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eBay Founder Pledges $500,000 To Test Universal Basic Income Program In Kenya ( 399

"Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar is the latest tech bigwig to get behind the concept [of universal basic income]," reports Mashable. "His philanthropic investment firm, the Omidyar Network, announced Wednesday that it will give nearly half a million dollars to a group testing the policy in Kenya." The money will come from the Omidyar Network and be doled out to people living in Kenya through a program called GiveDirectly. Mashable reports: Universal basic income is the notion that a government should guarantee every citizen a yearly sum of money, no strings attached. The thinking is that such a program would relieve economic stress as automation technology severely reduces the demand for labor. Theories along these lines have existed for centuries, but their proponents have never had much luck convincing governments to give them a shot. Thus, the only data on real-world effects come from a few scattered experiments throughout the years. GiveDirectly is looking to add to that knowledge with one of the biggest trials of a basic income system in history. The group recently launched a 12-year pilot program in which it plans to give 6,000 Kenyans regular stipends for the entire duration. Around 20,000 more will receive at least some form of cash transfer. The Omidyar Network is hoping the study will help advance the debate around basic income from broad theoretical terms to more practical considerations. "While the discussion has generated a lot of heat, it hasn't produced very much light," wrote the Omidyar Network's Mike Kubzansky and Tracy Williams in a blog post announcing the pledge. "There is very little research and empirical evidence on how and when UBI could best be used."
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eBay Founder Pledges $500,000 To Test Universal Basic Income Program In Kenya

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This idiot should be funding birth control in Kenya

    • by demon driver ( 1046738 ) on Friday February 10, 2017 @05:32AM (#53837905) Journal

      1. Lowering birth rates doesn't make anyone of those who are already born less poor.
      2. Kenya's birthrate is still significantly above average, but steadily decreasing since the nineteen-seventies.
      3. Higher civilization standards correlate with lower birth rates. To increase civilization standards is the best way to lower birth rates.
      3. Enabling more people to do other things than just struggling to get their food for the day is the best way, in the long run, to help increasing civilization standards, together with education and infrastructure, to which to contribute is one of the things more people will be enabled to through a basic income, too.

      "Birth control instead of money" is just racist hogwash. "More money leads to more births, so give them even less money" may seem logical for some, but is a completely unsubstantiated assumption. In the long run, the facts give much reason to assume the exact opposite.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is it to allow people to not work at all, or is it to provide an income floor to allow them to bootstrap their way out of poverty into a truly productive, sustainable lifestyle?

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      Is it to allow people to not work at all, or is it to provide an income floor to allow them to bootstrap their way out of poverty into a truly productive, sustainable lifestyle?

      I think it is both -- presumably, given UBI, people would separate themselves into these two categories.
      Plus there is the bonus for removing administrative overheads of unemployment benefit coordination.

    • It's pretty much both. The basic idea of a UBI is that you can somehow survive on it. You want more than survival? Go get some work.

    • It doesn't matter what the objective is. intentions don't produce results.
    • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday February 09, 2017 @10:28PM (#53836739) Homepage Journal

      Is it to allow people to not work at all, or is it to provide an income floor to allow them to bootstrap their way out of poverty into a truly productive, sustainable lifestyle?

      A good overview of the concepts is in Manna [], a short story by Marshall Brain. It's a quick read and gives an easy description of the economic problems we're in the midst of.

      In broad terms, we can imagine an automated factory which is capable of producing all the goods needed by everyone in the country.

      Such a factory could get its energy from solar cells, and in addition to making everyone's goods it could make enough solar cells to replenish the ones it has when they go bad, and it could have enough energy to recycle all the waste products from goods that people throw away.

      That's a the metaphor of course, but it largely sums up where the labor pool is headed in the next 50 years or so: consumption has an upper bound, automation is making huge sections of the labor force unnecessary, and increases in productivity make the labor we have more effective.

      As a data point, note that companies are road testing automated trucks *right now*, companies are testing automated last-mile delivery via drones and rolling robots *right now*, and automated farming is coming on line *right now*.

      The trucking thing alone will directly eliminate somewhere between 3 and 5 million jobs, and millions more in support structure: restaurants and hotels on the highway, for instance.

      We're at the point *right now* where we have too many capable workers and not enough jobs, and improvements in technology will bring us closer and closer to the "completely automated" factory metaphor used above. The actual factory will be a host of factories distributed around the country, "automated" will still require 100K workers for maintenance and upgrades, and energy will be rooftop solar

      ...but it's still conceptually one big factory capable of producing everything everyone wants, largely for free.

      The regular rules of economics are about to break down. It's currently a sort of cycle, where money flows to the people (through salary), the people purchase things from companies, and the cycle repeats.

      With no one working, no one has money to purchase anything so the cycle stops. People starve and the economy halts.

      UBI is an attempt at a new economic model. People are given money to spend to keep the economy going, and as a side-benefit people don't starve or commit crimes to survive. Society benefits by having reduced crime and an active economy, and people have more leisure time to do things such as raising children or getting educated.

      UBI is one of about 5 proposed solutions for the economic transition we're facing.

