What would you say to the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) where you receive a monthly cash handout from the government at the beginning of each month unconditionally? Might it help a majority of individuals attain a reasonable standard of living or is it too farfetched of an idea? In today’s episode, I talk with Otto Lehto from Finland, a Phd candidate in political economy at King’s College London, and former chairman of the Finnish branch of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) about this radical idea. Among many things, we discuss Finland’s efforts in introducing UBI into mainstream political discussion, its philosophical underpinnings, and whether or not UBI will turn everyone into couch potatoes.

While at the start of my conversation I had my doubts about the merits of UBI by itself, Otto has managed to sway my perspectives. Where many hard line libertarians might see UBI as an overreach of the state, Otto reminds us that it should not be considered in isolation but rather as competing with the current system of means-tested welfare. Viewing the issue from this lens, UBI can be a means of breaking down the monopoly of welfare services that the state currently has, adding choice and the ability for individuals to participate in the free market.

Throughout this episode, I discuss the following issues:

  • Why UBI is a practical necessity in today’s economy
  • How UBI has placed itself within mainstream politics in Finland
  • What the organization Basic Income Earth Network, or BIEN does
  • Otto’s philosophical arguments for a limited welfare state
  • How UBI is especially suited for playing the role of welfare in a limited state
  • What empirical data has to say about work disincentives of UBI
  • Comparing the optimistic vs. pessimistic views on the social effects of UBI **
  • Which system of UBI (complete replacement or complementary) is politically feasible
  • The reasoning behind Otto’s wide ranging interests, and the link between philosophy, the humanities, and liberty.

Again, much thanks to Otto for being such a wonderful guest on the show.

If you wish to find out more about Otto Lehto, you can do so at his website www.ottolehto.com

If you wish to learn more about UBI, you can do so at www.basicincome.org

 

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