Above Photo: From PopularResistance.org.
“For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system.”
To fight poverty and boost its own economy, Finland is planning to issue a check for $876 to every citizen, every month. The concept is called basic income, and the Finnish government is getting closer to finalizing its implementation this month.
The Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA) is drafting the plan to pay every one of its 5.4 million people $876 per month, tax-free, which would replace social support programs, such as welfare and unemployment benefits. Though a proposal from KELA isn’t expected until November 2016, a pilot stage is currently planned prior to full implementation of the program.
Basic income has been debated by economists for years, but Finland would be the first major nation to actually implement the model on a universal basis. The arrangement was initially popularized in the 1960s by Milton Friedman and would “provide payments from the state that would increase in inverse proportion to income.”
This could be the Finnish government’s answer to rising poverty and unemployment rates during a three-year recession, and it is certainly popular among Finns. In a recent poll by KELA, 69 percent of Finns support a basic income. Voters elected the Centre party this April, which campaigned in support of basic income, but the idea is popular among voters of almost all parties.
Currently in Finland, just as in the U.S., welfare benefits are doled out based on income. Basic income, in contrast, would be equally distributed to everyone regardless of how much money they make or even if they don’t receive any other income.
Critics argue that basic income would remove the incentive to work and lead to even higher unemployment. Supporters point to previous experiments, such as the Canadian city of Dauphin, where basic income was enacted successfully in the 1970s. Residents of Dauphin were part of a program initially designed to evaluate if writing checks to the working poor, just enough to bring them up to a living wage, would eliminate their desire to work. It didn’t. Checks were written to the city’s poorest residents for five years with no strings attached, and for five years, poverty was eradicated.
Finland could be next to wipe out poverty among its people. Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä supports the concept, saying, “For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system.”
If all goes as planned, basic income could mean much more than that. It could mean an end to poverty and unemployment and the beginning of economic freedom and equality.