An Interview with Tyler Prochazka
How’d you get an interest in Basic Income (BI)?
My interest in BI started back around 2013 after reading a Reason article. It described how a BI would provide a much more efficient social safety net. It intrigued me at the time and over the next couple of years I periodically would seek out the latest research on BI. I was hooked by a documentary on the basic income featuring Guy Standing.
Standing’s discussion of the “precariat” and the need to counter the challenges of automization convinced me of the BI’s approach. The day after watching the documentary, I reached out to Standing to see how I could get involved with BIEN. He put me in touch with Karl Widerquist and André Coelho. André was my trainer and his patience and encouragement is what kept me on with the team initially.
What makes the BI plan of action unique?
That is a difficult question because there are many ways to implement the BI. I think what unites the BI movement, though, is that we want to fundamentally alter people’s relationship with the market and the government. We do not have to have a job in the traditional sense to contribute to ourselves and society. The basic income liberates us to take on the projects or activities that we are truly passionate about, instead of being forced into a certain line of employment.
There are a host of reasons I think this is good for sustainable economic development. But more importantly, this would be a positive development for human happiness. A basic income would also reorient our relationship with the government. Instead of ceding individual choice to government bureaucrats, a basic income provides freedom of choice to everyone. Centralization of power and resources swallows our humanity, and basic income is an enormous step in bringing that power back to the people.
What are the most common success stories of BI or similar programs?
What has been overlooked in the mainstream press (and what I first tell people skeptical of BI) is the recent release of a meta-analysis of 15 years of cash transfer research across 165 studies. It looks at the best research available and determines there is a consistent reduction in poverty from these cash transfers. It also determined there is no real evidence of lowered work hours while showing some evidence that cash transfers may increase work hours and intensity. For BI advocates, I think it is important to get familiar with this meta-analysis.
In the United States, the most famous example of an actual BI-like program is the Alaskan Permanent Fund. This program is funded by Alaska’s oil reserves and is provided to nearly every Alaskan resident. The experience in Alaska, and most BI programs, is that the policy rarely creates negative unintended consequences and has a much greater potential to create a positive ripple effect throughout society.
What is your work on BI?
I am the features editor for BI News. I will personally write opinion, interview and news-based articles. I have the privilege of working with and seeking out some amazing writers and thinkers, helping to edit and post their features articles. When the need arises, I help to train newcomers to BI News, including contributors and editors. I am currently in Taiwan completing a Master’s degree where I am working with the Taiwanese Basic Income organization. For the future, I have some ideas to promote basic income in Taiwan that will be forthcoming.
What are the main lessons for about BI that should be out in the public domain more?
Everyday around the world there are billions of interactions, transactions and events that would be made simpler by the establishment of the basic income. It helps to take these billions of events and simplify it to one individual to better understand the depth of change this policy would have on everyday life. Among those close to me, I can think of a clear instance where a basic income would dramatically improve a family’s circumstances, much more so than traditional welfare.
Think of how a basic income would help the person with a sick mother, the person whose car gets totaled, the person who wants to take more time to raise their child, the person who wants to find a better suited job…All of these situations would be more easily managed with a basic income, especially for those who are of modest means. Perhaps more significant are the new and unpredictable opportunities created by basic income that would otherwise never occur.
Who are the people to watch – the major BI players?
Here are a couple that come to mind:
Matt Zwolinski is my favorite libertarian scholar, primarily because of his work on the basic income. He has done a lot to bring on the libertarian side of the political spectrum to consider the basic income. The next generation will have significantly more libertarians than the current generation, so I think the philosophical marriage on this issue with libertarians will be increasingly important as we pursue the basic income’s implementation.
Kate McFarland is one of my favorite writers at BI News and a great person to work with. I think she will be a big figure in the BI movement in the coming years because of her non-stop dedication to the cause.
Any advice for would-be policy makers or activists about strategies for the implementation of BI?
During this stage, I think it is important that we maintain healthy disagreement in the movement. There are a lot of different motivations behind the BI which manifests in an array of different implementation methods. Despite this, I hope that we can retain this amazing civility that has united people from such diverse philosophical and personal backgrounds thus far.
On the long-term policymaking level, my hope is that in those areas we think must be earmarked (particularly healthcare and education). We will still utilize the basic income framework. For example, universal education savings accounts and health savings accounts (which there is evidence that these two programs are already effective where they are used). The basic income has the potential to really revolutionize the way we think about government services. The government is really efficient at issuing checks to everyone, but it is not great with creating innovative programs. That is why a basic income framework creates an ideal social safety net, as it brings the security of government distribution and the innovation of the market.