As the editor of Basic Income Today and a moderator for the Basic Income subreddit, I read a lot of stuff every year about UBI, somewhere around 100 articles a month. Below, I've compiled a list of the top ten articles I consider my favorites out of everything published in 2023.
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10) Why Friedman's free market needs basic income by Joshua Preiss
The first choice on my list is one about Milton Friedman and his support for basic income being rooted in his support for free markets and individual liberty. He saw a government-funded income floor (in the form of a UBI or NIT) as a way to reduce poverty more efficiently and consistently with freedom compared to the current welfare state. He argued that this approach would reduce government bureaucracy and respect individual choices, enhancing both economic independence and dignity for the poor by meeting their basic needs without distorting the role that the price mechanism plays in efficiently allocating resources. Unlike vouchers for specific goods and benefits-in-kind, basic income leaves people free to choose how and what to spend the money on.
Joshua's article also touches on how a basic income floor aligns with principles of republicanism and provides the freedom to refuse unsatisfactory work, thereby supporting true market freedom.
I believe implementation of universal basic income will require growth in support for UBI among conservatives, so articles like this I feel are especially important.
Preiss ends his article with the following quote:
Friedman’s argument that economic freedom is necessary for political freedom – the foundation of Capitalism and Freedom - depends on the ability of a complex economy to provide citizens with a wide range of valuable alternatives to their present employer. NIT ensures that they always have one. Friedman’s endorsement of NIT is neither aberrative nor regrettable. It is essential to his case for free markets.
9) Will Basic Income Cause Rent to Increase? by Karl Widerquist
For as long as I've been in the basic income world (which I entered in 2013) the question of rent hikes in response to UBI has been a persistent top-three concern that has only increased post-pandemic in the face of how much more expensive housing has become. This piece by Karl addresses that concern.
He acknowledges that UBI might lead to increased rents, particularly in low-income areas where more residents would receive net benefits. However, he also points out that UBI could decrease rents in higher-income areas due to the tax increases required to fund the UBI. This could result in a more equitable housing market and reduce income-based segregation. He also emphasizes the need for tax reforms targeting wealthy landowners to prevent them from disproportionately benefiting from UBI and to ensure that UBI effectively aids the middle- and low-income population. He suggests that such reforms, alongside UBI, could make housing more affordable and equitable, and that perhaps the most important thing that we can do to create more affordable housing is to shift taxation from income and real estate to land value.
Widerquist ends his article with the following quote:
"Despite the underlying problems in the real estate market, and the likelihood that landlords will capture some the benefits of UBI, they won’t be able to capture all of the benefits. UBI will do a lot of good for middle- and low-income renters and homeowners even if it is not accompanied by another other reform. And, if we introduce real estate market reforms along with UBI, we can ensure that virtually all the benefits of UBI go to people rather than landlords."
8) One Way to Help Prevent Child Abuse? Give Parents Cash by Lindsey Rose Bullinger
Lindsey looked at patient data from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to identify cases of children being admitted to emergency departments for reasons attributed to child abuse and neglect and found that during the four days immediately after a child tax credit payment was issued in 2021 when it was enhanced and monthly, the number of child-abuse-related emergency room cases dipped by about 22 percent, from more than seven cases a day to around six. The dip was especially pronounced for boys and non-Hispanic White children.
She also found that unconditional payments of $1,000 to Alaskan families during the first year of a child’s life lead to a 10% reduction in child protective services cases, and that the reduction persists through the child’s first four years.
Anyone who says they care to "save the children" should care about articles like this, share them widely, and push for universal basic income to reduce child abuse.
7) A Basic Income for Everybody: Why the Musicians' Union Backs UBI by Neil Churchman
I firmly believe support for universal basic income needs to grow among labor unions, so I always appreciate a new union stepping up in support of it. In this case, it's not only a union, but it's a union of musicians, which also helps build the case for UBI being something all artists should support.
In short, the Musicians' Union advocates for UBI as a means to provide financial stability for musicians, especially in uncertain times when traditional income sources can be unreliable. They believe basic income would allow musicians to focus on their creative work without the stress of financial insecurity. Neil's article also emphasizes the positive impact UBI could have on the entire music industry.
The article ends with the following quote:
"Some form of Universal Basic Income would ensure that musicians are paid for every stage of the artistic process; ‘starving in a garret’ would no longer have to be part of the job. Basic pay would acknowledge and reward the currently under-recognized ‘research and development’ aspect of the music industry – the creativity, the writing and rehearsing that all lead to the finished product."
6) Artificial Intelligence Can’t Work Without Our Data by Barath Raghavan and Bruce Schneier
I've been making this case since ChatGPT was launched, so it was great to see others make the same case in Politico with some specific details like a compulsory licensing fee for large language models of $0.001 per word. All our data is what made foundational models possible. We all provided the data capital and we should all benefit from that capital as stockholders do. We should see UBI as our rightful dividend for the data we contributed to AI.
Their proposal in a nutshell quote from the article:
"Our proposal is simple, and harkens back to the Alaskan plan. When Big Tech companies produce output from generative AI that was trained on public data, they would pay a tiny licensing fee, by the word or pixel or relevant unit of data. Those fees would go into the AI Dividend fund. Every few months, the Commerce Department would send out the entirety of the fund, split equally, to every resident nationwide. That’s it."
