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Do you guys want some free money?
Excuse me, would you like some free money? Free money?
No, thank you.
No?
Free money?
Free money!
It's free!
I'll take some for my friend too.
You can take some for your friend.
Okay, thank you.
Would you like some free money sir? Okay, wow, we've got a lot of takers here.
Handing out free money sounds like a pretty radical idea.
But it's actually an economic concept gaining a lot of traction around the world.
We're talking about universal basic income.
Universal basic income is pretty much what the name suggests:
an income for everyone in the form of a cash transfer. No strings attached.
Finland is among a handful of countries experimenting with universal basic income
as a way to address unemployment in the country.
Meet our fictional character Leena.
She works in a salmon factory in Finland.
Then an economic downturn hits. People can't afford to buy as much salmon, and Leena loses her job.
Under the universal basic income scheme, Leena would get around $650 a month from the government.
She can use that $650 to cover living expenses while she looks for a new job.
But even once she gets a new job, she would continue to receive the cash.
A key feature of the universal basic income is that you can spend the money however you like.
So in the Finland example, you could take that $650 and spend it on about a third of month's rent here in Helsinki.
Or you could spend it on 100 cans of smoked herring and 26 bottles of red mulled wine mix.
We'll take 26 of these, please.
The idea of handing out cash to every citizen isn't new.
Philosopher Thomas Paine proposed the idea of payments to every person all the way back in 1797.
Martin Luther King Junior fought for a guaranteed income in the 1960s.
And even free-market champion Milton Friedman endorsed the negative income tax,
similar to basic income, as a way to reduce welfare costs and bureaucracy.
But lately tech titans in Silicon Valley, like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,
are some of the biggest advocates of the idea.
They argue a universal basic income could provide a cushion to an estimated millions of people
who could lose their jobs if they're replaced by automation or by robots.
Hello!
It's clear robots are already changing the future of work.
Some in Silicon Valley say universal basic income could give workers
an opportunity to retrain for today's workforce.
Other advocates say a basic income would alleviate poverty
and help address growing income inequality across the developed world.
It could give people freedom to start their own business, or flexibility to pursue creative interests.
The idea has support across the political spectrum,
from libertarians who say it would simplify the existing social welfare state,
to socialists who want to redistribute wealth toward the lower and middle class.
Finland isn't the only country experimenting with universal basic income.
Other trials are underway in the Netherlands, Kenya, Canada and the United States.
But not everyone is crazy about the idea.
Critics say universal basic income could actually disincentivize people like Leena
from getting another job if they know they're getting paid not to work.
And of course there's the big fat question of how to pay for universal basic income.
If every person here in Finland got that $650, it would cost the government more than $3.5 billion per month.
That number would be in the trillions of dollars per year in the United States,
where the population is much bigger.
And labor economists argue basic income would need to be a lot more than $650 to have a meaningful impact.
Research from the OECD shows that if the existing system of social and unemployment benefits
was eliminated or reduced to pay for a basic income, poverty could actually increase.
Other critics say there's no reason that people who are already well-off
should be getting more cash from the government.
So it's not looking like free money is going to become the norm for everyone anytime soon.
Hey everyone it's Elizabeth. Thanks so much for watching!
You can check out more of our videos over here.
We're also taking your suggestions for future CNBC Explains,
so leave any of your ideas in the comments section.
And while you're at it, subscribe to our channel.
Bye for now!
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What is universal basic income? | CNBC Explains

147 Folder Collection
Rachel Kung published on February 9, 2018    Rachel Kung translated    Samuel reviewed
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