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
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,
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
"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
“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
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This article builds on: Universal Basic Income Needed to Break 'Addiction to Economic Growth Killing Us'Published on
Friday, August 11, 2017 on Common Dreams
by Andrea Germanos, staff writer