Universal Basic Income — Conceptual Modelling
The idea is to have a basic universal income — something that takes care of food, shelter and security — in an effort to help people focus on doing what they like/love to do. This idea is lately gaining a wider sense of acceptability amongst nations. From Finland to Canada, social experiments ranging up to two years are being planned and carried out — in real time. This is happening now. And the results can be anything. The immediate questions universal basic income raises are multifold. Herein, I try to address and answer some of them, from whatever I can learn thus far.
Let’s begin with a dream, then. To dream and pursue it without restrictions is not that easy to do; notwithstanding the fact that those are two “different” things altogether. This is especially made harder when one is in a regressive cycle downward with no way out. No matter how ridiculous it may sound to us. It is, after all, someone’s passion (of course, nonlethal ones only) and therefore deserves as much attention and care as anyone else’s.
Either people will sit on their bums and spend time watching TV or find some other “unproductive” way to pass the time (which, perhaps maybe considered a failure of the experiment — again depending on how you define “unproductive”). Or they will pursue something they have always wished but never could.
Maybe someone loves walking dogs around so much that they want to just do that the entire day and play with them. But walking dogs around (if and when it exists as a “job”) perhaps may not pay so well to live in a big metropolitan city, say Frankfurt or Mumbai. And in that case, the universal income would supple to ease the burden one feels when carrying out daily work. The psychological answer being that less tension = More freedom of expression and, perhaps, ways to invest time in pursuit of what makes one happy, thus increasing the general well-being of a population.
And isn’t that what should be the general aim of a well-functioning government and society anyway?
So, yayy! All for it.
Let me, now, present another one small social experiment. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) started in 1986, and of which I am happily a part and product.
The idea at the center of it was or perhaps must have been similar. The general well-being of a population. The problem to attack at that time was lack of quality education. And the logic was: Educated children might better pursue careers that befit the demands of changing times and help establish stable and peaceful societies.
After all, one needs some sort of educational training — and I acknowledge that multiple and varied definitions are available and are used by various educational entities to understand, test and select their target sample from a pooled data-set of people. However one sees and understands this, one fact remains that we all NEED some educational training (and I would argue that a rigorous one at that) to be able to know what is going around one’s society, to make one’s perspectives and finesse one’s logic’s lens.
How else, say, would we otherwise define what is successful, if not by knowing that people are well-fed, can fend for themselves without extraneous hardship and be peaceful? I gather history stands to reason that peaceful societies rarely initiate wars. Perhaps I am wrong. Regardless, I assume that. A violent axiom never can birth a sustainable future.
And so this social experiment, I am happy to say, is still going on in India. I cannot speak for all the schools, everywhere. I can only relate examples from mine. Most of those I studied with have gone on to make very impressive careers — each for her/his own and according to what she/he deemed worthy of pursuing lifelong as a goal. They have food, families and hope. They have shelter, share memories and are not burdened by the basic necessities problems. I would like to also believe they have all also added back to their families and societies. It can’t get any personal than that. In fact, I know that many of them have helped improve the lives of their parents and surroundings; oftentimes moving their whole “original” situation out of poverty-line. And this matters.
Because if we start with the premise that those living below poverty line are more prone to be unhappy, unsatisfied, struggling and constantly in a state of crisis, then there must be a level where one can adequately address these situations and scenarios for people; so that they have a chance to move to the other end of the pendulum. Life as a regressive cycle of unending problems is pointless. Life — as moved forward — must also be understood in terms of what and how much overall quality was added.
If one end of the stick is unwell society (standard-measurement being the “ability to afford what one desires”) then the other end of the stick must be well society and more desirable. If this is not the case, then we are that regressive society, recursive people and downward sloping education. I do not believe that is the case, though. I believe that we are a society which cares for itself and its people. We are a culture that cares for our own. And all of this “we” does not even begin IF one fear for learning or education.
I was once eating in a village some food in a hut with a family and what really bothered me at that time was the idea that the father of the family of four had no idea HOW to even get his children into the educational system. This is a scary thought to have. Fearless beginning of education is and should be a prerequisite. No one should have to fear that when their child turns 2 or 3 or 4 then how or where to put them in the education. The only “acceptable” discussion can be, in my opinion, is the idea of which type and style of formal educational beginning are we talking.
I firmly believe that hopeful and fearless “outlook” towards one’s future (personal or otherwise), will ultimately result passion automatically. And I think that when we begin like this, then we help our children and ourselves by endowing them with (a) Right Beginning and (b) Truthful pursuit. Both matter equally because it helps us by increasing our chances of being successful at whatever it is we choose to do.
And in those regards, I think that the JNV experiment was successful. Of course it has changed over time. Every system needs adjustments and fine-tuning. Taking together as a whole, it still creates more positive a value. This was accomplished simply by investing into the education of 40 students in my district of Balaghat in 1995. Forty students out of many thousands of students in a district of 1,365,870.
Investing in the roots of society is the simplest of ideas. Because the value we wish to perpetuate are really free. Education should be free because it has more likelihood of adding to the overall benefit of the society, at the least cost. Of course, nothing is — in its truest sense — “for free,” but when a government or public entity chooses to invest, without expectation, and does it in the correct way (which is also known in some academic circles as “Gifted Education”) then measurable results should reflect improvement in daily life.
I compare these two examples now because I find it — sitting here today in Europe — so clear that some investments are worth making. This is what I meant by the word that I am also a “product” of it. We — the entire Navodaya Vidyalaya students and teachers and investors and families and people — are part of it. There was once a classmate of mine who for all of his family’s hopes, was surprisingly intelligent. We were tested in grade 5 of the Indian educational curriculum. Today, that guy is running multiple IT integration projects, overreaching multiple continents. His family does not worry anymore about being hungry. And for all of this, I truly am very very proud of him and thankful for Indian government’s generosity.
I contrast this because one experiment was started in 1986. Small scale, maybe, at least as far as investment was concerned. It was mainly to take away from parents’ minds the burden of one daunting question — how can I best afford to educate my child? And the hope was that since it takes a lot of investment from a family to put their children through schooling, perhaps if the government took that investment’s responsibility, the family may have more chances to do something else to improve their lives however they see fit.
I am, therefore, also thankful that this experiment was done and grateful that Indian Government — oftentimes known for babbling about nothingness — still HAS given to the world stage some truly magnificent and alternate ways of experimenting with collected diaspora.
Universal Basic Income is a big investment. The question they might face has more ramifications for the society. But in my opinion, it is an investment worth making. Because if you are going to create a future, then roots never change. The need for learning, curiosity will always need freedom of expression. Not repression of pressing “basic-needs.”
What would you do if your basic needs were taken care of?