Yanu Endar Prasetyo


Capitalism is going to die because of the digital revolution (Signorelli, 2016). This change is being driven by capitalism itself, which is in the pursuit of digitization that will cause a malfunction of the markets, valueless of labor, and meaningless of investment. Some scholars and activist believe this is the right time and opportunity to replace the current system with something better. In the future, and it’s already happening now, most of the labor market will evaporate because most of the workers will be replaced with robots, driverless vehicles, 3D printing, robot maids, and other artificial intelligence machines (Stern, 2016). That is why no one will have a job and consequently, no income (therefore a jobless future). If they have no income, who is going to buy the products? (Reich, 2015) For this reason, the capitalist entrepreneur like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO) and Elon Musk (Tesla CEO) are promoting and advocating a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program because UBI is a way to solve this future social and economic problem affected by the digital revolution.

Basic income is an income unconditionally paid for every member of a society on an individual basis without means testing and work requirements (Van Parijs, 2013:174). The idea of a universal basic income is interesting because it could play in furthering freedom, democratization and the creation of a more democratic society in which individual liberty and citizenship are of equal for everyone. It also has the potential in advancing and reinforcing of the institutions of marriage, employment, and citizenship (Pateman, 2004:90). UBI can be seen as a radical extension of the universal welfare state. The survey study about the popular reaction of UBI from Helen Bay & Pederson (2006) in the Norwegian electorate shows a comfortable majority expresses sympathy with the idea of a basic income and supporting attitudes towards welfare state institutions and redistributive policies.

A basic income is simple to administer, treats all people equally, rewards hard work and entrepreneurship, and trusts the poor to make their own decisions about what to do with their money. UBI will increase workers’ bargaining power and enable people to do a lot of things financially that may be impossible now. In the USA, some economists have pointed out that every extra dollar going to the low-wage workers adds about $1.21 to the US National Economy compared to the high-income American that only adds about 39 cents to the GDP (Stern, 2016:189). By transferring money from high income to low or, middle-income earners will have a multiplier effect on the entire economy. Although many Americans think and  are terrified that UBI will make people lazy, it won’t. People will not get rich on what government gives to them (UBI) because it should be enough for people to take care the most important things in their lives but not for glamorous life. UBI is what we call as the “real freedom,” where the individuals have the financial resources and economic security to make freedom a lived reality.

History of Basic Income

Ideas and thoughts on Universal Basic Income (UBI) find their momentum on current technological developments and the threat of automation in the future. Nevertheless, this idea has existed since the 15th century and had occasionally appeared in history but then drown under the economic and political conditions at the time. Here is a brief history of the thinkers, initiators, and advocates of the idea of “free money for everyone” with their background and arguments according to the times and challenges of the day:

Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535). He is an English lawyer, author, philosopher, and statesman who served as an adviser to Henry VIII. In his novel written in Latin called Utopia (1516), he wrote down the idea of basic income and the concept of sharing the wealth/profits resulting from the management of public lands that are privately owned. This novel raises an ideal European society dream or which came to be known as the utopian society. This utopian idea emerged as an antithesis to the chaos, social upheaval, religious conflicts and extreme economic crisis of that period.

Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809). He is a British poet-philosopher who was born in America and became one of the figures in the era of revolution. In his pamphlet entitled “Agrarian Justice” (1797), He considers that the land is “the common heritage of mankind.” Therefore, every landlord/landowner is obliged to pay “rent of land” into “national funds.” This land tax will then be redistributed to all citizens. Every American citizen will receive monthly cash payments from the land tax at the age of 21 and annual payments when they are 50 years old. In his idea, the payment is considered a “right” that can be enjoyed by citizens.

Dennis Milner (1892-1956). He published a short pamphlet entitled “Scheme for a State Bonus” (1918). He introduced a weekly basis to all citizens of the United Kingdom. The state bonus should make possible to solve the problem of acute poverty, particularly after the war. Many of the arguments can be found in this book, such as the unemployment trap to labor market flexibility. Milner’s proposal was backed up by fellow Quaker Bertram Pickard, supported by the short-lived State Bonus League and discussed at the 1920 British Labor Party conference but definitively rejected the following year.

Frederich A. Hayek (1899 – 1992). He was a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974. He was a thinker of “free development” critics of autocracy or the totalitarian economy as the German Fascist government did in those days. Although he is a libertarian, in his book The Road to Serfdom (1944), he supports the concept of providing “minimum income guarantees.” He argues there is no doubt that the minimum food, shelter, and clothing sufficient to maintain the health and ability to work, must be ensured or available to everyone.

