Wellbeing

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Monetary policy and happiness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 6:00pm in

Philip Bunn and Alice Pugh It has been well established that macroeconomic outcomes, such as recessions and unemployment, can have important impacts on households’ well-being. So it follows that monetary policy decisions can affect happiness too. In a recent working paper we use a novel approach to assess how the unprecedented loosening in monetary policy in … Continue reading Monetary policy and happiness →

Pandemic and the Policy Roots of a Steady State Economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 11:30pm in

By James Magnus-Johnston

Over a decade ago, a chorus of voices called for sensible policy priorities for a post-growth transition; it took a pandemic for a few of these priorities—like a universal basic income—to become a reality nearly overnight. Not that recent policy reforms have been conducted with a steady state economy in mind. Rather, politicians have been attempting to “stimulate” a moribund economy.

Let’s imagine for a moment, however, that instead of “keeping the wheels on” and propping up a struggling growth economy in the midst of a pandemic, we intentionally build the better world our hearts know is possible. How do we nurture the roots of a just transition?

As a result of global economic hardship, many jurisdictions have recently instituted ideas that inch us closer to a steady state economy, including cash benefits that resemble a basic income and increased work flexibility. New Zealand has demonstrated to the world how to prioritize wellbeing over GDP. Many other places have begun to tax environmental costs in the form of a carbon tax.

It feels like the transition to a post-growth society may slowly be taking root, but it’s worth considering some of the reasons to be even more intentional about choices going forward.

Limit Inequality to Preserve Social Stability

During the global pandemic, cracks of injustice have been exposed, including racial, financial, and gender disparities. Manifestations of inequality are complex and structural. Fundamentally, however, when people are unable to meet their needs or control their destinies, it’s more likely that political cleavages will be exacerbated.

I recently wrote about warrants for a universal basic income, but wealth inequality remains a concern after a UBI floor is established. Herman Daly writes that by permitting wealth disparities in which the richest earn 500 times more than the poorest, the sense of community necessary to foster a just and democratic society becomes prohibitive. He notes that “rich and poor separated by a factor of 500 have few experiences or interests in common and are increasingly likely to engage in violent conflict.”

Growth is said to improve income inequality because it provides new opportunities for the poorest members of society. However, over the last decade, growth has not been shared equitably and has disproportionately benefited society’s most privileged. Reducing poverty and ensuring social cohesion and stability requires meaningful income redistribution, including a basic income, a minimum employment income, and—perhaps controversially—a maximum income for top earners.

Homelessness and post-growth society

Economic growth benefits the wealthy quite exclusively, further widening the income gap and rending communities. (Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, Credit: Ed Yourdon)

Let’s consider the latter, which will be harder to accomplish. In the USA, where the cracks of injustice have been particularly jagged, corporate America has a 500-factor wealth disparity. Czech argued in Supply Shock (2013, New Society) for launching sectoral salary caps at fifteen times the minimum in-sector salary, noting the popular precedent for salary caps (albeit with gaudy salaries) in professional sports. In Enough Is Enough (2013, Berrett-Koehler), Dietz and O’Neill touted the Mondragon cooperative, in which members earn a maximum pay of nine times the minimum. Even starting at a limit of 100 would be better than the present-day skewness. If a minimum of $20,000 per year was the floor of a basic income, a maximum of $2 million per year would be allowed to reward ambition and initiative. Those who perform their work at a minimum level of income could live simply but with lower levels of stress than many high-paid executives. Many already do, enjoying it and devoting their extra time to public service or recreational subsistence pursuits such as firewood gathering, fishing, and mushroom picking.

Increased Work Flexibility, But with Greater Social Infrastructure

As a result of the pandemic, those with stable employment have found themselves in the midst of a work-routine transition. While full-time employment for all may be hard to provide without growth, it’s also true that growth already provides too much employment for some and not enough for others, particularly those denied opportunity on the basis of race or gender. With greater freedom over their work hours, people can embrace healthier, more balanced, and more life-affirming routines.

