a future without scarcity I frequently get the shopworn 'people don't deserve what they don't earn, and it will be bad, bad, bad'.

    Yet when I ask what someone might do if they won a big lottery prize it is all about the good times. Likewise the perfect retirement is about leisure and freedom from want.

    So Puritanism seems to be appropriate, for the other guy...

    • Lottery winings come from all the people that bought lottery tickets, not from taxes. You volunteer to contribute when you buy a lottery ticket. Huge difference.
  • If some Billionaire wants to give their money away like this, so be it. Just remember that they or someone else had to EARN it first.

    Eventually, the system will run out of other people's money.

    • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @02:29PM (#51512779)

      I have some savings that earn approx 7% interest per year. You can argue the interest payments are the premium I'm paid for the risk of default, or perhaps that they represent the opportunity cost of spending the money, but it's pretty hard for me to understand how I'm "earning" them in any sense that relates to actual work. I could go into cryogenic suspension and the money would still roll in.

      I'd wager that most rich people aren't really rich from earnings; they're rich from renting out their capital.

  • by mileshigh ( 963980 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @02:24PM (#51512695)

    Most people need externally-imposed structure, even though they hate it. Otherwise, it's too easy to put things off until "later." Case in point: statistics inform me, dear reader, that you're probably 10+ pounds over your ideal weight. As a /. reader, you probably consider yourself to be above-average motivated, etc, but I'll bet you're (still) planning to get rid of the weight, and how's that working out? Now, if you suddenly couldn't get any kind of sex whenever you're 3+ lbs. over your ideal weight, how long would it take you to get and stay skinny?

    For many people, financial need is what gives them that sense of urgency. Some may view having a "crappy" job like working as a waiter as human bondage that should be automated, but they're ignoring the fact that said job is what gets that person up in the morning and gives their life structure. Otherwise, it's just too easy to smoke a joint and think about what you'd like to do today... but probably won't get around to doing.

    I grew up with a lot of kids with rich-kid allowances. Not huge amounts of money, but typically in that annual $30 - 60K range that's being proposed for a UBI. In about half the cases they've wasted their potential. In other words, they're middle-aged fuck-ups still sucking on the parental teat, and their well-meaning parents can't bring themselves to cut them off.

    And guess what? They mostly spend their days pleasantly high or buzzed. Based on this (not conjecture), my experience is that giving many people an allowance gives them one less reason to stay off drink and drugs.

Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

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