Milton Friedman (1912 – 2006). He proposed a radical policy of the American Welfare State through the introduction of a “negative income tax.” It was suggested as a simple and progressive alternative to the patchwork of existing social welfare schemes. And it was itself meant as a transitional stage on the way to an ideal, transfer-free capitalist society. Friedman’s proposal of a direct negative income tax would fully integrate the income tax and transfer systems.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968). In his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1968) He called for the importance of this basic income guarantee. He considers Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not just a government program to tackle poverty, but more than that it is the right of civilians to get guarantees from the state or government to help them out of the poverty cycle.

James Tobin (1918 – 2002). He and other liberal economists started conducting in a series of articles of Basic Income Guarantee.  Different with Friedman’s proposal, Tobin’s demogrant scheme was not meant to replace the whole system of social assistance and insurance schemes but only to reconfigure its lower component to make it a more efficient for raising the incomes of the poor. Under Tobin’s proposal, each household was to be granted a basic credit at a level varying with family composition, which each family could supplement with earnings and other income taxed at a uniform rate.

Richard Nixon (1913-1994). In Spring of 1968, there was a calling for the US Congress to adopt income guarantees and supplements system. It was supported by over one thousand more economists. This petition contributed to the Family Assistance Plan (FAP), a social welfare program that provided aid program targeting low-income families and incorporated a guaranteed income with financial supplements for workers which came close to a negative income tax scheme. FAP was announced by President Nixon in August 1969, adopted in April 1970 by a vast majority in the US House of Representatives, and rejected by the US Senate in November 1970. The defeat of the FAP in the Senate marked the end because of the rising of the Watergate affair in March 1973 and Nixon’s resignation in November 1974. However, the debate and discussion of UBI continued in a more academic vein, by five large-scale experiments with negative income tax schemes (four in the USA and one in Canada).

Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). The word basic income was introduced in the mid-1980s, and BIEN was founded in 1986. (Initially, “E” in BIEN was “Europe.” Then the members converted it into “Earth” in 2002 at the Geneva Congress.) Basic Income Network in the US (US BIG) was founded in 1999 as an informal association of academics and activists. Since 2002, USBIG has regularly held annual meetings, and recently they are working with Basic Income Canada which will hold an early 2018 meeting in Ontario.


Experiment of UBI

Theoretically, a basic income gives people an option. For instance, they can choose to exit the labor market or to relocate to a more competitive market. They can decide to invest in training or to take an entrepreneurial risk. The existence of that option allows them to escape the control of others. It enables them to say “no.” It gives them the power to govern their lives according to their plans, their own goals, and their desires. It enables them to be free. However, the point of basic income isn’t to give everyone the same amount of wealth but to guarantee everyone has enough access to wealth resources and protect them from the coercive power of others. That’s an understanding of freedom that may be good enough for our contemporary problems.

Results and analysis of a survey in Europe have found young people are more in favor of introducing a universal basic income rather than their elders. Support for such a scheme varies considerably across Europe, with Russians being the most supportive and many Scandinavians the least. Russia and Israel are the strongest and the biggest supporters for UBI. Otherwise, the weakest support comes from Scandinavian citizens such as Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway. In other countries (the UK and the Netherlands), support was split almost 50/50. More than half of respondents in Slovenia, Belgium, Poland, Ireland and the Czech Republic support universal basic income. Levels of support for UBI were below 50% in France, Estonia, Austria, Iceland, and Germany. In Finland, more than 50% of respondents said they favored the idea, perhaps suggesting that high-profile discussions there about the pilot scheme had led to more positive attitudes.

Figure 1. Level of Support for the introduction of UBI among Europeans


Figure 2. The number of Europeans supporting basic income[2].

Dalia’s most recent survey (in March 2017) shows that the number of Europeans supporting basic income increased from 64% in March 2016 to 68% in March 2017.  The study, first conducted in March of 2016, is based on more than 11.000 interviews conducted across 28 EU countries. However, in the other side, who exactly should get a basic income is another question (Battistoni, 2017). Some scholars tend to believe that UBI will explicitly be limiting recipients by their nationality. It has only seriously been applied at the national or local levels. For this reason, the debates over UBI will be bound up with questions about nationality and migration. Based on behavioral economics and sociological perspectives, UBI may have the consequences that are significantly different than predicted by the traditional economic model if the human behavior is taken into account. Furthermore, the collapse of capitalist systems will not only transform our social, political, cultural, and economic systems, but it will change everything.