Dog and post-growth society

In many sectors, flexible hours and telework put less stress on people and planet.
(Image: CC0, Credit: Allie)

Intergenerationally, baby boomers have high-income jobs and continue accumulating earnings. Some of them are abandoning the rat race, spurred by pandemic fears, but it’s primarily the younger generations experiencing the pros and pitfalls of working less. In addition to a lack of opportunity, youth also face income stagnation, poor employment prospects, high debt loads, and fears that climate change will interfere catastrophically with the economy in their retirement years. It stands to reason that the post-covid welfare state should institutionalize supports for part-time and flexible work routines—starting with an unqualified UBI and universal childcare benefits. In Canada, there are calls to amend the Labour Code so that employees have the right to request a flexible work arrangement from their employers, particularly if they are providing care for loved ones.

The industrialized world’s “40-hour work week” and the “nine-to-five” workday are relatively recent historical inventions that many of us see as the norm rather than variables we have freedom to control. Yet numerous studies have shown that many workers would prefer to spend less time working, while few would prefer to spend more.

There are examples of successful alternatives. Germany’s Kurzabeit job-sharing program, in which 1.4 million workers and 63,000 employers participated in 2009, has lowered unemployment rates while effectively reducing the number of hours worked per person. There are similar success stories in France, the Netherlands, and the U.S. state of Utah.

With greater work flexibility, people are more likely to provide necessary care for loved ones, consume less, and embrace more creative pursuits. All this improves our overall quality of life and takes pressure off the biosphere.

Prioritize Wellbeing Over Income

As we seek to cultivate a new normal in which health is prioritized, New Zealand offers a glimpse of the way forward while the USA lurches toward a health catastrophe. As I mentioned in a recent post, the postwar-capitalist framework equated economic “health” with income growth, price stability, and full employment. The pandemic has revealed how problematic it is to think of “health” as a capitalist metaphor (as in the USA) rather than a desirable end goal (as in New Zealand). Using GDP and stock market values as measures of overall economic health made sense in the postwar era, when growth was necessary to improve human wellbeing by raising material living standards. In much of the Global North, it is now necessary to focus instead on improving wellbeing without growing our material footprint.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WeAll) has suggested that the pandemic’s “Great Pause” provides us with an opportunity to focus on our wellbeing by reminding us that:

(1) The stock market does not represent or reflect our economic reality.

(2) We will enter a recession, and that’s okay.

(3) Economic policies can help us endure the Great Pause.

(4) We can build back better.

Going Forward

Policy ideas that appeared difficult or impossible just a few short months ago have suddenly become palatable and necessary, especially in the ways they may indirectly address pervasive inequality and injustice. Daly wrote in 2013 that such reforms would appear palatable “only after a significant crash, [or] a painful empirical demonstration of the failure of the growth economy.” Well, here we are in the midst of a radical disruption; and here we are, nurturing the roots of a just transition. Whichever way events unfold over the coming years, it’s clear that returning to the pre-pandemic status quo is less realistic and more difficult than embracing the change that’s well underway.

James Magnus-Johnston headshotJames Magnus-Johnston is a PhD researcher at McGill University in the Leadership for the Ecozoic program.

The post Pandemic and the Policy Roots of a Steady State Economy appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Building Upon the Trophic Theory of Money: Preliminary Results from Canada

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/06/2020 - 12:18am in

By James Magnus-Johnston

The human economy doesn’t just mimic the economy of nature; it is part of it. It is woven directly into the ecological system of producers and consumers. Due to the technological prowess of Homo sapiens, though, the human presence dominates, threatening other species and the life support system of the planet. Human dominance over non-human life leads us to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths, particularly for proponents of “green growth.”

The first pertains to the loss of biodiversity. As the human economy grows, biodiversity must be sacrificed. The economy grows from the “bottom up,” starting with the agricultural and extractive activity that displaces non-human species. This is the essence of what Brian Czech calls the “trophic theory of money.”

 



In this anchored clip, Brian Czech defines the trophic theory of money in a 2018 presentation to the Royal Society of New South Wales.

 

The trophic theory of money changes the way we think about pathways toward a greener, sustainable society. For example, it makes us think twice about strategies for “green growth,” including the following two:

  1. Using sectors like tech and tourism to shift away from farming and extraction (“dematerialization”).
  2. Investing in a renewable energy strategy that shifts the economy away from fossil fuels.

While both strategies have merit, it’s important to consider the systemic material implications of each strategy: How does each relate to the agro/extractive base of the economy and biodiversity loss? What are their rebound effects?

