Disincentivizing Work – The “Problem” with Basic Income

Yesterday, I did a quick blog post about the Ontario “Basic Income” pilot announcement and my issues with it. Since then, I’ve gone on to read many comments about the pilot and wanted to write a few more thoughts I have.

Please know that these are my personal opinions.

One of the most prevalent comments I continually see is how Basic Income, including versions of it like this horrible pilot project, will disincentivize working a full-time job. I mean, if you can get basic income and not have to work, then, of course, that is what most people will pick, right?

I don’t see this as an issue. I want people that don’t want to work to just take Basic Income and stay home.

If you hate working, and you are comfortable living off of a floor of income that provides you with basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and some semblance of a reasonable life, then that’s what you should be able to do.

I want you to leave the employment pool and open up more opportunities for those that do want to work, or those that do want more than just the “basics”.

Currently, in our society, people are working later and later in life, holding onto job opportunities, especially in management that I want. Some of these people are working later in life because their retirement investing is currently too small or nonexistent. I am hopeful that a decent Basic Income system will get these people out of the job market.

The whole, “if you don’t work, why should I,” thought process is flawed according to me as well. If you feel that way, get out of the job pool and give your job to someone that wants it.

My hope is that if Basic Income comes to fruition a few different things will happen, and one of them will be that pay rates for certain jobs will go up.

Employment is often a supply and demand issue. If a job doesn’t pay better than Basic Income, then why would people want to spend time on it? If an employment opportunity doesn’t get anyone applying for it (and certain international immigration rules are fixed), then companies will have to raise wages or benefits to attract talent to their corporate needs.

Everyone talks about no one wanting to be a garbage person if Basic Income truly happens, but if the garbage person can afford to buy a Tesla and take three weeks paid vacation every year, then maybe some people would be excited to put up with the perceived hardships of the career.

People also forget that humans need stimulation. Why do people volunteer? Why do people have side-projects? Why do people work so hard on their hobbies? Employment can sometimes be an extension of that. There will always be a sub-set of the population that wants to do something they have a passion for or that can provide them with the wealth to have or do the things that they want.

Another discussion I see often is about entitlement. People feel like those on social assistance programs shouldn’t have things like a smartphone, high-speed Internet, or comfortable well put-together clothes. My initial reaction is one of anger. What gives anyone the right to tell others what they can and can’t own? Can you imagine someone with double your income feeling that they deserve to tell you what you can and cannot spend your money on?

As for being entitled to a car, cell phone, high-quality food, the Internet or other “luxuries”, they can bring comfort, entertainment, or more importantly the access, skills, and tools needed to access employment.

The end goal of Basic Income is to lift everyone up. To set a floor for our society that makes sure we can all feel comfortable knowing that we get to live a life of dignity, no matter what hand we are dealt in life. We aren’t a society with hyper-restrictive resources. We have plenty of food, water, and shelter for everyone and we need to start acting like it. The “me first” attitude is not how Canada was built, and not how we should go forward as a country. Infrastructure, health care, education and more are all part of the social contract that we fought hard to have, and I see Basic Income as one more element towards an amazing, near Star Trek style, society (if done right).

Basic Income can open the way for more teachers, caregivers, artists, researchers, writers and involved parents, and that’s the kind of society that I want to live in.

While it might be a utopian ideal that we can never fully attain, we still need to be careful that politicians don’t ruin the opportunity for our society to move in that direction.

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