If you’ll allow the Soft Path my choice of the global socioeconomic transformation archetype, I’d suggest we an indicator light has gone off recently with a guaranteed basic income (UBI) – aka universal basic income. To properly set the table, the GBI is one of the Soft Path indicators I’ve selected. A proposed Swiss referendum on the GBI a year or so back was an earlier hit (even though it still hasn’t happened yet). Last year Finland announced a decision to pilot a GBI approach this year, in part due to its record 10% unemployment. It is no surprise that they are European countries, and any tracking innovations in social welfare would have laid good odds on a Scandinavian country being a pioneer.
But could such a scheme penetrate the US? A land where certain presidential candidates would likely deride such a scheme as communism and be able to whip up quite a frenzy against it. Indeed, even bring up GBI-like ideas in polite society in the US conjures up notions of socialism (a more polite label than communism). When the GBI is put in the context of automation and job loss, it seems to at least get a hearing.
I suppose what I’ve been thinking about and looking for is a narrative or story that can deal with GBI being positioned as “socialism or communism, and those are bad things.” So I was very intrigued by a Sunday New York Times story that positioned GBI as “payback time for women.” The argument in the piece is that it would “reimburse mothers and other caregivers for the heavy lifting they now do free of charge.” It really gets us to the question of what “work” is – paid and unpaid work is a distinction often used, and what I think will get really complicated and murky is sorting out what should be paid or unpaid. As we move to more open source, sharing, social entrepreneurship and the like, does that “work” rate the same as more recognized work in say a Fortune 500 company. But wait, shouldn’t the former be encouraged as more socially useful. Oh yes, stay tuned for this.
I’m not sure that this “payback” approach is any sort of public relations coup, in the sense that this messaging will “work.” But it reflects the fact the GBI idea is in circulation, people are thinking about it, playing with it, giving it a hearing. Something of a national brainstorm…and worth paying attention to. Andy Hines