Universal Basic Income
Updated: Apr 1
Five decades ago Martin Luther King, Jr. called for a guaranteed income as a means to fight poverty. The idea is finally coming into its own.
Guest: Mitch Williams, speaker, artist and writer, is the author of the book, A Call to Magic--the Artful Science of Transforming Self and World.
Click for Podcast Transcript
McNair Ezzard 0:15
This is WPVM 103.7 FM in Asheville, North Carolina. Hello and welcome to A Better World on WPVM. My name is McNair Ezzard and I'm your host for today's show. We come to you every Sunday morning at 103.7 or you can stream us at wpvmfm.org. Each week, we take an in depth look at the people and organizations locally, nationally and internationally, who are working to create a world that works for everyone. A Better World features interviews with people who are making a difference. And our guest today is Mitch Williams. Mitch is an entertainer and a speaker, accomplished artist and a writer. He's also a teacher and workshop presenter with an extensive background in magic, art, psychology and philosophy. He's a student of what's known as the Ageless Wisdom Teachings and their relevance to changes taking place in our world. Mitch is also author of the book A Call To Magic: The Artful Science of Transforming Self and World. Mitch, welcome to A Better World.
Mitch Williams 1:26
Hi McNair, thanks for having me.
McNair Ezzard 1:28
Yeah, Mitch is with us today to talk about what's commonly known as universal basic income. It's an idea that is slowly gaining more support in different parts of our country, and around the world, I should say. But Mitch, a book about magic seems to be a distance from the world of finance and universal basic income. I have to ask about the book, what's the book about?
Mitch Williams 1:52
Well, my book is- I come from a background of being an entertainer, a magician by trade. But I branched off into inspirational speaking. And, you know, since I was a teenager, I was really interested in kind of self improvement techniques and those kinds of things, which eventually branched out into a form of spirituality, and spiritual psychology. And I then became really fascinated with how those same principles apply at the group level for society as a whole. And so, you know, I started looking into and researching some of the implications of, of group psychology and, and social issues and things like that.
McNair Ezzard 2:43
Well, I have to ask you- we'll abbreviate universal basic income because it's kind of a tongue twister for me, so if it's okay, we'll just call it UBI. I think that's probably how it's known mostly, isn't it?
Mitch Williams 2:55
Yeah. UBI. And sometimes that stands for unconditional basic income. Okay? Because not all programs and basic income are truly universal, as we'll talk about in a little bit, probably.
McNair Ezzard 3:08
Tell us, let's start, get right into it. What is UBI?
Mitch Williams 3:13
Universal Basic Income is unconditional cash payments, to individuals or families, or basically all member members of a society, if it's if it's truly universal, it goes out to all members of society. So that's the universal part. The basic income is that it's generally targeted to be enough to meet a person's basic needs. And income is its cash payments without any restrictions or, or conditions.
McNair Ezzard 3:44
So is that similar to what happened during the pandemic when the government sent everyone, I forget how much it was now, like even 2400 bucks. Is it similar to that?
Mitch Williams 3:54
That was yeah, that was a type of a basic income payment, you could say. Now, obviously, it wasn't ongoing. And it wasn't universal, necessarily. Because certain people were limited. They capped it at certain income levels. And it wasn't, you know, wasn't necessarily enough to meet everyone's needs. But, but it's an example of that, that type of a thing.
McNair Ezzard 4:19
Why do we even need something like UBI within the like, the unemployment rate is pretty, pretty low. Why a UBI?
Mitch Williams 4:29
Well, there are a lot of social ills that come from both poverty and wealth and income inequality. And we have one of the worst conditions of wealth and income inequality in at least the last 100 years. And when you have extremes of wealth inequality, along with that go a whole slew of really severe social problems. When you have extremes of wealth inequality, there's increased poverty, there's increased crime rates, there are higher levels of obesity and mental illness and teen pregnancies and incarcerations, and child conflict, drug use, worse health outcomes, lower life expectancy. And the list goes on and on and on. And so you know, when you have these conditions, and you have people trapped in poverty and, and desperate situations, it really has an impact not just on them, but on our society as a whole. And, you know, these are issues that affect all of us. And so UBI is one way to address those inequalities.
McNair Ezzard 5:52
Would such a system cover only people in a certain, certain economic segment of our society?