5) The Evidence for Basic Income is Now Sufficient by Guy Standing
In this article, Guy articulates what I too feel. 2023 was the year of the opening of the floodgates of basic income pilot results, and result after results only affirms previous results. Enough is enough. The evidence is sufficient. We know basic income works. We don't need any more pilots. We need the collective will to do UBI for real.
I especially like this paragraph after he summarizes some newer findings:
"In short, if governments were genuine in saying they will apply ‘evidence-based policy’, we would have a basic income system already. But the political Canutes are holding back the waves. It is this that demands our campaigning attention now. Most politicians are not real leaders. They follow what they think is the public mood or what they think will improve their re-election chances. They are opportunistic rather than principled. This does not mean they are cowards, corrupt or amoral. But too many have spaghetti backbones, that is, weak moral abilities."
4) Every U.S. city testing free money programs by Chase DiBenedetto
First, I think Chase's article is the best list of all the US pilots, so it's a great article to bookmark. However, there are also other articles that I think are also important that I'm listing here because they each cover new results of various pilots. Each one represents the beginning of what I expect to see much more of in 2024.
Denver's basic income pilot results reveal how effective UBI would be for reducing homelessness. After six months, not a single person receiving $1,000 a month has reported still being on the streets.
Durham's basic income pilot results reveal how effective UBI would be in reducing recidivism by focusing on those recently released from incarceration. During the pilot's year-long duration providing $600 a month, 0% ended up back in prison, which is practically unheard of. According to the Federal Bureau of Justice, about 20% of criminals released return before the first year out of prison.
This article about the Wales basic income pilot shows how effective it is for foster youth exiting the foster care system by telling the story of Jasmine and how basic income "has changed everything" for her.
Finally, this article taking a fresh look at the canceled Ontario basic income pilot shows just how much of a difference it was making and how life-changing it was. For Kendal David, who worked on the newest report, "reading the volume of stories was impactful in a way that nothing else I have been involved with in basic income land ever has been."
I look forward in 2024 to many more articles like these, each sharing clearly successful empirical data and emotionally moving personal success stories.
3) It's one of the biggest experiments in fighting global poverty. Now the results are in by Nurith Aizenman
Possibly the biggest news in all of 2023 related to basic income pilot results came from Kenya with the publication of the first results of the ongoing 12-year pilot there by GiveDirectly. Seven years in, these results cover the first two years of the pilot and compare three different cohorts where people either got a UBI for two years, or twelve years, or received a lump sum equal to the 2-year cohort's total. To summarize the findings, here's what I posted on Twitter:
2) Why Does Everyone Feel So Insecure All the Time? by Astra Taylor
I loved how this article focused on insecurity as opposed to inequality or poverty. I don't think security is discussed enough compared to the other two, so it was great to see such an article as this one in the New York Times. I think Astra did a terrific job of highlighting this issue and how she separated manufactured insecurity from existential insecurity.
At no point does this article mention basic income, although she does mention "a baseline of material security", but anyone who sees the potential of UBI should recognize this article as a great argument for UBI. The way we work has been transformed, and is continuing to transform, into increasingly insecure forms of employment. UBI is a tool that can address this issue.
Universal basic income can help protect everyone in society from the "fear of falling" by creating a raised floor underneath which no one is allowed to fall.
"In the United States today, all it takes is a devastating enough crisis to reduce the once fortunate to a state of precarity or poverty: Business could suddenly drop; a job could be automated or offshored; the stock in a retirement account could crash; home values could plummet; a family member could be diagnosed with a serious illness (something that, in the United States, can eviscerate the economic security of a middle-class household overnight); a storm could wreak havoc; another, more deadly pandemic could hit. The writer Barbara Ehrenreich, in her 1989 study of the psychology of the middle class, dubbed the condition 'fear of falling.' But today, the middle feels more precarious than ever, and everyone is afraid of what lies below."
1) Mandatory Participation on Trial by Karl Widerquist
This essay is basically a short book, split into 18 different parts. All of it is a must-read, but everyone should at the very least read this first part. Bookmark this link. Share it frequently with others online. It destroys the notion that it is anywhere near okay for employment to be essentially mandatory, and that we should not instead have an economy of basic income and voluntary employment.
Widerquist's opening words alone should be sufficient for mass demand of UBI:
"Every time you take a breath, you use something you don’t own to meet your needs without asking anyone’s permission and without paying anyone for the privilege. Although you don’t own the atmosphere, you’ve never had to get a job to earn the money to buy the right to use the atmosphere to keep yourself alive. You simply breathe it in as if the free use of a common resource was the most natural thing in the world. I bet you’d be pretty angry if somebody made a rule dividing the atmosphere into private property without giving you a share large enough to keep you breathing."
I hope you find this list helpful and if you want to try to avoid missing any great articles about UBI in 2024, consider a daily visit to BasicIncomeToday.com and following @ScottSantens on Twitter (X), FB, Threads, Bluesky, and Mastodon.
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