2023 will mark ten years of my advocating hard for unconditional basic income. At this point, one of the things that annoys me most is the new claim from conspiracy-fueled people that the rich and powerful fully support UBI and want to use it to make a subservient population.
First of all, most obviously, UBI is unconditional. It's in the damn definition. If cash comes with strings attached, it's not UBI. So you can't make the argument that UBI will be conditional. That's like vegans deciding to argue against eating carrots, because carrots are made out of meat. Can you make a carrot out of meat? Well, I guess you could form some meat into a carrot shape, and color it orange, but that doesn't make it a carrot.
BASIC INCOME IS UNCONDITIONAL.
Might some people want to add strings to basic income to make it conditional? Yes, they will, but then it's no longer basic income and is just the way existing welfare programs work whose entire point is to get people to do some things and prevent them from doing other things. It's welfare that's a trap.
That's exactly why universality is also such a key strength of UBI. When a program is targeted, it becomes for "them." People don't tend to think that they themselves will ever become "them," because the world is just and they, unlike them, don't make poor decisions, so they support paternalistic conditions that control other people and limit others' freedom of choice.
Universal programs are different. When everyone is getting something, they protect that something because they don't want it to have paternalistic conditions that are meant to control them and limit their own freedom of choice.
Alaska has been a great example since 1982 of what happens in reality when cash is universally provided. Do politicians try to fuck around with it? Most don't, but some do. What happens to those that do? They get fired.
"By restricting the dividend payout, Governor Walker essentially ended his political career. The unrestricted payout of the dividend was the sacred cow in Alaska politics, and while Governor Walker did not kill it, he just milked it a little, but that was enough to cause a backlash."
This is the importance of democracy on display, and how the universality of UBI combines with its civic empowerment.
We observe the same with how Social Security works. Are there threats to it? Sure. But people fight for the program because they too expect it when they're old enough to start receiving it. People, especially Americans, will not accept a program that they themselves expect to get, to have behavior-controlling conditions attached.
Conspiracy theorists especially like to talk lately about vaccine mandates and how UBI will be used to force people to get vaccines or face losing their basic income, but one of the actions we witnessed during the pandemic is how Republican-controlled states passed laws that said unemployment income could not be withheld from vaccine refusers. This again supports the universality argument. Because people expected unemployment income themselves, they demanded their representatives oppose conditions they didn't like.
As long as everyone is getting basic income, and as long as people have the power to fire politicians and hire new ones, even if a government attempts to pervert UBI into something that isn't UBI, the people will respond at the ballot box. That's also why democracy and UBI go hand in hand. They strengthen each other.
But here's the thing that really gets me most about this argument that UBI is meant to enable the rich and powerful to control you: IF THAT WERE TRUE IT WOULDN'T BE TAKING ME OVER TEN YEARS TO HELP MAKE HAPPEN. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GODDAMN CAKE WALK TO PASS INTO LAW.
Like, holy shit, people... If UBI actually further empowered the rich and powerful, and further disempowered everyone else, do you honestly think it wouldn't happen immediately? Do you honestly think it wouldn't have happened decades ago? Does that make any sense at all??
One of the main reasons Nixon's guaranteed income plan for families didn't pass was because the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee stopped it from reaching the Senate floor, because he was concerned about who would press his shirts if they didn't need to out of desperation.
Does that sound like the real reason UBI doesn't exist already? YES. BECAUSE THAT'S THE FUCKING REASON. The rich already have you enslaved. The system is already designed so that you have to do what they want in order to "earn a living." It's in the goddamn phrase.
YOU NEED TO EARN YOUR LIFE?
Think harder about the way we use our language. Why is it normal to "earn a living" on the planet you were born on, in a man-made private property system that says the Earth belongs to other people and you have to pay to live here by working for them?
You think needing to work for natural resource owners in order to live is freedom?
You think being able to live for free is slavery?
Being a UBI advocate is exhausting. This is not easy. I don't know how much longer it will take until the first countries start implementing it, but believe me when I tell you this: When it happens, it'll be a hard-fought victory that many advocates never even lived to see.
Basic income is not some conspiracy of the rich to further empower THEM. It is a decades-long slowly growing movement to change the status quo by empowering ALL THE REST OF US.
As democracy gave power to the people versus kings, UBI will give power to the people versus billionaires.
That's why it's so goddamn hard and why it's taking so long and why I have no idea when it will finally be won. BUT IT WILL BE WON. IT WILL NOT BE GIFTED. The conspiratorial "they who pull all the strings" do not want you to have income as a human right. That would disempower them.
Your boss does not want you to have FUCK YOU MONEY. Corporations do not want you to have UNLIMITED STRIKE FUND MONEY. Governments do not want you to have GENERAL STRIKE MONEY.
It's not in the interests of those in power - who are in power because of the current system - to do any of these things.
THIS IS NOT EASY. Stop the nonsense that says it's so easy that it's actually a trap. The only reason we're even talking about UBI now as serious policy is because of everyone with a desire for change who slowly over the years has done what they could to push this forward.
We will get there someday. We will pass UBI into law. And when we do, it will be a massive victory for humanity. It will be a civilizational moment, like the invention of fire, or agriculture, or the printing press.
Such moments don't happen often.
THIS IS A FIGHT. JOIN US.
And if you really want to help, and you're still afraid UBI is a trap, then fight for the U in UBI being clearly spelled out within an amendment to the constitution. Demand that UBI actually be UBI. Accept nothing less than the real thing.
Do you want more content like this? Please click the subscribe button and also consider making a monthly pledge in support of my ongoing UBI advocacy.
UBI Guide Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.