Universal Basic Income History

Miscellaneous Articles and Data Points about Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Universal basic income (UBI) is not a new concept. This article, The Long, Weird History of Universal Basic Income—and Why It’s Back, explains that the concept of a universal basic income can be traced back hundreds of years. 

Other sources show that some of its earliest advocates include Thomas Spence in the U.K. and Thomas Paine in the U.S. (see here and here) and there are currently hundreds of high profile advocates from around the world.

This comprehensive book (337  pages) Exploring Universal Basic Income: A Guide to Navigating Concepts, Evidence, and Practices, traces UBI’s origins further back to the 1600’s and walks us through four phases, plus a whole lot more. What we find from these sources and more that the concept of a UBI is gathering momentum world-wide.  

Widening income gaps, the COVID-19 epidemic, automation and more recently the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) are raising concerns everywhere that we may soon find ourselves with an insufficient number of jobs to sustain the needs of the people. 

Articles like Technology, jobs, and the future of work and AI is coming for our jobs! Could universal basic income be the solution? are motivating many to consider UBI as the only viable solution for potential widespread unemployment and poverty in the near future.

However, for hundreds of millions of people around the world, that future is here today. A lack of income and poverty is a daily reality for them, as we explored on the Poverty Elimination page. It is estimated by the UN that over 700 million (over 10% of the world’s population) live in extreme poverty and half of the global population lives on less than US$6.85 (~₦5,400) per person per dayAs a result, there are an increasing number of articles posing the question Is UBI an Idea Whose Time Has Come?, like this one, and this one and this one.

But this problem is not isolated to the developing world. There are growing calls for it in Europe, the U.K. and in the United States. This recent article ‘It’s Basic’ Points To A Strikingly Straightforward Plan To Fight Poverty, discusses a new U.S. documentary about UBI and points out that a rapidly growing group of at least 130 mayors across the U.S. have formed an organization called the Mayors for Guaranteed Income.

UBI is going mainstream and more and more individuals, organizations and governments are calling for it. However, as we point out on the UBI and SCF page, there is a fatal flaw with nearly every UBI program in existence or proposed and that is the limitation on the money available to back those programs. And, as we also point out on that page, we have the solution to that problem.