Wednesday, January 27, 2021 -
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Universal Basic Income

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness,” observed Mark Twain or, to use a cliché with a more positive spin, travel is broadening. We all get used to our routines and social mores. Being in a new environment, seeing and experiencing new things, can be invigorating and help one see issues in a whole new way.

There is one issue in particular that I’ve really evolved on and I think that wouldn’t have happened had I not lived abroad.

Years ago, the concept of universal basic income would have made me revolt. Give money to people for doing nothing?! Indeed that was my initial reaction when it came on the ballot in Switzerland. The measure was resoundingly defeated, but hearing the arguments got me thinking.

There was actually a strong economic argument put forth: Providing every citizen with a basic income would enable government to get rid of a whole lot of bureaucracy. Some people would still need government benefits to survive, even on top of the basic income, but many would not. That would get rid of the thousands of people and man hours it takes to calculate health benefits, childcare benefits, housing benefits, etc. It also, ironically, puts more responsibility in the private citizen’s hands not to be dependent on a government agency, but to manage his or her own finances.

As to giving basic income to the citizenry at large, including millionaires who don’t need it — the detraction recently put forth by Sen. Mitch McConnell — it’s simply more cost effective.

One 2020 presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, made Universal Basic Income a cornerstone of his campaign. In Germany, the Institute for Economic Research is currently running a test group of 120 receiving a basic income of 1,000 euros a month. It’s an idea that’s gaining traction.

Crisis is also broadening. Unexpected situations force us to rethink how we’re doing things. To help Americans through the COVID crisis, Congress facilitated stimulus payments to every adult American. Suddenly, UBI didn’t seem that far-fetched. I have a feeling we’re going to hear more about it in upcoming political campaigns.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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