Zoltan Istvan is running for governor of California in 2018 and has made headlines for his proposal to develop California lands and use the revenue to form a Universal Basic Income for all California households.
By monetizing federal lands in California, Istvan said he wants to “kill two birds with one stone” by eliminating poverty and pushing economic development in the state. Based on his research, Istvan said each California household could receive over $50,000 annually if the 45 million acres of unused land were developed.
“If we developed land and resources in California, we would be able to afford a basic income,” he said. “I’ve promised to do all of this without raising taxes.”
This plan, he said, would “lift 19 million Californians out of poverty.”
“It doesn’t matter what party you are running for, that is totally unacceptable,” Istvan said.
“With this large of a basic income, the welfare system would naturally go away because they would not have to rely on the state,” Istvan said. He expressed that this form of basic income will also “avoid the traditional opposition from business interests because it would open new development opportunity.”
“Implementing the basic income this way would attract support from both sides,” Istvan said, “because it would develop the economy and help the poor.”
Some of the primary criticisms of this plan are likely to come from environmentalists. But Istvan, who once worked for Wild Aid and National Geographic, said that environmentalists should not be worried, and eliminating poverty should be a high priority for the left.
“We can make all the arguments we want for why preserving the environment is good, but for me feeding people, giving them the right education, these are things that matter more,” Istvan said.
To ensure that the land was preserved, Istvan said the land would be “leased, not sold”, and the land will have to be returned to the state in its previous condition or better. The plan will not involve national parks.
“The environment can be preserved through radical green technologies that are just on our front door,” he said.
If Istvan is elected, he said he would immediately begin pushing this proposal. Once the revenue starts coming in from the development, Istvan said he could begin handing out a partial basic income.
“I want to transform poverty. It is just insane to me as somebody who loves technology and science that in the Twenty First Century we have a system where 40 percent of Californians are at the poverty line,” Istvan said. “This is something that does not just sound wrong to me, it sounds outright insane.”