Mitch Williams 6:01
Well, that kind of depends on who you talk to you. There are different approaches to Basic Income programs, some are actually universal, where it would go out to everyone, when... there actually is a universal income program that's been going on for many years in Alaska, where all of the residents of Alaska are paid annually, a certain percentage of the income that the state derives from, from the oil production in Alaska. And that's been going on for quite some time. So that's universal, it's not necessarily meeting all the basic needs. And then there are other programs that target mostly people that are at or below the poverty level, and try to help them to meet their needs. So you know, there are different approaches, and different opinions on how to approach that, I tend to think that the universal element actually is probably the better way to go. Because it requires the least oversight, it goes out to everyone. And it's, it's more fair, in that sense, it's the same payments going out to everyone. And there's, you know, very little bureaucracy required to oversee that type of a program.
McNair Ezzard 7:21
So before we go any further, I mentioned a little bit about your background at the start of the show. But could you elaborate a little bit? How did- what's your background? And how did you end up getting involved with the issue of UBI?
Mitch Williams 7:36
Well, as I said, you know, I've, I've always been interested in, in issues of, you know, human psychology and its ties to spirituality, and you know, how we can improve ourselves individually. But that branched out into social issues. And, you know, I became involved in different types of activism. And you really believe in certain causes for, you know, helping everyone to be able to do better from from a spiritual perspective, you know, one of the elements of the Ageless Wisdom Teachings that you mentioned earlier, are that, you know, the idea behind that philosophy is that we're basically spiritual beings having this, this human experience. And the whole purpose of that is to bring more and more of our spiritual identity into our human expression. And one of the main obstacles is, to that is when people have to focus almost the entirety of their time, attention, and energy on just surviving. And so we're not really living up to our spiritual potential as a result. And so, you know, those are things that can be addressed, I believe, through, you know, the right approaches economically, socially, politically. And across the board.
McNair Ezzard 9:02
Was there something you read or a book you read initially, that kind of piqued your interest in this topic? What kind of got you started?
Mitch Williams 9:11
Well, I'd known about UBI for quite some time, and it was kind of dancing around the perimeter of a lot of the other social issues that I have been involved in. But I think I gained a real interest during the pandemic. I heard about it because of the presidential campaign of Andrew Yang. He was running on a platform of having a basic income. They, his campaign presented some information on it and I found it kind of intriguing and so I started digging into it a little deeper and did some more extensive research of my own and started learning about it and, and advocating for it. I think it's, you know, one of the quickest, most direct and easiest way If we can address some of these overwhelming issues that we are faced with today.
McNair Ezzard 10:05
in preparation for the interview, I was doing some research and came across something from the IMF, the International Monetary Fund. And I learned that there's not really a unified definition and assessment method that exist about UBI around the world. Is that because the idea is so new that countries that are considering such programs are- just haven't come up with a framework yet? Or how come?
Mitch Williams 10:31
Well, no, it's not really a new idea at all, the idea of a basic income has been around since at least the 1700s. And there were even experiments with it back at least that far. So it is something that has been proposed, how, however, it has gained traction in certain areas, and then lost interest and gone back and forth. And so it's beginning to become more popular across our country and around the world. But I think one of the main reasons that there are different approaches, that there are different people trying different ways to make it work, and trying to, to experiment and, and, you know, learn more about the effects of implementing a UBI. And so I think these different approaches are good in the sense that, you know, it gives us data from, from different perspectives. And we can really learn what the effects are under a variety of different conditions,
McNair Ezzard 11:30
Like what works and what doesn't work?
Mitch Williams 11:32
McNair Ezzard 11:34
If there are a variety of different projects going on, are there any common characteristics of the different programs?
Mitch Williams 11:43
Well, the main one is that you- we're trying to provide a basic income for at least one segment of society. You know, obviously, because we don't have a national basic income. It's being- it's actually happening at the grassroots level, at the city and regional level. And so, you know, their resources are going to be more limited than if it were a national program. And so, you know, you take a segment and you, you apply it to these people and give them an income and see what the results are, and whether it's benefiting them, whether it's benefiting society as a whole. And you kind of go from there.
