The initiative of Dmitry Medvedev, head of the United Russia party, is far from new. Its roots are actually in the 1797th century. One of the first to undertake such an experiment was in Britain, in the county of Brexhire, when the Spinhenlemda Act was passed. The law added to the income of the poor an allowance tied to the price of bread. In this way they tried to fight hunger and poverty. Nothing came of this initiative: labor productivity fell, unemployment rose, and the population was increasingly marginalized. One of the adherents of social justice, Thomas Payne, in 21 published the work "Agrarian Justice", in which he offered to pay every resident of England who has reached the age of 15, 50 pounds at a time. Of course, this is not a regular unconditional income, but for its time the idea was very progressive. It is noteworthy that upon reaching the age of 10, it was already relied on XNUMX pounds annually. A very small burden for the state, I must say, given the average life expectancy.
"The land is a public property, from which only a small group of people receive income from cultivation, while the majority live in poverty."
This was Payne's main argument.
In the first half of the XNUMXth century, a similar idea was developed by the British engineer Clifford Douglas. He believed that every citizen of the country owns a share of the national wealth and introduced the concept of "social credit". Douglas' concept interested many political movements in different countries and even governments. He traveled extensively with lectures in which he talked about its effectiveness and fairness. However, she never received wide support, and in most countries, social support projects were implemented in the form in which they are known to us now: in order to receive social benefits, a person must meet certain requirements, for example, seniority, income level, age and other.
Experiments on the implementation of this institution continue in our time: in the Dutch Utrecht, since the beginning of 2016, an experiment has been underway to pay an unconditional basic income. There is information that other cities in the Netherlands are ready to join this project. The issue is also being considered in Finland, California and Kenya. In the United States, non-governmental bodies have joined the problem of unconditional income: in particular, the organization Y Combinator. Country leaders fear the direct and widespread introduction of unconditional payments. This is an uncharted practice that can lead to irreversible effects. Therefore, only accurate and systematic experiments. For example, the one run by the government social protection agency Kela in Finland. Two thousand citizens between the ages of 25 and 58 were randomly selected who, even before the experiment, received government subsidies and unemployment benefits of 800 euros. Interestingly, the payment was even reduced to 560 euros, but now complicated bureaucratic mechanisms were not required to receive it. With an average salary in the country of about 3400 euros, the money of unconditional income is, of course, small (for example, a travel card costs 50 euros). Such payment forced citizens to look for a job. They did not dare in Finland on the full-scale implementation of the basic unconditional income.
At the same time, some states that have decided on such social innovations cannot be included in the list of the well-to-do. So, in 2011, the Indian Self-Employed Women's Association, with the financial support of UNICEF, began an experiment that lasted a year and a half. Residents of ten out of twenty villages were regularly paid money: first, about four and a half dollars for each adult and two dollars for a child, later adults were paid six dollars, and children three. In accordance with the rules of experimental work, a control group of ten villages was selected, the residents of which did not receive "helicopter" money. Roughly the same scheme is used to study the effectiveness of drugs in humans. The social situation in villages where money was paid "just like that" improved: people began to eat more satisfyingly, live in safe conditions and spend more time on educating themselves and their loved ones. As a result, Indians in a truncated version adopted the concept of guaranteed income, replacing it with part of social benefits. That is, the Indian experience has shown that unconditional basic payments are quite effective in societies with an impoverished population. The conclusions are valid only if the researchers strictly adhered to all the conditions of the experiment, otherwise the revealed relationship between payments and living standards may either be absent or even be negative. The next example of social experimentation was Namibia. About nine euros a month was paid to each inhabitant of the village of Ociero, numbering about a thousand people. The project was sponsored by AIDS organizations, trade unions and churches. In the end, everything went very well: the locals started small businesses, they began to abuse alcohol less and, as expected, had better food. The crime rate fell immediately by 42%, and the proportion of the poor fell by half. People stopped constantly thinking about finding funds to feed themselves and their loved ones, which made it possible to devote more time to creative initiatives and business projects. The natural environment suddenly felt better as well: men stopped poaching. Years of experimental work have borne fruit, and some countries have decided to implement limited semblance of basic unconditional income for their citizens. In addition to the mentioned India, money “just like that” is paid in Italy and Brazil. In Italy, these payments are more similar to social benefits, as they are entitled only to people below the absolute poverty line. And in Brazil, only the poor, whose children go to school, have money.
