A new film is hoping to answer the question of whether life itself should be subsidized. Directors Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh have produced a new documentary “The Cost of Living” which discusses the mental and physical burden placed on those with unstable incomes and whether basic income is the right remedy.
The film interviews many prominent basic income scholars, such as Guy Standing and Barb Jacobson. It is focused on the issues specifically facing the United Kingdom, where there are “3.5 million people in ‘in-work poverty.’” With the arrival of COVID-19, the film-makers argue the discussion about basic income is even more pertinent than ever.
The filmmakers expressed that many of the current programs in the UK are failing to rise to the moment with extreme distress around the country, such as the universal credit which they called “dehumanizing.”
“You have to prove you are deserving,” Blacknell said.
Steve Botrill, the deputy chief executive of Urban Outreach Bolton, is interviewed in the documentary. He said that much of the current stress on the poor in the UK is due to reductions in benefits and more stringent conditions placed on social services.
As a result, Botrill said that this is a cause for the “astronomical” growth of food banks in the UK in recent years.
In the documentary, it is argued that much of a person’s wealth is dependent on luck, such as where a person is born.
Initially, the film was going to take a broad look at social programs, but narrowed to basic income as they moved forward. In the long-run, the filmmakers noted that this discussion around basic income will continue to be important because of the changing economic and technology trends around the world.
However, the filmmakers emphasized that after interviewing many scholars they do not believe basic income is a “panacea” on its own. By interviewing a wide range of viewpoints, they hoped to create a “more nuanced take” on basic income.
With new spikes of COVID-19 around the world, Wayne and Blacknell hope the film can reach a wider audience to facilitate this debate. It is now available on Amazon Prime for streaming.
Taiwan held its first-ever basic income march on Sunday, attracting over 100 participants to rally in front of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Current and former legislators joined the march led by UBI Taiwan, calling for greater discussion of a youth dividend and guaranteeing the right to a basic livelihood for all Taiwanese.
A prominent national legislator in Taiwan People’s Party, Tsai Pi-ru, gave a speech at the opening of the march in front of the Legislative Yuan. She said she attended because she wanted to show her support for Taiwan’s young people who are “bravely” speaking out. Tsai discussed the possibility of using a carbon tax and dividend as a step toward basic income.
“While participating in the basic income parade today, I saw young friends stand up. They are courageous to stand up for a new idea that is easily misunderstood,” she said.
UBI Taiwan informally began in 2016 and was formally established in 2018. In that time, the group has held three international conferences and produced multiple white papers analyzing methods for implementing basic income. Most recently, UBI Taiwan released a white paper advocating for an emergency basic income, meeting with legislators in early 2020 to discuss the possibility of including cash transfers in Taiwan’s stimulus measures.
The organizers said there were three main demands of the march: guarantee the right to basic subsistence, protect a sense of economic security, and prevent working families from being trapped in low-paying jobs.
As the global pandemic continues to rage on, Taiwan has not experienced a local transmission for over 200 days which allowed the rally to take place without restrictions. Nonetheless, march organizers said the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic created a new urgency for the basic income discussion in Taiwan. Despite expecting modest growth overall this year, Taiwan has experienced uneven effects from the global downturn which disproportionately harmed low-income families.
Former national legislator and magistrate of Tainan county Su Huan-chih said at the march that promoting the basic income system will help young people increase their flexibility and opportunities in choosing jobs, and will also help the unemployed maintain their dignity.
The General-Secretary of Taiwan’s Green Party Rita Jhang said basic income “provides universal protection for every person, alleviating the plight of exploitation and overwork.” Jhang said Taiwan’s current social welfare system with strict conditions and qualifications is not well suited for the rapidly changing modern era.
“When people no longer have to worry about their basic necessities, they can make longer-term plans for their lives and they can engage in more creative and public welfare work,” Jhang said.
According to Tsai, many of the criticisms against basic income were made 30 years ago when Taiwan began implementing its early social welfare system. At the time, she said many were worried social welfare would bankrupt the government. But welfare is not the area where Taiwan’s government is wasting money, she said.
“The biggest problem is that the government wastes money to build a lot of large and improper construction projects and unused government buildings. These wasteful projects create debt and harm the natural environment,” Tsai said.
To help educate the public on the issues facing Taiwan, the rally included booths to educate the public on basic income, share real stories related to basic income and the global basic income movement, as well as an open space for the public to discuss questions about basic income and the future tech-driven economy.
Prior to the march, prominent basic income scholars from around the world sent their advice and well wishes to Taiwan including Sarath Davala, the chairman of Basic Income Earth Network. Davala said that he hopes the basic income march in Taiwan becomes an “example” for other countries in the region.
“The march that is being organized in Taiwan is a sign of how strong the UBI Taiwan movement has come to and it has the capacity to provide and influence the government to adopt this innovative system,” Davala said.
University of London Professor Guy Standing said in his video address to Taiwan’s march that the pandemic has shown “the resilience of society and the resilience of all of us as individuals will depend on the resilience of the weakest members of society.”
“Now is the moment for a basic income movement and a basic income system. Brave politicians must take this opportunity and usher in a better society,” Standing said.
