Did UBI fail in Finland?

UBI didn’t fail. Humanity did.

Recent news reports indicate Finland is giving up its Universal Basic Income test. According to one article, people in Finland had a hard time with people getting government money while not being expected to find work.

“But the Finnish government’s decision to halt the experiment at the end of 2018 highlights a challenge to basic income’s very conception. Many people in Finland — and in other lands — chafe at the idea of handing out cash without requiring that people work. “There is a problem with young people lacking secondary education, and reports of those guys not seeking work,” said Heikki Hiilamo, a professor of social policy at the University of Helsinki. “There is a fear that with basic income they would just stay at home and play computer games.”

Old habits die hard.

I’ll work. But that guy next to me better work too. (Photo credit: Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash)

We’ve explained that sitting at home playing computer games all day isn’t a bad thing. Playing computer games all day, drinking beer all day, fishing or some other seemingly all-day non-productive pursuit is hardly non-productive. These activities represent a process of decompression and stress-relief. If allowed to take its course, boredom eventually sets in, causing the person to seek other stimulation. Combined with other factors, such as seeing other people finding meaningful ways to enjoy their time – as would be the case in Copiosis – idle people would find creative ways to contribute to society. The bottom line is, everyone wants to contribute to society but in their own unique way. No one wants to be a cog in someone else’s wheel. If given a choice.

UBI is potentially allows people room to explore themselves. For some, that may be playing computer games for a time, or getting drunk or whatever. In the right context such indulgences don’t matter.

What’s interesting about those complaining about UBI receivers potentially paying computer games all day is, they are complaining mostly because they aren’t the ones getting the basic income. They still have to work! I wonder if they were getting the income, would they be complaining?  What about if no one had to work for their necessities. Would people complain?

Some would, of course. Deeply ingrained is the puritan ethic. According to Wikipedia, the puritan work ethic, aka, the Protestant work ethic, or the Calvinist work ethic is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that hard work, discipline and frugality are a result of a person’s subscription to the values espoused by the Protestant faith, particularly Calvinism. This ethic infuses our society, no matter your religion today, thereby making an enemy of idle time. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is a companion trope. It literally makes idle time sinister.

Findland’s experiment shows we have our work cut out for us. No one said it would be easy shifting human society. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Did UBI fail in Finland? Hardly. Humanity did. But that’s ok. There are other UBI trials underway. And Copiosis is coming up behind that.

2 thoughts on “Did UBI fail in Finland?

  1. Great article!!! I was totally bummed when I read about Finland pulling the plug on their UBI pilot project at the end of 2018. I feel slightly better about it now!!!

    1. We were shocked by the headline. But we understand the psychology behind it. It’s a big impediment to making any new system possible. We’re thinking deeply about how to address this.

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