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Free money for everyone!

Now I have your attention, let me tell you about a scheme that has been gathering momentum incredibly quickly over the last few years. Universal Basic Income – or free money for everyone!

Where did I learn about something so exciting? A business conference! Whatever drudgery you have now imagined, dispel it immediately. Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Summit was no normal business conference, and Guy Standing was no ordinary speaker.

Advising the UN, World Bank and governments around the world on labour and social policy, Guy Standing has previously been
• the Director of the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the International Labour Organisation
• a British professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London,
• and the co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).

Guy had the academic background behind his words, and more importantly, a clear passion for what he was speaking about: broad social change through universal basic income.

Universal basic income is a form of social security in which all citizens of a state receive an unconditional sum of money independent of any other income, where citizens are free and encouraged to pursue work as a means to increase personal wealth. Although many would find such a measure to be drastic, Guy points to a bleak future.

Guy mapped out a new social class: the “precariat” made up of immigrants, young educated people and those who have fallen out of the old-style industrial working class. Due, in part, to globalisation the precariat suffer from job insecurity, identity insecurity and a lack of time control.

Guy called on politicians to make ambitious social reforms towards ensuring financial security as a natural right. He argued for an unconditional basic income as an important step to a new approach, stating that it would create economic growth and perhaps, more importantly, bringing back a dignity to the least wealthy in society.
He had everyone on the edge of our seats throughout the whole talk, an unusual topic for a business conference that managed to engage its diverse audience fully. But what really took Guy into our hearts was the raw emotion that spilt over when showing us that anyone who thought such measures are far away or unlikely to work might want to think again.

Guy told us of trials in India involving 6,000 participants. And moving us to tears in the process, we saw the culmination of a lifetime of work, where standards of living were rising alongside employment, and levels of drug and drink abuse, and general inequality much lower.
Guy showed us the raw emotion of hard-fought work coming to fruition, but more than that, an empathy and compassion for the people that he was determined to help.

These Schemes are gaining popularity and support as we speak. The Green party in the UK has unveiled plans for universal basic income in their manifesto, with Nicola Sturgeon going one step further and costing such a measure for Scotland. In California and Finland there are trial pilots already in place to monitor the effects among a sample group.

Although perhaps too soon to tell if such a scheme could work on a national level, it is indeed exciting times for advocates of a basic universal income who have been fighting a long time. If you want to find out more about such schemes or get involved, you can find out here.
By Joe

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