In Brief

A new German experiment explores the possibilities of emancipatory basic income and what its implications are on productivity and creativity.

No Strings Attached

Here’s a question Germany seeks to answer—would the country be a better place if each citizen was given a check worth $1,100 by the government each month, with no strings attached? Would people still feel compelled to get up, go to work, and be productive with an unconditional basic income (which, by the way, is half the average monthly wage in Germany but twice the amount of those receiving welfare)?

These are the questions that the privately funded German experiment involving 26 people, “Mein Grundeinkommen” (My Basic Income) wants to answer. The project is financed through crowdfunded donations that raise issues about Germany’s utopian ideals given the rise of poverty in Europe.

Basic income follows four core elements—it has to be universal, individual, unconditional and it must be high enough to provide a decent standard of living.

The experiment explores what are largely considered leftist ideals but has also been granted some support from the right side of the political spectrum. Main issues from detractors focus on fears that this model could potentially cause lower productivity amoung people and ultimately cost the government.

Watch Rutger Bregman discuss why he thinks we should give everyone a basic income in this TedX video.

Emancipatory Basic Income

“A basic income paid out to everyone could unleash enormous amounts of creativity,” said Michael Bohmeyer, a 31 year old who launched “My Basic Income” project in 2014.  “[So] to be able to work creatively, people need some security, they need to feel free. And they can get that with a basic income.”

The participants picked from a pool of 66,000 applicants, have been chosen at random and additional participants are chosen through drawings and are set to receive the money each month for a full year. Participants are free to use the money as they wish. Each new draw is held whenever enough donations have been collected. To date, 31,449 have made donations.

For most participants who have been chosen for the experiment, the guaranteed income is not enough to spur them to quit their jobs. “The one thing that everyone tells us is that they’re able to sleep much better,” Bohmeyer said. “But, ostensibly, not a lot changes: The students keep studying, the workers keep working, and the pensioners are still pensioners. But there is a big change that takes place in their minds. People feel liberated and they feel healthier.”

What do you think? Is this the way of the future?