The world is changing. Human cashiers at grocery stores are being replaced by machines that let customers check their items out themselves. Long haul truckers and taxi cab drivers will soon be replaced by autonomous vehicles. Technology is putting people out of work, as are the forces of globalization. When there’s no need for unskilled workers, how is everyone going to make a living?
Finland is trying out one possible solution to this problem: universal basic income (UBI). Starting this month and continuing for the next two years, 2,000 unemployed Finns will receive 560 euros ($597 USD) a month, and they don’t have to prove they’re looking for work or anything like that. The money comes with no strings attached.
UBI is just the latest uber-progressive policy for Finland to pursue. The Russia-bordering Scandinavian country is basically Bernie Sanders’ vision for America, with tuition-free college available to all citizens and a single-payer healthcare system that provides medical services to all, without any burdensome premiums, deductibles, or co-pays.
This pilot represents a sort of watered-down version of UBI, though. Many UBI proponents, like poverty researcher Matt Bruenig, envision a world where all the passive income that mostly goes to the one percent now is distributed among everyone instead. With all that money and some extra wealth taxes, theoretically, no one would have to work unless they wanted to. That certainly isn’t going to happen with this experiment, as $597 isn’t nearly enough to live off of.
But hey, you know, baby steps.
Finland’s basic income pilot is particularly appealing to creative types like Juha Jarvinen, an artist and joiner who previously wasn’t able to pursue his risky entrepreneurial interests, as he had to shift his focus to making money:
“I’m so relieved now that I can start doing something again. I can focus on developing my business without stressing about food.”
UBI has its share of detractors, of course. Bootstraps-obsessed conservatives think it will encourage the unemployed to be lazy and unproductive. Other critics believe basic income is simply unfeasible from a financial point of view.
Who knows, maybe those criticisms will prove to be correct. That’s what tests like these are for (it’s worth noting that some UBI supporters are unhappy with how this program is structured). But regardless of how this pilot goes, hopefully Finland won’t be the last country to give this promising policy a try.
The world is changing, and we need to adapt.
Featured image via Miss Open.