For Tsai, Taiwan’s first basic income march was a starting point for a larger conversation about how to reimagine Taiwan’s society for the future. She discussed how basic income could help address the problems of Taipei’s high housing prices and the displacement caused by Artificial Intelligence, while encouraging greater risk-taking and entrepreneurship.
“The great changes in the world start from small places. The world is always changing, and our imagination needs to be liberated,” Tsai said.
UBI Taiwan Chairman Tyler Prochazka took the stage to discuss why he has advocated for basic income in Taiwan. Prochazka moved from the United States to Taiwan in 2016 under a Fulbright proposal of studying the feasibility of basic income in Taiwan.
“I truly believe there is a real possibility to implement basic income in Taiwan and open up the unrealized potential among Taiwan’s young people,” Prochazka said.
A three-year-long project documenting the impact of a small basic income trial in the United States is entering its final stages before release. Director Conrad Shaw said the goal of this project was not solely about what a permanent basic income system would look like, but more so a means to “explore what people do with extra unconditional cash.”
Aside from the financial struggles in the early stages, Shaw appreciates the series of events that occurred, which allowed the project to be illustrative of what a real basic income might look like in a crisis. Whether it be the hurricanes or the ongoing pandemic, a string of “scenarios” presented themselves and provided the perfect conditions to see where basic income can really make an impact during uncertain times.
“It’s just crazy how things lined up in the last several years, to give a lot of very poignant case studies,” he said.
The most dramatic changes Shaw’s team observed were the participant’s relationships and their psyche. Other than the day-to-day differences, the boost in self-confidence and change in their whole demeanor at the end of the trial held the most significance to Conrad.
“There’s an element of confidence that comes along with just being able to try what you want to try, to be able to take those shots,” Shaw said when asked to elaborate on the psychological effects the participants experienced. He said basic income allowed people to feel like they have always got a way to plan and move forward.
“People felt free to pursue the things that they wanted to for a very long time,” he said.
An important aspect of making the cash “unconditional” was to make sure the process was not something participants did not have to jump through hoops or constantly think about. They also wanted to make sure the recipients were not only using the money to pay for health care.
When asked about what he would do differently and what his future projects would be, Shaw said he wished there is more political movement on basic income going forward. He said he was disappointed that presidential candidate Andrew Yang was not able to take his basic income policy further in the Democratic primary.
While Shaw said the passage of basic income will be highly influenced by the political climate, he said he hopes that future work can evaluate the possible combined impact of universal health care and basic income when provided together.
Nonetheless, Shaw said he wanted to come at the project from a neutral academic view by choosing participants from a wide array of backgrounds across the United States. He said the project was a success in that it demonstrated the possibly life-changing effects of basic income for some recipients while leaving it up to the audience to interpret the results.
“The sort of the transition between before and during and after basic income was very dramatic; they were in a very different place after than when than one they started so you know, just objectively it seemed like a pretty significant potentially permanent sort of change,” Shaw said.
In the current turbulent times, there is a fierce debate emerging how cities should adjust to rapidly changing economic and technological trends. Smart City Education Inside invited two experts to discuss the prospect of cash transfers to enhance sustainability and provide equitable educational opportunities for students.
Smart City Online Education Inside is a joint project between the Digital Education Institute, III, and the Talent Circulation Alliance. Under the supervision of the Bureau of Industrial Development Taiwan, the project launched a series of panel and keynote speaking events for those interested in education technology, sustainable learning, and sustainable society.
On Tuesday (8/11), Mr. Ameya Pawar, who had served two terms on the Chicago City Council and was the first Asian and Indian American elected to major office in Illinois, shared his presentation “Dignity, Decency, and Agency: The Case for Universal Basic Income.” Income inequality, wealth inequality, and decades of policies favoring wealthy corporations and big banks over working people, drew him to the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Pawar believes that every aspect of society is impacted by inattention to poverty, it is necessary to invest in mitigating it at both the national and local level.
“What leads us to believe that people will do something wrong or bad or do less if we help them a little bit?” Pawar asked. “To achieve sustainability, people need to have built-in resilience,” he said.
In response to the idea that giving cash may make people less willing to work, Pawar said that research has shown that is not the case. “Giving people money does not change the fact that people, as human beings, want to be productive; instead, it gives people more choices and breathing room in their lives,” he said.
On Thursday (8/13), we invited Mr. Sean Kline, who is the Systems Entrepreneur in Residence with RSA Future of Work Center, to share his presentation “Child Focused Development in the Digital Era.”
Kline believes, as services and technology become the dominant drivers of the economy, some segments of the population have been left behind. That’s why, a more modern and robust social safety net is needed to help transition and adapt to this rapid technological change is needed. While the government is putting tremendous conditions on how low-income families use public benefits, it is capable of giving people money in the form of large tax deductions. These unequal requirements demonstrate trust for one group and mistrust for the other. In fact, unconditional cash is administratively easier to deliver especially if it is provided universally.
With children being an important focus of Kline’s work, he suggests that lacking investment in children not only shapes their life’s trajectory, but shapes the trajectory of potential economic growth for society as a whole. Sharing examples of universal children’s saving accounts, baby bonds, and basic income and how they have benefited children, he believes that these are the primary methods to support children universally in the digital age.