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Finland Experiments With The Universal Basic Income

How will it make people behave?

via Flickr user (cc) Maverick Fang

In America, liberals and conservatives disagree on the advantages and disadvantages over the government giving people money. For the most part, conservatives believe that government handouts encourage people to be lazy while liberals think the welfare system improves society by helping those in need. This year, Finland is putting these ideas to the test with a new experiment that gives people a universal basic income regardless of their employment status and income.

Starting this month, Finland has randomly selected 2,000 unemployed citizens to be given €560 euros ($587) a month. If they are on government benefits, the money will be deducted from their current earnings. Recipients of the money do not need to prove if they are looking for work, and if they find a job, will continue to receive the money until the program’s conclusion or if it’s adopted as a nationwide policy.

The Finnish government will monitor the recipients to see if the monthly stipend dissuades them from looking for work. “It’s highly interesting to see how it makes people behave,” Olli Kangas from the Finnish government agency KELA, told The Associated Press. “Will this lead them to boldly experiment with different kinds of jobs? Or, as some critics claim, make them lazier with the knowledge of getting a basic income without doing anything?” The additional money may encourage those who feared they would lose their benefits under the previous system to find work.

Throughout history, the universal or basic income has had its supporters and detractors. Supporters believe it simplies social services, reduces overhead and gives people freedom from the government oversight they’d endure under a traditional welfare system. It also allows people greater freedom to raise children, pursue educational goals, and reduces crime. Critics believe it’s costly, disincentives work, and may lead to people purchasing drugs and alcohol with the government’s money.

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