What is Universal Basic Income?

Universal Basic Income (UBI, also called Basic Income, Unconditional Basic Income or Basic Income Guarantee) is a benefit received by every adult citizen from the government, regardless of their current income or employment status. The amount is typically set at something like 'the poverty line plus a bit'. This means that people who have no income can access a basic survival level of goods and services and people with jobs, even part time and/or minimum wage jobs see a significant increase in their standard of living.

The idea dates back to at least the 16th Century and proponents of some form of UBI have included Thomas Paine, John Stewart Mill, Richard Nixon and Milton Freidman. In recent years, the idea has seen a revival because of the rise of robotics and automation. Numerous studies show that many millions of jobs are going to be lost over the coming years and UBI is seen as a way to provide social and economic stability through the transition, as well as improving current levels of income inequalit, stabilizing the "gig economy" and providing continuous economic stimulus to lessen the impact of recessions on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

Current proponents of the idea include people from across the political spectrum and around the world - from Marxists to libertarians, numerous Nobel winning economists and silicon valley CEOs like Bill Gates and Ellon Musk. The appeal of the idea to conservatives and libertarians lies in the idea that it would directly redistribute income without government regulation, oversight or means testing. The 'welfare state' would be replaced with a direct payment to everyone, regardless of income.

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There is a good overview of the idea, its history and some of the various forms that have been proposed on Wikipedia 

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