Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rah! Rah! Basic Income!

Our country is a team. We win if we create the highest quality of life for everyone - best place to live in the world. That is the goal. The highest quality of life for the 10% at the top earnings in the population, and also the bottom 10% and the middle 80% where most of us find ourselves. Canada wins when our quality of life is one that provides stability and promotes health, belonging and a sense of purpose in society for everyone.

As a prerequisite, our team should focus on a quality of life that keeps stress reduced, given the increasingly compelling evidence that stress causes the vast majority of our health and social ills, which keep us from winning. A quality of life that encourages each person to contribute to this team because they feel like they have the time and capacity to do so, that doing so is important, and that they want to be a part of making it happen. One where, even if people choose not to participate, they have enough income to maintain physical and emotional stability that reduces their likelihood to commit crimes or be obnoxious.

We are well positioned to win the game of creating systems that allow for a high bar at the lowest levels by encouraging, not stifling, innovation, growth, and reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources. But we seem to have lost sight of the goal. Too many people with money and power have decided they are on a different team than the rest of us. They are on an elite team that controls, one that crosses boundaries of geography and hinges absolutely on levels of power. They control both resources and policies around the world, not on our behalf, but on behalf of winning a different game altogether - one where they compete with each other for control over resources, information and power. The new Generals, sitting in their war rooms, plotting our uses for small movements on their proprietary maps . 

If we were on the same team, no one would be quibbling about whether someone deserves healthcare, justice, food, safe shelter, clean water, social participation, education, sanitation, privacy, security, an ipad, or joy. If we were on the same team, we would use the team's resources to make sure everyone gets a slice of pizza after the game, that everyone has the uniform and has eaten enough to be productive. It's not good for any of us if one kid is stumbling around, hungry, tired and stressed instead of playing her position. It's not good for any of us when people are so overcome by worry, stress and demands to the point that they don't do a good job raising their kids, they don't volunteer or support neighbourhoods, they don't do a very good job at work, they don't bring their creativity to the modern age, and they don't help us WIN! Setting the minimum means every player can play. 

If we're all on the same team, the minimum anyone should ever have to live with is stability, dignity and a chance for participation. That minimum has been well defined by the UN and institutions like the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. 

If we set the minimum at a level that allows full participation, it might seem to cost a lot of money. But with an idea like a Basic Income as a minimum monthly cashflow for every citizen, it's not just a cost but an investment that spurs spending and encourages people to try harder, get on the team, live well instead of struggling to get by. The savings in bureaucracy, health care and justice will more than offset the costs. We can also think of it as a shareholder dividend, collected as we pass GO every month, to keep us able to play the game. We all get better because we are only as good as the weakest player on the field. Building bench strength, if you will. If not for the current batch of lazy bums, at least for their kids, right? Maybe the next genius you exploit will only emerge because the Basic Income let them experiment and innovate instead of working at Walmart. 

We are the only place in the world with this level of peace and this level of diversity existing together. People with money, people with power, I ask you, please get on the team. We have a chance to make things better, and you'll enjoy living here more if people are less stressed. We don't need all these people working long-term, so we can't rely on jobs to feed and house the population. We need to do it through our social systems, by sharing the value creation between private and public interests. If you don't want to pay more taxes, pressure government for a Basic Income instead of the wasteful, tiered, punitive systems in place. It creates a contingent workforce for you, removing your responsibility to keep people fed and housed while making them more likely to be job-ready with good attitudes when you do need them. It's the capitalist solution to the problem that people are not machines. Governments owe you a well-educated, well-raised, healthy and happy pool of workers to choose from - you pay your taxes! You still need to feed the animals in the zoo even when you don't need them to perform to play your games. Otherwise, everything goes to hell, and you have to live here, too.

It's time for us to decide to be one team, Canada, to show the world what's possible when we pay attention to the quality of life of every citizen.