We reached out to you for your questions on basic income and you wrote in with many excellent ones. In this Q&A, Owen and Jim discuss whether basic income would be taxable, how a UBI could affect wages and employee bargaining power, and whether basic income could eventually lead to systemic change in other realms. Reach out on Facebook and Twitter if you have more questions about universal basic income.
Tag Archives: basic income podcast
Expanding Social Security & Other Programs into a Basic Income
Recently an article in Fast Company proposed reaching a basic income by expanding social security. Owen and Jim dive into the pros and cons of that approach for social security, the earned income tax credit (EITC), child tax credit and carbon dividend. Each has advantages to offer and issues to overcome on the policies themselves and the political narratives behind them.
Technological Economic Cycles, feat. Carlota Perez
While in many ways it feels like we live in unprecedented economic times, through another lens we have been here before. Dr. Carlota Perez charts economic cycles around technological breakthroughs, and she provides needed clarity on our current economic moment. In this episode, she discusses where we are in today’s economy, how we could proceed forward in a productive way, and the stakes in getting this moment right.
Should Government Programs be Universal or Targeted?
One of the most common questions we get about basic income is, “why should it be universal?” Or put another way, “what’s the point of giving Bill Gates $1000 a month?” In this episode, Jim and Owen dive into the debate and break down the benefits and drawbacks of universal and targeted programs, and whether a hybrid approach would be possible.
The Great Risk Shift, feat. Jacob Hacker
Since LBJ’s Great Society programs revamped America’s social safety net, the average American has steadily taken on more and more risk, both through increasing costs of healthcare and education, and the growing precarity of employment, due to globalization, automation and contract work, among other factors. Jacob Hacker, professor of Political Science at Yale, has detailed this growing burden in his book The Great Risk Shift, the second volume of which was just released. Hacker joined the podcast to discuss this major trend in the economy and how a basic income could change the equation.
The second edition of the Great Risk Shift may be purchased here: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-great-risk-shift-9780190844141?cc=us&lang=en&
The Bills in Congress that Would Create New Cash Policies
Recently, a variety of basic income-esque legislation has been introduced at the federal level. Bills from Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Ro Khanna, Sherrod Brown and others provide cash dividends in some form. Some focus on working people, others on children and one bill would fight climate change and poverty through a carbon dividend. Owen and Jim break down each and discuss if basic income could (and should) happen through a piecemeal approach.
Unpacking the Data Dividend Concept, feat. Chris Benner
Recently the idea of a “data dividend” has received renewed attention, due to interest from California Governor Gavin Newsom. The idea that people are entitled to a cut of the profits from the data they are producing from their online activity, and even location data that companies are collecting holds some intuitive appeal. But how would this work, and is it a feasible policy? Chris Benner, author and professor in the UC Santa Cruz Sociology Department, joins the podcast to help elucidate the data dividend idea.
Is Italy’s Citizen’s Income a Step in the Right Direction?
Italy’s Five-Star Movement rose to power campaigning on a host of proposals, chief among them a “citizen’s income,” a cash assistance program. While there are obvious thing to like about the program, there are problematic elements as well, including the inclusion criteria, and what recipients have to do to stay on the program. Owen and Jim break down the program and discuss whether or not the program should be seen as a step in the right direction.
How Would History Have Been Different If We’d Had a Basic Income?
In this discussion episode, Owen and Jim take on some of the major events of the last few decades, asking the question, how would things have been different if we’d had a basic income? The episode examines climate-related disasters, such as the recent fires in California, mass incarceration, and the election of Donald Trump. Examining concrete events in the past helps us consider how basic income might play out in the future.
Germany’s Sanktionsfrei Project, feat. Helena Steinhaus
In Germany, a group called Sanktionsfrei (“sanctions free”) is experimenting with a unique intervention into a public program. Germany’s unemployment benefit system, often referred to as Hartz IV, contains many punitive sanctions for missed filings, appointments and the like. Sanktionsfrei is randomly selecting 250 individuals receiving Hartz IV benefits and automatically reimbursing any fees they incur. While this is a financial help to some, the greater benefit may be the reduced mental strain of having to worry about meeting all of the requirements to get their full benefits. We spoke with Helena Steinhaus, one of the leaders of the Sanktionsfrei movement about this program and what they hope to accomplish.
Basic Income and the Disabled Community, feat. Annie Harper (rebroadcast)
How would a basic income impact the disabled community? We delved into this question with social anthropologist Annie Harper of the Program for Recovery and Community Health, Yale School of Medicine. Harper, who works with mentally disabled people, describes the hopes and concerns a basic income offers. This episode was originally broadcast in November 2017.
How Much Basic Income Would Really Cost, featuring Karl Widerquist (rebroadcast)
How much would a basic income in the United States actually cost? What are the most common mistakes people make when calculating a basic income? To answer these questions, we spoke with Karl Widerquist, who has been studying and writing about basic income for three decades. Widerquist recently published a “back of the envelope” calculation on basic income which produced some surprising results. This episode was originally broadcast in September 2017.
Rep. Chris Lee on Basic Income Legislation in Hawaii (Rebroadcast)
In 2017, Hawaii became the first state to pass legislation on universal basic income, declaring that everyone in the state deserves basic financial security. The bill’s author, Representative Chris Lee, joined the Basic Income Podcast to discuss the legislation and his views on basic income. This is a rebroadcast of an episode that aired in June 2017.
A Toolkit for Cities Interested in Basic Income, feat. Catherine Thomas
Much of the momentum around basic income is at the municipal level: Stockton’s trial will start soon, Chicago is creating a basic income task force, and a handful of other American cities are exploring basic income or other cash transfer programs. For many mayors and city council members, basic income is an unfamiliar concept. That’s why the Stanford Basic Income Lab created a toolkit for cities interested in basic income. This guide covers everything from past basic income research to managing expectations and media narratives. Catherine Thomas, a PhD Candidate in the Stanford Psychology Department and Graduate Fellow in the Stanford Basic Income Lab joined the podcast to discuss this exciting new resource.
How Dolly Parton Provided Wildfire Relief using Cash Transfers, feat. Dr. Stacia Martin-West
A recent example of the power of unconditional cash is the My People Fund, launched by the Dollywood Foundation in the wake of the 2016 Kentucky wildfires. This program provided people who had lost their homes with monthly cash support to help them recover. Dr. Stacia Martin-West from the University of Kentucky analyzed the impact of this program and joined the podcast to discuss what she found.
