Entrepreneur says better education, better jobs, will be result of basic income guarantee

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Zachary Beaudoin, an entrepreneur living in Edmonton Alberta, for an article posted on Basic Income Canada Network . He works closely with technology and believes the current economic system is unfit to deal with the shocks that will be created by the coming technological advances.

Benns: From your perspective as an entrepreneur, why is the concept of a basic income guarantee useful to society?

Beaudoin: First I want to explain the benefit of a basic income guarantee that I perceive as a citizen. I believe that a society as a whole benefits from having economic abundance for all. People would spend more time on education, learning, and leisure, become more politically involved and even pursue more fulfilling employment opportunities. The result would be a healthy, engaged, and progressive society with less crime and less suffering.

From an entrepreneurial perspective it is a matter of economics. I’m head of a company that makes video games which requires a market of buyers that have both the disposable income to purchase my product and the time to play. In a system with high, and growing, wealth inequality people buy fewer video games because they either can’t afford to buy as many as they would like or they work very long hours to make ends meet and don’t have the time to play so many video games. You can substitute videos games with any other consumer product or service and you’ll see the same problem. So the more disposable income and free time people have the better for almost any consumer business.

Benns: Do you see automation as a real threat to traditional jobs? If so – and more and more people end up having difficulty finding work — how can we still find a way to make a difference in society? What might still need doing?

Beaudoin: Absolutely. Without diving into too many specifics it is not only automation in the sense that most people today are probably familiar with – a machine replacing a human in some repetitive task. The greatest challenge to our current economic model will come from AI capable of learning to do complex tasks and manage complex networks with a speed and precision that is impossible for any group of humans to match.

I’ll use one example that is probably familiar to most people: the self-driving car that the world’s most powerful tech companies are developing. Most people I speak to think that it just means you can go to a dealership and buy a car that drives itself – no big deal. What will really happen is companies in the transport services sector like taxis, trucking, hauling will replace their human drivers with self-driving systems because the cost will be significantly lower. This will force their competitors to do the same or perish and very quickly (probably inside of a decade) an entire industry sector of jobs will evaporate.

During the same half-century similar new AI technologies will see service industry jobs disappear in the same way and speed. Within this century we could be living in a world where half the work is done by machines. The unemployment rate would likely cause the collapse of our economic system as it exists today. We’ll need a new system that detaches income from labour. I believe that a basic income guarantee is not the solution to this future problem but it would provide our government with a means of absorbing the shock and buying them enough time to solve the problem.

Benns: How is basic income a ‘leveller’ in society. What makes it about equality?

Beaudoin: I don’t think of it in terms of equality I see it as shared prosperity because everyone would benefit. I also believe that it will play a critical role in overcoming the economic shocks we’ll see relatively soon and that it is our moral imperative to implement it.

Kingston, Ontario becomes the first Canadian municipality to endorse basic income

This is a significant event and a milestone in Canada. Kingston City Council in Ontario is the first Canadian municipality to endorse a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG).

In a vote held on Tuesday, December 15, the policy idea was unanimously endorsed with a 13-0 outcome in favour. The successful motion calls for a “national discussion of a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians”. It also asks for provincial and federal governments to investigate and develop the measure at the national level. The motion will be sent to all municipalities in Ontario with a request to endorse the initiative.

According to the approved text, the rationale for a BIG is the growing income insecurity and inequality, and the inadequacy of the current welfare system to address these issues. The motion states that:

A basic income guarantee would reduce income insufficiency, insecurity, and inequality and ensure everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live in dignity regardless of work status.

One of the biggest supporters of the outcome was former Kingston-area senator Hugh Segal. He has been an advocate for some form of basic income guarantee for decades, and took great pride in this result. Speaking to the local daily Kingston Whig-Standard, he stated that the “Council has shown tremendous courage and real leadership.” He went on to say that “it’s fiscally responsible and it responds to reality in terms of need… Give the money to people because they know where to spend it.”

This result comes at a time of change in the Canadian political landscape with the recent victory Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the national elections. Toni Pickard, a retired law professor from Kingston University and co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee, was interviewed by the same newspaper. She stressed that “the progress exceeds our hopes, to some degrees our imaginations. We expected maybe 20 years before any political take-up”. She remarked that Trudeau, the new Prime Minister, has declared poverty reduction is a top priority. A guaranteed basic income could be a way to help him make great strides in that area.

This is the first elected body in Canada to endorse the introduction of a basic income guarantee. In recent months, several Canadian mayors have spoken in favour of BIG. At the national level, the Canadian Medical Association endorsed BIG, and the National Women’s Liberal Commission, the women’s wing of the ruling party, has called for the federal government to launch a basic income pilot.

Kingston’s move is a significant step. We will have to wait and see whether this will encourage others to show the same support for BIG. With the changing political climate in Canada, it may well be a policy whose time has come.

For more information, see the following sources:

Paul Schliesmann, “Kingston council first to endorse guaranteed income,” The Kingston Whig-Standard, December 18, 2015.

Roderick Benns, “Kingston becomes first Canadian municipality to call for basic income guarantee,” Leaders and Legacies, December 16, 2015.

Roderick Benns interviews Toni Pickard, “Basic income guarantee and healthy minimum wage go hand in hand, says retired professor,” Leaders and Legacies, July 3, 2015.

Toru Yamamori, “CANADA: Ruling party’s women’s commission calls resolution for UBI experiment,” Basic Income News, November 6, 2015.

Josh Martin, “Canadian Medical Association officially endorses basic income at general council,” Basic Income News, September 6, 2015.

Will Wachtmeister, “CANADA: Edmonton mayor moots twin basic income pilot with Calgary,” Basic Income News, June 19, 2015.

About Joe Timothy

Joe Timothy has written 7 articles.
Joe is currently preparing to study for his PhD in 2016. He is looking into the feasiblity of introducing a Universal Basic Income in the UK. He is a keen blogger about social issues, politics, inequality, education and learning.
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Clipped from: http://www.basicincome.org/news/2015/12/canada-kingston-is-first-council-to-show-unanimous-support-for-a-guaranteed-income/