Universal Basic Income could increase human well-being and help save the planet
Anthropologist Jason Hickel believes basic income could be part of the solution to this problem of the pervasiveness of the growth mentality. He presents UBI as forming part of a strategy of "planned de-growth," which he believes will "increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint."
For too long, Western
society has been enslaved to the concept of Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) being the sole indicator of economic progress
on a national and global scale. The big problem with this is
that GDP does not accurately measure the wellbeing of our
people or the wellbeing of our physical environment. This is
because GDP fails to account for the negative consequences
of this ‘growth’ focused economy such as environmental
degradation or the social costs of a capitalist system such
as unemployment or poverty. We need to escape from the
confines of the GDP paradigm that essentially legitimises
and favours a mentality of ‘growth at all costs’ as this
approach simply does not increase the material or emotional
wellbeing of all humans in this country.
"Curbing advertising, taxing carbon, a basic income, and a shorter work week" can be part of a strategy of "planned de-growth." (Photo: Generation Grundeinkommen/flickr/cc)
As some tech giants throw their weight behind the idea of a universal basic income, the anthropologist says it's a key component of a strategy to break the "addiction to economic growth [that] is killing us" and the planet.
Offering his views this week on BBC's "Viewsnight," Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and author of books including The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions, says "we can't have infinite growth on a finite planet."
That argument—which others have made as well—should be clear by evidence of the "climate change, deforestation, and rapid rates of extinction" taking hold, he says.
The primary blame, according to Hickel, rests with "over-consumption in rich countries," and addressing that entails "planned de-growth," which will put the reins on "our plunder of the earth."
Hickel stresses that he's not referring to austerity, as the goal of "de-growth" is to "increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint."
A blueprint to achieve that goal, he says, includes "curbing advertising, taxing carbon, a basic income, and a shorter work week."
"We need an economic model that promotes human flourishing in harmony with the planet on which we depend," he says.
The idea of a universal basic income is gaining attention worldwide as a potential solution to this ‘growth paradigm’. Hickel explains how UBI could help with de-growth in an op-ed for the Guardian this year:
“We already know, from existing experiments, that a basic income can yield impressive results – reducing extreme poverty and inequality, stimulating local economies, and freeing people from having to accept slave-like working conditions simply in order to stay alive. If implemented more broadly, it might help eliminate “bullshit jobs” and slash unnecessary production, granting much-needed relief to the planet. We would still work, of course, but our work would be more likely to be useful and meaningful, while any miserable but necessary jobs, like cleaning the streets, would pay more to attract willing workers, making menial work more dignified.”
Hickel goes on to say that perhaps the most important aspect of UBI is that it could help turn the tide on the spread of fascism so prevalent in our world right now.
“a basic income might defeat the scarcity mindset that has seeped so deep into our culture, freeing us from the imperatives of competition and allowing us to be more open and generous people. If extended universally, across borders, it might help instil a sense of solidarity—that we're all in this together, and all have an equal right to the planet. It might ease the anxieties that gave us Brexit and Trump, and take the wind out of the fascist tendencies rising elsewhere in nativism that is spreading across much of the world.”
It seems that UBI has potential to assist in this ongoing struggle to rein in a rampant growth centric economy. It certainly will not be the full picture and there is an alternative viewpoint that UBI could even increase consumption due to people having more income. However, it seems likely that any measure that increases the overall wellbeing of Kiwis will have positive impacts on our ability to do what is right for humanity and the planet by making more conscious consumption choices.
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