The Movement to Bring UBI to Chicago, feat. Ameya Pawar
News broke recently that the city of Chicago has formed a task force to examine the future of work and a potential basic income pilot program. Alderman Ameya Pawar joined the podcast to discuss the motivation behind this initiative, who will be on the task force, and its current status.
The Benefits, Promise, and Drawbacks of Basic Income Pilots
Basic income pilots are ongoing or starting soon in Finland, Ontario, Stockton, Jacksonville, East Africa, and two other U.S. states to be announced. These represent some of the most exciting developments in the basic income space, but it’s worth taking a step back to think about why we invest the considerable time, energy, and money it takes to run a pilot. In this discussion episode, Owen and Jim delve into what pilots have meant so far to the basic income discussion, and where they might take us in the future.
Designing an American Social Wealth Fund, feat. Matt Bruenig
One of the leading ideas on how to implement a basic income is a social wealth fund, similar to Alaska’s Permanent Fund, in which a government maintains a fund of various assets and provides dividends to everyone who lives within its borders. Matt Bruenig, President of the People’s Policy Project, recently designed a detailed proposal for implementing a social wealth fund in the US that would be financially and politically stable. He spoke with Jim about how he crafted this design and how he plans to advance it.
Owen: Hello, and welcome to the Basic Income Podcast. I’m Owen Poindexter.
Jim: And I’m Jim Pugh.
Owen: One of the leading ideas in the basic income space right now is a social wealth fund similar to what’s going on in Alaska, where they take state revenue mostly from their oil funds and provide a universal dividend to every person there.
Jim: This idea has been taken and built upon and looking at whether potentially it could be replicated both in other states and also potentially ultimately at the national level where we could actually have this big fund that’s paying out these universal dividends to everyone in the country that might, at some point, actually start to approach a full universal basic income.
Owen: One of the big thinkers on this topic is Matt Bruenig. He is the founder of the People’s Policy Project. He recently published a very detailed expansive proposal for a social wealth fund for the entire United States. Jim got to sit down with Matt Bruenig and discuss his proposal.
Jim: Matt, thank you so much for joining us on the program.
Matt: Thanks for having me.
Jim: Now, in late 2017, you wrote a piece in The New York Times about a specific model for financing a universal dividend program, which you dubbed a social wealth fund. We’ve actually talked a few times about social wealth funds on the podcast in the past, but just to make sure that everyone is up to speed, can you generally explain what a social wealth fund is and how it works?
Matt: Yes. In its broadest definition, a social wealth fund is a collective pool of generally financial assets that is owned by the government, and the return on those assets is used for social welfare purposes. In my specific version of a social wealth fund, the government creates a new fund, gives every person in the country one share of ownership in the fund, then it fills the fund up with assets. As those assets generate a return, that return is then paid out to the owners of the fund, which again, is everyone in America who would own one share of the fund. That’s the basic model for my particular implementation of the general idea.
Jim: On that note, you released a quite extensive and specific proposal last month for the creation of an American social wealth fund, which you dubbed the American Solidarity Fund. Can you tell us more about what specifically is in that proposal?
Matt: Yes. It is, like I said, in broad strokes, the government will create a new fund, I call it the American Solidarity Fund. It will also create a new management company, which will be a government corporation. That management company will be charged with running the fund, basically investing it just like any asset manager does in the private sector. Every American would be given one share of ownership in the fund. Every year, they would receive a dividend based on the returns on that fund.
The biggest, I guess, question mark that the paper tries to answer is, how do you get assets into the fund in the first place? We know how to basically run a fund. It’s just like a pension fund or a mutual fund, it’s not a complicated thing. We know how to pay out dividends to people. That happens again, in the financial industry all the time. It also happens that the government sends out checks to people quite regularly, whether Social Security or similar, but the big question is, how do you get money into the fund? How do we get assets building this fund?
The paper proposes a number of approaches to that. One is leveraged purchases, meaning that the government will basically borrow money and then use the money to buy assets and since the interest rate on government debt is lower than the rate of return that you generally get by investing in the stock market or similar, they could take advantage of that spread and make money.
Another approach is called monetary seniorage. The basic idea is right now, when the Federal Reserve wants to increase the money supply, what it does is it creates new money, and it goes out and buys treasury bonds. Instead of buying treasury bonds, it could go out and buy any sort of asset including stocks, bonds, real estate. In fact, the Bank of Japan has been doing this with their central bank for the last 10 years or so.
Finally, taxes, good old fashioned taxes. I have all sorts of taxes. Taxes on initial public offerings when a company goes public, taxes on mergers and acquisitions, taxes on fund management, financial transactions taxes, et cetera, et cetera. Basically, targeted taxes on the wealthy, the revenues which could go to fill up this fund then create assets that we all own an equal share of.
Jim: Now, you used the Alaska Permanent Fund as a general model for the American Solidarity Fund. Revenue there comes specifically from oil in the state, but as far as, once the fund’s in place, they invest that, people get the dividend, very similar model.
But one potential distinction between the two is how fund investments might be used to influence corporate behavior. The Alaska Permanent Fund is completely passive. The shareholder voting rights conferred by their investments are not used at all. But for the American Solidarity Fund, you suggest that those voting rights could potentially be used to exercise public influence, either by representative voting or more directly by some manner of popular proxy voting. What motivated you to include that design component in your proposal?
Matt: You’re right. I believe that Alaska doesn’t take a very activist stance with its holdings, I’m not sure if it ever votes on shares, or if it ever has negotiations with company directors, but the Norwegian Fund or funds that I covered in the paper, they take the opposite approach. The Government Pension Fund Global, which is their big $1 trillion wealth fund, they vote on almost all the shareholder votes. They have thousands of meetings a years with company directors, trying to influence company behavior so I adopted that model.
As to why, my goal in this is not just to reduce wealth inequality, is not just to reduce income inequality through the basic dividend, but also to socialize control of companies to some degree. If this fund doesn’t vote its shares, then you have to ask yourself, “Well, what shares are going to be voted,” and the shares that are going to be voted are whichever ones are still held by private owners. Realistically, the private owners of financial assets and especially shares, those private owners are very affluent people. I’m trying to counteract their influence over our economy and make it to where we have more social control over the economy, in addition to leveling out wealth inequality and leveling out income inequality.
Jim: Something you just touched on, which is I would say fairly unusual about your proposal, is that you are aiming to tackle wealth inequality, not just income inequality. In my experience, people’s understanding of wealth inequality, and how that differs from income inequality is often quite limited, even amongst those who work on these sorts of issues. I realize this could probably take an entire episode in itself, but can you briefly talk about that distinction, why it matters, and what implications it has for policy design?