An alternative warrant for a greener society would be to use the trophic theory of money as an overarching design constraint. Instead of attempting to “dematerialize” GDP, we can instead work toward social wellbeing at an appropriately scaled, non-growing GDP. We can, in other words, opt for a steady state economy at some relatively optimal level. Before we can expect widespread acceptance of this option, however, we’ll probably need wider-spread knowledge of trophic principles.

What is the “Trophic Structure” of the Economy?

It takes producers and production to support consumers and consumption. In any ecosystem, from local to planetary, primary consumers (like voles and rabbits) require producers (like grasses and forbs), while secondary consumers (like shrews and weasels) require primary consumers (like voles and rabbits). For an ecosystem to be sufficiently developed to host tertiary consumers (like bobcats and eagles), there must be plenty of production, primary consumption, and secondary consumption “below.”

Trophic theory of money

The trophic structure of the economy consists of producers, manufacturing sectors, and services. The corresponding trophic theory of money is that “money originates via the agricultural surplus that frees the hands for the division of labor unto manufacturing and service sectors.” In other words, the real economy is reflected by flows of real (inflation-adjusted) money.

These “trophic levels”—producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, etc.—comprise the “trophic structure” of nature. “Trophic” simply refers to the flow of energy and material, or the “low-entropy flow” described by Herman Daly. Each time biomass (plant material or animal flesh) is consumed for the growth or maintenance of the consumer, waste is co-produced and energy is lost as heat. The certainty of waste follows from the second law of thermodynamics (that is, the entropy law).

In the human economy, manufacturing sectors build upon the agricultural and extractive base. Service sectors are not as readily assigned to particular levels in the trophic structure. Some service sectors—tourism for example—are best modeled as high trophic levels. Tourism doesn’t literally “serve” other sectors, but rather comprises a high level of consumption allowed for by surplus production starting at the trophic base. Other service sectors, though, are more appropriately modeled as interwoven throughout all trophic levels. For example, the transportation sector serves virtually all other sectors ranging from agricultural and extractive all the way through the manufacturing sectors and up to tourism and entertainment sectors.

Why is this trophic structure consequential? Because the clearly “material” sectors (agriculture, extraction, and manufacturing) are inseparable from the “immaterial” sectors (i.e., services such as insurance and finance). In fact, the material and immaterial sectors are mutually dependent, and ultimately the primary dependence is upon the agricultural and extractive sectors. Manufacturing and services would not exist without the agricultural and extractive base; more manufacturing and services require more agricultural and extractive surplus.

The money-material correlation might be less evident in national economies where services predominate, but that doesn’t mean the trophic dynamics don’t exist. For example, a Swiss investor might be earning revenue from resource extraction in Mali. What appears as “immaterial” financial sector revenue in Swiss accounting still has a large material footprint in Mali.

As resources are exchanged up the trophic pyramid, value is created and revenue is produced. In this way, value (represented by real money) becomes a unit of pressure on the environment. Every time a trophic conversion happens, it produces waste (material waste and waste heat) as well as a stream of revenue. The trophic theory of money suggests that the generation and flow of real money—namely the flow of expenditure contributing to GDP—is concurrently, concomitantly a measure of economic output and environmental impact (including especially biodiversity loss).

As Czech has pointed out, inflation, technological progress, and international trade can warp the tight linkage between GDP and environmental impact. But, as we hope to demonstrate with further research results, these phenomena do not affect the underlying trophic structure of the economy, nor do they refute the trophic theory of money.

Initial Research: Money-Material Correlation in Canada

Almost fifteen years ago, without the benefit of numerous intervening studies, Herman Daly wrote, “ecological economics sees coupling [between income and environmental degradation] as by no means fixed, but not nearly as flexible as neoclassicals believe it to be—in other words, the ‘dematerialization’ of GNP and the ‘information economy’ will not save growth economics.”[i] I tested the idea in 2010 by comparing materials use with income (GDP) in the Canadian economy over a quarter-century. I found that the coupling of aggregate materials and aggregate inflation-adjusted income in Canada is indeed pretty tight. I called this coupling the “money-material correlation.”

        Money-Material Correlation in Canada, 1980-2006

Income flow

In the first phase of the study—the phase producing the figure above—I considered materials use (material flow or MFA); later I also considered the ecological footprint. I wanted a metric that would concretize the idea of material growth (that is, resource use), and MFA fit the bill. I also wanted to understand the general environmental impact of GDP growth, and looked to the ecological footprint for a general understanding. In both the MFA and ecological footprint studies, as one might expect, the correlation with GDP was tight.

