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If I explain marriage to you, will you fall in love?

Putting the cart before the horse

Of course not! That's silly. You have to be in love first, before even thinking about marriage. Yet how much explaining goes on about Basic Income! Wait, don't we want people to fall in love with it? Imagine "falling in love" with marriage. Good luck with that! Basic Income is not an object of love. It is a process, a mechanism, a means to an end. We don't have feelings for Universal Basic Income (UBI), we have expectations. And what we expect is a fair, effective and reliable method that achieves results, the many outcomes we love.

First, we show what UBI does.

Then we can explain how it works

UBI benefits:

  • Improves health, especially in young children

  • Eliminates economic insecurity

  • An answer to automation

  • Provides more opportunities for all

  • Fosters creativity

  • It's a human right

  • Reduces poverty (note that poverty is last on the list. This is where it should be)

UBI costs:

"A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing." — Oscar Wilde

The Number One objection to UBI:

The laziness argument:

People will stop working and will take advantage of those who do work.

Confirmation bias:

A Story From World War II

Bombers sent out to Germany were failing to return at an alarming rate.

The aircraft that did come back were riddled with bullet holes. More armor was needed. It was not possible to reinforce the whole plain: the planes would be too heavy to carry bombs. A compromise was needed.

The first thought was to reinforce the spots that had bullet holes, shown below in black.

The statistician, Abraham Wald, showed the military that they didn't in fact need to reinforce the spots that had bullet holes. They needed to reinforce the spots that didn’t have bullet holes. Planes that took bullets in these areas never came back.

How many social policies are attempting to armour plate the bullet holes?

This example is meant to show how easy it is to draw the wrong conclusions from simple data by making incorrect assumptions. The public sees poor people instead of poverty.

They chalk up bad outcomes to personal responsibility when systemic forces are at play.

A fascinating example to illustrate the phenomenon is an experiment published

in April which used episodes of the Cosby Show. The TV series ran from 1984 to 1992, well before the star became a convicted sex offender. Cosby played the role of Cliff Huxtable, an obstetrician. His wife was an attorney and they have 4 beautiful children, 3 girls and a boy.

The subjects in the experiment were interviewed before and after watching episodes of the show. The purpose of the test was to determine whether watching the sitcom would improve their attitude towards Black people in general.

To her surprise the researcher found that the subjects had a dimmer view of African-Americans after the viewing than before. The reason for this was quite simple. African-American, and other disadvantaged sections of society are held to be personally responsible for their situation. If they don't succeed, it is because of some moral deficiency. The Huxtables' success only confirms that with the proper moral character, you can succeed. So if the Huxtable's can make it on their own, why can't all the others? They confirm individualistic assumptions : pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!

How to avoid the pitfalls?

  • Avoid explanation and technicalities

  • Avoid referring to poverty

  • Avoid individual narratives about the poor (especially individualistic success stories)

  • Avoid confronting values and bias

  • Avoid discouragement in finding ways to frame UBI

Excellent ressource : FRAMEWORKS INSTITUTE

This post is the written version of a presentation to the North American Basic Income Guarantee (NABIG) Congress given May 25, 2018. You can see the original on Youtube

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