Matt: Yes. I think you’re right that oftentimes, actually, you’ll find people use the word wealth and income interchangeably or they’ll use rich and wealthy interchangeably, even though these are somewhat different concepts. In broad strokes, wealth is what’s in your bank account, if you will, and income is what’s in your paycheck. Or another way to put it as wealth is the stock of things you own and income is the flow of money that you get on a periodic basis.
The importance of wealth inequality, there’s so many things that are important about it, but broadly speaking, wealth equates to power in the economy. Whenever people are appointing boards of directors on companies, the way that works is the shareholders get to do that. Well, who owns shares in US companies? If you look at Federal Reserve Surveys, they show that around 90% of company shares are owned by the top 10% of Americans.
This is a huge layer of basically societal management that’s occurring at the corporate board level. We have thousands of companies and tens of thousands of board members, and they’re managing production on a day to day basis. Who appoints those managers? The really relatively small slice of the public, the wealthiest people in the country.
If you have a more egalitarian mindset, you got to be focused not just on making sure people have enough money to buy basic necessities and food and housing, but also, you want to try to shift power in the economy so that the direction of the economy is not being governed by a small slice of people. For that, you also have to make sure wealth gets spread out, and so the social wealth fund is my approach at doing that.
Jim: Unlike most other proposals that aim towards some universal basic income, which is what you see this could potentially reach if enough wealth were moved into the fund, when the income is taking the form of dividends from a collectively owned asset pool, you have more potential to instill a sense of ownership amongst people than if it’s just a regular transfer. I know that’s something that was important in your proposal — can you say what role you see that playing if this policy is enacted?
Matt: Yes. One of the things that you have to think about when designing any kind of program in a democratic country is the recognition that at some future point, the government is going to be controlled by the other side. Whatever side you happen to be on, it’s going to be controlled by the other side. You have to design programs that are going to be sticky or resilient in the face of government that maybe does not like them.
Social Security is a good example of that. Republican thought leaders and the think tanks, they often write very negatively about Social Security, but you notice when they get in power, they don’t ever seem to do a whole lot about it. The dividend structure and the wealth fund structure is designed with that in mind because the idea is if you give people a share of this fund, if you say, “Look, you own one share of the American solidarity fund” and in the paper we even marked up an app where you can see your share, and you can watch it grow over time, just like you might check your 401(k) or whatever.
If you get it in their hands and impress upon them that this is your wealth, you own it, then I think it becomes a lot harder for someone to come around and take it from them because then at that point, it feels like you’re being stolen from. Like a cut in a basic income that’s more conventional basic income policy, it’s just like, “Well, that’s a cut in benefits.” Or a cut in taxes, say, “Well, that’s just a cut in taxes,” But taking my dividend, taking my share of ownership, you are stealing from me or legitimately taking an asset from me that I own. I think that’s going to be a lot harder to pull off for politicians that care about public approval.
Jim: I’m curious, particularly in your choice of naming for the fund, calling it the Solidarity Fund. Is that a component you also see with the ownership aspect, that this is something that would make people feel like they’re more tied together with one another?
Matt: Yes. I chose the name for a number of reasons. There’s a French fund and tax that uses the word solidarity or the French equivalent of it. That was motivating, but also generally, the idea of solidarity is we’re all in this together, we’re all going to share. An injury to one is an injury to all. It’s trying to conjure up that notion, which is different if you want to go back to the French Revolution slogans of equality, fraternity, liberty. It conjures up that fraternal notion of like a collective enterprise that we’re all part of. As opposed to a more atomized understanding of an individual entitlement that is separate from a collective enterprise.
Jim: With the release of this proposal, not everyone has immediately loved it. You’ve had a few people who have raised concerns and critiques. What have been some of the most common pushbacks that you’ve gotten on the proposal? Are there some of them that you think have merit? If not, what are the ones you’re getting that don’t make sense, for whatever reason?
Matt: It’s a little hard to categorize all of them. I would say, a good critique that is in most of the criticisms or implied in most of the criticisms is that this is not the most important issue. The US, we still have 30 million people who don’t have health insurance, for instance. That’s a more pressing issue, if you will, than this. I would tend to agree with that. We have a lot of issues that are perhaps more important than getting a fund built, but I never said it’s the most important policy, I guess, would be my response to that.
It partially depends on how you understand the proposal. If you understand it as a more socialistic proposal because it does have its roots in market socialist thought, then if you’re anti-socialist, if you’re libertarian, if you don’t like the idea of having a big social owner who has power to some degree over the economy, then you don’t like it for that reason, of course, and you say, “Hey, why do we need to socialize the ownership of a bunch of wealth? Can’t we just use taxes and transfers and leave ownership in private hands as it already is?”
That’s just an ideological critique. We can agree to disagree on whether a private ownership is the best model for how wealth should be controlled in the economy. If you understand it as a kind of a market capitalist Frankenstein creature, if you will, and you’re very left wing, you might say, “This is a sellout. We need real socialism, and this is not real socialism.” I’ve certainly got my fair share of that online.
It is an interesting proposal in some ways because it does straddle the line. If you want to look at it a certain way, you can say, “Hey, this is advocating that wealth be socialized into a central fund that everyone owns. Isn’t that collective ownership of the means of production? Isn’t that what Marx is going on about?” You can also look and say, “Hey, this is just a mutual fund. This is just shares, this is just finance and financial assets. Isn’t that what capitalists and libertarians, isn’t that what they’re all about?” You can view it how you want to view it. I found people who have viewed it both ways and therefore it’s gotten attacks from the left and attacks from the right, based on this different way of looking at it, depending on how you twist your head.
Jim: I will just say, following the conversation online, I’ve seen both of those attacks as well. So now that this proposal is out there, what do you see as the next steps for how this policy can move forward?
Matt: Realistically, the way a think tank proposal makes waves is you get a politician to adopt it. We’re going to have a pretty new Congress coming up soon. It seems a lot of seats are going to change hands and a lot of new people are going to come in, especially Democrats. I don’t expect any Republicans are going to be interested in this proposal. Depending on the ambitiousness of some of them, and who’s looking for fresh ideas, fresh things to associate themselves with, maybe I can get one of them to pick it up and maybe I can get one of the existing politicians to pick it up.
That’s the basic move from this point. It’s been covered in a lot of media outlets, it’s out there in the policy wonk sphere such as it exists in DC, and the only step forward really is getting a politician behind it. I suppose the other alternative is some vast movement, but I don’t think I’m capable of leading something like that. That’s where I’m focused at this point is finding a friendly politician who wants to do something bold and seeing if they’ll adopt the ideas their own.