Table 1. The On Going Experiment of Basic Income in the World

Country Year Project
Alaska, US 1982-present Currently around 650,000 people has received a uniform dividend every year, whatever their age and number of years of residence in the State of Alaska.
India 2010-2011 For 18 months, over 6,000 individuals received small unconditional monthly payments in Madhya Pradesh and Tribal village. Each adult received 200 rupees a month, each child 100 rupees. After a year, the amounts were raised to 300 and 150 rupees respectively. In the tribal village, the amounts were 300 and 150 rupees for the entire 12 months. These figures mean that an average family received the equivalent of $24 or £15 a month.
Finland 2017-2018 A group of 2,000 persons selected at random and get paid a basic income at a rate of €560 per month. The basic income is exempt from tax.
Kenya 2017-2029 All residents of about 120 rural Kenyan villages (more than 16,000 people in total) will receive some type of UBI during the experiment for twelve years. The experiment will include 3 treatment groups; Long-term basic income: 40 villages with recipients receiving roughly $0.75 (nominal) per adult per day, delivered monthly for 12 years. Short-term basic income: 80 villages with recipients receiving the same monthly amount, but only for 2 years. Control group: 100 villages not receiving cash transfers. This project sponsored by Give Directly (the US Charity) and will be the biggest and largest experiment of UBI in our history.
Ontario, Canada 2017-2020 Following a tax credit model, the Ontario Basic Income Pilot will ensure that participants receive up to $16,989 per year for a single person, $24,027 per year for a couple, and up to $500 per month for people with a disability. Participants must be 18 to 64 years old for the duration of the pilot and living in one of the selected test regions for the past at least 12 months or longer.


Annotated Bibliography


Ferguson, J. 2012. The Uses of Neoliberalism. Antipode, Vol 41, pp. 166-184. Based on the author’s view, the top-down state-panned attempts to directly meet nutritional needs (for example through trucking in food) are bound to be clumsy, inefficient, and wasteful. On the other side, cash transfer (such as UBI’s principle) put more decision-making power in the hands of those who know their predicament best and empower themselves to use flexibility and efficiency of markets to help solve their own problems. Cash transfer also can have a catalytic effect on many other income-generating activities to the multiple livelihood strategies that are so important in keeping the low-income households afloat.

Goldsmith, Scott. 2010. The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend: A Case Study in Implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee. Institute of Social and Economic Research University of Alaska Anchorage. The author described the structure, effects, and some consequences of the dividend program in Alaska. The aim of this paper is to give the reader insights into the factors to consider in implementing a basic income guarantee in other places. The dividend has been an enduring part of Alaska for generations, and because of its popularity it will continue to influence the state economy, fiscal structure, and society for the foreseeable future. However, it remains a controversial program because it challenges traditional economic and social relationships. He argues that many Alaskans would choose to eliminate the program, but just many would probably vote to enshrine it in the state constitution.

Helén Bay, Ann and Axel West Pedersen. 2006. The Limits of Social Solidarity: Basic Income, Immigration and the Legitimacy of the Universal Welfare State. ACTA SOCIOLOGICA, Vol 49(4): 419–436. This article provides a study based on survey of the Norwegian electorate by investigating whether popular reactions towards a basic income proposal that invokes attitudes towards immigration. Two-thirds of representative Norwegian sample express sympathy with the basic income idea, while only one-third are inclined to reject it as ‘fairly bad’ or ‘very bad’. That sympathy for the basic income proposal is based on a coalition of interests, beliefs and norms. They find that a comfortable majority express sympathy with the idea of a basic income, and that the structure of initial support for the basic income proposal is well in line with established findings concerning attitudes towards welfare state institutions and redistributive policies more generally. However, the negative attitudes towards immigration can be mobilized to significantly reduce the scope of support for a basic income proposal among the Norwegian electorate.

Lupton, Deborah. 2014. Digital Sociology. London & New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Life is digital! Anyone with an interest in the future of sociology should read this book. The author explores the ongoing transformations to data, academic practice, and everyday life. This book argue that sociologist can offer valuable skills and insight and expand their authority in social research by maintaining a critical distance from simplistic assumptions about the benefits of digital technologies. Sociologist are able to stand back and take provocative approach by identifying and asking difficult questions and give meaning on the social implications of big data.

Pateman, Carole. 2004. Democratizing Citizenship: Some Advantages of a Basic Income. POLITICS & SOCIETY, Vol. 32 No. 1, March 2004 89-105. The author made two important points in term of basic income; First, schemes for a conditional basic income raise another problem. The criteria for eligibility for UBI may be very generously interpreted, but there are always likely to be individuals who fail, or refuse, to meet the conditions. All the time that a basic income is conditional (a privilege not a right), the problem of second-class and lesser citizenship cannot be avoided. The use that citizens make of their freedom is open to no guarantees. Second, a basic income is not a panacea. UBI would not, for instance, provide an adequate stock of affordable housing, sufficient good quality education, adequate health care, an end to racism, or violence-free neighborhoods. Yet if a genuinely democratic society in which the freedom is important, it is hard to see that there is a substitute for an unconditional basic income (UBI).

