Would You Like Some Money, Just For Being A Person?

Guaranteed basic income is now being considered in over a dozen countries

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If, over your lifetime, you might: A) go to college, B) have a baby, C) get sick or D) be old, there’s a growing movement you’ll want to pay attention to: Universal basic income, or the idea every person in a society is entitled to a baseline income, simply for being a person.

This isn’t just an entitlement scheme or obscure, la-la-land economics. The idea dates back to Thomas More’s 1516 classic Utopia, but has been gaining unprecedented traction in economies around the world, including Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Finland and India. Bernie and Hillary are fielding basic income questions on the campaign trail, while more than 30,000 Reddit users post each analysis, vote, video and research project with pounding frequency.

The momentum is a result of several factors, according to Karl Widerquist, associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar (and longtime proponent of basic income). After a decade of financial crashes, protests over inequality, and labor disruptions due to manufacturing automation, says Widerquist, there has been an exponential spike in public interest. (You are reading this article, after all.) Searching “basic income” in Google Trends yields this:

“People are concerned about inequality again," says Widerquist, who started a newsletter on the topic back in 1999 that’s still running today. "It's been a long time since that's been the biggest concern in politics. It's coming back in a big way.”

A June 5 referendum on giving every citizen a monthly income of about $2,500 just failed in Switzerland, but proponents of the idea aren’t giving up hope. Many, including Widerquist, have declared the referendum itself a win.

"The idea of [the Swiss] campaign was to spread the word about basic income, introducing people to it, begin changing people's minds. What this shows is that they've succeeded in getting 23.1 per cent of the Swiss population to support it,” he says, calling it part of a long-haul campaign. “Considering this is something that was unknown when they started, that's an enormous success.”

For the first time that he can remember, Widerquist also says U.S. presidential candidates are taking questions seriously on the feasibility of basic income, not dismissing the idea as socialist nonsense. Hillary Clinton (vaguely) responded to the question on Facebook, while Bernie addressed the question on Reddit.

“When I started working on [basic income] it was such a utopian idea I treated it as a history project,” says economist and professor Evelyn Forget. Forget’s work reconstructing MINCOME, a guaranteed annual income experiment in the small Canadian city of Dauphin, Manitoba, is frequently referenced in the movement. Back in the mid-70s, the original project—which she pulled from dusty obscurity—showed significant reductions in hospitalization, particularly related to mental health issues, along with increased rates of high school graduation.

Whether it comes education, housing, childcare or healthcare, it can be hard for those in poverty to imagine a different kind of life, says Forget. "So much of energy is focused on just making ends meet, it's very hard to make long-terms plans and think about how you might do things differently,” she says, of the effects of scarcity on human behavior.

Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator recently announced it will give 100 Oakland families between $1,000 and $2,000 a month, with researcher Elizabeth Rhodes parsing the results. “Fifty years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people,” writes president Sam Altman. “I also think that it’s impossible to truly have equality of opportunity without some version of guaranteed income.”

Both Forget and Widerquist say they’re wary of privately held companies and community organizations toying with basic income experiments. “I get very nervous when I see these individual efforts to introduce or experiment with basic income, this notion that you'll crowdfund money and choose one lucky family," Forget says. "You're playing with people's lives...maybe you should rethink."

For Widerquist, his primary concern is the inability for anything other than a government to make changes that are big enough, fast enough. "All it is, is capitalism where income doesn't have to start at zero,” he says. “Everyone can grow up without being malnourished, having decent housing and can enter the labour market as a free person."

And that seems like a tough notion to find fault with.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


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So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

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