Photo by Dustin Moore
Photo by Dustin Moore

The idea of guaranteeing an income for people is generating popularity in many parts of the world, writes FiveThirtyEight's Andrew Flowers.

Finland and the Netherlands are developing plans to study the idea. Canada will likely see an experiment in Ontario, if not on a national level. In France, several members of Parliament have supported running an experiment, and the finance minister is open to it. And in January, Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator announced that the San Francisco-based startup fund was organizing a basic income study in the U.S.

With such a revolutionary idea, there are widely divergent opinions.

Basic income has attracted a motley crew of supporters, spanning the ideological spectrum. Efficiency-minded libertarians like the idea of streamlining the bureaucracy of the welfare state. Silicon Valley techies hope a guaranteed income would cushion the blow as automation replaces human jobs.

Critics of the idea say it’s too expensive, would encourage people to stop working and possibly tank a country’s economy. It’s thought to be a political non-starter, too, especially in countries less wealthy and with less generous welfare states than Switzerland.

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