From the web; Op-Ed; Opinion; Popular Media Articles

What do we have here? IMF economists defending basic income?

(image credit to: The Economist)

IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) Deputy Director for Capacity Development Andrew Berg, Research Department Senior Economist (at IMF) Luis-Felipe Zanna and Edward Buffie, a Professor of Economics at Indiana University Bloomington, just published an article articulating an analysis revolving around technological development and its implications on society, particularly regarding labor, capital and (in)equality. At the end of the article they refer to basic income as a possible solution, in order to redistribute the excess capital brought by the computerization of production.

But what do we have here? A miracle conversion of hard-core capitalist economists into soft-hearted left-wing liberals? Can we, after all, turn lead into gold? No, of course not. What we have here is textbook capitalist economy, with a new ingredient: basic income.

So their logic goes like this: We have inequality, but that is fine. Inequality is merely a result of market forces; we can live with that because we belong to that fortunate group of people who have not experienced poverty and cannot imagine experiencing poverty. But there are a couple of challenges with too much inequality: people revolt and cannot buy all these wonderful things corporate capitalism churns out daily. You see, this humanity thing has one big problem: it is full of humans. And humans, unlike machines, have two amazing features, which these brilliant economists have just discovered: they tend to fight back if pressed too much and cannot survive without their basic needs met.

The reason for this sudden, latent, realization has to do with the one thing all capitalists share: they are not entirely human. They hold this strange belief that there’s nothing wrong with trying to extract more water from the well than the amount that exists there. It is like writing a three-thousand-page essay and drawing this sole conclusion: 1+1=3.

But back to the logic. So, inequality is tolerable, but not too much. The solution? Give these poor people a basic income and, all of a sudden, they stop being such bad loser crying babies and resume buying enough stuff to maintain this completely absurd system of domination, privilege and exploitation. Shut them up, so we can keep doing our thing without distraction. Note that I have not, until now, said a single thing about robots, computers or automation. Because at bottom it has nothing to do with that. With robots or not, the capitalist mind just wants to extract wealth. How they do it is irrelevant, or relevant only to the extent as it is efficient in doing so.

What these enlightened IMF economists, and possibly other IMF officials do not realize is that basic income is a complete game changer. It will allow people to say “no”, to enjoy enough freedom to completely turn the capitalist system on its head. And these people will start doing much more bizarre things, like volunteering for causes close to their heart, or starting their own businesses (refusing to be slaves to some capitalist boss), and enjoying more leisure time, and time to care for family and friends (go figure out why). Living out their own lives, for a change.

I predict that, after basic income is implemented, in part following up these economists’ recommendations, capitalism will hardly resemble its own shadow in 10 to 20 years. Society will barely recognize itself, when looking back at today’s world. Mark my words.


More information at:

Andrew Berg, Edward F. Bufie and Luis-Felipe Zanna, “Robots, Growth, and Inequality”, Finance & Development, vol. 53 nº3, September 2016

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 305 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Max Ferguson

    Great article can not wait until the disadvantged get a basic income and are able to make choices stress free

  • valerian Texeira

    A brilliant piece on Basic Income (BI or UBI or BIG), using satire, I should say.

    My book titled; “An Alternative to Marxian Scientific Socialism- The Theory Reduction in Working Hours; A Demand for 6 Hour Working Day.” Published in the year 1981. However, it targets Marxian Socialism instead of the capitalism (IMF economist) which I see in the satire.

    My above theory today renamed as Zero Work Theory. ( In which opinion, the fundamental reason for the manifestation of Basic Income is the historical progress in the productive forces in the human society, stage by stage, today triumphantly emerging in its sophisticated form of robot, It is making the human labor, worker redundant. This also signals the ending of the Capitalist System which the Marxian Socialism not able to do. Ironically, therefore, capitalism now inadvertently perhaps triggering its own system replacement in the form of Basic Income.

  • Etual Ojeda

    Good analisis! Only though I would emphasize that UBI is a social paradigma on its own.

  • Andy

    There will be a massive job in opening current accounts for all the homeless etc, the banks may like this increase in custom.

  • John

    I think they realize is a game changer, but they approach it practically, similar to Benjamin Franklin. They might be practically enlightened 🙂

  • Mike van Wyk

    Great article. If macro economic theory holds true that one of the principal functions of a successful state, is to ensure a state of near or full employment – then the growing impact of AI represents an unavoidable disruption to that outcome and to the pockets of the winners in the game of economies. If the private sector cannot sustain full employment then the state is duty bound to intervene with higher taxes, duties, interest rate and more sovereign bond sales. To equalise the balance between retained wealth and saving within the economic system, the state must and should run an equal ‘deficit’. UBI is the only sane solution in a world in which full employment will be threatened and in which the traditional corrective tools cease making an impact. With or without such a breakdown it is a social and political imperative that society evolves to the next level – freeing humanity from drudgery and forced labour. The new horizon must encompass a more ethical approach to ‘work’ and ‘job’ – rather embracing terms such as ‘calling’ or ‘passion’. Let the robots put up with the misery of drudgery – nothing wrong with that.

  • Moira Melgar

    It seems like a good idea but it will not solve insufficient housing, schools,hospitals etc. It will not take away inequality. It may increase inequality as the global tax avoiders will contribute even less on the basis that the poor have basic income so no need to do more.

    Giving individual handouts without social infrastructure enforcement will justify the rampant capitalism. Solidarity is needed. Socialism is just that.

    What is extreme about huge global companies funding welfare for all?

  • Daniel Zolondek

    Good start, but just one piece of the puzzle….The other piece to the puzzle is doing something good with all that extra income that will hit the streets….This is where the key to our success will be to keep all that extra coin in our communities and not keep on feeding the hungry wheel of capitalism….This is when and where we should start becoming self-reliant and using that extra coin to build up our communities and gain buying power..,Imagine how much buying power a bunch of people have with $25,000 G in their account would have, a game changer. Getting it is one thing. using it wisely is another. The BIG movement is the beginning of the end of a slavery system we don’t even know that we are part of.
    Cheers to my brothers and sister who are bringing about BIG new things in their communities.

  • Daniel Zolondek

    This is just another example of Light over Darkness…Good over Evil…Equality over Inequality…The Poor over The Rich…Hope over Despair…Go BIG or Stay home, or even worse, leave home!

  • Oriza Triznyak

    A good idea of ​​the basic income. For capitalism is only just learning savage capitalist and Eastern European countries and especially (since, for example, Hungary, the taxes are too high and compared to taxes on the salaries and unrealistically low.) All the more so because a lot of people work continuously hard-working productive sectors (steel production, mining , metallurgy, etc.) which are not specifically part of a profitable industries on the other hand tremendously demanding physical labor which we have to admit there are fewer and fewer. As die retire in the old working-strong physique generations, more and more there is no replacement for a reason, so to speak who have such hard physical work .The youth of today no longer stand the heavy work. It’s a pretty difficult situation. So the introduction of a basic income for all means a good solution for heavy industrial sectors regrouped people something lighter industrial sector because of the heavy industry, the problem is that if, for example iron production robots used in the mining metallurgical robots maintenance is costly and human relations both physically and psychologically too strenuous, with the to improve more and more also not be enough skilled workers in good physical endowments (such as machine fitters)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.