When business mogul Mark Cuban tweeted his concerns over the imminent unemployment that could stem from increased automation, Scott Santens assumed that the Dallas Mavericks owner was out to support universal basic income (UBI). Santens, a UBI advocate, replied to Cuban’s tweet, welcoming Cuban into “Team #Basicincome.” Cuban, however, flat out responded by saying that he wasn’t in favor of UBI. “I think it’s one of the worst possible responses,” he replied to Santens.
@scottsantens no. I think it's one of the worst possible responses
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) February 20, 2017
In the above conversation, Santens tried to convince Cuban of the merits of a UBI program. One of the arguments he put forward is what he calls the ‘entrepreneurial effect of basic income’. Cuban replied, saying that he has “spent a lot of time looking at [UBI]. I don’t see those countries [running a basic income program] as being apples to apples.” Cuban also said that there are existing safety net programs today “that need to be more efficient so more money can be distributed with far less overhead.”
Under a UBI program, citizens receive a fixed, regular income from the government regardless of their financial background, employment status, or other qualities. The only qualification is that the recipients are citizens, and typically that they are of legal adult age. One reason behind testing a basic income program, proponents argue, is that it offers a better alternative to existing social welfare programs. Santens told Cuban that current welfare programs “create disincentives” for people to seek jobs. Cuban said it’s something that “can be fixed.”
UBI isn’t a new idea. Recent concerns over job displacement due to automation, however, have given the UBI discussion a new spark. UBI advocates include economists from various countries and some of the tech industry’s top leaders.
As of today, there are also several pilot programs running basic income setups. There’s one in Finland, one in Kenya through a charity organization called GiveDirectly, and there is even one that’s blockchain-based courtesy of Grantcoin.