Now, I don't know much about this petition, or the likeliness of it ever going anywhere. I actually don't know any more about this than what is explained in this video.
But even if this never gets off the ground, it makes a valuable thought experiment. Should "income" be a right? Are we entitled to a particular level of spending power? Why or why not?
Watch this video. My comments are below.
Ok, here's my immediate thoughts...
In a way, govts already do do this. By guaranteeing their citizens 12 years of education, a fixed price for stamps, 24/7 police/fire/emergency medical services, a public defender per indigent defendant, etc., govts guarantee us a minimum standard of living.
You might not think of that as "income" per se. But, presumably, the guaranteed level of income mentioned in the video is intended for buying exactly these kinds of essentials - the petition-starters probably aren't looking to guarantee you an income so you can buy collectable plates, you know?
You might think "Hey, at least the video's system is a simple and direct," right? Instead of trying to build institutions/infrastructure for govts to deliver healthcare, legal services and the like, why not just redirect that public spending money into people's pockets, and let the markets sort everything out? I guess that's part of the scheme's appeal.
When the video narrator says "transfers for social services" would be used to pay for this (appx 1:53), that's fancy talk for "scrapping some programs and just giving out the money we would have spent on them anyway."
Here's the problem with that: not all markets function well when left to their own devises. Health insurance, utilities, used cars to mention a few. (In fact, when I did my Econ Masters, we had a required class just on market failures).
There are some markets that function best when NOT run by a private firm. The guy in the video proposes paying for the scheme by giving out cash repurposed from dropped govt programs. Some of these dropped programs undoubtedly would have been more economically efficient than the alternative market solutions.
WHATS MORE: how do you handle someone with an unstable income? Lets say you live in a nation that guarantees incomes of $20,000. You're an artist whose income is based entirely on how many pieces you manage to sell. Some years are better than others.
Will you need a govt supplement this year? Will you not? If I make less than $20,000, will they pay me for my missed income at the end of the year, after I've already gone passed due on my bills and rent? Or will they give me my $20,000 on Jan. 1, and expect me to return what I may have been overpaid? Either way, it sounds tricky to administer.
What I'm saying is - I like what they're getting at, and I get the appeal. But once you get into the details, I'm less convinced.
But I want to know what you think, Economystified reader! Thoughts, opinions, comments on the video? Should income be a basic right? Share your ideas in the comments below, we all want to hear them!