McNair Ezzard 12:26
Well, you know, one thing that I learned is that we used to have this child tax credit in the US, in fact, there was an article in, I think it was January, of Scientific America was talking about when it was first established in 1997, and expanded in 2021. That lifted 3.7 million children out of poverty. And then in January 22, they did away with the expanded tax credit and plunged 3.7 million back into poverty. Yeah, I mean, it showed that cash assistance could, could help families stay afloat. But there was a- there was that kind of, I think, a kind of a feeling that unemployment would increase, but it didn't, according this one article I read. So what why is there this automatic assumption on the part of, of some people that people who receive a guaranteed income would then want to quit working? Because it doesn't seem to be the case?
Mitch Williams 13:25
Well, I think it's just a confirmation bias is that people are attached to their own perspectives on things. And if they're already opposed to something, they they only see what's relevant to their point of view, and, and they only see what reinforces their own point of view. You know, the, the overwhelming statistics that have come out of the experiments on UBI, is that it absolutely does not increase the unemployment rate. Quite the opposite in many cases, in fact, I believe it was in Stockton, California, pilot program, in the at the height of the pandemic, the people in the program in the Basic Income program, they increase their employment rates at twice the rate of the control group in the program. And so and that's often the case. In fact, the studies show that, you know, pretty much the only groups within these these basic income programs that decrease their employment rates are new mothers who elect to stay home longer with their children, and students who, who choose to stay in school longer to finish a degree, to work on a you know, some type of career enhancement in their education or, or even just to finish school. And so, every other element of of the society that's addressed, their employments rates either stay the same, or in many cases actually increase. So it's really not what you might think at first, it doesn't decrease incentives to work.
McNair Ezzard 15:01
I don't know, if you're aware, I learned that there's a- Chicago, Cook County just started- recently started a program of UBI that I think the monthly income through the program is at $500 a month. I'm not sure how many people are getting it. Yeah, that doesn't seem like a lot of money. But how can that amount help lift people out of poverty?
Mitch Williams 15:23
Well, I was just looking at that, that program, the Chicago and Cook County programs have, between the two of them, I think around a little over 8000 people that they're targeting. But the median income is, is right at or below the poverty level of $15,000 a year. So $500 a month is, you know, in terms of percentages, is is a significant boost to their incomes.
McNair Ezzard 15:54
$6000 a year.
Mitch Williams 15:56
Yeah. When you're talking when you're talking about people that are barely scraping by and oftentimes not scraping by and they're struggling for their families. $500 a month can, can make a real difference as to whether they eat or not that month. So yeah, it really can have an impact.
McNair Ezzard 16:15
There's a conference, I don't know if it's still going on, but it was this past weekend, that started in Washington, the national, National Association of Counties and there are many county exec- executives are expected to announce a network of county level Basic Income programs to match some initiatives that have sproute
d really, I think they said like, 50 cities round the country. So it seems to be an idea that's starting to pick up some steam.
Mitch Williams 16:42
It definitely is. Yeah, you know, I think and I think it's significant that a lot of this is happening more at the grassroots level. People are just tired of waiting for the national government to to fulfill our needs. And you know, all they're doing at that level is just fighting with each other. There's so much political division and polarization now. But along with the county governments, starting in 2020, Michael Tubbs, who was at that time, the mayor of Stockton, California, and they had launched a Basic Income program, he helped to found Mayor's For Guaranteed Income. It's a national organization of mayors who are either doing basic income programs or considering them or, or at the very least, helping to promote the idea of basic income. The idea being that these, these various programs can be pilots where they can analyze statistically the results of the programs and use that as, as solid information to take to the national government to say, Hey, look at the results we're getting here. And this is something we need to do at a national level.
McNair Ezzard 17:58
If you just joined us, you're listening to a conversation with Mitch Williams. Mitch is a teacher, workshop presenter and has an extensive background in psychology and philosophy. He's also author of the book A Call to Magic: The Artful Science of Transforming Self and World. And he's joining us today to talk about universal basic income. And you're listening to us on A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. And we're streaming live at wpvmfm.org. Mitch, speaking about some programs that are going on, you had mentioned Stockton and then we were talking about Chicago, I saw where Los Angeles has a program called Basic Income Guaranteed that- LA economic assistance pilot, providing I think it's like 3200 people with $1,000 for 12 months. Is it best to refer to these programs as experiments or pilot programs at this point? Or do you think some of these will end up being extended?
