In Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin Wright he talks about how we need to think about future utopias using three different criteria: desirability, viability, and achievability,. When it comes to desirability it is more about the basic principle of the utopia rather than set institutional design. Viability is whether or not it’s actually capable of working successfully or is feasible and focusing on the likely dynamics and unintended consequences. Lastly achievability focuses on what is needed in order to actual implement the new system.
The main concept that was brought about by Wright that interests me the most is the idea of a unconditional basic income (UBI). Universal income is when every gets a basic allowance of what you need to live off of. The idea in theory is really comforting to think about. I know a lot of people who wanted to pursue a career but they were deterred by the fact that they might not be able to make enough money to live off of doing so or that particular field was oversaturated and it would be more difficult for them to find a job. The idea of allowing people the opportunity to pursue the arts or something they love without having to worry about starving is a nice one to think about. This would also allow for students to be able to focus on their studies instead of working in order to afford the cost of living.
However, I do have my reservations. I question if this would simply bring up the rate of everything else. This basic income, in the current state of our economy, would act almost as a baseline for prices. Since the current state of the economy is completely flexible prices change in the same way the economy does. So in theory if everyone starts off with a certain amount of money then it set the precedence for how much everything costs, thus raising the cost of living over the universal basic income amount. Whenever I think about universal basic income my mind automatically goes back to the discussion of raising the minimum wage to $15, which had a similar argument against it. Also, if the universal income taxes the wealthy to give to the poor I question how they will decide the amount and where the cut-off point is. If the taxing is not done right then it could leave people in a worse financial situation than before.
But, there is evidence to show that universal income could actually help the economy grow. One study shows that if there is a basic allowance of $1,000 a month then the economy would grow by $2.5 trillion by 2025. This specific report states “The larger the universal basic income, the greater the benefit to the economy.” In this scenario the universal basic income would be paid for by raising the federal deficit. However, it did find that if universal income is paid for through taxing it does not change the state of the economy.