A Way to End Poverty?

 

 Imagine a world where poverty did not exist where all citizens were entitled to food, clothing, and decent shelter. If all the basic necessities were guaranteed to be met, imagine the relief to those who are out of work, or those currently functioning at or below the poverty line. Is this a utopian dream?

 

For Canada and many other nations I believe this dream is actually very achievable. If a guaranteed basic income was established in one quick brush stroke we will have eliminated the need for many social services. EI, welfare, even affordable housing would no longer be necessary.  Every adult would be guaranteed an income level above the poverty line.  This would end poverty by providing a basic level of income that would meet everyone’s basic needs. I know it sounds radical but really is more practical than it sounds. 

 

In various pubs around Ottawa, where I have been promoting guaranteed basic income (GBI) I have found people generally in favour of the idea but they have a few concerns

 

Here are the two most common issues I have encountered so far:

  1. The system is too easily exploitable and a certain segment of the population will simply stay at home, drink beer, and watch tv.

 

       2. If everyone was guaranteed an income, than who would do those jobs that few desire such as garbage collection, working at fast food chains etc. etc.

 

I would argue that there is always a certain segment of the population who will abuse any system. This is a problem with people rather than systems and while it can be mediated it can never be avoided.  Examples of people abusing the current system can easily be found.  A few bad apples are unavoidable. Under GBI, however, I would suspect there would be less of this as people would be more open to contribute to society in a manner of their own choosing.  Rather than being forced into a particular industry (fast food for example), which they have no desire to be a part of and receive little financial compensation for.  When you limit people’s options you encourage abuse.

 

As to the second concern, in a free market system companies always have to create incentives to attract employees. It is a simple case of supply and demand. It, therefore, makes sense that people performing the unwanted jobs in society should make higher (possibly even the highest) salaries or be compensated in other ways.  In other words, market forces would come into play and these jobs would either be higher paying or automated.

 

GBI may be the signal most important idea for social improvement that has ever been contemplated. If implemented poverty would disappear with one quick stroke of the policy pen. Canada, or any other nation that implements it, would be a utopia. We deserve this.

Any thoughts? Or  other concerns that need to be addressed?

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5 responses to “A Way to End Poverty?

  1. Paper Bag Princess

    Absolutely agree. I read a study that argues that this is an achievable goal (financially) for most countries, even developing ones.

    I think I see it operating a bit differently than you do though. No one to work fast food wouldn’t really be an issue, because anyone who wanted to top up their basic income (which when all is said and done is still basic) would do so, and for better or worse the same rules would still apply (more education = better job). I don’t understand the abuse objection – if someone wants to scrape by and sit home drinking beer, let them. People who want to do more (or who simply want more money/goods) will, and as you suggest, have the freedom to do so. I see this as a safety net that would operate as a layer on top of what we already have…so, I think it would not quite be the utopia you envision Wayne. But I absolutely agree it would be one of the most powerful things we could do to help eliminate poverty. [Not eradicate it though.]

  2. Thanks for your insightful comment. You’re right this probably would not completely eradicate poverty;however, it is a big step in that direction.
    Maybe Utopia was too strong. How about “Paradise on Earth?” 🙂

  3. Paper Bag Princess

    hee hee, I must be easy to please; paradise for me = 3 day weekend. (: But yes, I believe there will always be people who are poor – if only because they self-sabotage or have substance abuse problems.

    You know, I think the people who fear ‘abuse’ of the system kind of miss the point of a universalist guaranteed income scheme. If a basic income is guaranteed, it means you get a basic income just because you do. You aren’t obligated to work for it.

  4. Also, because the income is at a low level most of the income will flow directly back into the community. Food, shelter, clothing will be bought locally and the community and businesses within will benefit. (I should credit Sterling with reminding of this fact actually).

    Four day weekend for gov’t employees 🙂

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