If Technology Is Going to Destroy Jobs, Is UBI the Answer?

     If you have not heard of universal basic income (UBI), you will in the coming months. The article below by Hugh Whelchel is a good entry point to being introduced to some of the larger concepts and views of this idea. As he so clearly states, it is vital that as Christians we understand the important topics of our day. While all the answers to our societal woes may not be clear, Scriptures truths that we were designed for work and that work is good is unchanging.


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Mark Zuckerberg wants to give you money, but it’s not his money!

In a recent Harvard commencement address, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joined other major technology figures to advocate for universal basic income (UBI). With the rise of new technology, like driverless cars, which many fear will destroy millions of jobs here in the United States, these Silicon Valley tech leaders think the solution to a future with fewer jobs is free money for all.

UBI is simply the idea that the government gives all citizens or residents of the country a regular, unconditional sum of money independent of any other source of income. Advocates argue that the UBI has the potential to reduce poverty and expand individual freedom.

UBI is not a new idea. Thomas More mentions it in his 1516 book Utopia. And over the last 500 years, different versions of this idea have been proposed by Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, Milton Friedman, Martin Luther King Jr., Friedrich Hayek, and Richard Nixon. In the late 1960s, the Nixon administration not only studied the idea but unsuccessfully tried to get it through Congress.

UBI 2.0

Even in today’s polarized political climate, UBI has support on both sides of the political spectrum. The political left perceives UBI as a social justice issue—a way to combat poverty, inequality, and redistribute wealth—as well as a potential solution to soften the blow wrought by the “Creative Destruction“ of today’s technology. To those on the political right, the idea is a device to help reduce or eliminate a bloated government social-welfare system.

What would the cost to the US government be to enact UBI? Estimates range from $539 billion per year to over $3 trillion. The actual amount depends on a host of factors: How much does every person receive? Does everyone get the same amount? What government welfare program does it replace, if any? Etc.

One of the most intriguing proposals for a national UBI was suggested by conservative Charles Murray, who writes:

The UBI has brought together odd bedfellows. Its advocates on the left see it as a move toward social justice; its libertarian supporters (like Friedman) see it as the least damaging way for the government to transfer wealth from some citizens to others. Either way, the UBI is an idea whose time has finally come, but it has to be done right.

Murray proposes that American citizens aged 21 and older get a $13,000 annual grant paid in monthly installments. Recipients would be required to use $3,000 of the grant to pay for their health insurance. The plan would replace many welfare and social-services programs and eliminate the agencies and staff that run them.

Murray claims if his plan had been in place in 2014, it would have been $200 billion cheaper than current social service programs and the savings by 2020 would be nearly a trillion dollars.

Hugh Welchel