Mitch Williams 19:02
Well, I prefer to call them pilot programs, because, you know, we're launching something new that hopefully will be extended. Of course, they are experiments. But, you know, I think how we use language tends to affect how we see things. And so, you know, what we call it, I think does make a difference sometimes. So yeah, I like the term pilot program, because it's it kind of implies that we're launching something new here that can take off and become something.
McNair Ezzard 19:31
What state are you talking from? Where do you live?
Mitch Williams 19:34
I live in central Illinois.
McNair Ezzard 19:37
More or less Chicago, I guess. Are there any other cities in Illinois that you know of that are, are dabbling in this UBI?
Mitch Williams 19:45
I'm not right, offhand, that I'm aware of at the moment. Chicago was the main one here, I believe.
McNair Ezzard 19:51
In addition to- you know, we talked earlier about some objections that UBI could increase unemployment with people that are in such a program. Are there any other kinds of objections to- that people have, or governments have to implementing UBI?
Mitch Williams 20:10
Yeah, there are three main objections to UBI. The first is that it will disincentivize work, the people won't want to work, as we discussed earlier and already addressed. The other are, you know, that we won't be able to afford it, and that it won't be politically viable. And just to touch on each of those, briefly, the cost factor, none of the programs have been really large enough to tell what it would cost nationally. But by many estimates, the cost of poverty alone on our society is about twice what it would take to implement a UBI program at, at or just above the poverty level. And so it would actually save us money and and there are lots of economic, economic benefits to UBI as well, it tends to increase the economic activity, and really improves the economy, wherever it's introduced. And so, you know, the question quickly becomes not so much as how can we afford it is how can we afford not to do it? Because the data really shows that it, it helps, it makes things better. And, of course, the other one is the political one. And, you know, I think that's probably one of the biggest sticking points, because especially because of our, our highly polarized national political system right now. And when I, when I first started looking into this, I really thought that it could never happen, because conservatives would never go for this type of a thing. But historically, we came the closest we ever were to having a national UBI program under a Republican administration, it was during the Nixon administration, and we came extremely close to actually passing this thing and making it a reality. Oh, really? And yeah, that is a whole fascinating story.
McNair Ezzard 22:18
So tell us about that.
Mitch Williams 22:19
It's a big story, probably more than we really have time for. But I can, you know, get at some of the highlights, two key figures were, were big advocates of some type of a basic income. The first was Martin Luther King. And towards the end of his life, he was beginning to shift his focus from the main racial divisions to economic ones. And he really felt that until we address these economic issues, that there would be no equality. And he began to advocate for some type of a basic income, he felt that that was the most direct and easiest way to kind of address poverty and, and to address a lot of the social ills that are part of inequality. And the other one, surprisingly, was Milton Friedman. I don't know if you're familiar with with Friedman, and his work. But he's considered by many to be the father of modern neoliberal policies. And he arguably, was the single most influential person in the 20th century, on rightward leaning economic policies. And he's had strong powerful influences on the Nixon administration, the Reagan administration, and the Margaret Thatcher administration in the UK. And as a result of that influence, the entire western, industrialized world, beginning in the 1980s, moved very, very strongly towards that free market, so called free market capitalism. And it was it was largely because of him and his influence. However, what a lot of people don't know is that there were major elements of his ideas and policies that were largely ignored by the people that implemented his ideas, one of which was that he felt that it was absolutely necessary to have a basic income. Friedman's kind of whole, whole premise was that in order to have freedom, you have to have choice. And so he felt that because governments are monolithic, you only have one government, and so you have no choice. You know, you're under that government. Whereas in the marketplace, you have all kinds of different choices as to who to do business with or who not to do business with or whether to do business at all. However, in order to have that freedom, you have to have the ability to participate in the marketplace.
McNair Ezzard 25:08
Which means you have to have money. Right?
