Universal Basic Income: the technology is here

chinese beggar with a QR code


A beggar in China collecting alms by way of a QR code...

According to internet consulting firm iResearch, payments made via mobile devices by Chinese consumers last year reached 38 trillion yuan (US$5.5 trillion, HK$43 trillion), more than half the nation’s GDP.

South China Morning Post: the rise in the QR code and how it has changed forever China's social habits


We are certainly well on the path here of the possible implementation of a Universal, Unconditional Basic Income system. Technology has brought us one huge step closer to the realization of this ancient idea, going back to Thomas Spence, and earlier. A basic sum, sufficient for survival, can be extended every month, via an electronic payment, to every individual in a given national society, to be used by her to make electronic payments of any kind, using a code such as the QR code. 

The universality and automatic character of the program, leaving out no member of said society, is of paramount importance, as it would make recourse to a bureaucratic apparatus, deciding over attributions and controling frauds, unnecessary, thus putting enormous sums at the disposal of the program, which would otherwise be swallowed up (probably to the tune of 40%-50%) by said bureaucracy.

The bad-faith arguments of adversaries of universality, pretexting that well-off people should not benefit of the same amount as the poor, are unfounded, as the wealthier recipient would repay some part of their universal basic income through their income taxes, which would find itself increased by its amount. Moreover, it will almost certainly come to happen that a great number of people who receive the basic income without having a need for it, will be moved to use it in an altruistic way, especially if encouraged by fiscal policy. Fraudulent declarations and moonlighting, and their attendant costs to society, which  would thrive in the case of a non-universal attribution, would be non-existant.


In a utopian frame, which should by no means be considered impossible, funds will be able to be put up by states and private donors to implement such programs in needy foreign countries, stabilizing them and greatly reducing migratory movements, once a satisfying electronic coverage of these countries has been achieved. The universality and automaticity of the payments would guarantee any amount from ending into the hands of corrupt authorities. The payments would be based on the level of average incomes in the country considered, which would be generally quite low. A limited amount could be withdrawn as cash.


For all recipients of the Universal Basic Income who are wage-earners, their wages would be reduced by the amount of their basic income, thus making their employment more affordable for their employer, while offering wage earners a security reinforcing their bargaining position. 

At any rate, the technology is here, and it is in full working order.