The persistence of poverty in the US suggests that the social safety net isn’t performing as well as one might hope. A new solution which has slowly been gaining acceptance is the idea of a universal basic income — a guaranteed monthly grant to every citizen in the country. FiveThirtyEight offers a useful history of the idea, and some of the major advantages and challenges it would bring.
The economic uncertainty surrounding basic income is huge, and the politics of bringing such a program about on a large scale are daunting. But something makes this radical proposal so exciting that people and governments are increasingly willing to try it. Basic income challenges our notions of the social safety net, the relationship between work and income, and how to adapt to technological change. That makes it one of the most audacious social policy experiments in modern history. It could fail disastrously, or it could change everything for the better.