Shortlisted for the 2018 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award!
Surely just giving people money couldn't work. Or could it?
Imagine if every month the government deposited £1000 in your bank account, with no strings attached and nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy, but Universal Basic Income (UBI) has become one of the most influential policy ideas of our time, backed by thinkers on both the left and the right. The founder of Facebook, Obama's chief economist, governments from Canada to Finland are all seriously debating some form of UBI.
In this sparkling and provocative book, economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, and India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor. She visits South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in the face of advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labour. She also examines at the challenges the movement faces: contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing.
The UBI movement is not just an economic policy -- it also calls into question our deepest intuitions about what we owe each other and what activities we should reward and value as a society.
What would happen if everyone received $1,000 from the government each month, no strings attached? Lowrey, a contributing editor for Atlantic magazine, examines the promises and pitfalls of a universal basic income, or UBI, in this complex analysis. Considering examples such as Iran, which replaced subsidies for certain goods with a UBI in 2010, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, whose tribal members receive profit payouts on tribally owned casinos, Lowrey debunks the main critique leveled against UBI: that it would disincentivize work. Drawing on interviews with tech tycoons, development economists, and a diverse sample of the world's poor, she persuasively argues that UBI would actually stimulate higher levels of investment in small businesses, increase workers' bargaining power, and serve as a buffer against the technological advances that are likely to replace workers with robots. Lowrey is at her best discussing the potential role UBI could play in achieving development outcomes in places like Jharkhand, one of India's poorest states and a prime example of the inefficiency of traditional state-funded poverty alleviation programs. This book is a lively introduction to a seemingly quixotic concept that has attracted thinkers from John Stuart Mill to Martin Luther King Jr., and that continues to provoke.