A Time for New Ideas

By Matthew B. Gilbert

Life, Liberty, and Basic Income

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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The New Old Solution to Poverty

The United States is stuck. Mainstream political discourse in this country seems less and less likely to have answers for the problems facing us today. In many cases, it feels incapable of even identifying these problems. There is a palpable feeling that the status quo cannot hold for much longer. In an era of unprecedented change, it is time for new ideas. I want to offer a few of them. But to do that, we need to go back in time.

As the U.S. established itself in the late 1700s, founding father Thomas Paine, who authored the pamphlet “Common Sense” that helped spur the colonies to revolution, was advocating another revolutionary idea in “Agrarian Justice.” Paine argued that all citizens should receive a payment at age 21 and a pension every year starting at age 50 as recompense for the loss of common ownership of the Earth. Centuries later, Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for a guaranteed minimum income, a payment to all people linked to the median American income, in order to end poverty and ensure dignity for all Americans. In the late 1960s early 70s, a bill called the Family Assistance Plan, which would have provided poor families with a basic income (over $10,000 in present-day money to a family of four), was endorsed by over 1,000 economists and passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice before failing in the Senate.

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