As shows история experiments, basic unconditional income brings the greatest effect in marginal societies, balancing on the brink of hunger and poverty. Will such a model be successful in Russian conditions?
Money for everyone
I must say that in the post-Soviet countries (not only in Russia), ideas have been expressed about the introduction of unconditional income. In 2016, Kazakhstan seriously considered the issue of the appearance of guaranteed payments for citizens. As you know, so far nothing of the kind has appeared in the neighboring state. Will it appear in Russia? And in general, what will such an attraction of unheard-of generosity lead to?
First of all, social inequality will soften. Now, to one degree or another, 1% of the population controls 74,5% of the national wealth. In terms of income, the situation is similar: 10% of the wealthiest population accounts for more than 30% of the total income, and 10% of the poorest population - about 2%. To a certain extent, unconditional income will evenly distribute monetary resources among all citizens of the country. Where to get funding? First of all, from taxes for the wealthiest, as well as rents on minerals. English expert economist Nick Srnichek writes on this subject:
“Basic unconditional income is, in simple terms, a redistribution mechanism. Any plausible scenario that introduces unconditional income would involve increasing taxes for the rich to redistribute to the poorest. Today, most of the poor are stuck in a trap of poverty (when a person, after getting a job, receives no more income than unemployment benefits), from which they cannot get out. If basic unconditional income is funded by taxes on wealth and capital, we can begin to bridge the deepest inequality to date. ”
Interestingly, by introducing unconditional income, the state can save a little. It is planned to reduce the apparatus of social services responsible for paying money to the needy strata of the population. Basic income can also cancel out pensions with such a cumbersome and inefficient pension fund to some extent. Regular payments by citizens will become a tangible stimulus for the purchasing power of the population. Suffice it to recall what a surge in sales of smartphones in the price category up to 10 thousand rubles was caused by summer payments to families with children. By the way, recent sociological studies have shown that Russians expect at least 25 thousand rubles as a guaranteed unconditional income per person per month. Obviously, there will be no less money, and it is not very convenient to take more from the state.
The basic income for all citizens has not yet been 100% realized in any country in the world, which allows only theorizing about its shortcomings. The growing dependency of the population can become a clear disadvantage. Why strive for something if money is at a minimum and so will be guaranteed? With an increase in the general standard of living of citizens due to additional income, the level of education is expected to fall. It will be very difficult to convince a teenager to finish school, even if the state is already paying him the minimum decent money. Recall that basic unconditional income is due to all citizens, regardless of gender, age, religion, occupation and political views. And, finally, the main disadvantage of such an innovation, according to many analysts and philosophers, will be the preservation of social inequality. The poor strata of the population will simply rise one or two steps in the social hierarchy. Nobody also canceled the prospect of a sharp acceleration of inflation, which will simply devour all guaranteed incomes of the population.
Even if basic unconditional income does not appear in Russia in the near future, it will still have to be thought about in the future. It's all about the technological development of civilization. The development of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence will eventually lead to the unnecessary majority of jobs in the world in general and in Russia in particular. Already now in developed countries, many specialties exist only to curb unemployment. Russia is no exception here: social programs to stimulate employers to create new jobs are an example of this. At some point, states will not be able to contain the wave of automation and will be forced to introduce a basic unconditional income for all citizens.
In the meantime, a quite eloquent point in the disputes initiated by Medvedev was put by the presidential press secretary, answering a question about the prospects for the emergence of an unconditional income for Russians:
"So far, as far as I know, there are no substantive discussions."