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Jordan Peterson’s remarks on UBI

Jordan Peterson, cultural critic, psychologist, and member of the Self Authoring online service, gave his remarks on Universal Basic Income. His concerns seem to be largely drawn from a similar issue critics have with the idea, primarily in the face of leisure time: will people become lazy and unmotivated? Can people handle a life with none of the traditional burdens we normally face with work as it is? Where will people map out meaning in their lives?


All of these are fair questions, and Peterson seems to be open to the idea. A concern Peterson addresses is the rise of relative poverty in developed nations, which has been given terms such as “the precariat,” a term coined by Guy Standing. In addition to this, the rise of technology has made it so that many people who are not tech-savvy are poised to be left behind in this changing climate. This is coupled with the conservative myth that there is an infinite supply of jobs for everyone, and the liberal myth of retraining as a solution, both of which Peterson challenges directly. People might be phased out of the labor force, which is one of the general concerns automation forces us to examine.


In regard to UBI being proposed as a solution, Peterson seems to make some strong assertions. While he admits that a UBI is possible as something we can do, he remains unsure of “what would it do” to help people. In addition, Peterson makes a very strong claim that people in North America do not have issues with starvation due to a lack of income. Children go to bed hungry rather often, so Peterson’s remark doesn’t seem to be substantiated by any current facts or statistics. The most striking remark Peterson makes is perhaps a core view of his entire life’s work: he believes people are at their best when they are “burdened” by something. While one can sincerely entertain the possibility of struggles helping people become better versions of themselves, must it really be because one might not be able to add economic value due to factors beyond oneself, as Jeremy Howard argues? Is this an acceptable burden, given the scope of the problem?


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About Donald Brown

Donald Brown has written 4 articles.

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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.


  • Tia Carter

    There is an infinite amount of jobs for everyone. Strip back regulation and there will always be a job for everyone. The reason I don’t have my house cleaned everyday is because I can’t afford it. The reason I can’t afford it is because the market sets the rate at how much a cleaner costs. The market rate is set by the people willing to do the job. Since cleaning is a low skill job anyone currently unemployed could undercut my cleaner and be employed. However instead we have millions of unemployed people who are not willing to do the job. There is an infinite amount of jobs for everyone, people choose not to do them.

    • Andre Coelho

      Hi Tia,

      David Graeber has coined the expression “bullshit jobs“. It would probably help the debate if you got more informed on today’s job market. The truth is that many jobs today are so lousy that only desperation gets people to accept them. And that happens because there’s no basic income in place to prevent it. The fear of distitution keeps things as they are, which currently means low wages, degrading working conditions, little time to spare but to work in jobs and exploitation in general.

      I guess we can always imagine more jobs. It can also be instructive to watch this awarded video.

      But I see it more liberating to ensure the income, and let people decide what they want to work in their lives.

      Best regards,


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