Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Johann Hari - Why Basic Income Is a Mental Health Issue

Canadian researcher Dr. Evelyn Forget says guaranteed income “works as an antidepressant.”

At junior school they told us a story about how the Sun and the Wind wagered over who could get a man to take his coat off. You may have seen it as a children's cartoon. The Wind blew and blew, but the man just held hard into his coat, and then it was the Sun's turn and he made the world sunny and warm and the man glady took his coat off. One tried to force the man and it didn't work, but the other offered gentleness and positive experience to influence the man and it was successful.

Many on the right want a hard world where people are forced to work. It works, because no one wants to starve, but at a price as it produces a harsh and unpleasant society and less productive people. It's counterintuitive, but the gentler approach works much better as welfare creates happier, more productive people who may go on to be self reliant. 

Their children are happier too, and this affects vital brain development as they grow up, and so they become more successful as adults as well. It's an investment that we all benefit from: Less crime, less expense of prisons, safer streets, less drug and alcohol problems, happier employees who like work, and finally, more people at work paying taxes, which means lower taxes for the rest of us.

The Basic Income has been shown to bring the above benefits too, and is probably a lot more effective. 

It shows how mainstream economics got so wrong about incentive. Libertarianism is no better, from which neoclassical economics is derived. 

Then they stood back to see what would happen. Dr. Evelyn Forget, of the University of Manitoba, has carried out the most detailed research on this three-year experiment in a universal basic income. Many important things happened – there were significantly fewer low birth-weight babies, because mothers had better nutrition; people studied more and longer; hardly anyone gave up working, but some people turned down lousy jobs and held out for better ones, so overall work standards in the town improved. But the most important result? A big fall in depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. In just three years, hospitalizations due to mental illness fell as much as 8.5 percent. Compare that to the past decade, where global depression rates have risen by 18 percent.


Andrew Anderson said...

Nice article and comments by yourself, Kaivey.

Some Biblical support:

Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything. Ecclesiastes 10:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB) [bold added]

Some have argued that a UBI is inflationary and well it might be since the DEMAND for fiat is suppressed by government privileges for the banks and bank deposits, which the banks themselves may also create but for private interests.

Part of the solution then is to eliminate privileges for the banks so as to maximize the good that deficit spending can do for a given amount of price inflation risk.

Kaivey said...

The MMTers will have to look into it.

Matt Franko said...

No way in hell the figure of speech “money!” , transliteration of the name of the goddess in the Roman pantheon whose temple housed the Roman mint, appears centuries before the existence of the Roman Empire in the Hebrew Scriptures....

Unknown said...

I believe that the Argentine Job Guarantee program had similar effects - see Tcherneva - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9obQRzkpAII

Marian Ruccius said...

Nonsense. Income, as opposed to a lack of income because of disability or sickness, is an anti-depressant. Personal debt is a depressant. UBI is neither here nor there. except as a depressant if it is implemented over the economy as a whole, since it reduces real incomes. Neil Wilson said this over and over when he was still blogging.

So what is a depressant is a) penury, and b) the terrifying threat of economic uncertainty (which is actually much better managed by a job guarantee and a mix of ancillary supports for vulnerable population groups).

These Drs (my compatriots) are well-intended, but they gotta get their heads out of their ar-es and read up a little on the policy options.

Up until the mid-1990s, the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) matched provincial welfare payments dollar for dollar, and that did much to reduce stress. But what is more empowering, a job or more welfare? In any case, the Canadian federal government under the Tories and then 1990s Liberals, killed off the CAP because of what they considered excessively effective use of it by the social-democratic provincial government of Ontario, then led by Bob Rae. I think one conclusion should be that it is easier to cut welfare/UBI payments than jobs.

Andrew Anderson said...

I think one conclusion should be that it is easier to cut welfare/UBI payments than jobs.

Then why is Social Security called "the 3rd rail of US politics"?

And an emphasis on job creation/preservation as opposed to actually accomplishing work efficiently has been called "featherbedding" or "make work" creation and is viewed with contempt by very many and is no doubt a source of shame to many of those so employed or worse, it may cause a desperate need to make their "work" seem important.

And how can paying people to waste their time be anything but inflationary?

Moreover, simple justice dictates that ALL fiat creation shall be for the general welfare - not for the private welfare of the banks and the rich, the most so-called "credit worthy". That calls for AT LEAST a Citizen's Dividend - if not a UBI.