Facebook Co-Founder Calls for Universal Basic Income Paid for by the One Percent


Co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes revealed his thoughts on implementing a universal basic income due to the rise in automation. Not unlike Mark Zuckerberg, who vouched for the system in his 2017 Harvard commencement speech, Hughes argues for a universal basic income that would pay everyone a universal rate by increasing taxes.

In an excerpt from his book FAIR SHOT: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn, he says:

“I have come to believe that, dollar for dollar, the most effective intervention in the fight for economic justice is the simplest: cash, put in the hands of the people who need it most. The guaranteed income is as radical an idea as it is simple. An income floor of $500 per month for every working adult whose family makes less than $50,000 would improve the lives of 90 million Americans and lift 20 million people out of poverty overnight. Wage laborers and informal workers alike—parents with young kids, adults taking care of aging parents, and students—would earn the benefit. It should be paid for by the one percent.”

His sentiments echo those of SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who told CNBC last year that a universal basic income could be an outcome of automation.

The exponential increase in computing power and technological advancements will only increase the job loss felt by AI and robotics. Currently, at least one in three jobs is under siege to the climbing tech takeover. The global problem will affect the lower class first, stealing routine and repetitive manufacturing and customer services positions, which is why various wealthy individuals have come up with the idea of implementing UBI.

Research at the Oxford Martin School estimates that over the next 20 years up to 47 percent of US jobs, around 40 percent of UK and European jobs and a higher share of jobs in many developing countries including China, could be replaced by machines.

“Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract,” Zuckerberg said during his Harvard speech. “We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

While the idea of basic income sounds great, economist John Kay, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, studied proposed UBI levels in Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, and concluded that, in all of these countries, UBI at a level which can guarantee an acceptable standard of living is “impossibly expensive… Either the level of basic income is unacceptably low, or the cost of providing it is unacceptably high.”

Elizabeth Anderson, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, says that a UBI would cause people “to abjure work for a life of idle fun… [and] depress the willingness to produce and pay taxes of those who resent having to support them.”

Along with that, UBI would remove social interaction. Work is an outlet to communicate with coworkers and make friends, by taking that away the human interaction of work, people would likely become isolated and lonely.

The World Economic Forum describes universal basic income as a central part of the “circular economy,” aka global welfare. This would give tech giants a huge amount of power. The absurdity surrounding Basic Income ideology is proved in the numbers;

What tends to go unrealized about the idea of basic income, and this is true even of many economists – but not all – is that it represents a net transfer. In the same way it does not cost $20 to give someone $20 in exchange for $10, it does not cost $3 trillion to give every adult citizen $12,000 and every child $4,000, when every household will be paying varying amounts of taxes in exchange for their UBI. Instead it will cost around 30% of that, or about $900 billion, and that’s before the full or partial consolidation of other programs and tax credits immediately made redundant by the new transfer. In other words, for someone whose taxes go up $4,000 to pay for $12,000 in UBI, the cost to give that person UBI is $8,000, not $12,000, and it’s coming from someone else whose taxes went up $20,000 to pay for their own $12,000. However, even that’s not entirely accurate, because the consolidation of the safety net and tax code UBI allows could drive the total price even lower.

The WEF then claims the real cost is actually;

The true net cost of UBI in the US is therefore closer to an additional tax revenue requirement of a few hundred billion dollars – or less – depending on the many design choices made, and there exists a variety of ideas out there for crossing such a funding gap in a way that many people might prefer, that would also treat citizens like the shareholders they are, and that could even reduce taxes on labour by focusing more on capital, consumption, and externalities instead of wages and salaries. Additionally, we could eliminate the $540 billion in tax expenditures currently being provided disproportionately to the wealthiest, and also some of the $850 billion spent on defense.

Not surprisingly, another Facebook executive, the co-founder has published a new book promoting the idea of universal basic income. And while it sounds like a great idea, it would undoubtedly create mass dependence upon the wealthy for handouts. And what would happen if the wealthy got tired of such a system after the majority of the jobs were effectively stolen by technology? With one wrong turn, the system would cause a catastrophic effect on humanity.

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Works Cited

Ian Goldin. “Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes Is Making The Case For A Guaranteed Basic Income.” Financial Times. . (2018): . . http://on.ft.com/2BD0yX7

Todd Haselton . “Mark Zuckerberg joins Silicon Valley bigwigs in calling for government to give everybody free money.” CNBC. . (2017): . . http://cnb.cx/2Cy2xZI

“Universal Basic Income - Top 3 Pros and Cons.” ProCon.org. . (2017): . . http://bit.ly/2Gs4MQz