Why We Should Expect Resistance to Universal Basic Income

A recent Quartz article, “All of the problems Universal Basic Income can solve that have nothing to do with unemployment,” reminds the reader of some of the broader socio-economic impacts that a basic income could have across society.  It’s a nice reminder to seek the broader impacts and benefits from a transformative change in policy (perhaps, renegotiation of the social contract).

At the same time, the piece reminds me of just a few of the ways in which the possibility of any transformative shift, once clearly articulated for a broad array of stakeholders, will prompt responses to the idea of that shift.  For universal basic income (UBI) in particular, and just off the top of my head, here are a few of the stakeholder groups I would expect to resist the possibility of UBI:

  • Mainline employer and business groups (never fans of higher labor negotiating power)
  • Organized labor (unlikely to grow [or hold the line] in such a future; and frankly, something of their core reason for existing dissipates)
  • Sectors or industries that are staffed largely by workers only there through economic necessity/desperation (I’m thinking of the food and retail industries in particular)
  • Modern “vocational ed”, which means a lot of the smaller and for-profit certificate and 2-year degree institutions like “business colleges” and such (depending on whether they interpret this as killing their demand or as an opportunity to transform and reach entirely new segments)

In addition, I would be concerned about the more diffuse (and NOT coordinated or conspiratorial) resistance on the part of all of those who would rightly be concerned about the long term and systemic impacts of meaningful reduced consumption by citizens.  If it had the impact that some expect, the implications for altering demand across the “flywheel” of the modern economy could be quite substantial.

The concept of UBI has been a long time in moving up the s-curve, and it will be interesting to map the growth in imagery (images of the future) and responses among stakeholder groups if it continues to move towards deliberation by mainstream society.

All of the problems Universal Basic Income can solve that have nothing to do with unemployment.”


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