Socialism is a bit like an egg falling from the Tower of Pisa. The academics and politicians and Guardian writers who pontificate about how wonderful it is, and how much kinder than capitalism, and how logically sound, are like the clear, fragrant air it sails through safely during its long descent. Reality is the ground.
Take its latest incarnation, the Universal Basic Income (henceforth ‘UBI’. I don’t like pressing more buttons that I have to). Its proponents say that instead of tying welfare recipients up with job hunting requirements, disincentives in the case they find part-time employment etc. etc., they can enjoy this guaranteed, simple benefit free of red tape. They can then focus instead on training, starting a business, looking for a decent job, doing casual gigs and that sort of thing.
And then the egg hits the ground: people on UBI tend instead to do little more than they did on conventional welfare, and the people paying for it resent it bigly. Splat.
But that idea – being free to pursue your own priorities without worrying about basic survival – is nice, isn’t it? The main reason it doesn’t work with UBI is because people don’t appreciate it. Spending other people’s money is easy. A secondary problem is that what government gives, government can take away. No UBI could really be unconditional and guaranteed. Elections come, feelings harden, budgets strain and people change their minds.
Something that would work much better is a UBI that you fund yourself. That is, you set up a payment that covers your basic needs and then you go and do whatever you want. You might continue to work if you’d like extra money. You might study so that you can do something more interesting. You could start up a business without worrying about paying the bills in those tight, early years, or, if it came to that, you could just lie on a beach. Or hey, why not write that HBO megaseries about transgender dragons you’ve always dreamt of?
Of course this all sounds well and good, but how on earth do you do it? I’ve written about this before so I will briefly outline the process here as review:
- Figure out just how little you can live on per year (Ecuador, folks).
- Multiply that amount by 25.
- Save and invest until you have that much money.
- Finished! Live on around 4% of your wealth a year and do what you want.
I cannot suggest this as a sensible path for everyone. Some men want to marry and have children, which will require much more money. If you have children they are your project, at least until your youngest has made partner in a law firm. Other men find meaning in their present work, which makes establishing a UBI fairly pointless. And there are a myriad of other situations.
But if you want to give yourself the freedom and flexibility to find your own path in life, this would be a way to do it. Assuming you have few or no debts, it might be achievable in around 10-20 years. So if you are 25 (lucky!) you might only need to work that shit-kicking job until you’re 40 or so and then do whatever you want from then on. If that’s your priority and you can wait that long.
I hope that my self-funded UBI will start to flow from July 2019. I’ll let you know how it goes.