Reich, Robert B. 2015. Saving Capitalism for the Many, Not the Few. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. The author stated that the robots will not exactly take away “common property” for which citizens deserve to be indemnified. But they will take away good jobs that already dwindling in number and replace opportunities already growing scarce. An alternative would be to provide every citizen a tiny share of all intellectual property awarded by the patent office and protected by government. Another alternative would be to give every child at birth a basic minimum endowment of stocks and bonds (a share in the future economy). However, these rules must be adapted toward creating a more inclusive economy and an absent some means for sharing will make the rewards go to a few people who control (possess ownership) to these robots and related technologies. Then, the middle class will disappear, and capitalism will not survive.

Stern, Andy. 2016. Raising the Floor: How Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream. New York: Public Affairs. This book focus answering some questions such as; if there are significantly fewer jobs and less work available in the future, how will people make a living, spend their time, and find purpose in their lives? How can we keep the income gap from growing so wide that it erupts into social and political upheaval? How can we organize our economy and social institutions so that the new American Dream becomes achievable for everyone? The author the appreciate why Universal Basic Income (UBI) as the most practical solution to our economic problems and to create social change during labor’s turbulent and transitional years.

Srnicek, Nick and Alex William. 2015. Inventing the Future: Post capitalism and a World Without Work. London: Verso. The authors show that the continuing trend towards decline in the total number of jobs per capita as automation increases. As the necessary amount of labor time diminishes through increases in technological efficiency, a population of workers far surplus to the needs of capital emerges. This is not merely a reserve army of labor, but a surplus population that will always exceed the number of jobs, only increasing over time and without the skill set to fill the types of new jobs that are emerging.

Van Der Veen, Robert & Loek Groot. 2006. Post-Productivism and Welfare States: A Comparative Analysis. British Journal of Political Science, Vol 36, Issue 4, pp 593–618. This article provides operational measures for comparing welfare states in terms of the concept of post-productivism. It holds that it is desirable to grant people a high level of personal autonomy, through the welfare state’s labour-market institutions and transfer system, and maintains that on average, people would choose to make use of their autonomy by working less, hence earning less and having more free time. With a limited dataset of thirteen OECD countries, three conditions of personal autonomy (income adequacy, temporal adequacy and absence of welfare–work conditionality) are discussed in terms of policy outputs. Two closely related concepts are also explored: comprehensive post-productivism and restricted post-productivism, As a result, the thirteen cases puts the Netherlands at the top and the United States at the bottom. It is shown that restricted post-productivism is not positively associated with the poverty rate, and negatively with the rate of involuntary underemployment.

Van Parijs Philippe. 2004. Basic Income: A Simple and Powerful Idea for the Twenty-first Century. POLITICS & SOCIETY, Vol. 32 No. 1, March 2004 7-39. This article is one of the most important guide to understand Universal Basic Income (UBI). Van Parijs provides explanation about what basic income is and what it is not? and about what distinguishes it from existing guaranteed income schemes. It will be easier to understand why basic income has recently been attracting so much attention, why resistance can be expected to be tough, and how it will eventually be overcome? The author argue that basic income is one of those few simple ideas that must and will powerfully shape the next the reality of the new century.

White, Stuart. 1997. Liberal Equality, Exploitation, and the Case for an Unconditional Basic Income. Political Studies (1997), XLV, 312-326. The author has critiqued to the Van Parijs’ idea and conception of basic income. He said that Van Parijs’ external assets argument is largely unsuccessful in defusing the exploitation objection to the introduction of a substantial UBI because it fails in the central challenge of reconciling payment of a substantial UBI with the reciprocity principle (which is a crucial component of the liberal egalitarian conception of justice). Van Parijs explicitly formulates the exploitation objection and attempts to discredit the objection by showing how the implementation of each of these principles would generate brute luck inequalities in contravention of the underlying equal opportunity principle. This argument strong enough to ground an exploitation objection to the introduction of a substantial UBI. The author concluded that Van Parijs has failed to provide a convincing rebuttal to the exploitation objection to the introduction of a substantial UBI.

William Mitchell and Martin Watts. 2005. A comparison of the Macroeconomic Consequences of Basic Income and Job Guarantee Schemes. Rutgers Journal of Law & Urban Policy. Vol. 2, Fall 2005, No.1. In this article the authors compared two kind of policy proposal; proposals to introduce a universal Basic Income (BI) and proposals to introduce a Job Guarantee (JG). Both challenge the prescriptions of the dominant neo-liberal policy agenda. While the introduction of UBI has superficial appeal (as means to allow individuals to subsist without work), the model fails to come to grips with the failure of macroeconomic policy to provide paid employment opportunities and secure incomes for all. In other words, pecuniary measures associated with basic income cannot, by themselves, regenerate the concept of community and a more forthright and clearly defined role for the state is necessary. The authors argue that the Job Guarantee is a far better vehicle to rebuild a sense of community and the purposeful nature of work that can extend beyond the creation of surplus value for the capitalist employee.


[1] This guide is a brief introduction to resources for the study of Universal Basic Income (UBI) or Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) including bibliometrics analysis and guides to the literature.