German citizens are to be given €1,200 a month, or about $1,400, for doing nothing in an experiment to evaluate the effects of a concept called “universal basic income”.
Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is an idea that has been around for many years, and has many supporters and advocacy groups around the world, but was never really taken seriously in the past.
The notion of the government giving everyone in society a fixed regular amount of money whether they work or not sounds like a communist plot to take over the world.
But some countries, such as Finland a couple of years ago, have run small UBI trials to gather information about what happens when you pay people to do absolutely nothing.
The findings of these experiments appear to have been inconclusive because now a German group is doing the same thing.
The group is called Mein Grundeinkommen, meaning My Basic Income, which has invited people to apply for the 120 places on the scheme.
The group also runs a similar scheme on a rolling basis through crowdfunding: “Whenever €12,000 are collected, we raffle the money as an unconditional basic income: €1,000 a month for one year. Without conditions. For all.”
In this new scheme, it’s €1,200 per month for three years, and the associated study is being conduced by the German Institute for Economic Research.
Some proponents of UBI argue that governments should introduce the system because robots are stealing everyone’s jobs and we’ll all be unemployed soon.
Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has caused mass unemployment around the world and people are struggling now and the situation is likely to get worse.
But Mein Grundeinkommen doesn’t appear to make any intellectual arguments for its support of universal basic income on its website – it just wants the government to give free money to everyone “unconditionally”.
Mein Grundeinkommen’s website says people should get “as much money from the state every month as they need to live. Just like that, as a basic right. Without them having to do anything for it.”
They sound a little crazy, but they’re backed up by people like Professor Jürgen Schupp of the German Institute for Economic Research.
German newspaper Der Spiegel interviewed Prof Schupp, who says (translated): “So far, the debate about the basic income has been like a philosophical salon in good moments and a war of faith in bad times.
“It is – on both sides – shaped by clichés: opponents claim that with a basic income people would stop working in order to lie dull on the couch with fast food and streaming services.
“Proponents argue that people will continue to do fulfilling work, become more creative and charitable, and save democracy.
“Incidentally, these stereotypes also flow into economic simulations as assumptions about the supposed costs and benefits of a basic income.
“We can improve this if we replace these stereotypes with empirically proven knowledge and can therefore lead a more appropriate debate.”