Jim: Well, Matt, those are all the questions that I had. Anything else you’d like to add?
Matt: Yes, I guess it’s worth mentioning if we didn’t cover it already that there’s a distinction between people who want to use basic income to replace the welfare state and people who see it as a supplement to the welfare state. I view a basic dividends in the second pot. The goal of the basic dividend is not to replace Social Security or public health care or things like that, it’s to compliment it.
That’s in part why I’m trying to get the money from capital income as opposed to trying to redirect existing tax income. I know that’s a big tension in this world and so this is more on that side. The UBI as supplement as opposed to UBI as replacement.
Owen: That was Jim Pugh and Matt Bruenig on the Basic Income Podcast. One thing I found fascinating about that was just in how much policy making you can do within revenue generation and the details of the fund itself. It’s not just come up with money from somewhere. You can really in some ways remake the country or a significant portion of it through how you collect that money and distribute it.
Jim: I think that’s absolutely true, and I think it’s an area that people have not actually spent nearly as much time as they should because, as you say, where money comes from — that can be as important as what you’re doing with it. When we talk about these ambitious new proposals that Bernie Sanders and other folks are throwing out there, the conversation is almost never on that.
There’s these few main buckets of, “We’ll take the money from rich people or from corporations.” Maybe that’s higher income taxes, maybe that’s higher corporate taxes, but there isn’t much thinking generally, at least that has made it up into the bigger conversation, about some of these more creative approaches for how we might fund the big things and also how we might tap into the massive wealth that’s out there.
Owen: I really like his concept of everyone having a share because it provides that sense of ownership. Just with the recent examples of Finland and Ontario both of– with Finland trial supposedly not going to continue past its current plan and Ontario may be canceled at some point soon. Both of those are just because a government that was not sympathetic to basic income came in. When he was started talking about how you have to plan for when a government that doesn’t like this plan takes power because that will inevitably happen, the fund itself or whatever it is has to be politically resilient enough. I liked how much thought he put into that.
Jim: I think that points to something, which often gets overlooked in policy conversations. Which is that when you’re designing a policy, you can’t just be thinking about the immediate economics. If you really want something that’s going to stand up in the modern political context, you need to be thinking about what are the politics of the day? How is this going to proceed? What is the psychology people are going to have as a result of this policy? Those are all really important factors if you’re going to actually be able to create something, A, that passes, and B, as you say, that doesn’t get torn away when something shifts with the political winds.
Owen: I just thought it was a good reminder because my general attitude has been like, “Well, once people are getting money that’s going to be incredibly popular,” but we saw in our episode with Bill Wielechowski in Alaska that he’s saying, “Yes, getting money is popular, but that fund is always under threat,” the Alaska Permanent Fund. Yes, the popularity of the program is what sustained it up until now, but it is something that you can’t just take for granted.
Jim: I also thought it was really important that Matt shared his views around how this is tackling wealth inequality beyond just income inequality and income insecurity. That is something that I think needs– I think there’s a lot of value in having that be part of the basic income conversation, to a large degree because a lot of the push-back that we’ve had around basic income from– at least from folks on the left, is that this isn’t actually tackling underlying dynamics with the way our economy works today.
If this is just papering over a lot of these underlying issues of who is making the decisions in our country, then the basic income alone may be treating symptoms and not actually the roots of it. Tackling something like wealth inequality may move us in that direction and may allow us to then build alliances with a lot more folks who are concerned about that.
Owen: I thought he made an excellent point that income and wealth are often used interchangeably when it’s really not true and that so much of the value, the money out there would be considered wealth instead of income. To address inequality itself, the actual inequality between people you do need to not just go after income but also go after wealth. I appreciated his proposal for that as well.
Jim: One last thing: I thought it was good towards the end of the conversation that this came up that Matt himself admits this isn’t supposed to solve all the problems. This is a policy that potentially could be pretty transformative, but on its own, it’s not going to make everything work and in fact, may not be the most high priority policy in this moment. Something like universal healthcare, you could very well argue that that is a more urgent thing to be pushing for in this moment, but that this could do a lot of good and that it could set us up in the future to be able to better figure out where we go from there.
I think that’s something so often in policy debates, we pigeonhole ourselves or our opposition with saying, “Does your policy do everything? No, all right, well, we shouldn’t talk about that let’s move on the next thing.” I think instead we should say, “Does this help people and does this position us to do more?” I think from that respects, I feel like the social wealth does have a ton of potential here.
Owen: Alright, that’ll do it for this episode of the Basic Income Podcast. Thank you to our producer, Erick Davidson. Please rate us, review us, and subscribe on the podcast service of your choice, and tell your friends. We’re always looking for more people to join in this conversation. See you next week.
An Update on the Basic Income Trials in Kenya, feat. Joe Huston
GiveDirectly has been doing some of the biggest, most groundbreaking work in basic income and cash transfers. One of the first episodes of this podcast featured GiveDirectly CFO Joe Huston, and we invited him back on to discuss their village-wide basic income trials in Kenya, their work with Ugandan refugees, a new project in Liberia and with hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico. Joe discusses the promises and challenges of working in these different contexts.
Owen: Hello, and welcome to the Basic Income Podcast. I’m Owen Poindexter.
Jim: And I’m Jim Pugh. Almost two years ago, in one of our early episodes, we talked to Joe Huston. He’s the CFO over at GiveDirectly. He was telling us about GiveDirectly’s basic income experiment that they were getting ready to launch in Kenya at that point. Given it’s been so long, we thought it would be good to catch up with Joe and see how things were progressing so far with the pilot.
Owen: I spoke to Joe Huston about how things are going and some of the new work that GiveDirectly is doing. Here’s my conversation with Joe Huston at GiveDirectly.
Alright, Joe Huston, thank you for joining us on the podcast.
Joe: Thank you, guys, for having me back.
Owen: This will be a review for some of our listeners, but could you just start by giving a quick overview of GiveDirectly’s Village Pilot Program and what stage it’s in right now?
Joe: Yes. GiveDirectly in general only ever does one thing. It delivers unconditional cash transfers. Then along the way, as we’re delivering those cash transfers, something we’re often doing is testing how they work. Do they work at all? Do particular structures for particular types of people work better or worse than other structures? We’re constantly experimenting with different types of cash transfers.
As we saw the debate and conversation about basic income grow a lot over the last two years, we saw it as an opportunity for us to test a universal basic income. When we talked two years ago, we were at the very beginning stages of fundraising for that project and sketching out how it could work from a study perspective and what sizes the cash transfers would be and things like that. Since then, about two years ago, so a few months after we talked, we kicked off the first one-village pilot. This was one village with about 100 adults, each receiving monthly cash payments of about US$ 20, with the promise that those will continue going out for 12 years.
