The science of stress in society drives us towards UBI


We support the general furore around Universal Basic Income / Citizens' Income / Citizens' Investment (choose your title) at the moment.

Our great friend Phil Teer - who presented his ad-man's manifesto for it at our opening "friendly" event in March - is even developing an art book around it.

It's the kind of "unthinkable" policy idea that the existing UK party-political system simply can't allow us to address. Though it doesn't stop some cities, municipalities and even other countries experimenting with it (here's a global chart of who's trying it out). 

One of the most indefatigable advocates for UBI is Scott Santens, who maintains his work on the basis of a strong community of Patreon supporters (do help him out).

We came across this 2016 article on UBI which strikingly bases its relevance on the harsh effects that social stress has on human performance and well-being. There are some illuminating dives into evolutionary science and psychology. (And we hear from the Finnish experiment that it's already reducing national stress levels there).

The whole piece is very much worth reading, but we're extracting from the end because it's rousing and operatic:

We as humans have incredible potential to create and form communities, and realize world-changing feats of imagination, and this mostly untapped potential mostly just requires less stress and more time. If all we’re doing is just trying to get by, and our lives are becoming increasingly stressful, it becomes increasingly difficult to think and to connect with each other. It’s the taxation of the human mind and social bonds. Studies even show the burden of poverty on the mind depletes the amount of mental bandwidth available for everything else to the tune of about 14 IQ points, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep. Basically, scarcity begets scarcity.

On the other hand, if we free ourselves to focus on everything else other than survival, if we remove the limitations of highly unequal and impoverished environments, then we’re increasingly able to connect with each other, and we minimize learned helplessness. As a result, our health improves. Crime is reduced. Self-motivation goes up. Teamwork overtakes dog-eat-dog, and long-term planning overtakes short-term thinking. Presumably, many an IQ jumps the equivalent of 14 points. A greater sense of security has even been shown to reduce bias against “out” groups, from immigrants to the obese. And if we take into account the importance of security in people deciding to invest their time and resources in bold new ventures, innovation also has the chance of skyrocketing in a society where everyone always has enough to feel comfortable in taking risks without fear of failure. Basically, abundance begets abundance.

If what we seek is a better environment for the thriving of humans — a “Human Park” full of greater health and happiness — then what we seek should be the implementation of basic income, in nation after nation, all over the world. There is no real feeling of control without the ability to say no. Because UBI is unconditional, it provides that lever to everyone for the first time in history. No other policy has the transformative potential of reducing anywhere near as much stress in society than the lifelong guaranteeing of basic economic security with a fully unconditional basic income. Plus, with that guarantee achieved, the fear of technological unemployment becomes the goal of technological unemployment. Why stress about automation, when we could embrace it?

No more fight-or-flight.

It’s time for live long and prosper.