It might begin with a renewed Occupy movement, or with Parisian Gilets Jaunes going viral. But I don’t think so. My guess is that it will start with a Universal Basic Income — UBI.
Remarkably, Bernie Sanders and Mark Zuckerberg agree on the importance of a UBI. A growing list of American billionaires now support UBI . It’s in their self-interest.
Capitalists need customers. Long after people’s basic need have been met, their appetites must be goosed so that they keep their shopping carts full at Amazon.com. For thirty years, American consumers have been acquiring more stuff by going deeper into debt, but at any interest rate north of Zero this can’t go on forever. Capitalism demands consumers with money in their pockets. But companies are beholden to their stockholders , maximizing short-term profits, and they can’t raise wages if they want to. So they want the government to do it!
A Transformative Time Bomb
These same nearsighted billionaires don’t realize that UBI pulls foundation from the whole oppressive system. Work has long ago ceased to be rewarding. People show up and do what they’re told because they have no choice. If they can lower their standard of living a notch, live by their wits, they’ll drop out of the rat race in droves!
Maybe they’ll stay home and play video games for the first month, but in every place where UBI has been tried , people become more productive, more creative, kinder, more community-minded. They will plant gardens and learn to play the guitar, volunteer at children’s hospitals and design murals. Citizen scientists and citizen journalists are born. Violent behaviors decline. Rates of accidents and disease drop through the floor.
…and that’s just the beginning
Once people have leisure and security in their own lives, they enjoy helping others. An alternative economy self-organizes, arising from the bottom up . This is the opposite of a capitalist economy. It is an economy based on gift. People offer their gifts because it feels good. It is what we want to do, once our basic needs are met. It is the source of all our wellbeing, it is how we know who we are and that our lives are worthwhile. We earn a reputation for giving that makes others eager to give to us.
The Gift Economy – This isn’t a new-age-y theory. It is the way humans have lived with one another for most of the last 200,000 years. It is how hunter-gatherers live even now. It is a tried and true way to provide a community’s economic needs, and it is how we are meant to live.
When people have leisure, they tend to think. They talk to one another. They understand what is working and what is not working. They understand that their neighbors feel the same way they do and — here’s the real danger — they organize.
This is our future, and it can’t come too soon.