My study was, in fact, a test of the trophic theory of money. The results were promising. That said, further testing is probably required before we can establish GDP as a widely accepted indicator of environmental impact.

Future Testing

The trophic theory of money would seem to set design constraints for the pursuit of a greener society, whether as a shift toward tech/tourism, or toward “green” energy. Pursuant to the trophic theory, the economy cannot be “dematerialized” by substituting agro-extractive activities with services like tourism or tech. While the notion of dematerialization has largely been debunked in ecological economics, it remains a popular idea in neoclassical economics and political circles. Further evidence corroborating the trophic theory of money could be the nail in the coffin for dematerialization and “green growth.”

The second argument to consider through the lens of trophic theory is whether or not energy sources are substitutable. The answer will have implications for where we should invest our time and money in the effort to build a better world. The trophic model helps us to recognize that the raw materials required for all energy systems need fossil energy: first to extract; and then to produce and maintain. Fossil energy, as explored in depth by Vaclav Smil and others, is not always substitutable. Fundamentally, whether referring to hydro, nuclear, solar, or wind, each of these energy sources requires oil and other raw materials to build and maintain, in addition to the metabolic and transportation needs of the human beings who design and maintain the systems.

Whether referring to economic sector substitution or energy substitution, the general design principle in operation here is similar: We must consider the metabolic needs of the system and the full spectrum of land and energy inputs. By evaluating the economy as a complete system, we can determine the raw inputs and fossil energy requirements of services or renewables in the trophic structure. More importantly, as resources “climb” up the trophic levels and material conversions take place, the resulting revenue streams are likely to signal biodiversity loss (and other aspects of environmental impact) as much as income gain.

To test the trophic theory of money, then, I intend to reproduce the money-material correlation in other jurisdictions with diverse economies and widespread agro-extractive activities, including China, the USA, and Russia. If there proves to be a strong link between GDP and various indicators of environmental impact under such differing models of political economy, it would be wise for us to include the trophic theory of money as a central feature of ecological macroeconomics, as well as economic policy for the 21st century.

[i] Daly, H. 2007. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, U.K. See page 88.

James Magnus-Johnston headshotJames Magnus-Johnston is a PhD researcher at McGill University in the Leadership for the Ecozoic program.

The post Building Upon the Trophic Theory of Money: Preliminary Results from Canada appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


New Zealand Deprioritizes Growth to Improve Health and Wellbeing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 11:00pm in

By James Magnus-Johnston

Last May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern released a budget to improve the “wellbeing” of citizens rather than focusing on productivity and GDP growth. And, not so coincidentally, New Zealand has one of the best coronavirus outcomes of any democracy in the world. Perhaps this provides a global model to make economic health cohere with health for all life.

Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has deprioritized GDP growth in favor of improving wellbeing, and her personal approval rating is 65 percent. (Image: CC BY 4.0, Credit: Ministry of Justice of New Zealand)

To improve wellbeing, Ardern emphasized goals that focus on care for people and the planet. Goals included community and cultural connection as well as intergenerational equity. Under the policy, new spending had to focus on one of five priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing inequalities of indigenous peoples, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission economy.

While New Zealand isn’t the only country to float the idea of wellbeing over income, it is the first country to make it a reality. Guided by this philosophy, New Zealand is not in a rush to open its economy even as the headlines of a “stock market crash” or a “recession worse than 2008-09” appear in newspapers across the globe. Is Ardern’s example wise? Can we build upon it to further improve life after COVID?

Health and the Economy

In the postwar-capitalist framework, economic “health” became equated to income growth, price stability, and full employment. There are increasingly serious pitfalls to thinking of “health” as a capitalist metaphor rather than a desirable end goal. Using GDP and stock market values as measures of overall economic health made sense in the postwar era, when growth was necessary to improve human wellbeing by raising material living standards. In much of the Global North, it is now necessary to focus instead on improving wellbeing without growing our material footprint. Ardern gestures at this by focusing on mental health, inequality, and poverty, without emphasizing income.