Mitch Williams 25:11
Exactly, exactly. And so he really believed that a basic income was kind of a foundational aspect of that type of freedom. And it goes along a lot further. But because of Friedman, and because of Martin Luther King, Nixon decided that he wanted to alleviate poverty, he wanted to be known as the president who ended poverty in the United States. And so he, he proposed a basic income. And they did some major experiments with this, with well over 8000 people in locations throughout the United States. And the results were promising. And so they decided they were going to do this. And a bill was put before Congress, it passed in the House. And it very, very narrowly, was voted down in the Senate, because Democrats thought it didn't go far enough. And so it didn't pass the following year, they tried a different proposal of the same thing with, with very similar results. But it was really Nixon and, and that Republican conservative administration, that was, that was the leader of trying to implement this, and there are many conservative leaders who are and have been in favor of some type of a UBI. And so you know, if you look into the realities of, of the history of it, and, and the way it works, and the way it addresses, a lot of issues, one of the things that Friedman felt strongly about was that our current social welfare systems are not very efficient, because they require so much oversight, because there are all these requirements that you have to meet in order to be part of the program. So, so it requires all the oversight to make sure that people are, are meeting the requirements. But UBI, has no requirements. And so it requires little or no oversight, you just send out checks to people. And that's all that's involved. And Friedman was very much in favor of that. He thought that we could easily replace our current social welfare systems at at a cost savings and, and it would be much more effective and efficient. And so yeah, that's, that's kind of the thinking behind it. And it really does address a lot of the conservative issues of smaller government and, and more freedoms.
McNair Ezzard 27:40
It's hard- It's hard to imagine something like that passing today, like you mentioned earlier about. We live in a divided country, economically, politically, socially, and so on. It's- I mean, I think about the problem that states have had with even implementing more Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and the objections that conservative, mostly Republicans, I guess, have raised- the objections they've raised about that. mean, in today's climate is- I mean, you mentioned there are some conservative people who are, who are supportive of this idea. Do you see something like this being able to like, really gain traction? And in today's world, what's going to have to change, if not?
Mitch Williams 28:26
I do I do. There are some, some more conservative leaning, leaning business people, especially that are in favor of UBI. Elon Musk is one of them. Several Silicon Valley executives, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, as I said, the other thing that that I see is really hopeful is that the current trends with UBI are, as I said, springing up from grassroots levels, and it's building momentum there. And to my mind, that's where any real social change always begins. It's coming up from grassroots level, it's not a top down kind of a thing. When it becomes popular enough, and people become educated enough to the benefits of anything, you know, any type of a social program, well, then our national leaders get in line and they do what the people want. But, you know, until, until we educate enough people as to the real benefits and the real results of it, you know, that's that's where we are but, but I think that is happening, I think, because of Mayor's For Guaranteed Income and, and many, many other groups that are doing experiments, not just in this country, but in locations around the world. It's, it's coming up from grassroots, which is exactly what needs to happen in order for it to eventually take hold at a national level.
McNair Ezzard 29:54
Question goes off in my mind: are people going to see their taxes go up?
Mitch Williams 29:58
It depends on the approaches that we take and how it's, it's done with a budget, and there are many different, you know, approaches to doing that. And there, there might be increases in taxes in some cases, but the overall economic benefits are pretty significant. Some people do trade offs with other government programs. In some cases, the social welfare programs are replaced by UBI. And so, you know, a lot of that is offset the cost and that way, some keep the social programs but just introduced the UBI. But again, there are many different approaches to that. And as I said, [cough] Excuse me, the costs of poverty are twice what it would take to implement UBI. And so, overall, you know, the cost benefit analysis is, is pretty clear.
McNair Ezzard 30:55
Well, another objection, I would think, is, we hear a lot about people on the right: We don't want a country that practices socialism, even though we have it in like programs like Medicare and Medicaid and so forth. Are those kinds of objections raised as well that this could lead to socialism in this country?
Mitch Williams 31:18
Well, yeah, they are. Now I- I'm- I don't have the, the specific objections to socialism, myself, I think social democracy is a good thing. But if you're just gonna come at it from the perspective of capitalism, it's been proven that UBI increases business growth and economic growth. And it doesn't really need to be counter to capitalism in that regard. The people who, especially the people at the bottom, who are given a basic income, well, that goes right back into the economy. They spend it on their basic needs, they use it for things that they need to do, and that has a positive effect on the economy. And so, you know, we're really talking about capitalism from the bottom up instead of from the top down. It's been shown that, that UBI increases entrepreneurialism, it allows people the breathing room to take risks to start their own business, to expand what they're doing with their businesses. It's very similar to a lot of the successes that we've seen with microcredit programs, where, you know, people are giving small loans, and they use it to, to begin a business or to expand a business. And the benefits are pretty demonstrable. And, and it's been proven to work. And the same thing is true with UBI. That it really increases engagement in the economy.
