I’ve seen the concept of basic income popping up in a lot of places recently, even mainstream news sites & magazines. I’m going to be completely honest & say that while I know basically how it works, I haven’t delved deeply into the details. So the general idea is that everyone gets a subsistence level income, enough for basic food & shelter (I don’t know about medical care – I assume countries with socialised medicine would keep it), but anything over and above the basic, a person would have to provide for themselves.
You can see the problems immediately. Basic food and shelter doesn’t cost the same everywhere. Shelter is more expensive in the cities and food is more expensive in remote areas. People with medical problems and disabilities would need specialised, and thus presumably more expensive, shelter and food. Would they make people move to cheaper areas? Would basic shelter mean barracks? The permutations are endless.
Then yesterday I see an article that says that we have reached the point where technology is actually eliminating more jobs than it creates. Unemployment (or under-employment) is an issue now but before long, even physical, low skilled labour will be done more cheaply by robots than hiring actual people. We see how companies, now, go to great lengths to hire cheap foreign workers rather than employing local people, so we know they don’t care about their community. If it were cheaper to replace foreign workers with machines, they’d do it in a heartbeat. So we can’t assume that companies will develop a conscience overnight and would prefer to employ people over machines. Once shelf stacking and barista type jobs are automated, what then? Already many office jobs are about 18 months away from being replaced by an algorithm. What do those people do when the next rung down on the employment ladder had already been automated out of existence? There are going to be a significant percentage of people who cannot, and may never, find any paid employment, let alone meaningful paid employment. If some sort of basic income is not considered an option, then what? There are times when I feel my field of study, Medieval History, was kind of frivolous, but there are also times when I feel it has given me the perfect toolbox to deconstruct the coming new dark ages.