We’ve now been able to follow these people over the course of about two years of those monthly payments. In tandem, we continue to fundraise and work on the research designed for the full study. Enrollment for that full study, which will be over 20,000 adult recipients in over 200 villages, kicked off at the end of last year and wrapped up at the beginning of this year. We should have the first round of follow-up results something like early to mid next year, following up with people after a year of cash payments.
Owen: Great, generally, are things going as planned? Have you had to modify things as they go along or you’re pretty much sticking to the original design?
Joe: From a design perspective, things have largely gone as planned. One design question we got to test with the pilot was whether or not individually targeted payments would be seen as threatening to households. That was probably my biggest, almost operational implementation worry, that it would be seen as trying to pay each individual adult versus paying households or families as a group would be seen as like GiveDirectly is trying to shake up family structures or empower one person over another in a couple.
That was interesting to see it play out in the pilot: when we asked people if that was okay, their answer was that it was better, that it was nice, that people got to receive and spend their own money on the priorities they thought were most important. That it was helpful for family relations and things like that. That was a positive thing out of the pilot.
The main operational hiccup we saw was for the full study, because it’s fairly large, 20,000 people, more than 200 villages, 100 extra included as control group villages, we didn’t want to overlap with the Kenya national elections, which were scheduled for August last year. Basically, we didn’t want to get caught up in the campaigning period and confuse people about what we were doing and what the money was for and some things like that. We stopped a few months short of that August round of elections. Then they ended up having to redo the elections a few months later, so we had to pause our work for about five or six months or so.
That was the biggest operational hiccup which delayed us a bit. Otherwise, things are mostly proceeding as planned.
Owen: Gotcha. You mentioned the finding around couples that they don’t find this threatening to their family. Are there other findings you can share, either anecdotally or from the data you’re collecting?
Joe: Yes. I should caveat that most of what we’re learning so far is anecdotal. The full study, because of how it’s structured in terms of its sample size and that it has a control group, will be able to provide the most rigorous answers on all the questions we care about about a UBI. But from the pilot, it has been interesting to see a handful of things. Another question I was curious about which relates to comparing a UBI versus a negative income tax or other more targeted approaches to welfare cash systems, was how people would perceive a universal basic income.
This is a village where in absolute terms, on average people are very, very poor. But there’s still a decent amount of income inequality. The richest person has a greenhouse, and the poorest person has a family in one room with a house that’s falling over, to give you a sense that there’s still pretty meaningful ranges of wealth and income. We asked people whether it seemed fair that everyone was receiving the same amount regardless of need, that GiveDirectly wasn’t doing any attempt to try to suss out need.
The reaction from people was pretty interesting, that they thought it was better that GiveDirectly not meddle and try to pick winners and losers, that that was fair or more likely to be correct in their eyes, and also better for community relations. That was funny, and interesting to see and relevant for the broader conversations with the UBI.
Related to that, another thing I’ve seen is conversations about the payments and how different people are using them and how people can pull them together are just immediately a little bit less awkward than in programs where GiveDirectly, for whatever reason, has targeted specific individuals within a community. There’s this dynamic that everyone knows that everyone is receiving, and so it’s a lot easier to talk about the issue.
We’ve seen people do things like form savings groups, as an example, where you can imagine writing down a ledger where every month people contribute some portion of their transfer that they’re getting from GiveDirectly. Then every month, one person gets a big payout equal to the sum of all those portions of transfers. It’s a way to turn stream payments into lump sums, so it’s a way of savings. We saw those crop up basically instantly after announcing the program. I wonder how fast that would have developed if we had gone with a more targeted or means tested approach.
Owen: That gets into something I wanted to ask you about, which is if you’re seeing these village-wide effects or synergistic effects of everyone getting it and whether that’s on the economy of the entire village or group projects like the one you’ve described. Are there any more you can share?
Joe: From what I’ve seen so far, it has been mostly those savings groups. Basically, every demographic within this village has created one. The more elderly women, the young people, and so there has been a lot of trust-based savings groups pop up. I haven’t seen as much pulling together in infrastructure or something like that, but that’s definitely something we’ll want to keep watching for both in the village and in the full study.
Owen: I know it’s a little early to say, but do you think this pilot program has affected the basic income conversation more broadly and/or the charitable giving world in a new way that your work hadn’t before?
Joe: I think for the basic income conversation, something we’ve been trying to do, and maybe you guys can tell us how we’re doing, is there aren’t that many people receiving a basic income. Both with the pilot recipients and with GiveDirectly’s other UBI recipients, we’ve been trying to amplify their voices, ask them, “Okay, there’s this academic debate about whether a basic income should be universal, what do you think?” Or, “Should we target individual adults or families? What do you think?” Or, “How are you spending that?”
So much of the debate is very philosophical or theoretical, and we’re in a unique position to give some of the only basic income recipients out there a microphone to ask them, what do you think about these different debates? When we’ve written about the pilot, that has been a big goal of ours, and you can also, on our website, on GDLive, filter for UBI recipients and just hear how they’re describing their priorities, spending, and things like that which I think is a pretty cool perspective to bring to a debate that otherwise feels like a broader political philosophy debate or something like that.
I think that has been good. The other push we’ve been doing which compliments that push is trying to frame the debate around the evidence, which has two prongs. The first one is so much of the questions and assertions about basic income apply to cash transfers broadly. People on the pessimists side are worried that people will stop working or start drinking or spend poorly. We actually have a remarkable amount of evidence on recipients of cash transfers. doing not those things and tons of randomized control trials from all over the world. That’s a largely tested question. It’s largely played out that people don’t end up doing those things people are worried about.
People also have a lot of hopes for a basic income, that the money could get spent on businesses or schooling or health expenditure or whatever it is. We have a lot of evidence on those things as well, testing different structures of cash with different types of outcomes. The first prong of what we’ve been trying to do is contextualize the debate about basic income in terms of what priors we should have, given everything we know about cash transfers broadly, which is there’s a pretty good bet here in terms of at least the household level affects of giving people cash. That leads to the second prong, which is what are we actually testing here? What is unknown about a basic income? Which is often a little bit different from the questions that dominate the conversation; spending on alcohol or whatever it is.
Owen: Yes, your website is a really fantastic resource, both for the evidence and also those anecdotes about how it’s affecting real lives. GiveDirectly is expanding their work in some interesting ways. I want to touch on a few of those. Can you tell us about the work you’re doing with Ugandan refugees?
