What is Basic Income?

Fun Fact. It’s not a new idea.

People have been talking about basic income since the 1500’s, ever since it became glaringly obvious that poverty is connected to poor health outcomes.

So what is it? Well, it’s simple, you could even say… basic.

Under a Basic Income model, everyone is guaranteed an income to meet their basic needs. Under our favourite model, even if you make a decent income, even if you’re a multi-billionaire, you still receive the Basic Income.

This is called Universal Basic Income, and it’s the best.

Basic Income is an idea that, when implemented, makes sure everyone in society has enough. Enough for what?

  • Enough to live in dignity
  • Enough to plan for more than two weeks or two months in the future
  • Enough to not run a very high risk of acquiring a stress-related chronic illness
  • Enough to not feel the need to resort to crime in order to survive
  • Enough to take charge of life circumstances and lead an empowered life

Our current social programs aren’t quite cutting it. They’re antiquated and paternalistic (much like the population they serve). Adults aged 18-64 make up 65% of Canadians, but receive 9% of all social spending. While Seniors (16% of us), receive over half. If you plug Healthcare costs into the equation, these percentages and (mis)allocations become even more skewed. Is this a good investment in the future of our society?

When it comes to Basic Income, misinformation abounds. Let’s clear the air.

Myths

“We can’t afford it.”

False. We can afford it. Poverty alone costs all Canadians up to $82 billion per year, and the price of Poverty is rising. We also give away over $100 billion a year to corporations and the mega-rich in the form of corporate and capital tax cuts and subsidies. Tack on an additional $5 billion per year for the foreign aid budget. Bottom line, we can do this. We just need a shift in priorities.

“It will encourage people to be lazy and to not work.”

No it won’t. Basic Income has been tested and researched in at least 16 different countries and the results are in. There is no impact on workforce participation.

“It’ll cause inflation.”


This is only half-true. Implementing a Basic Income widely will cause temporary inflation. But any economist worth their salt knows that markets adapt. So yes, there is an adjustment period that comes with implementing this model, but as long as the Basic Income Value is indexed directly to inflation, problem solved.

“People will just spend it on drugs and alcohol.”

Wrong. Research shows that the most common Basic Income expenditure is actually on higher education. Data also shows that people become more healthy, not less, when receiving a basic income and consistent decreases in risky behaviours.