It'll Take More Than "Free Money" To Reform Social Welfare

Let's not let the prospect of a little free money stop us from pursuing more progressive regulations and reforms.


A Universal Basic Income (UBI) will not fix everything—it’s not supposed to—it’s a start for some people and a boon for everyone. But don’t let the prospect of a little free money stop us from pursuing more progressive regulations and reforms.

UBI is meant to provide a floor—a standard—which no one can fall beneath. But giving people unconditional free money shouldn’t be the end of the conversation, says Ben Spies-Butcher, a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Masters of Policy and Applied Social Research in the Sociology Department at Macquarie University.

In his essay “Not Just a Basic Income” for the Green Institute, Spies-Butcher writes:

A basic income can potentially help break down the stigma and conditionality of many government payments, and improve work incentives and equity. However, where it is used to replace other components of social policy—whether through ‘buying out’ public services or reducing the ‘need’ for fair labour laws and job creation, it may instead serve to entrench the inequalities of a neoliberal world.”

UBI is about how we make society and our economy better, and it’s never just about giving people unconditional free money. It’s a small part of a larger conversation about how we fix many of the issues within our system.

Hugh Segal, a conservative and special advisor to the Canadian province of Ontario, which is leading a test on UBI, believes it could be the reform to our welfare system. He wants to know if a basic income could buy out healthcare and other forms of government spending -- something American conservatives would love to hear. But at its core the study is meant to “generate an evidence-base for policy development, without bias or pre-determined conclusion."

There’s already evidence to indicate the adoption of basic income could do wonders for our society on a number of levels. But it should not be the end.

Spies-Butcher and others believe it is not a shortcut to ending inequality in all areas of society. There’s talk of shortening the work week to assist in job growth and cutting down on “Bullsh*t jobs.” It’s important to remember that the most progressive movements have been in regulation. We must assure, in addition to a UBI, that people are earning a fair wage and working in good conditions.

“Looking to a UBI as a shortcut, to create consensus and avoid opposition, or to substitute for other struggles, will not deliver the kind of reform we want,” Spies-Butcher writes. “A UBI capable of doing everything would likely face even more political resistance than campaigns for public services or shorter hours. UBI is part of the answer, but only if it builds on a broader project for social change.”

3-things-economics-cant-solve


Why practicing empathy matters, and how VR can help

VR's coolest feature? Boosting compassion and empathy.

Videos
  • Virtual reality fills us with awe and adrenaline — and the technology is only at a crude stage, explains VR filmmaker Danfung Dennis. It's capable of inspiring something much greater in us: empathy.
  • With coming technological advancements in pixel display, haptics, and sound tracking, VR users will finally be able to know what it's like to really take another person's perspective. Empathy is inherent in humans (and other animal species), but just as it can be squashed, it must be practiced in order to develop.
  • "This ability to improve ourselves to become a more empathetic and compassionate society is what I hope we will use this technology for," Dennis says.
Keep reading Show less

Why being busy is a modern sickness

We have to practice doing nothing more often.

Photo: Shutterstock
Personal Growth
  • Constantly being busy is neurologically taxing and emotionally draining.
  • In his new book, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes that you're doing a disservice to others by always being busy.
  • Busyness is often an excuse for the discomfort of being alone with your own thoughts.
Keep reading Show less

Study: 50% of people pursuing science careers in academia will drop out after 5 years

That's a sharp increase from the 1960s when it took the same share of scientists an average of 35 years to drop out of academia.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The study tracked the careers of more than 100,000 scientists over 50 years.
  • The results showed career lifespans are shrinking, and fewer scientists are getting credited as the lead author on scientific papers.
  • Scientists are still pursuing careers in the private sector, however there are key differences between research conducted in academia and industry.
Keep reading Show less