Snow Days
A Basic Income Blizzard
Snow Days
By Matt Orfalea / medium.com
Jan 29, 2016

Give everyone $1,000/month. It’s called Unconditional Basic Income.

Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for a Basic Income as an effective way to eliminate poverty. So did free market capitalist, Milton Friedman. Nowadays the idea has become mainstream, being discussed in literally every major news outlet (New York TimesThe Atlantic, Washington Post— just to name a few). Of course the question that immediately comes to mind is, if everyone is guaranteed money every month…“Why would anybody work?”

Let’s answer that question, using a case study, many of us have been a part of: Snow Days. Most people are not required to go to work on snow days. But most of us do work anyway. Because (1) we need to, (2) we want to, and (3) we want to make money.

1. YOU NEED TO

When I woke up to 2 feet of snow Saturday, I had to shovel my way out of my house. Nobody paid me to do it. I needed to. Our lives are loaded with such work (cooking, cleaning, care-taking). A minimal basic income would not disincentivize us from the most important work there is: Work we need to do.

2. YOU WANT TO

As I began shoveling, I decided to continue through the rest of the block. I figured I’d have to walk back through this all week. It was in my interest (and others) for me to do it. So I did.

People enjoy work for exercise (physical or mental), self satisfaction, and a desire to help or receive recognition from others. Such motives drive everything from creative tasks like video making, to repetitive tasks like snow shoveling.

3. YOU WANT TO MAKE MONEY

A middle aged man asked if I was shoveling houses for money. I explained I wasn’t, just on my way to the neighbor’s. He pointed out this storm was only gonna get worse and people could really use the help. My income could also really use some help, so I seriously considered it as I began shoveling the rest of the block. But then a man at the top of the street hollered at me, “Don’t worry about it!” The man had a snow blower.

The man had a snow blower

One man with a blower accomplished in 1 hour what would have normally required the work of an entire block of families. I’m a young, able-bodied, hard worker. But I could not have gotten a job shoveling even if I wanted to. (At least not on a block with a blower machine). This brings up another big argument for Basic Income: technological unemployment.

There is technology, like the snow blower, making jobs obsolete, in nearly every industry. I’ve come to the scary realization that every job I’ve ever had will become automated or obsolete. And so, Basic Income is not only moral, as an ethical solution to poverty. Basic Income is practical. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, explains in his new book, “Saving Capitalism”, that we are on track to a future where nobody will be able to afford anything. “Because there will be no jobs.”

We are automating everything about jobs, except the main reason we invented jobs in the first place: our basic human survival.

So let’s do that. Let’s automate bare bones economic survival. We will still be motivated to earn more money, we will continue to do creative innovative work because we want to, and we will continue to do the work that needs to be done. Because we need to. So don’t worry about that. Worry about how you’re gonna keep a roof over your head when a snow blower comes to replace YOUR job. And then advocate for a basic income like the rest of us.

Thanks to my patrons Pedro Moriera, Waldir Pimenta, Sebastian, Arjun, Tanu Kaskinen, Zak Groner, David ‘Pug’ Anderson, Liane Gale, Andrea, Scott Santens, Mary Kay Benson, Beth Nawrocki, Mary Burke, Shawn Best, Brandy, Michelle A OHara, & Laura Ballard

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Snow Days