By the postwar logic, human health and wellbeing can be upheld when there is enough money to purchase and provide care. After all, supplies and infrastructure need to be paid for. But as the American and British pandemic strategies have demonstrated, a growing economy in which GDP (or “opening the economy”) is prioritized over general wellbeing doesn’t always improve health outcomes. The USA has one of the highest COVID death rates in the world, and the US infection rate is rising as states open up. Experts on public health and leadership, like those writing in the Harvard Business Review, suggest that New Zealand’s Ardern provides a system that prioritizes maintaining and improving public health that global leaders should follow.

We can also think of health in the broader sense, i.e., health for nonhuman life. The economy is a trophic system, which means that economic health requires the consumption (i.e., death) of nonhuman life. And presently, growth is occurring on a scale that is unsustainable. Here, too, Ardern doesn’t suggest a transition to degrowth, but she does emphasize the need for a low-emission economy. Her movement away from GDP growth as a metric of economic “health” does provide an opportunity to make economic health cohere with the idea of ecological health: sustaining the power and vitality that supports all life.

One of the other tangible ways in which some have experienced a positive impact to their wellbeing during the pandemic is a temporary reprieve from productivist pressures and workplace stress. As I mentioned in a previous article, the term “capitalism” refers to Max Weber’s “modern Kultur” centering around a code of values for the 20th-century West. In this new economy, the highest virtue became “the making of money and ever more money, without any limit.” Growth-as-prosperity requires a certain level of constant busyness to prop up the outputs for mass consumption and technological improvement rather than human warmth and connection.

As a result of the pandemic, many of us have gained clarity about the things we value most, such as food, health, income security, education, mobility, access to nature, social connection, and public services. An economy designed for wellbeing can prioritize these tangible things rather than assuming that income will deliver them.

How Can We Build on Arden’s Success?

As we seek to cultivate a new normal in which health is prioritized, perhaps New Zealand offers a glimpse of the way forward. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance published a piece by Amanda Janoo and Gemma Bone Dodds that suggests that the COVID-caused “Great Pause,” as it were, provides an opportunity to improve our focus on wellbeing. They provide an argument in four parts: (1) The stock market is not a reflection of our economic reality; (2) We will enter a recession, and that’s okay; (3) Economic policies for a Great Pause; and (4) Building back better.

Basic needs

The pandemic has revealed how important it is for basic needs to be met through redistributive cash benefits. (Image: CC0, Credit: Mick Haupt)

With respect to the first two, Janoo and Bone Dodds argue that the stock market can’t possibly predict the future because the future will look starkly different from the past. As a result, trades merely reflect anxiety rather than future prosperity. Secondly, while policymakers are presently fearing a recession—a fall in GDP for two consecutive quarters—inevitably the economy will contract to ensure our collective wellbeing. As they point out, just because the economy contracts, that doesn’t mean our basic needs can’t be met. If anything, this situation has revealed that basic needs might be better met by providing cash benefits (or a universal basic income) where income is redistributed to preserve social solidarity and care. The economy won’t disappear, it will just focus on providing basic needs first. Particularly the ones that our free market sometimes fails to provide for a large part of society.

And to “build back better,” we could examine Ardern’s model and take it one small step further. To focus on health and wellbeing, economic policies should ensure basic needs are met through redistributive mechanisms without trying to balance budgets through austerity measures. Philosophically, this is an opportunity to consider how to live full and meaningful lives without unnecessary excesses. Janoo and Bone Dodds also note that during this time we’ve witnessed how many of our most precarious and poorly-paid workers, including “healthcare workers, farmers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and caregivers,” are in fact the most critical for our collective wellbeing.

An economy focused on improving wellbeing is not a distant theoretical idea. The postwar social welfare system helped raise material living standards by improving incomes. But in the 21st century, we have new social and ecological constraints. Ardern has provided a model for the world to refocus on health and wellbeing, and the global pandemic reveals how wise this strategy truly is.

James Magnus-Johnston headshotJames Magnus-Johnston is a PhD researcher at McGill University in the Leadership for the Ecozoic program.

The post New Zealand Deprioritizes Growth to Improve Health and Wellbeing appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Social Solidarity Requires a Universal Basic Income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 12:30am in

By James Magnus-Johnston

Going forward in these uncertain times, a universal basic income could be the best way to maintain social solidarity—whether referring to health, wellbeing, or public order. “Solidarity,” writes Eric Klinenberg, “motivates us to promote public health, not just our own personal security. It keeps us from hoarding medicine” and prompts us “to knock on our older neighbor’s door.” It is a structure and a mindset that breaks down the barriers of inequality and improves trust, maintaining the cohesion and the stability of society.

