Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Andreas Kluth

Would a Universal Basic Income Make Us Lazy or Creative?

Some say it would turn us into indolent parasites; others, that we would become more healthy and productive. A German study hopes to provide answers.

They’re pro-UBI, but will it work?

They’re pro-UBI, but will it work?

Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

To make good policy you should have at least a vague notion of what you’re talking about. But when it comes to perhaps the biggest reform proposal around, we just don’t. I’m talking about a Universal Basic Income, a system of unconditional cash payments to everybody in a given jurisdiction.

The case for a UBI runs as follows: It would reduce poverty, make people healthier and give them more dignity. It would also ease the transition of workers who lose their jobs to robots or artificial intelligence, so they can retrain for different careers. In general, it lets people bridge periods out of work or in bad jobs so they can invest in their own skills and reenter the workforce at a higher level.