Podcast: Universal Basic Income – An Idea Whose Time Has Come

What if you were paid just for being alive? Just imagine, you are given a check every month for the rest of your life, enough to cover all of your basic needs. You wouldn’t be driving around in a Ferrari or eating avocado toast every day, but you’d be receiving enough to live relatively comfortably. And there’s absolutely nothing you would have to do in order to receive it. How would that change your life? What would you do differently? Close your eyes and just try to picture that for a second.

Okay, if you’re reading this sentence, that means you’ve stopped dreaming and have come back to reality. We have no idea how long you were gone, but don’t worry if it was for a little longer than you had expected. It happens. We understand. There’s a lot to think about there. What a crazy question anyways, right? Getting free money? For the rest of your life? Just for being alive? Crazy.

Or is it? The idea that we’ve been describing has actually been under discussion for centuries, and it has even been experimented with all over the world. In fact, there are actually several versions of it happening right now, at this very moment. Maybe you’ve already heard about it? Chances are you have. Lately it seems as if everybody is talking about it, whether they like the idea or not.

It’s called Universal Basic Income, and it’s the topic of our latest documentary (which is actually a 2-part series, since there’s just so much to cover when it comes to this radical and controversial concept). We spoke with philosophers, economists, journalists, and even random folks on the street, to explore the many questions that come up when you begin thinking seriously about universal basic income. What effect would it have on poverty? What happens when income is separated from work? Would society implode into a dysfunctional dystopia because everybody would just sit on the couch all day and watch Netflix? Or, alternatively, would it be the best thing ever, effectively freeing people from the fear that comes with financial insecurity and enabling them to pursue their most daring dreams and to make their biggest contributions to society?

Join us as we explore these questions and begin to untangle this radical concept. We’ve put together an all-star team of scholars and experts on the cutting-edge of this exciting debate. Whether you’re already an expert or haven’t even heard of the idea, you’re not going to want to miss this one.


  • Juliana Bidadanure — Assistant Professor in Political Philosophy at Stanford University
  • Doug Henwood — Journalist, economic analyst, and writer whose work has been featured in Harper’s,Jacobin Magazine, The Nation, and more
  • Rutger Bregman — Journalist and author of “Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders and a 15-hour Workweek”
  • Kathi Weeks — Marxist feminist scholar, associate professor of women’s studies at Duke University, and author of “The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries”
  • Eric Richardson — A recipient of basic income
  • Evelyn Forget — Economist and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba and academic director of the Manitoba Research Data Centre

Music by:

Many thanks to Benjamin Henderson for the cover art / header image.

Part 2 of this series will be out in Sept. 2018 and will explore the long-term effects that a progressive UBI might have on our current capitalist economic system.

This post was originally published by Shareable.

Upstream is an interview and documentary series that invites you to unlearn everything you thought you knew about economics. Weaving together interviews, field-recordings, rich sound-design, and great music, each episode of Upstream will take you on a journey exploring a theme or story within the broad world of economics. So tune in, because the revolution will be podcasted. 

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3 Comments Podcast: Universal Basic Income – An Idea Whose Time Has Come

  1. AvatarWingnut

    It won’t work. Inflation (prices) will skyrocket until folks are desperate again. Think it out. Capitalism thrives on “desperate-for-jobs” servants/marchers… who are over a barrel with “or else” firing/termination threats/terrorism.

    Price tags up, then need for more UBI funds, then price tags up, then UBI up, race for the moon. It is caused by “whatever the market will bear”-ism.

    Abolish economies, ownership, price tags. Removing price tags from all survival goods… will accomplish your goals much better. Not a single other living creature on the entire planet… uses economies/ownership. It is time to follow that model.

    Let’s discuss it all, instead of repeatedly trying to peddle UBI. How about Universal No Need For Money? As soon as you remove money/ownership from the equation, the “classing” goes, too, and isn’t that what we all REALLY want? You bet.

    Is there some ulterior motive for peddling this half-fix? Could we hear it? Thx.

  2. AvatarTheodore G.

    UBI is a great idea.
    I can’t even imagine how much the world would change if UBI was (truly) implemented even in a few regions, let alone whole countries. The amount of creativity that would be unleashed in all fields (and most likely “open source”), would geometrically improve everyones lives in practically no time.

    As far as a previous comment is concerned:
    I would not call it a “half-fix”, I would call it “(the beginning of) riding the learning curve”.
    Best to all.

  3. Simon GrantSimon Grant

    It’s specially in areas like this that we need really good research. It’s very easy for supporters or detractors to claim that what they think will happen, will happen. Could we at least agree on some kind of resolution process?

    On the other hand, maybe we can’t deal with this at this level of “facts”, because I suspect there are much deeper values and feelings involved. In which case, the sensible approach is to get people who start on opposite sides, with opposite views, to talk to each other, and listen reflectively.

    Once we’ve built up trust — emotional trust — on both sides, that we are both hearing each other fully, maybe we can progress back to the practical questions?

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