McNair Ezzard 32:57
You're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. And our guest today is Mitch Williams and we are talking about universal basic income.
And this is McNair Ezzard. And each week on A Better World, we look at the people and organizations locally, nationally and internationally, who are working to create a world that works for everyone. And our guest today is Mitch Williams. Mitch is an entertainer and speaker, an accomplished artist and writer. He is also a teacher and workshop presenter with an extensive background in magic, art, psychology, and philosophy. He is a student of what's known as the Ageless Wisdom Teachings. And he studies their relevance to changes taking place in our world today. And we are discussing universal basic income on the show today. Mitch, I wanted to- we were talking before the break about the idea of this possibly being conceived- but- are seen by some people as a way to bring socialism in, into the US. But do you see this kind of program unfolding hand in hand with other support programs like universal health care or free tuition for colleges? I mean, is there any kind of relationship between between these different programs that would help people?
Mitch Williams 34:49
Well yeah, I think there certainly could be and again, as I said before, there are many different approaches to UBI. And there are many different approaches to, to addressing a lot of these other issues as well. But I think UBI can certainly work to help enhance some of those other programs. When you're helping people to have a foundation for, for working more comfortably, for increasing their mental health, for giving them a boost up to to be able to branch out and complete their education or start a new business or whatever it is. You're helping all of society. And so, you know, I think all of those things could, could potentially work together to, to help implement some of those changes.
McNair Ezzard 35:40
You mentioned before the break about big business people like Elon Musk and some others being supportive of this idea of a UBI. Do you know of any national or regional political leaders that are supportive of this policy in today's world?
Mitch Williams 35:58
Well, Andrew Yang is one of them. As I said, he ran for president and then he also ran for mayor of New York. Well, in both cases on a platform of UBI. Ilhan Omar introduced a Basic Income bill in Congress, I think, a year or two ago, and you know, there are many of the progressives, especially who, who are, you know, looking at this possibility of a basic income. And, of course, the child tax credit is something that the progressives are really wanting to bring back again. And that is also a form of basic income, as you said, it lifted, you know, 3.7 million children out of poverty at one go. And it's, I think, criminal that we didn't extend it.
McNair Ezzard 36:50
Yeah, really had a big impact when they implemented it and when they took it away. Yes. So are there. I mean, we've been talking mostly about UBI. For the US, are there particular countries that you are aware of that kind of are models for this UBI system?
Mitch Williams 37:10
I don't know that there are models necessarily, but there are a lot of different countries that are trying things. Now. In fact, I had a list of some of them. But I know there's an organization called Give Directly. Their website is givedirectly.org. And they've done pilot programs, in locations throughout the world, in Africa, and Europe and Asia, and even in the United States. And, and during the pandemic, there were a lot of different places that were looking at, or even implementing UBI. There's a lot of- was a lot of interest in France with the campaign of Benoit Hamon. Italy introduced a system in 2019, Brazil launched an emergency basic income during the, the pandemic and it resulted in the lowest poverty rates in 40 years. Germany has implemented a small pilot program in 2020. Spain implemented one recently. Scotland has talked about it. A group of MPs in the UK, signed an open letter encouraging basic income as recovery from the pandemic. Other countries that considered it are places like Japan, South Korea, Canada, so it really is popping up all over the place.
McNair Ezzard 38:36
We've been talking mostly also about the pilot programs in this country being run through local government. Do you see this kind of I mean, if something like this took off, do you see the local governments being the long term administrators of UBI? Or would it need to be at a state or national level?
Mitch Williams 38:59
Well, I think ideally, and ultimately, it really needs to be done at the national level. But the pilot programs are a great short term approach to to generate enough statistical data to prove that it's it's going to be worthwhile at the national level. But yeah, I think if UBI were implemented nationally in the United States or any of the other G7 countries that, you know, a lot of the other countries would quickly follow along and, and we'd be living in a very distinctly different world in a relatively short period of time.
McNair Ezzard 39:39
So let me talk to you a little bit more about that. We, we talked earlier about the benefits, certainly financially, of lifting people out of poverty and you kind of touched on some other effects that UBI would have for people, but what about for society as a whole? What could be some of the benefits of implementing UBI?
