UBI, defined

Why the pandemic has pushed the idea to the top of the policy agenda

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🌰 In a nutshell: UBI stands for Universal Basic Income.

📦 Unpack that a bit: As Annie Lowrey explains in her book Give People Money: “It is universal, in the sense that every resident of a given community or country receives it. It is basic, in that it is just enough to live on and not more. And it is income.” Or as Lowrey titles her book’s introduction: Wages for breathing.

👶 Tell a toddler: “You know how people work to get money to buy food? With a Universal Basic Income, everyone would get some of that money automatically from the government.”

👊Why UBI matters:

Thinkers of all stripes have supported the idea as a way to end poverty, help the middle class, reduce bureaucracy, and help society deal with the rise of automation — and now to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic. Though of course, there’s a difference between one-time cash infusions and an ongoing UBI.

📰 In the headlines:
• Pandemic Strengthens Case for Universal Basic Income — Washington Post
• Coronavirus Pandemic Proves We Need Universal Basic Income — Vice
• Spanish Government Aims to Roll Out Basic Income ‘Soon’ — Bloomberg News

💬 In a sentence:  Universal basic income is about giving people cash without question, and trusting that they know how to use it in the most effective way they can.” — Luke Martinelli, economist at the University of Bath, UK, quoted in Nature.

🔀 See also: Andrew Yang’s 2020 campaign for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination, in which he called for a $1000 monthly cheque to all Americans called The Freedom Dividend.