Joe: Yes. What’s neat about cash transfers, which applies to basic income, but also broadly, is that it can help force a policy question which is, in general, we have a policy goal of helping a certain group of people and because we care about it, we’ve attached a budget to it. Maybe it’s $1 billion a year or something like that. Are our efforts better than what the people we’re trying to help could do if we just gave them the money instead?
We’ve done a few different versions of that in more development contexts. We worked in post-hurricane Texas and Puerto Rico, which tested in a different type of context. The context for how we help refugees is very, very similar, where a lot of our systems for helping refugees globally were set up post World War Two and were set up for refugee crises that were fairly different from the crises we deal with today.
Uganda, you may or may not know, has taken in a ton of refugees, more in total than all of Europe did last year, from places like South Sudan and the DRC. With these types of crises, people end up staying for a decade or more. These are very prolonged crises, and as a result, people are often starting their new lives in a refugee resettlement versus being somewhere temporarily before moving on.
Our model for helping those people is matched to a older, more acute crisis model. We’re very good at keeping people alive with shelter or food or things like that, but not as good at launching people, giving them the resources they need to make big investments in their new lives. Something we’ve been testing in Uganda is giving people large grants. $750 to $1,000, as usual letting them spending on whatever they want, and seeing how that plays out. We kicked off a pilot at the beginning of this year, with about a few thousand refugees in one settlement in Uganda. We’re gearing up for a larger experimental evaluation with more than 10,000 refugees testing the same basic model there.
Owen: Also, you mentioned Texas and Puerto Rico in their hurricane recovery efforts. This is a different context than you’re usually working in. Usually it’s with these very poor villages where $20 a month goes very far, whereas Texas, that’s not necessarily the case. Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to work there and any results you can share?
Joe: Yes. We chose to work in Texas and then in Puerto Rico once Maria hit, because one, you could see everywhere on TV and the news the devastation that the Hurricanes caused. What was encouraging was that a lot of people wanted to help. There was this groundswell of support and a pretty strong eagerness to try to help out, especially for Americans to help out fellow Americans.
Then what was interesting is that there was also a lot of frustration with the ways that those people had to help. This was a time when people were expressing a lot of frustration about the Red Cross. It felt like an opportunity to at least provide a proof of concept, that one model for helping these people is you could just send them cash and they could buy what they wanted. I think especially for the disaster-relief industry or context that’s helpful. When I went to Texas there were warehouses filling up with goods that were being sent to help people. Whether it was canned goods, or I saw industrial-sized bottles of lotion. Somebody had shipped a couch from Wyoming.
Our traditional model of helping these people is very much sending stuff and that might make a lot of sense in the initial 72 hours after a disaster, but after that, often stores are opening up, ATM machines are opening up and people have pretty varied needs. It’s a good opportunity just to provide a proof of concept there.
We ended up delivering debit cards to people in Texas and Puerto Rico of about $1,500. I think the results were interesting. You’re right that a dollar goes a lot less far in Texas or Puerto Rico. The role of that $1,500 I think was different than the role either of basic income or a lump sum grant plays in East Africa. What I saw it being was much more of a gap filler. That people had access to different types of support, whether it’s immediate support from the Red Cross or FEMA down the road or support from family members.
After all that support, there is often little things falling through the gaps. Whether it was somebody needed new clothes or they wanted to buy a washer-dryer or needed to get a head start on their home and so needed construction materials. That unconditional cash played a pretty good role because people could put it wherever they needed it. The main takeaway we saw from asking people about what they were spending on and things like that was, even with everyone experiencing the same crisis, how varied the spending patterns were across people, which I think demonstrates a lot of the value of cash, that it’s enabling that type of flexibility.
Owen: What was the public reaction to working in a more developed country?
Joe: One thing that was interesting was we have a lot of practice, and we talked about this last time, introducing ourselves to the communities where we’re working in East Africa. I think we weren’t exactly sure how we’d be received in East Texas or in Puerto Rico. It was funny to see how many of the same issues cropped up, that handing out cash is weird, and people think it is going to be a scam. You have to take the same type of tactics, whether it’s introducing yourself through the Mayor’s office or through the local church or whatever it is. With my operations hat on that was the most interesting thing to see was how much of the same communication introduction strategies and respect for the communities that we have practiced a lot in East Africa were required to get people to accept us in Texas and Puerto Rico as well.
Owen: Yes, so basically building community support and then working from there?
Joe: Right, and how universal the weirdness of cash is.
Owen: Lastly, I want to give you a chance to touch on the work you just started doing in Liberia, getting back to Africa. You just started working there. Anything you can share about the unique challenges there or what made you decide, what made GiveDirectly decide to start working in Liberia?
Joe: Yes, I’ll be intentionally a little bit vague here but in Liberia and in a couple other countries we’re entering this year, DRC and Malawi, we’ve been working with one of the larger government aid funders. For them what we’ve been implementing is a very literal application of that question I said cash can help pose earlier: that we have this budget, are we outperforming just letting the people who are trying to help spend it? As a result with this funder we designed, I think something like six or seven randomized control trials across Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, and DRC.
Testing different structures of cash with different populations and basically seeing in what areas are the programs we’ve chosen to invest in outperforming what the people can do themselves and in what areas are they not? Which is a pretty, I think, exciting use case for cash as a benchmark or tool for large aid funders. That’s what brought us to Liberia in the first place. Liberia I think is one of the more challenging payments environments we worked in. Weirdly maybe after the US because we benefit a lot from mobile money in the other places where we’ve worked. I think the initial challenges in Liberia have been us working through how it will make sense to pay people.
These are environments where many of the roads are impassable for large periods of the year because of the rainy season. While we’ve dealt with different types of remoteness in the past, this has been a more extreme challenge of that. I’m curious and excited to see how we experiment and test with different payment modes as part of delivering cash there.
Owen: Those are the questions I had for you. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Joe: I would give a plug for searching UBI on our website at GDLive and just seeing what basic income recipients are saying about their experience. That’s a pretty cool opportunity and it’s, frankly, also just fun.
Jim: That was Owen Poindexter talking to Joe Houston from GiveDirectly.
Owen: I always find it interesting, the logistics of cash transfers, and also the basic question of what are they good for? If anything, what are they not good for as a default in terms of aid and charitable giving? Does it beat other forms of helping people? I think by and large it does.
Jim: I feel like there has been solid evidence for a while now that cash in at least certain situations adds more value, no pun intended, than a lot of the traditional in-kind approaches to supporting a people.
