Preliminary results are in evidence for Finland's groundbreaking Basic Income experiment – the idea that the government should give citizens a regular infusion of free money without them being required to do so. The result is not what Finland hoped for. But it's still a success anyway.
The Finnish process, the results of which were released on Friday, was not an experiment on universal basic income (UBI), which includes all citizens, whether they have a job or not. Rather, it was a deliberate attempt to see what would happen if the government arbitrarily selected 2,000 unemployed citizens and issued a check for $ 560 ($ 635) each month for two years. Participants were assured that they would continue to receive the money if they had a job. In fact, the declared aim of the experiment was to "promote employment" ̵
After this measure, the experiment was a failure: receiving free money did not affect the likelihood of people entering the workforce in one way or another.
But the basic income has done that: the recipients felt happier and less stressed. "The recipients of the basic income of the test group reported in every respect on a better well-being than the comparison group," said the researcher Olli Kangas.
That's a very positive result, and the fact that Finland did not have the goal should not overshadow it.
The Basic Income is an idea that has been asserted so incredibly fast and driven by people with such diverse motives that there is a lot of confusion on the most basic question: what is it for? What do we want to achieve with the basic income? Because we lack clear and coherent ideas about what success would look like, clarification and cohesion may be lacking in the announcement of test results.
Since other countries from Scotland to India currently have basic income systems, this is particularly important Try to avoid this slippage. They are watching the Finnish case closely, and a jumbled reaction to this case could affect the prospects elsewhere.
So what is the purpose of the basic income?
The Idea of the Universal Basic Income – That the State Should Provide Guaranteed Money A regular scholarship for every single citizen – at least since the 16th century. Its classic goals are the reduction of poverty and inequality. Some countries, such as Canada, have been experimenting with basic income for decades, and other countries like Italy are only implementing one version of it.
In recent years Silicon Valley has been very popular, where the innovation boom, which has caused so much fear of unemployment caused by automation, has caused powerful people to champion the basic income and so remarkably fast steam can win.
It's a rare idea that can be confirmed by such diverse personalities as tech billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, left-wing politician Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), libertarian economist Milton Friedman, and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr
As my colleague Dylan Matthews has written, different people have different dreams of basic income, and "these purposes are often confusing and contradictory." There are those who hope that this ends poverty. There are those who hope that society cope with the unemployment caused by automation. And there are others who hope they can disassemble the welfare state.
The goal of the basic income can also be defined in other ways: reduction of human suffering. In other words, making people happier.
That's a great result, and Finland's study has done it.
The study's researchers in Finland said that they had "less stress symptoms, fewer concentration difficulties and less health problems than the control group," says researcher Minna Ylikanno. "They were also more confident about their future and their ability to influence societal issues."
Feeling less of the harmful kind of stress often caused by unemployment is an inherent good. This is also an important tool for all governments who want to reduce the money they will later spend on citizens who have serious health problems that can be caused by excessive stress. Earlier basic income experiments have highlighted this effect: in Dauphin, a city in Manitoba, Canada, there was a decline in physician visits in the 1970s and hospitalizations declined by 8.5 percent.
The psychological stability afforded by a guaranteed regular paycheck also encouraged some Finnish recipients to be more entrepreneurial. Sini Marttinen, one of the recipients, compared her experience of basic income with winning the lottery. "It gave me the confidence to start my own business," she said. This entrepreneurial effect has also been observed in the past with cash transfers in places like Kenya.
It is also important to note that while free money does not promote employment among beneficiaries, it does not per se be a failure – although Finland would have preferred to see a boom. Rather, it is about the fact that a basic income has not led to people working less. The idea that free money might have this effect has long been one of the main criticisms of the Basic Income, a critique that is still popular, though the evidence does not support it. Now, the Finnish process has added the evidence that devalues it.
It should be noted that Finland is not an experiment on Universal Basic Income – the government has not given free money to anyone, just 2,000 people, a sample that is so small that some claim it be scientifically meaningful. It has not changed the number or type of job opportunities available or disposable income that everyone in society needs to raise. So it does not really make sense to expect this experiment to significantly increase employment. As Scott Santens noted on Twitter: "The neutral impact on employment after one year fits an experiment of only 2K people. A full UBI would increase aggregate demand and create new job opportunities. "
Finally, a reminder: These are only the preliminary results for the Finnish experiment. We should avoid drawing comprehensive conclusions until all results are available next year. Until that happens, it's worth taking the time to clarify the many answers to the question, "What is basic income?" This question often goes unnoticed because it is so easy.
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