The History of UBI

Universal Basic Income was not an idea invented by Andrew Yang. It was an idea proposed back in the renaissance era. The only reason it wasnt enacted back then was that jobs were quite available back then so there was no incentive to give out cash payments to people.

Thomas paine was for the idea in the late 1700s. Then Martin Luther king was for it in the late 60s before his life was taken.

The oddity with Martin Luther King was while we always remember him for fighting for racial equality, traditionally none of us don’t remember him for fighting for a basic income.

Interestingly enough, since he proposed it in the 60s, UBI was almost passed into national law in the early 70s. It passed in the house but failed in the senate because democrats wanted a higher basic income. Looking back, one retired democrat said something along the lines of “the worst decision we ever made”.

So the idea goes quiet for some 40 years or so until prominent figures left and right start opening up to the idea. This included Jack Dorsey, The Pope, Elon Musk, Andrew Yang, Milton Friedman, Greg Mankiw, and many more.

Ever Since Andrew Yang’s presidential run, the world has exploded with UBI programs. It’s as if thanks to him people had suddenly realized the importance of canceling poverty by just giving everyone money.

Andrew Yang. WHo is he? WHy is he all about that UBI?

If you were one of the many who closely followed the race for the democratic presidential nomination, there is a chance you have come across an asian guy who likes MATH.

His name is Andrew Yang. He is the father of 2 young sons, one of whom is autistic, and the wife of Evelyn Yang. He is the son of immigrants from New York, went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, which is basically a high school version of Harvard University, and went to Brown University for College.

His life didn’t become too meaningful until he founded Venture for America (VFA) which educates entrepreneurs to create jobs around the company. The success of VFA is best stated in Andrew Yang’s 2020 Presidential Campaign website,

“In its first year, VFA trained 40 Fellows; by 2017, more than 500 VFA Fellows and alumni had launched dozens of companies and helped create thousands of jobs across the country. The Obama White House even named me a Champion of Change in 2012 and a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship in 2015.”

Despite the successes, Andrew himself saw that there was a problem with his company. While it did create jobs, he repeatedly describes the outcome as “filling a bucket of water with a hole in the bottom”. He basically saw that for every x or so jobs he helped create, many more were being automated away by robots, artificial intelligence, and some form of automation.

In the 2016 presidential race, he supported Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Nomination but still ended up voting for Hillary Clinton. The outcome of that election was a surprise even to him. The swing state Iowa went to a narcissist reality tv star by 10 points. The media narrative of Russia, Hillary Clinton, Emails, Benghazi, Facebook all sounded like promising reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the election, but Andrew Yang knew Americans were smarter than that and did some research.

What literally no one else realized was that in the states Trump won in 2016, automation was taking away millions of manufacturing jobs. Government retraining programs did little to quell the job loss so people never went back to work.

So then Andrew Yang did more research and came out with a solution to run for President of United States. He was politically nowhere but managed to outlast sitting senators, governors, and other high ranking democratic politicians.

He ran primarily on the basis of Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month to all americans over 18. Criticisms of it aside, the sole idea of getting free money got people energized and fired up for the idea. Through debates, interviews, and town halls, his pragmatic view on politics as well as his emphasis on blaming systems as opposed to people helped many reevaluate what it means to be political in the current firestorm of the two-party system.

Andrew Yang was not the first to come up with UBI. It stems all the way back to the renaissance era as purely an economic idea people had back then but was never implemented because jobs were well-available back then.

But even though Andrew Yang was not the first to spread word about the idea, his courage and bravery through many hardships including campaigning many weeks and months away from his family, battling widespread criticism and ignorance in the news media, as well as simply coming from nowhere politically.

But what is Andrew Yang’s endgame here? He doesn’t care about his political future, he just wants to end poverty.

Universal Basic Income. What is it?

If you’re new to the whole idea of Universal Basic Income, fear not. It is a constantly growing idea to combat wealth inequality. Allow me to break down the three words for you.

The first word is “universal”. This means that no matter who you are, you qualify. In the case of governmental programs, all citizens of a state qualify, your race, gender, sexuality, or anything else are irrelevant. If it was relevant, then it is no longer “universal”.

Now for the second word. “Basic”. This literally means basic in that everyone gets the same amount of “stuff”. Again, regardless of your physical and spiritual characteristics, everyone gets a flat amount of stuff. No administrative duties tasked to assign who gets what amount, a deal is made and everyone gets the same of it.

And for the last most critical word. “Income”. This is referring to the currency a state uses for its citizens to spend on in exchange for goods and services.

So to put the three words together, “Universal Basic Income”, it is a set amount of money given to all citizens of a state regardless of who you are. To put it simply, it’s free money.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” I have heard that saying before, but have you ever wondered to take that saying a step further? What’s the tree’s equivalent to that saying? “Sunlight doesn’t come for free?” Of course it does! A tree grows on an unlimited supply of a set amount of things that help it grow. Sunlight, food, water, soil and nutrients.

So let’s turn it back to humans. If we cherish nature and fight to preserve it, why can’t we receive the same treatment any other biological animal gets? Monkeys don’t pay for bananas, they just live where they grow. Fish doesn’t pay tolls for the water it swims in.

The point I’m getting at here is that people, like fish and plants, have basic needs. Since money is currently largely not perceived as a basic need, we have to work for it. We work because we don’t want to die of poverty and that’s the only way to earn an income.

The bigger issue is automation which is a topic for another post down the line. Technology automates away jobs leaving many jobless. If you are unable to get a job simply because there are fewer jobs than there are people, then we have a big economic issue here.

UBI doesn’t solve everything but it makes it so that people can be able to afford basic things at a very low price. People often complain that UBI is a “handout” which is only the case if you substitute a livable salary for basic income. The point of UBI is so that you can work a job that’s meaningful to you and not die of poverty trying to find a job thats meaningful to another employer or the economy in general.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing more points about the whole idea of UBI itself, how it grew in popularity, the people who support it today, and what you can do to enact it.