There is an increasing consensus among economists and social commentators that giving everyone a basic income solves a huge number of social problems. Where trials have taken place hospital admissions have fallen, women have the money to leave abusive partners, homelessness and mental illness fall too – all of which lower government spending and increase the tax take. The theory is called Universal Basic Income (UBI) which is given to everyone regardless of any other sources of money they may have. It is not withdrawn if someone is late for an interview or fails to complete a form properly. This hugely simplifies social security but does not replace it, as some people such as the disabled may have additional needs for funds.
John Harris, writing in the Guardian on 13 April 2016 suggested that it was an idea whose time had come and politicians were beginning to take it on board. It has been Green Party policy for some time and the Scottish National Party spring conference pledged its support, with some labour MPs taking it seriously. Indeed, there have been trials in various places including The Netherlands, Finland, Canada and the US. In June the Swiss are having one of their nationwide referendums on UBI with the suggestion that the level is set at £1,700 plus £400 for each child.
It also simplifies fundraising as social problems decline and funds can be concentrated on other issues such as the environment and overseas development. This is not to say that all social problems will be solved but that a surprising number are likely to lessened and the result is wholly beneficial to society. “But hold on” I hear you say, “Isn’t it going to cost far too much” especially in an age of austerity. Putting aside the obvious argument that austerity is a cruel hoax driven by a state-shrinking ideology and has clearly failed, there are several financial positives including a large reduction in the cost of administering benefits, savings in the national health service and other government services, which with the increase in the tax base (as people can work on a flexible basis) will in time mean its pays for itself.
One huge driver, steadily growing in power, is the projected job losses due to automation including advances in robotics and AI; which will overwhelm the social security system, already not much fit for purpose. The tipping point may come quickly if the massive job losses that futurists see coming actually arrive, in which case it begins to make much more sense as the immediate benefits of a much simplified system become obvious.
So where does that leave fundraisers? Back in business if the success of GiveDirectly https://givedirectly.org/ is anything to go by. They are testing UBI in a series of Kenyan villages and have raised over $50m last year alone. The venture is heavily backed by Silicon Valley companies who can perhaps see the future better than most of us.
So, though your current charity and your current position may become superfluous, the very cause of that may employ you to build its model around the world and that is going to be a very big ask.
As the famous quote from William Gibson goes, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”.
John Baguley, CEO, Group IFC