One thing that I continue to be surprised by is that on one hand, it seems like, we’ve actually done a lot of experiments, now we’ve done these pilots, we have a good sense of what will happen. Yet every time someone does a new one, it seems like there’s still new insights that we gain. There’s still more about the space that we’re being able to understand as we continue with these pilots and with these experiments.
Owen: Yes. Along those lines, I always find that cash works even better than I think it’s going to. One example of that was the one that Joe gave about, will this affect social structures in the village? That was an issue in the US when they were doing trials in the ’70s. You think it could really threaten the social fabric if you give people a new level of independence. From what he said, everyone prefers it this way, that individual adults each get their cash transfer.
Jim: Yes. I thought the takeaways so far or at least the observations so far around universality were particularly interesting, because that is the thing here that is new. That if you look at the existing pilots to date, there has been almost no saturation studies. The fact that they are doing this universally at the village level, from the get-go, the idea was that’s going to help us to better understand and learn more about those effects.
Yes, like you said, I thought it was really, really interesting to see what the reactions on that were so far and that they’re– at least in the context of these Kenyan villages, people really seem to appreciate the universality. What can we extrapolate from that, as far as understanding how folks elsewhere might or might not perceive it the same way?
Owen: I’m hoping that all these questions that GiveDirectly is asking make their way more and more into the charitable aid world generally. The question he kept bringing up of, “Is cash an improvement on what else we might be doing for these people?” I think it takes a lot of keeping your ego in check. If you’re an organization that gives cows or mosquito nets or clothing or whatever it is, to ask yourself, would we be just better off giving people money?
Yes, in some cases, I’m sure there are cases where a mosquito net is more valuable than the cash it costs, but I think in a lot of cases people will have to ask themselves the question that’s threatening to the organization.
Jim: Right. It seems like that is a process that has been happening for a decade now. You’re starting to see some of these more traditional organizations gradually get more on board with that. The fact that the Red Cross is now using cash as part of its way of supporting people and families in struggling situations. We’re on a gradual curve of adoption, and there will probably still be resistance from some fronts for quite a while, but, hopefully, less and less over time.
Owen: That’ll do it for this episode of the Basic Income Podcast. Thank you to our producer, Erick Davidson. Please subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave us a rating and review if you can there or on the service of your choice. And please tell your friends so we can keep expanding this conversation. See you next week.
Racial Narratives and Basic Income, feat. Anne Price
The history of our social safety net, government benefits, and anti-poverty programs is inextricably tied to race. Racial narratives are embedded in the public discourse around these programs, and in many cases, into the laws themselves. The basic income discussion in the U.S. must inevitably include a conversation about race and racial narratives. Anne Price, who studies race and public policy as President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, joins the podcast to discuss these issues and how they relate to basic income.
Owen: Hello. Welcome to the Basic Income Podcast. I’m Owen Poindexter
Jim: And I’m Jim Pugh.
Owen: One crucial issue around the social safety net and how we’re approaching lifting people up and taking care of the most vulnerable disenfranchised people in our society is race and racial inequalities and inequities. In this episode, we delve into some of those and how basic income relates.
Jim: A big part of race is understanding what are the underlying narratives that are at play in our society that actually drive a lot of people’s views on things. To really delve into that, we invited on Anne Price, who’s the president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development to talk about her work and her view on these underlying narratives, race, and basic income itself. I had a chance to sit down with Anne and talk to her about all of this stuff.
Owen: Here’s Jim’s conversation with Anne Price.
Jim: To start with, could you just tell us about what work the Insight Center does?
Anne: Sure. The Insight Center has been around since 1969. We focus on uncovering the hidden truth around economic security through research, through advocacy. A lot of our work is really zooming in on racial and economic exclusion.
Jim: I know from many of our past conversations, a lot of your work focuses on narrative, cultural narrative. That’s something that often, when people talk about policy, just is not even part of the conversation. People think of that in a different bucket really. Can you say a bit more about what work you do on narrative and how that actually does tie in to policy and policy-making?
Anne: Yes. We’ve been focused on the issue of narratives for about six or seven years. We really got into this work because we began to understand that narrative undergirds policy decision making and enables us to think about how we build public will towards passing the policies that we think will make the most difference. A public narrative really helps bring people together. It reminds us a lot about what our shared values are. It helps us feel the emotion associated with the values and putting those values into action.
Jim: Now, let’s talk about race. When most people think about racism, they’re typically thinking about that happening at the individual level, actions that are showing explicit racial bias, but some of the most pernicious forms of racism today actually extend far beyond that and delve very much into the implicit side and motivations and actions that may not be on their face this traditional obvious sense people have of racism. That, I know connects very deeply to narratives. Can you talk about how those things tie together?
Anne: Sure. When we think about how we’re experiencing racism in this country today, of course, some of it seems to be very explicit. But a lot of what we’re actually seeing in terms of people’s truly lived experiences are embedded in our institutions, in the rules, practices, and cultural norms that define those policies and those institutions. While what we’re seeing on the public face is very explicit, what people experience is somewhat hidden in those rules. Those rules are shaped a great deal by narrative and how we come to think about people’s humanity, for example.
Most recently, in some remarks that were made about people on welfare as being animals, as being scoundrels, those types of narratives then lead to very punitive policies. It’s basically saying that people are not human, so, therefore, they’re not deserving. The narrative of deservedness really undergirds most of our economic policies.
Jim: How does that narrative you’re describing, how does that connect to people’s economic activity? How does it connect to work? How does it connect to participation in the economy?
Anne: I think it’s thread through everything that we do in our in our economy. It totally defines not only how people can move in the world and how, for example, people are seen when they go for a job interview, how they’re looked at in terms of the kinds of jobs they could hold, the kind of services that they received. Even how people start to see themselves once those narratives are repeated. When we think about what we’re experiencing today, it’s very deep seeded. These are narratives that aren’t new. They have been the narratives we’ve been dealing with since our very founding.
Jim: Something you just said, I thought stood out, which was it also affects the way people see themselves. I think often there’s this idea that racial biases is one group looking at the other. It sounds like what you’re saying is actually, no, people can be looking at their own community, and this can affect that perception as well.
Anne: Definitely. Some of the work that we’ve done all over the country in talking to people and working with people who receive services, for example. You start to hear those repeated narratives that really people have a great deal of shame when they have to get help with food stamps, for example. I’ve worked with folks who get child support who say, “I’m not a deadbeat.” That narrative about a deadbeat dad is really embedded in people’s psyche. These aren’t just things that shape policy, they shape how people see themselves.
