Universal basic income (UBI) is an economic model for providing all residents of a country or other geographic area with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status.

The core purpose of the UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens, and has seen growing interest in recent years as machine automation is regarded a likely source of high unemployment in the near future.

UBI is also known simply as basic income. According to the advocacy group Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), the essential principle behind basic income is the idea that all citizens are entitled to a livable income, whether or not they contribute to production and despite the particular circumstances into which they are born.

BIEN lists the following five defining characteristics of basic income:

  1. Periodic: Distributed in regular payments,
  2. Cash payment: Distributed as funds rather than, for example, vouchers for goods or services.
  3. Individual: Each citizen (or adult citizen) receives the payment, rather than each household.
  4. Universal: All citizens receive the payment.
  5. Unconditional: Recipients are not required to demonstrate need or willingness to work.

UBI has advocates across the political spectrum, as well as being supported by economists from both the left and the right.

We paraphrase this statement from Martin Luther King Jr in 1967…

“The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty… It seems to me that the Civil Rights movement must now begin to organize for the guaranteed annual income”

Thomas More introduced the concept of guaranteed income in his 1516 book, Utopia. Since then, proponents have included Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Bertrand Russell, Franklin Roosevelt, Pete Drucker, Margaret Mead, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Martin Luther King Jr., Marshall McLuhan, Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Chris Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg – among many others.

Recently, UBI has been in the news as one way proposed to support a workforce displaced by automation. Musk, Zuckerberg and many others believe that robots and AI-enhanced software may replace most human labor in a not-too-distant future scenario sometimes called the robot economy.

Help us make UBI happen in Leeds

Get involved

Contact our chair, Reinhard, on r.huss@posteo.net!