The idea of universal basic income has been around for decades – even Martin Luther King, Jr. was said to support the concept in theory. But only recently has this utopian proposal gone mainstream, seeing the first tentacles of practical application in certain European countries like Finland. And if Mark Zuckerberg’s commencement speech at Harvard is any indication, it may be soon to gain a certain amount of mainstream acceptance in the United States.
On Thursday, the Facebook CEO told Harvard graduates that the time was right to consider giving every American a paycheck simply for existing. Echoing the thoughts of many of his Silicon Valley brethren, Zuckerberg said the U.S. needed to start thinking outside the box when it came to the intersection of culture and economics.
“Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”
Zuckerberg said it was only because he knew he would be financially okay if Facebook had failed that he was able to push the boundaries of technological exploration. He said that Americans who had to work to provide for their families could not take the same risks, thus keeping them stuck in an unfortunate situation, unable to spread their wings and fly. Universal basic income, he said, would alleviate that pressure and allow more people to live out their dreams.
The basic idea behind UBI is that every American would receive a certain amount of money each month just for being alive. This would be a relatively small amount of money – just enough to meet your basic needs such as food and shelter. Supposedly, the money to pay for this universal welfare state would come from eliminating all the other means-tested programs that currently have our national debt skyrocketing into the lower atmosphere.
Let’s be clear, though. Whether or not UBI is even practical – and there is ample economic argument to suggest that it isn’t – it should be rejected on principle alone. It would be the final resting place of the American dream and the natural, disastrous culmination of the liberal welfare state. That we are even seriously considering such a proposal shows you how foolish we’ve been to allow the STATE to grow so massive to begin with. This would be the end of individual responsibility. Far from cultivating the desire to dream, it would abolish ALL natural motivation and put the majority of Americans in a crippling, dependent state of being that is antithetical to human happiness.
A social safety net is all well and good, but we should make sure that it IS a net. What Zuckerberg and others are proposing isn’t a net; it’s a bed.