24 episodes

Hosted by Alex Howlett and Derek Van Gorder, Boston Basic Income is a weekly discussion that explores different topics as they relate to basic income (UBI). Basic income is a regular income unconditionally paid to every individual person.

BBI is co-sponsored by the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (https://usbig.net) (USBIG) and Project Greshm (https://www.greshm.org).

Boston Basic Income Alex Howlett

    • Society & Culture

Hosted by Alex Howlett and Derek Van Gorder, Boston Basic Income is a weekly discussion that explores different topics as they relate to basic income (UBI). Basic income is a regular income unconditionally paid to every individual person.

BBI is co-sponsored by the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (https://usbig.net) (USBIG) and Project Greshm (https://www.greshm.org).

    138 — Private UBI

    138 — Private UBI

    To what extent is it possible to implement basic income independently from the government?  What challenges and constraints might face such a system?  Conrad Shaw joins us to discuss these questions as well as a new app he's working on called Comingle that hopes to achieve a privately-implemented basic income.

    Conrad has been a UBI researcher since 2016.  Before Comingle, he designed and implemented the UBI pilot program featured in Deia Schlosberg's forthcoming "Bootstraps" documentary series.  He has also written extensively on the subject of UBI and built a "UBI calculator" tool that helps people compare different UBI proposals.

    For reading this week, we have a recent Medium story by Conrad entitled "UBI in an App!" that describes the basics of how Comingle works.

    Learn more about the Comingle project at comingle.us.

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #19: Project Greshm
    BBI #26: Cryptocurrencies
    BBI #79: Private cities

    Original YouTube Recording

    Photo by Qim Manifester on Unsplash

    • 45 min
    137 — Modern Money

    137 — Modern Money

    What is money?  What is *modern* money?  In what ways is state-issued fiat money different from a commodity-based money?  What is the relationship between money and the state?  To what extent can a state have "sovereign" control over its currency?  What is the relationship between money and taxes?  We will explore these and other questions as they relate to the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) framework.

    BBI has explored MMT before.  But this time, we have MMT proponents James Keenan and Adam Rice—hosts of the NYC Deficit Owls Meetup group—joining us to discuss.

    This week's reading is a 2009 paper by Randall Wray entitled "Understanding Modern Money: How a sovereign currency works."

    You can find Randall Wray's other publications at the Levy Institute website.

    For more information, see the Modern MMT Google Group.

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #29: CMT vs MMT
    BBI #117: Sovereign Money
    BBI #123: Money From Nothing

    Original YouTube Recording

    Image by epSos.de on Wikimedia Commons

    • 44 min
    136 — NGDP Targeting

    136 — NGDP Targeting

    Central banks conventionally use various tools to try to stabilize the average prices of consumer goods.  The Fed, in particular, attempts to keep price inflation at about 2% per year.  Reliably low and stable inflation allows markets to set prices in dollar terms without having to worry about changes in the general purchasing power of the dollar.

    Nominal GDP level targeting is a monetary policy alternative to inflation targeting that stabilizes the total amount of money being spent on the economy's products.  This allows the purchasing power of the dollar to adjust in response to changes in the level of economic output.  In other words, if there's more (less) total stuff to buy, then each individual dollar buys more (less).

    But how does NGDP targeting compare to inflation targeting in facilitating the smooth operation of the economy?  NGDP targeting expert George Selgin will be joining us to discuss.

    George Selgin is the director of the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives at the Cato Institute.  He has written widely on the topics of monetary theory, monetary policy, and free banking.

    The reading for this week is a 2018 blog post by Selgin entitled "Some 'Serious' Theoretical Writings That Favor NGDP Targeting."

    It provides a nice jumping-off point for digging further into the topic.

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #84: Deflation
    BBI #88: Recessions
    BBI #131: Fiscal vs Monetary Policy

    Original YouTube Recording

    Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay

    • 50 min
    135 — The Welfare System

    135 — The Welfare System

    How does basic income interact with the various programs that make up the welfare system?  To what extent does basic income solve some of the same problems that the welfare programs are designed to solve?  What does an effective welfare system and/or social safety net look like in a world with basic income?  When does it make sense to adapt existing income support programs to more closely resemble basic income?

    Michael Lewis and Steve Nuñez join us to discuss.

    Michael is a professor at Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College.  He has published widely on the topic of basic income and he was a co-founder of the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) in 1999.

    Steve is the lead researcher on Guaranteed Income at the Jain Family Institute where he models and empirically investigates the social and economic effects of guaranteed income.  

    The reading for this week is a recent white paper entitled "Reweaving the Safety Net: The Best Fit for Guaranteed Income" that Michael and Steve wrote with Sidhya Balakrishnan.

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #69: The BOOST Act
    BBI #99: Maricá
    BBI #118: Social Safety Net

    Original YouTube Recording

    Image by Jonathan Meyer on Noun Project

    • 44 min
    134 — The Working Hypothesis

    134 — The Working Hypothesis

    In 2018, Oren Cass wrote a book called "The Once and Future Worker" in which he argues for creating labor market conditions that give everyone the opportunity to contribute to society as productive workers.  This position is based on an assumption that he calls "The Working Hypothesis":

    "[A] labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long-term prosperity and should be the central focus of public policy."

    Why does Oren Cass believe this?  To what extent is it true?  Is basic income compatible with this goal?  Does it need to be?  Why do we think of workforce abandonment and government dependence as problems?

    Bethany Burum joins us to discuss.  Bethany is a social psychologist and lecturer at Harvard University.  She studies cultural evolution and uses game theory to explain the hidden incentives behind human social behavior.

    The reading this week is an essay in The American Interest entitled "The Working Hypothesis" by Oren Cass, which is adapted from his book.

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #102: Idleness and Leisure
    BBI #129: Workers vs Consumers
    BBI #132: Cultural Incentives

    Original YouTube Recording

    Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay

    • 55 min
    133 — Consenting Power

    133 — Consenting Power

    To kick off 2021, we discuss basic income's effect on the agency of individual people to live their lives how they choose.  We've previously talked about how basic income gives people the power to say no.  Consenting power is the power to say yes.

    When society is structured such that people have no choice but to work a job, to what extent is this analogous to slavery?  Can we say that basic income gives people more consenting power without also arguing that the absence of basic income reduces labor-market efficiency?

    The reading this week is a chapter from Henry George's Progress and Poverty: "The Enslavement of Laborers the Ultimate Result of Private Property in Land."

    Henry George said that whoever owned the land also effectively owned the people who lived on/from the land.  But George also lived in a time when it was easier to draw a connection between land, labor, and the product of the economy.  To what extent do his arguments still make sense today?  In our modern world, what kinds of things serve as "land" in the Henry George sense?

    Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included:
    BBI #78: Land Value Tax
    BBI #86: Thomas Paine
    BBI #116: Power to Say No

    Original YouTube Recording

    Image Source: Queen Mary Psalter

    • 48 min

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