UBI is an idea with an ideal goal, not an ideology. A proper understanding of UBI brings many ideologues to the same table.*
Is UBI Capitalist? No. But…
In Capitalism, the ownership of tools and software tools, machinery, processes, and contractual labor allows individuals to claim profits that those methods of production produce. Other aspects of Capitalism include: voluntary exchange (trade), competitive (free) markets, and private (not government) property.
With UBI, are any of the above restricted? No. In fact, in India, when people were provided with a foundational income they purchased machinery, some started new businesses and collected profits, and they could finally save a portion of their income to invest. This increased voluntary trade and competition with new entrants to the market as barriers to entry were reduced. UBI isn’t a ton of “free money”, it is merely a foundational level of income to ensure everyone may participate.
Does that make UBI Capitalist? No. What it does mean is that it allows all individuals to participate in a society or system that involves trade, markets, money, and private savings accounts, such as Capitalism.
Is UBI Socialist or Marxist? No. But…
Early socialist ideals included better wealth distribution, a sense of solidarity among the working class, improved working conditions, common ownership of productive resources including land and machinery. Modern Democratic Socialism aims to include democratic management or self-management of economic institutions and claiming social ownership of the means of production. Central organizations are voted in democratically.
Does that make UBI Socialist or Marxist? No. There is nothing in the definition of UBI that calls for common ownership of the means of production. However, there have been examples in Basic Income Experiments and Cash-Transfer Studies where social cohesion increased, better wages were observed, and members of a community did prefer to pool and share their resources.** Health, education, and living conditions improved. It is thus implied that a foundational income may improve labor union bargaining power, which could lead to better working conditions. There was also no restriction on forming cooperatives. In our current Capitalist system, there are also no restrictions for forming cooperatives. In addition, having some level of income to save can allow people to escape extortionate living costs which is attractive to both Socialists and Georgists. (No, Universal Basic Income isn’t Georgist, either.)
Is UBI Communist or Authoritarian? No. But…
Ensuring everyone has a foundational level of income may be partly inspired by the classless ideals of communism. In modern times, communism refers to the transition from private ownership of the means of production to a completely classless society, which is why it is often confused with socialism. In the common definition of communism this transition is accomplished via a central and authoritarian power structure, and not democratically.
Does that make UBI Communist or Authoritarian? No. A part of the definition of UBI is all-inclusive, unconditional, and thus in itself could be viewed as classless. However, in real world Basic Income Experiments and Unconditional Cash-Transfer Studies there has been no evidence to suggest that individuals provided with a foundational income would or did transition away from centrally-planned social (and cultural) structures or authoritarianism. There is no requirement in any singular ideology to obtain or use unconditionally provided income in any specific way. So, the inclusionary aspect of UBI is what attracts some individuals with communistic views to advocate for it.
Is UBI Anarchist? No. But…
Anarchism rejects all forms of control, uniformity and authoritarianism, which also includes government, especially oppressive governments. While other forms of anarchy do so in such a way to cause complete chaos, however this is not the definition typically used in political contexts.
Does that make UBI Anarchist? No. Real world evidence shows that providing Universal Basic Income created more peaceful communities, more social cohesion where education and healthcare increased. This however did show that (despite economically oppressive situations) the unconditional aspect of Basic Income means everyone involved was now able to escape economic oppression by breaking through previous economic barriers to entry. One could imply that this is ‘reduced economic oppression from forms of oppressive government control on an individual basis’ which anarchists (and anarcho-capitalists) could strongly identify with. Curiously, some anarchists are extremely opposed to Basic Income because they believe it can be used as a powerful incentivized ‘stick’ or threat by the state to maintain social control despite so much evidence of it reducing economic oppression and empowering individual freedoms.
Is UBI Libertarian? No. But…
A core tenet of libertarianism is individual freedom, often including voluntary trade, freedom of choice, and free trade. Modern Libertarianism can include socialistic libertarians that wish to abolish private property and ensure common ownership of property. There are also anarchistic libertarians that wish to abolish all forms of state control and ensure strong private property rights with zero government regulations.
Does that make UBI Libertarian? No. Ensuring a proper Unconditional Basic Income to individuals allows them to break through economically oppressive barriers to economic participation. Multiple studies, including the Indian Basic Income study, demonstrated the emancipatory effect of a foundational income like UBI, as well as the increase in personal savings, an increase in private property ownership, and free trade. So it does share aspects of individual liberation that some libertarians strongly identify with.
Is UBI Neoliberal? No.
Neoliberalism expouses austerity (budget cuts) to the extreme. It shares elements of anarchism and libertarianism through deregulation, free trade, privatization and disabling government power (however irrespective of social good vs. social detriment) by significantly reducing government spending while increasing privatization and corporate power and profits. Underneath neoliberalism hides social darwinism yet this is often ignored.
Does that make UBI Neoliberal? No. Ensuring a level of foundational Unconditional Basic Income to individuals allows them to break economically oppressive barriers to entry which gives them more choice and autonomy, allowing individuals to escape / opt-out of neoliberal financial strangleholds. Curiously, the idea of UBI does not have to come to fruition via government and enforced via taxes. If UBI is provided by a sovereign fund it may require the opposite of austerity measures. This would mean a neoliberal would despise the idea of UBI.
What UBI is not:
UBI is not Capitalist, but it allows everyone to participate in Capitalist systems of trade, not just the lucky few born into wealthy families. Participation also means escape from extortionate circumstances and the power to opt-out of Crony Capitalism.
UBI is not Socialist, but it allows individuals to form stronger unions and have more collective bargaining power against what they feel is unfair working conditions. There is no evidence that those provided with UBI suddenly wanted to force common ownership of machinery and production, but it does imply that people would probably have the power to now opt-out of Crony Capitalism.
UBI is not Communist, but it is unconditionally ensured, that doesn’t mean those who were provided suddenly wanted to live under authoritarian rule or seize the means of production through a socialist revolution, it just means that everyone can now participate in society.
UBI is not Anarchist, those ensured with a foundational income didn’t want to completely abolish all forms of government right away and forever.
UBI is not Libertarian, but in the studies it did demonstrate more expanded individual freedoms.
So, what exactly is UBI?
UBI is an idea, about an ideal:
We live in a society that runs on money, and we don’t (and may never) live on a Star Trek Spaceship. Almost every social interaction requires money in some form or other, whether it is making sure the car runs to visit a friend, or paying the water bill, or getting a pair of glasses. When treated with dignity and respect as a fellow human being, nobody should be forced to live a ruthless daily fight or struggle for survival in this modern age, now or ever.
UBI then, is: An entirely necessary, periodic, unconditionally ensured portion of money (usually advocated at slightly above the poverty line) to ensure everyone remains socially included as a member of society and treated rightfully and with dignity as a human being by ensuring that they remain above the poverty line.
UBI is also the idea of the rejection of a zero-sum, merciless dog-eat-dog crab in a bucket mentality that has been pervasive for so many years as a result of individuals forced into a social darwinist neoliberal economic system without UBI.
With UBI and a foundational income, we may as a society and humankind enjoy healthy competition, and we may invent or innovate or push the limits of knowledge. We may tackle world-scale obstacles, and we may live healthy and productive lives that avoid needless posturing or strife.
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Read about the existing evidence supporting UBI:
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