It is striking how the New York Times, the BBC and the Guardian all announced to the world today that the the Universal Income Experiment is to be closed down.
The program still has one more year to run and after that the results will be analysed by the wizard professors and other researchers at the Social Insurance Institution.
There has been much talk in the domestic and foreign media about this pilot project because there is so much debate from the 2 extremes of the political divide, as well as from all those folks with middle-road political views.
On the right, neo-liberals are complaining that the welfare state should be dismantled or replaced because it is too expensive, or they also argue that people should not be rewarded for not working. They then propose this solution because and they claim that this is the fastest and most efficient way to achieve the minimum necessary support to dampen discontent. They also claim that automation, digital solutions and robots will result in huge unemployment and this solution will be part of a bigger solution with thousands of newly unemployed.
On the other side of the political spectrum, there is much support for this pilot. Many different reasons are given to support this belief:
- People need to be relived of stress of unemployment.
- People need help to start new companies with innovative ideas.
- People need to focus on choosing the right path to escape from their present predicament.
- They also use the neo-liberals arguments that the public sector can save money by reducing bureaucracy and complicated support payments and means tests with this innovative solution…
- … and they also claim that automation, digital solutions and robots will result in huge unemployment and this solution will be part of a bigger solution with thousands of newly unemployment.
The arguments are endless and are not based either on hard data or on experience. Most ordinary Finns would agree that receiving public money without any obligation is unacceptable and that the coming of robots will be slow and not cause fast mass unemployment.
There are other reasons why researchers love these projects – they get paid to do endless research on policies even when common sense tells you that they are sometime pointless exercises.
Universal basic income has no feasible track record and it is already expected by researchers that this pilot project will reveal little more than what we know already that giving money to people without any quid pro quo is mainly money down the drain. The reason for their expectation is that the sample is small and not very representative of the whole population.