Basic income: a simple solution to myriad problems. Just do it!

On March 14 2018, the Québec Chapter of the CUSJ attended Myron Frankman’s talk on Basic Income, which was hosted by Citizens in Action. Frankman’s talk was wide-ranging, and included an appeal for true global community as a panacea to climate change and catastrophe. Basic income can be seen as one step in the journey towards the ambitious–and Frankman believes, essential to our survival–goal of global community.

Basic income, also known as guaranteed income (GI), guaranteed annual income (GAI), or universal basic income (UBI) is a regular payment from the government to its citizens. The basic income differs from welfare in that it would be available to every Canadian citizen, regardless of their employment status, and would be thus a right, rather than a privilege with strings attached. The dollar amount would be calculated to provide each citizen with enough money to meet his or her basic needs.

But can Canada afford to implement basic income?

It is financially viable, asserted Frankman. In fact, the Fraser Institute, an organism not generally known for touting a progressive agenda, admitted in its own report that a basic income would “be much simpler and less costly to administer than [Canada’s] current income support system,” which includes Old Age Security, the GST/HST Credit, and programs for the disabled, because it would be a single program operated at one level of government.

But aren’t jobs good for the economy?

Yes, jobs are good for the economy, if that is your only measure of our nation’s achievement. Frankman’s assertion that “Jobs are bad for the environment” is certainly boltered by a casual look at the landscape of the Alberta oil sands, where jobs were, until recently, booming, or to China, where Capitalism is taking hold. This observation is echoed by an op-ed in Canadian Dimension, which states, “This endless braying for jobs… traps us in the logic of capital forever. It is frequently accompanied by the glorification of any work at all as a morally upright end in itself no matter its ecological and social impact.”

Indeed, Frankman invoked Maslow’s hierarchy, remarking that jobs, while good for the economy, are not necessarily good for the human condition. As long as one’s basic needs are not being met, one cannot develop one’s spiritual potential or achieve self realization.

Basic income, Frankman stated, would give individuals the power to say no to doing deadening meaningless work; and, more importantly, it would give them the power to say “yes” to their talents. Imagine how Canadian society would change if citizens were able to choose to do volunteer work, community work, artistic endeavors or other meaningful work that they would not be able to do if forced to (for example) flip burgers to make ends meet.

Frankman concluded,

“There were no pilots when governments introduced income taxes; or sales taxes; they  needed money, and they did it! Then you go back, and you tinker, and you fine-tune. Why is basic income such an exception to the rule? They’re so concerned the people are going to get something for nothing.”

Myron Frankman (center) poses with Patricia Spensley, Cym Gomery (CUSJ), Nadia Alexan (Citizens in Action) and Patricia Philip (CUSJ)

Here is an excerpt of Frankman’s talk:

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