Can you imagine the changes to the workforce and how we treated workers if no one HAD to work to survive?
Like often I see these complaints about a universal basic income that are like “well then no one would work!” and I think there are lots of people motivated to have more money even when they have enough to get by, but I also I think, that’s kind of true, if regular employment looked and functioned the way it does now.
But with UBI if both employers and society wanted people in certain jobs those jobs would have to offer more than just “you need us to survive”. They’d have to offer satisfaction and community and purpose.
Imagine the changes places like WalMart and McDonalds would have to make to how they run their enterprise if they had to woo and entice their employees into wanting to be there. Imagine the end of “the customer is always right”, both because employers know their workers won’t put up with and because consumers are forced to have a respect for workers choosing to do this with their time to make the community function when they don’t have to.
Imagine the progress to automation and technology now that we don’t have to worry about unemployment as a result. So instead of a store having 40 employees, they have 10 and automated self check out and price scanners and store apps you can pay on, and automated self-driving bots to keep inventory and restock at night. (And that’s when you don’t just order online, shopping in-store is now inherently a Boutique experience).
But those ten remaining employees are So Valued by the company, and so carefully educated and trained and respected as experts in what they do. People go “you could do that when you grow up, help people shop and find what they need and know what products are best for them.” And it wouldn’t be an insult like “you’ll wind up flipping burgers”, but instead a respected option “you can help people have warm fresh food in one of the oldest and most prestigious international groups in the world, and look at their travel programs and free clubs and classes” (McDonalds wins the Fast Food Mario Kart Tournament every year, their team is best in the nation and if you want a good esports program you work at McDonalds).
Evidence shows people would still work. Evidence shows people want to improve their situations and want to have structure in their lives. Evidence shows the only populations who take advantage of a UBI to not work are students who choose to focus more on their studies and new mothers, who choose to spend more time with their kids.
But it would increase the bargaining power and social power of the average employee by so much. They’d have the option to walk away. And employers would know it and consumers would know it and employees would know it. So if we wanted it to keep working, employers would have to start catering to their employees wellbeing and health and happiness as well as their wallet.
And it would be so good.