Universal Basic Income, a source came from Thomas More: A Path Breaking Idea

The concept of a Universal Basic Income is not new. One of the earliest known ideas on an unconditional universal basic income for all adults irrespective of other income sources came from Thomas More. After this, the idea of universal basic income was explored by many other Philosophers. Thomas Paine, one of the United State’s founding fathers, advocated that every person had basic right to an equal basic funding because “the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was the common property of the human race”.

Centuries later, British Philosopher Bertrand Russell discussed the idea of a Universal Basic Income for all sufficient for necessities in his book Road to Freedom.  Russell wrote that “Even on finishing education, no one should be compelled to work, and those who choose not to work should receive a bare livelihood and be left completely free”. This year’s Economic Survey of India has reflected that Mahatma Ghandhi envisaged a similar idea to Universal basic income. Besides these, many other philosophers explored variants of the idea of basic income, not necessarily always drawing inspiration from or building upon previous work.

In recent years, after the rise of anti-globalist populism, many advanced countries are contemplating that whether they should start mailing cheques to the unemployed.  The best example of it is Finland. The Finland government would provide tax -free income of €560 to two thousand randomly selected unemployed for two years. These people will continue getting payments even when they try out odd jobs. If this pilot is successful, then the program could be extended to all adult Finns.

In India, two pilot projects were conducted as an experiment for income grants in 2011. First was launched in Madhya Pradesh, funded by UNICEF and coordinated by the Self-Employed Women’s Association, to study the effectiveness of income grants. Another pilot project was conducted in eight villages, wherein every man, woman and child was provided with a monthly payment of Rs200 for each adult and Rs100 for each child initially. Afterwards, these payments were increased to Rs300 and Rs150, respectively.

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