Social solidarity

A basic income is an expression of care and solidarity among members of society across divides of age and opportunity. (Image: CC0, Credit: Matthias Zomer)

A universal basic income (UBI)—otherwise known as a guaranteed income, living wage, minimum income (or its cousin, the “reverse income tax”)—is an ongoing cash benefit for anyone that falls below a certain income threshold. Spain has already embraced a universal basic income, and others may soon follow if the length of the crisis becomes protracted.

Economic stability is essential for strengthening social solidarity as the coronavirus continues to spread. The COVID-19 pandemic drives home the fact that, if everyone’s basic needs are met, we can take care of ourselves (and shelter-in-place) with less fear and anxiety. A universal basic income could improve social and health outcomes, as well as avoid a protracted economic crisis for months and even years to come.

Reaching for Revenue Neutrality

By reducing the number of conditional cash transfers for employment and disability insurance (among other programs), a UBI may not be as expensive as commonly thought. In Canada, former conservative senator Hugh Segal has become a vocal proponent of a nationwide UBI program. The Basic Income Network estimates that a nationwide UBI program would cost $76 billion before savings. After factoring in a reduction in other federal programs, the cost comes to approximately $44 billion. Provinces, collectively, would save over $30 billion—some of that from net federal transfers.

In the context of an economic crisis, there are further savings still. Canada spent $362 billion on mortgages to keep banks solvent during the 2008 financial crisis. Supporting households and individuals is a far more affordable proposition.

Maintaining Social Order and Health

The COVID-caused recession struck at a time when inequality had already reached historic levels. Social solidarity was precarious when the crisis began. Poverty levels in OECD countries were unnecessarily high, at an average of 11.7 percent of the population; 18 percent in the USA.

Recovery from the recession provides an opportunity to correct rather than entrench economic inequality. While temporary cash benefits will keep people sheltered and fed in the short term, they will not prevent the economic contraction that will emerge along with a likely wave of private defaults (which will disproportionately affect those of lower income). A guaranteed income would create long-term security and diminish socioeconomic divides.

Furthermore, there would be huge savings within the public health sector. Those who live at the margins worrying how to feed or shelter themselves suffer from poorer health; the understandable worrying exacerbates stress-induced illness and addictions. If everyone received a living wage, individuals would have easier access to medicine and clinics. A “side” benefit—hardly a minor one—would be a reduction in the spread of viruses conducive to pandemics.

Life-Affirming Simple Living

Fishing with family

A basic income would help people replace a precarious and anxious work culture with life-affirming, creative, and healthier pursuits. (Image: CC0, Credit: Re-Essa Buckels)

From an ecological perspective, a basic income has made sense for many years because it enables a simpler, more frugal lifestyle than attempts at keeping up with higher-spending Smiths and Jones. Simple living allows individuals to dedicate more of their time to meaningful family activities rather than constantly struggling to stay afloat in an intense job market.

A UBI incentivizes folks to replace tedious jobs with life-affirming, creative pursuits. With an increase in automation over the last 30 years, job productivity is no longer coupled with the production of income, which has been stagnant over roughly the same time period. Contract, or “gig” work, and clerical jobs have also increasingly replaced labor-intensive ones. A basic income would allow folks to devote energy to passions and priorities outside of these redundant and monotonous careers. They could dedicate themselves to family, artistic, or artisanal projects. They might even have more energy to volunteer for causes they care about.

Solidarity and Hope for the Long Term

For now, a basic income will help secure basic needs and maintain public order as physical distancing will likely be advisable or even required (at least intermittently) for the next 12-18 months. As we look to the long term, we should also recognize the merits of a UBI in helping to balance social, ecological, and economic needs. A simpler, less energy-intensive lifestyle can foster a greater sense of overall wellbeing, improve health outcomes (for individuals, families, and the planet), and save people from anxiety-ridden jobs. While the pandemic may have revealed the weaknesses of an industrial society, it also revealed a world filled with hope and social solidarity. Now’s our chance to maintain that world.

James Magnus-Johnston headshotJames Magnus-Johnston is a PhD researcher at McGill University in the Leadership for the Ecozoic program.

The post Social Solidarity Requires a Universal Basic Income appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.