Basic Income in Video

Money For Nothing - Should We All Get A Basic Income.jpg

Post by - Sam Walby

This blog post is a write-up of our presentation at Money For Nothing: Should We All Get A Basic Income? event in Sheffield on 2 June as part of Festival of Debate 2018.

Basic income is such a huge topic, and to fully get to grips with its possible implications requires a wide knowledge of economics, politics and sociology. Rather than overwhelm you with jargon, or give you a lecture in economics, we've brought together a short list of through-provoking videos which we hope will open up the discussion and highlight some interesting basic income history.

We weren't sure where to begin, but Alan Watts is always a good starting point. In this video he talks about vocation, passion and work: "Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way."


We picked this next clip to illustrate how Basic Income is starting to find its way into the mainstream. This is Ed Miliband talking about BI on BBC Newsnight. Sadly he didn't do this while he was leader of the Labour Party, but we'll have to forgive him for that...


Miliband mentions the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, which is paid to all Alaska residents since 1982 as a way of redistributing around 11% of state oil revenues. In 2018, it is expected to be a single annual payment of US$ 1,600 (around £1,200) per resident. Recent research indicated that the APF had “no effect on employment, and increased part-time work by 17%”.

Rutger Bregman's 2016 book, Utopia For Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, goes into a lot of detail about the profound potential for BI to reshape how we see work and how we value things. For Bregman, Basic Income is both a way of ensuring dignity and security for all, and a way of preventing the ongoing merry-go-round of what he calls 'bullshit jobs'. Here he is talking to Owen Jones.


Bregman mentions the famous 'Mincome' BI trial, also known as the Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment, which was held in Manitoba, Canada from 1974 to 1978. It was provided to people on the lowest income bracket only. Depending on earnings, a family of four received between $100 (£267 in 2018) and $5,800 (£15,500 in 2018). This trial has since become legendary in BI circles, with many subsequent and upcoming trials based on a similar approach, including an upcoming trial in Ontario, which will provide $16,989 (£12,400) per year for a single person, less 50% of any earned income.

To give more of a feeling of the potential effects of BI, we wanted to show you two videos highlighting different approaches to trials. The first is the Finland trial, a government-led study on work and unemployment. 2,000 unemployed people aged 25 to 58 are receiving €560 (£475) per month, tax free, with no reductions or ‘punishment’ for working. There are no reports or official studies yet, but the Finnish government has turned down a request for additional funding, which suggests that the trial will end in January 2019.


The second trial example is ongoing in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. US NGO GiveDirectly is studying the effects of BI on poverty alleviation, with 65,000 families having received roughly US$1,000 (£730) across a single year, which is ten times annual earnings for some recipients. The charity notes many positive outcomes, including an observation that often the eventual financial benefits for individuals and communities far exceed the value of the payments themselves.


There is a growing sense that BI is 'an idea whose time has come', so there are many filmmakers and artists exploring the concept with renewed vigour. Once such upcoming documentary, entertainingly titled Free Lunch Society, was released in February 2018 and is coming to European cinemas soon.


Whatever you believe, Basic Income is certainly an idea that is gaining traction, with major films exploring the concept and a government-funded BI trial in its pre-feasibility stages in Scotland.

There is no single BI model, and each approach has its pros and cons, but as a group, it is the belief of UBI Lab Sheffield that we need to more deeply explore the possible benefits of BI through a wide-scale trial in Sheffield.

On that note, we leave you with a short video outlining one of our BI proposals for Sheffield.


More about the author


Sam Walby - Now Then Magazine Editor in Chief

Sam is editor-in-chief of Sheffield magazine Now Then, as well as a director at Opus Independents, its parent company. Now Then champions independence in art, trade and journalism, with all articles written by local people.