I write about the basic income (or citizen’s income) from time to time on this blog. It’s an idea that is being discussed quite seriously in a number of places at the moment, but we’re a long way from seeing it implemented in Britain. You can support the idea elsewhere, however. If you’re an advocate and would like to see it piloted, an opportunity is opening up to get involved.
One of the big problems with the basic income is that it hasn’t really been tested, making it a nice idea in theory, but hard to argue for objectively. There have been a number of programmes and experiments in the past that have come close, but none have met all the criteria of being universal, basic, and long term enough to draw any real conclusions. Other pilot programmes have been proposed, but a genuine basic income remains an untried idea – and therefore, as far as many opponents are concerned, a policy of wishful thinking.
Give Directly are sufficiently convinced of the merits of the basic income that they want to remedy this situation and organise a basic income experiment of their own. They’re a charity that specialises in cash transfers (I wrote about them here). You give them a donation, and they give it as directly as possible to a poorer household in a developing country. They aim to cut out the middle man, and their experience over the years shows that this works rather well. Sceptics might assume that people waste the money they’re given, but the evidence shows that they very rarely do. It makes a real difference. So what if you could scale up the cash transfers and fund a basic income for a whole community?
Give Directly are proposing a full scale pilot, run over a decade and using a randomized control trial approach to make fair comparisons. It will run in Kenya, with 6,000 people, for 10 to 15 years. It’s a whole lot cheaper to do this in a developing country, where $30 million can provide a basic income for a large enough sample. (It would cost a billion to do the same experiment in the global north.) $10 million of that cost will come from their own funds, and the other two thirds will be donated. So if you’re interested in the basic income, here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is and make it happen. You can donate here.
If you’re one of those people who is mainly interested in a citizen’s income for themselves, then I realise this may not appeal – but all in good time. If it can be proven to work , other countries will try it. And if it doesn’t work? As Give Directly say: “at a minimum our money will shift the life trajectories of thousands of low-income households. At best, it will change how the world thinks about ending poverty.”