Mitch Williams 40:00
As I said, the- there are- the improved health outcomes are very, very significant under UBI. And this has, this has been proven in many of the programs. You know, there are reductions in poverty, lower crime rates, improved school attendance and graduation rates are a direct outcome of UBI programs. And the impacts on on medical costs in the healthcare system are quite significant. And as I said, UBI supports entrepreneurship. So, it really has a whole slew of benefits, both individually and collectively.
McNair Ezzard 40:44
You're listening to a conversation with Mitch Williams, and you're listening to us on A Better World at 103.7 WPVM, this program comes to you weekly and can be streamed at wpvmfm.org. Mitch, do you ever see- this kind of a more general type question about our attitudes in this country towards people who are on the lower socio economic scale? Do you ever see a sense of complacency on the part of people who who have enough money, say and resources to get what they need? You ever see a sense of complacency towards those who are living in poverty?
Mitch Williams 41:26
Yeah, I think not only complacency, but even sometimes really judgmental kinds of attitudes towards them. People who, who have more than enough feel the need to justify their position. And so I think they, they tend to believe that poverty goes along with laziness and, and that it has something to do with, you know, people not working hard enough. And the statistics, statistics show that that just simply isn't true, that there are a lot of people that are not making ends meet, and they're working way harder than people at the top end of the scale. And so yeah, [cough] excuse me, there's that kind of dichotomy there. And I think that, we have to realize how much this really does benefit all of us, even the people at the top, because it makes for a more stable society. And it solves a lot of the problems like, like crime and things like that, that are endemic in a, in a society that has extremes of wealth inequality.
McNair Ezzard 42:33
Unfortunately, it seems like so often that until an issue lands on our doorstep, it's like, I'm alright, Jack, the rest of the world can go hang. Until it hits us in our, in our pocket or we become homeless or we become without a job, then, you know, I think some attitudes start to change towards people who live that way all the time.
Mitch Williams 42:58
Yeah, I think that's true. That's true. And I think one of the, one of the ways to, to address that without hitting people in their pocketbooks or extremes of suffering is just through education, and educating people on both the the facts surrounding wealth inequality, as well as the data that's springing up with things like UBI. You know, more, the more that we can share this information and educate people on the realities, I think the better we're going to be.
McNair Ezzard 43:34
Do- so education, you see is kind of one of the best ways to rouse people, if you will, from from a sense of complacency?
Mitch Williams 43:44
I think it's one of the, one of the important approaches we have to do. We need to inform people and I, I mean, education in a really broad sense. Not just formal education, but but also sharing data with people, sharing information with people. Of course, right now there's a lot of misinformation out there. And so even educating people on how to discern the difference between what's true and what's not, is an important role that, that we as educators can take on, you know, it's communicating, you know, a lot of the information about, about what the real issues really are.
McNair Ezzard 44:24
You talked earlier about this kind of thing, kind of the grassroots level being- having the biggest effect on kind of a general widespread acceptance of UBI. Is that kind of what you see happening with UBI going into the future? W
hat's, what's the tipping point to kind of move us more wholeheartedly in that direction as a country?
Mitch Williams 44:46
Well, I think it's it's a combination of things, you know, it could be that we need to have more suffering to kind of wake up and get it. You know, I think our current economic systems are simply not sustainable. And I think that these extremes of inequality are moving us towards some kind of a breakdown. If we don't address them before that. It's been shown throughout history that when you have these extremes of, of wealth and income inequality, it can only go to a certain level of extreme before you have absolute revolution. You know, like the French Revolution, for example. And that's happened again and again in different places throughout the world, throughout history. When you have these extremes, that can happen. So you know, that may be- it may be that we need some kind of a breakdown, whether that's another economic crash, or, or whatever. But I think the other component is, is just helping people understand that if we work together, we really can solve the problems before us that, that they're not insurmountable there, they're addressable. You know, we have more than enough food to feed everyone on the planet. And yet we have people that are starving. It's, it's really a willingness issue more than it is a lack of resources. And so it's educating people to that, as well.
McNair Ezzard 46:15
So by educating people, does that stimulate the collective will of the people which can affect the politicians?
