Mincome, or Universal Basic Income, is becoming a thing. California is testing UBI on 250 families right now. San Francisco is testing it in a separate experiment from its home state. Washington state is looking at doing its own testing. Canada tested UBI way back in the 70s. Finland did one a few years ago.
What is Mincome?
Mincome is where the government uses tax money to provide a monthly stipend to families with no restrictions on what it can be used for. This is as opposed to SNAP (food only) or housing assistance (housing only), and would ostensibly replace programs collectively known as welfare.
Frequently, these programs are worked out to be paid for by a combination of taxes and by replacing already existing welfare/support/assistance programs. By making the money available without restrictions for use, the need for more administrative staff (and costs) goes down, saving money. This is not without risk during transitional phases.
In case none of this seems feasible, think about Star Trek. All basic needs are available to all people. With a mincome, people would be able to afford those basic needs. It does not prevent people from going further and getting more income via work.
Mincome does, however, prevent poverty due to job loss, underemployment, stagnant wages, or even self-employment.
The scientific process is about testing an idea and finding consistent, or mostly consistent, results. We are currently in the testing phase of mincome.
However, the results that have come in are interesting.
The Manitoba Canada project from the 70s garnered mixed opinions, anecdotally, but the numbers showed that it made a significant difference in people’s lives.
The California experiment shows that 82% of the money is reported as used for necessities and life improvement.
Does it work?
All signs point to yes, if you care more about stress reduction, health and creativity than having people get “real jobs.” The problem with analyzing these trials is that traditional employment seems to be the only metric viewed as a success.
In fact, many of the trials specifically stated that they were hoping people would use the security net to get temporary, low-wage jobs – the kind that hurt a resume more than help. Instead, people used it to improve their position to launch into a career or other long-term solution.
The Finland trial, in particular, seemed to boost people’s confidence in attempting initially low-income, long-term work choices, such as starting a business or writing books.
“[It’s] a way to empower groups like stay-at-home parents, whose work doesn’t produce income—making them ineligible for unemployment benefits.”https://www.wired.com/story/the-paradox-of-universal-basic-income/
Mincome and the Indie Author
What does mincome have to do with the indie book community?
Indie authors often have large upfront costs with writing. There is the unpaid hours (years?) of actually writing the book, the expenses of time and money put towards learning the craft and business of writing to publish, cost of editing, formatting and covers – just to name a few.
Writing, self-publishing and marketing are a full-time job, but most indie authors cannot afford to not have a “bills paying job” with writing being more of a hobby. Some of us are lucky enough to have some kind of financial support from spouses, but that’s not always enough.
Mincome would allow a writer to be able to pay for basic expenses while focusing on their writing. This allows writers to develop their skills more quickly, and to put out more books. More books means not only earned income for the author, but also… MORE BOOKS!
The Starving Artist is Passe
Just because a person is not making a wage doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing something. Artists and authors work without pay to create the product that they hope they can sell later. Until then, they starve.
The same goes for stay-at-home parents, family caregivers, people with disabilities that prevent them from working traditional jobs. Also, students with mincome could focus on their classes instead of working two jobs on top of their studies.
But mostly… MORE BOOKS (and other forms of art)!!