FTP031: Scott Santens – What Happens When We Give People a Basic Income?

History of Basic Income Ideology

The idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) – a liveable amount of money given regularly and unconditionally to every resident of a country – is not new. Humanist philosophers More and Vives laid proposed the concept of giving people a minimum income back in the Renaissance era in the 1500s. Several other philosophers have contributed their ideas on the matter since then, from the republicans Condorcet (1794) and Paine (1796) to the utopian socialists Charlier (1848) and Mill (1849).

In the 20th century, the idea of raising the income floor gained more traction, and many prominent thinkers theorized how it could be implemented. People from all over the political spectrum have advocated for and supported the idea. Liberal, conservative, socialist, anarchist, libertarian, green, and other. Among them are nobel laureate Bertrand Russell, economist Milton Friedman, activist Martin Luther King Jr., economist Friedrich Hayek, and architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller. More recently, prominent basic income ideologists have been professor Guy Standing and economic trend analyst Jeremy Rifkin. Among the famous supporters of the idea are Paypal founder Peter Thiel, 2016 US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, entrepreneur and futurist Peter Diamandis, Y Combinator founder Sam Altman, and physicist Stephen Hawking.

Basic Income Experiments: Can It Work?

Since the 1960s, several experiments have been carried out to test whether universal basic income is a viable idea and to find out what the real-world effects might be. Several negative income tax pilot programs were conducted in Canada and United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The Alaska fund dividend is one of the longest running basic-income-like experiments and has been in place since 1982. More recent experiments with unconditional cash transfers have been carried out in India, Namibia, and Brazil since 2008.

Some of the recorded effects of giving people free money regularly have been very favourable. There was less crime, people’s health improved, people actually worked more and there was a significant rise of entrepreneurship (a staggering 300% increase in one experiment), there was less alcoholism, high school students stayed in school longer and were less likely to get pregnant. It’s difficult to know what the long term effects of giving people a basic income would be, and if the positive effects would persist. One charity called GiveDirectly is trying to get long-term data by giving people unconditional cash transfers for periods of 15 years or more.

In this podcast, writer and activist Scott Santens answers our questions about how universal basic income would work, what its benefits and downsides are, and how societies can implement it.

In This Episode of Future Thinkers Podcast:

  • What is Universal Basic Income?
  • The top 3 objections to basic income and their answers
  • Mitigating technological unemployment
  • Effects of real-world experiments
  • How we can afford basic income
  • Autonomy, mastery, purpose and Maslow’s hierarchy
  • Are there any recorded downsides?

Mentions and Resources:


Recommended Books:

More From Future Thinkers:


  1. Shane Solano 2 years ago

    So the people who work get to support the people who don’t work…fantastic!

    • Juliano Dimitrov 1 year ago

      Where do you think your tax money goes now?

  2. Shane Solano 2 years ago

    It boggles my mind at how casually people today talk about stealing other people’s labor, which is EXACTLY how a B.I. is funded…

  3. […] What Happens When We Give People a Basic Income? […]

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