Mitch Williams 46:23
Absolutely, yeah. It's, as I said, you know, real political change happens from the grassroots up. And, you know, there's, if you look at the equal rights movement in the 60s, it didn't happen from the top down. It happened from, from a groundswell of people standing up and saying, Hey, we don't want this anymore, you need to address this. And eventually, it was addressed at the national level, at the political level. But you need people who, who are well informed, able to get out there and, you know, stand up for what it is that we want. And I think education is a foundational element of that kind of activism.
McNair Ezzard 47:08
Do you see UBI playing a part, say in our collective evolution, like spiritually, socially, economic, politically? Do you have any ideas about that?
Mitch Williams 47:21
In order for us to evolve spiritually, we need to be able to focus our attention on doing so, you know, it's any type of aspiration can only survive, so long as we have the freedom to act upon it. And when we have, literally millions of people that are that are, all of their time, and energy, as I mentioned earlier, is is going into pure survival. That can't happen. It can't happen individually. And it can't happen collectively. If our evolution as humanity is, is to become more of that spiritual essence of- as I believe we actually are, and demonstrate more and more of that, we need to address these issues. And we need to address the health of the planet as a whole. Poverty is one of the biggest detriments to the environmental issues, because people living in poverty can't afford to, to do the things that we need to do to help heal the planet. And so we really need to address poverty and hunger, and education. You know, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I think, is a good starting point. It's, it says that all people should have the right for basic life, sustenance, and education and health care. You know, once we meet those needs, I believe that an amazing groundswell of creativity will be unleashed. When people no longer have to spend all of their time thinking about mere survival, they'll begin to become more creative about how we solve our problems and even move forward and, and, and evolve as humanity spiritually and psychologically, and socially and politically.
McNair Ezzard 49:14
It seems to me that at the basis of all this is UBI. We're talking about justice in a way, for people.
Mitch Williams 49:22
Sure. Yeah, we're talking about economic justice, social justice. It's it's unjust, that a small percentage of people control the overwhelming majority of the resources in the world while other people are living in abject poverty. That's not justice. And that is addressable. And it doesn't mean that we can't have rich people. It just means that we use the resources that we already have to make sure that everybody has enough to get by and to live a life that is sustainable and fulfilling and they- that allows them to have the opportunities to pursue life in the way that they would like to do.
McNair Ezzard 50:05
Mitch, I wanted to ask you, what do you get out of the work you do in this area of UBI?
Mitch Williams 50:12
Well, I touched a little bit about- on my beliefs, you know, spiritually and psychologically, and that I really believe in the power of creativity and, you know, being able to pursue a life that's kind of centered around those kinds of aspirational approaches. I think UBI addresses, you know, the, the obstacles standing in our way to be able to do that. And so it's something I believe, really strongly in supporting, I've had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about this since I started researching it. And I find almost almost every time people are surprised by the information that I have to share, and so, so being able to educate people in that regard, is kind of a fulfilling aspect of this work.
McNair Ezzard 51:07
Well, we're coming to the end of the hour, Mitch, and I want to give you an opportunity to share with us and the listeners some good resources or websites that people can access if they they want to know more, or they feel drawn to get involved in this issue.
Mitch Williams 51:24
Sure, sure. There are three that I can mention right off the bat. One is incomemovement.org. It's a group that's advocating for basic income. They have a lot of resources and information for education about UBI. And they also have an annual conference about- called the Basic Income Guarantee conference, BIG. So they're a great resource, if you want to kind of get into the activism side of it. Givedirectly.org is a group that I, I mentioned earlier, and they're, they're actually implementing UBI programs at different places in the world. And I believe that's a donation charity that implements these programs and provides data for statistical evidence of it. And then of course, Mayor's For A Guaranteed Income, their web address is mayorsforagi.org. Those are three really good resources that people can learn more about UBI and become involved if they'd like to do so.
McNair Ezzard 52:31
Okay, there you have it. Mitch, I want to thank you for coming on the show today and talking to us and sharing your wealth of knowledge about universal basic income, all the best to you.
Mitch Williams 52:43
Thanks so much for having me. I've really enjoyed the conversation.
McNair Ezzard 52:46
You've been listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. This is McNair Ezzard. Thank you for joining us and hopefully we'll see you next time on A Better World.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
A Better World radio show with McNair Ezzard
Streaming Sundays @ 9am ET on wpvmfm.org
Intro music: 'Love Still Remains (For Chokwe)' by Lucis Flux.
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