It turns out handing people free money for doing absolutely nothing is not only a terrible and unsustainable economic model, it's also a pretty stupid way to try and inspire people to go out and get a job.
At least, that's according to a recent survey into "universal basic income" programs that would guarantee low-income citizens receive a basic government-provided monthly "income" stipend, regardless of whether or not they work.
Research conducted for Public Services International, a global trade union federation, reviewed for the first time 16 practical projects that have tested different ways of distributing regular cash payments to individuals across a range of poor, middle-income and rich countries, as well as copious literature on the topic.
It could find no evidence to suggest that such a scheme could be sustained for all individuals in any country in the short, medium or longer term – or that this approach could achieve lasting improvements in wellbeing or equality.
You. Don’t. Say.
Unsurprisingly, the evidence to back up PSI's conclusion abounds. If you couldn’t figure out before that simply handing people free stuff for doing absolutely nothing probably isn’t a sustainable system, here are just a few examples of such a model falling flat on its face.
In Finland, for instance, a study into the country’s experimental “free money” program found that while those who received the $635 a month in government cash were happier and less stressed out (because, well, free money!), they were no more inspired to go out and find a job thanks to the guaranteed basic income.
Ontario recently nixed a similar program last year after finding that writing checks to people for not working wasn’t a very long-term “sustainable” solution to poverty.
And it’s not just countries or localities that have found these socialist “do nothing, get something” programs don’t work. An experimental “pay what you want” Panera location called “Panera Cares” recently closed after finding out that giving away free food and not requiring people to pay for it wasn’t a very good business model.
But all these failures haven’t stopped some U.S. cities from implementing their own basic income programs, despite the theory’s record of abysmal failures. Stockton, California, began its own 18-month trial of guaranteed basic income earlier this year, in which 100 residents will receive $500 in taxpayer cash per month for…well, just existing. Left-wing officials in Chicago have launched a task force to look into a similar proposal in the Windy City. The initial pilot program would pay 1,000 families $500 every month and see what happens.
We’ll let you know when those tank, too.