In 2021, McKinsey Global issued a report predicting that 45 million Americans — one-quarter of the workforce — would lose their jobs to automation by 2030. The rapid rise of artificial intelligence has convinced many, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, that a regular money transfer from the government to all citizens regardless of their employment status is an urgent priority.
Proponents argue that UBI would help ensure that everyone maintains a level of autonomy and dignity in a world with less and less work. UBI would also pay for itself, they argue, by reducing the costs of chronic poverty which puts a burden on healthcare systems, prisons and eldely care in the long term. Most importantly UBI would avert full scale class warfare as the capital owners continue to grow richer and richer and everyone else loses out.
That’s the view of the UBI utopians. But many economists see it as a flawed idea. For a start the costs would be prohibitive.The International Labour Office (ILO) estimates that UBI would cost 20-30% of GDP to roll out in most countries. Money spent on cash payments could not be invested elsewhere such as education and healthcare. The more generous the payments and the wider the range of recipients the less money would be left to build the structures and systems that are needed to realise UBI’s progressive goals. There’s a reason UBI has attracted support from Silicon Valley tycoons – it’s because they are more interested in defending consumer capitalism than in tackling poverty and inequality.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Join the debate on January 26, ask your questions and make up your own mind.