      It's had a couple of small trials to great success, so it seems like it might be a viable option.

      • > *right now* and automated farming is coming on line *right now* ...

        Farming automation was a long time ago, in the US and other developed countries. Farms today employ 94% fewer people per output than they did in 1945. (USDA)

        Factories were automated in the 1960s-1980s, with the process being competed around 2006-2007. They haven't gotten significantly more automated in the last ten years. (Brookings)

        A huge portion of middle class jobs in bookkeeping, drafting, printing, writing, and all forms of proce

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msauve ( 701917 )
      It's to support some future Star Trek style utopia, where the Romulans are the biggest concern.

      Seriously, UBI is fine, if the rich folk voluntarily hand over their money to support it. But, it's not like they all have a hoard of cash - the vast majority of wealth is invested in ownership of productive companies. Force them to sell it all, and watch the markets tank, taking the 401(k)/pension/etc. investments of productive people with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The selling point is is a removal of all gov oversight of different and complex payments in different nations.
      Unemployment payment, old age, war veterans, education compliance and reporting is not needed.
      You can get an education, work, work part time, see if a hobby can be a job or use the universal basic income to part fund a start up hobby/job/trade. Buy ebooks, pay for online support to code apps.
      Thats great you get cash the UBI every month :)

      Over time the UBI will go digital. Accept it and stra
    • Trying it in kenya seems strange.

      But, the idea of universal income is that you can do away with all the other social security mechanisms and give people enough that they can survive. This means that then you CAN take extra jobs for a little less money.

      Basically in Finland now you CAN NOT take a job that pays under a certain amount in the month because then you will be out of other benefits and you can't survive! but if you would have universal income then you COULD do another job for even 5 bucks / hour, ma

  • Testing it in Kenya (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday February 09, 2017 @09:44PM (#53836459)
    Because automation is a real threat to the economy in Africa...
  • I enjoyed watching Hans Rosling's TED talk and visiting his [] dollar street [] web application. It's so hard to get a feel for what it is like to live in another country, so I can't judge how much difference $40 per month per couple would make. But I believe people, goods and services are generally free to move around Kenya, so it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the economy outside of the target villages and how the demographics of each village changes during the experiment.
  • yeah, universal
  • I'm glad for the experiment. However, I cannot see how Universal Basic Income would not simply lower the nominal value of money. Once everyone has X, that X is no longer worth anything. If you get $2,000 per month for nothing, and you rent an apartment from me, guess how much I'm going to charge you for it? More than $2,000.
    • That logic makes no sense. That is like saying if you make $2000 a month at your job you have no reason to work a side job on the weekends because it only pays $500. It's still $500 more than you had before. Every dollar has the same value it did, unless you are printing money to pay for your basic income. Almost everyone owns a television, does that mean televisions are no longer worth anything?
      • That is like saying if you make $2000 a month at your job you have no reason to work a side job on the weekends because it only pays $500.

        If you are being given enough to survive, why would you want to work a weekend job? Unless the money means something to you, it won't be a reward for working. And we've too much history that shows that when you give people stuff for free it loses value to them.

        It's still $500 more than you had before.

        But I have exchange my labor for it, where the other money I get I don't. Is it worth $500 to me to turn control of my life over to someone else? And if you think this won't be a problem when UBI is first implemented, think ahead to when the next gen

        • If you are being given enough to survive, why would you want to work a weekend job?

          Because there's more to living than just surviving.

          If you already make the median income of around $25k/yr, which must surely be enough to survive, why would you ever take any steps to try to earn any more than that? Because you want to fucking live better, that's why! People will always want more.

          Where do you think the money will come from to implement UBI?

          Where does any money the government ever spends come from? Taxes. Around the mean income the tax and the UBI cancel out, so average people see no different. But at every other income level, the post-tax-and-UBI in

  • The government creates no money. None. What happens when they run out? Who will pay the taxes? What happens when the govt needs more money than the amount they have to pay more citizens? What is going to stop more citizens from working, paying taxes, and just taking money?

    This is nothing but a step to communism.

  • This is akin to socialism, which works very well... when everyone is from the same Tribe and are related going back 15 generations.

    But it all falls apart when the neighbors are the wrong color, or religion, or accent, or we don't have the same great-great-great-great-great grandfather.

    In summary: people in aggregate, suck.
  • It is known that if the income is substantial that it actually saves money foe a governmental system. My only reservation is that Kenya may not have an honest enough government to actually put the money in the hands of the intended recipient. In the US, in many areas, it is assumed that a person in deep poverty will work under the worst conditions or starve to death quietly in a dark corner. That is a fantasy. people in poverty will steal, sell drugs, commit armed robberies or even murder to get by. T
  • How is this functionally different from unemployment insurance?
    Would the stipends continue if the person is employed?

    • Yes. That is precisely how it differs from unemployment insurance.

    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      Unemployment payouts require you to be actively looking for work and only continue for a limited amount of time. UBI stipends would continue if the person is employed and would continue for a person's entire life. Though in this test the payout will only continue for 12 years.

I just asked myself... what would John DeLorean do? -- Raoul Duke