Jim: Now, moving on to talk a bit more specifically about universal basic income. How does that intersect here? What is the interplay between these narratives that exist out here, how they exist today, how they might exist in the future? And how a policy like basic income compares to other current programs we have today in ways that we’ve approached support programs in the past.
Anne: Well, I think for one thing, when we think about our social safety net, which is to me the most perfect example about embedded narratives. We have really never had narratives in this country that actually respect people’s humanity and dignity, when they are down on their luck and in between jobs or are living in poverty. The issue of deservedness and what a UBI could do to disconnect deservedness from people’s ability to move freely in this country. I think I don’t see another policy doing it, what that policy could do in that space.
I think it could do a lot to help us think about the fact that dignity should have to be earned and could free people to be– have a more of a sense of agency and control over the decisions they need to make for their families.
Jim: Given that there seems to be more and more discussion and interest in basic income, as support grows and as we get closer to enacting some policy program there, I’m curious your thoughts as to what are the things that we need to be looking out for as that moves ahead. Thinking about the issues that have occurred, the problems that have arisen in past programs that many of them ostensibly aiming to support everyone, are there aspects of how universal basic income might be designed or how it might be advocated for that could lead us down an unproductive path?
Anne: Yes, I think a lot about this actually because when we think about a policy like UBI, which is oftentimes spoken as a universal program and is facially neutral, meaning that it shouldn’t have any implications around gender or race. We haven’t had any economic policies in this country that weren’t exclusionary in some form or fashion. Often times when we think about a policy like UBI, we tend to gravitate towards the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, but history tells us otherwise.
We can name policy after policy that with very good intentions the idea that, one, a facially neutral policy seems easier to pass. That we don’t have the political divides and debates, so it seems easier, and it also seems like it’s fair. But we know that the way in which our economy is structured and institutions are structured that that just isn’t the case, that everyone won’t benefit equally. We have to really come to grips with that and understand how do we then begin to build other types of support around other issues in addition to UBI.
Jim: I’m sure many folks are, but for those who aren’t as familiar with how some past programs have, while facially being neutral, have actually not been. Do you have some examples you can share?
Anne: Sure, I mean I think one of the examples that’s been used a lot is talking about the New Deal and even looking at the labor standards that came out of the New Deal, which of course for us seems like such a long time ago, seventy years ago. But we think about what Social Security has done, how important it was for our economy, for older adults. It’s an example of a policy that on its face was neutral, but there were aspects of it that were exclusionary, particularly around domestic workers and agricultural workers, and that excluded largely Blacks and Latinos.
What’s important about that is that that exclusion still exists today. It is not a relic of our past. Basically, those rights have never really been restored, and those same groups are still suffering from basic protections as a result. We’re grappling with historical policies that are still playing out in a way that’s causing unequal outcomes. When we think about another type of economic policy on top of the ones that we have in place now, we have to then begin to say how can we do this differently so that no one is left behind. It’s one of the real goals that we need to have in this work.
Jim: What do you feel like, looking from your perspective on it, is most needed right now in the basic income space?
Anne: I think that we need to really speak to values and a framework. I know that people come to UBI for various reasons. I do think that some of the framing that has been so focused on automation is really crowding out other types of frameworks. I think we have to be open to those other frameworks that are really looking at other types of issues. That we don’t have to think about automation alone in terms of what workers are facing today, in terms of scheduling and hours and contingent work around jobs that pay very low wages.
Those things are still very important to think about: how do we improve non-labor income in this country? What are the mechanisms that are going to help us get there? I think that we need a broader conversation than just the one that’s focused on automation.
Jim: Alright, well, those were all the questions I had. Anything else you’d like to add?
Anne: I think the only thing I’d like to add is the fact that we have an opportunity right now to really push for a bolder, bigger vision of what we want, the society we want to live in. I think speaking from those values is going to be really important for us to move along a policy like a UBI.
Owen: Alright, that was Jim Pugh and Anne Price on the Basic Income Podcast. I think the work that the Insight Center is doing is really important because so many people approach UBI from the automation angle. If we only think of it that way, we might end up only solving for the problems of automation. There are so many other things we need to be thinking about.
Jim: Right, we’ve talked about this before, but to do a redesign of the social contract in the US, we need to make sure that we understand all aspects of the social contract. Part of that is recognizing what is the right solution for changing the nature of work as we expect that may be happening. A lot of it is also looking back at the sometimes very painful lessons that have been learned by different communities and the discrimination that has been inate to the safety net, targeting communities of color is definitely a key area. So if we’re not starting with that when figuring out what we’re trying to build here, we’re probably going to repeat a lot of the issues that we’ve seen in the past.
Owen: Right. We have some pretty key examples from the past. I’d say namely the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Security for two. They’re both programs we hold up as shining examples of what cash can do, in lifting people up, in holding off poverty. They also have values that come from a white, male-centric universe embedded in them and those are the people that who were most helped by them.
Jim: Right. That’s why it’s important understanding the value that universality brings here. We see so many of these past instances, where there was some degree of exclusion that occurred, that was affecting these minority communities. If we have something that really goes to everyone that’s providing that extra layer of protection against the potential abuse and exclusion that might occur.
Beyond that I think something that’s important to recognize here is, when we’re talking about narratives, oftentimes, when people think about what’s needed to move basic income forward, their mind immediately goes to evidence. Saying that we need to do more pilots, more analyses in order to collect more evidence about what basic income will do. When we’re talking about narrative, an evidence-based argument is probably not going to get us very far. These are these deeply emotional, underlying beliefs that people have. Presenting a rational argument is not likely to change it.
That’s what we need to be thinking about as far as what’s actually required to move basic income forward. What are the things that are actually going to affect the culture? What’s the story-telling? What are the other ways that we might actually be able to shift this really fundamental worldview people have? It’s going to need to go far beyond just data.
Owen: Right. That’s why you hear so many politicians when they’re making a point, they’ll give you one person. They’ll tell you one person’s story. That sticks with you. Whereas, if you say, “Blah, blah program keeps X number of millions of people out of poverty.” That just goes in one ear and out the other. You might think for a moment, “Okay, sounds like a good program,” but you might not remember the name or what it does, but you’ll remember one person’s story.
Jim: Exactly. That’s not to say– oftentimes, having some powerful statistics to incorporate into a story can make it stronger, but you need a story if you’re going to be shifting those beliefs.
Owen: Alright. That will do it for this episode of the Basic Income Podcast. Thank you to our producer, Erick Davidson. Please subscribe on Apple Podcasts or the service of your choice, and tell your friends. Bring more people into the movement. We’ll see you next week.