The Economic Security Project, a coalition of more than a hundred tech entrepreneurs, investors, and activists, has announced a two-year, $10 million project to explore how a universal "basic income" (UBI) could provide economic opportunity for all.
ESP signatories who have committed to "think seriously about how recurring, unconditional cash stipends could work, how to pay for them, and what the political path might be to make them a reality" include Y Combinator president Sam Altman, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase, Institute for the Future fellow and "work instigator" Natalie Foster, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, Niskanen Center policy analyst Samuel Hammond, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, former U.S. secretary of labor Robert B. Reich, SEIU 775 president David Rolf, and New America president and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Recipients of initial grants totaling more than half a million dollars include the Roosevelt Institute, which will conduct macroeconomic modeling of cash stipends as well as behavioral and public opinion research; the Center for Popular Democracy and its affiliates, which will campaign to strengthen the safety net in ways that lay the foundation for universal basic income as part of a robust system of social provision; and the Niskanen Center, which will research options for implementing cash stipends in the United States. In addition, the Alaska Group American Center will work to fight cuts to the yearly dividends Alaskans receive from the state's Permanent Fund; the Chesapeake Climate Action Network will study the feasibility of implementing carbon pricing at the municipal level to fund a basic income; and GiveDirectly will support a longitudinal basic income study in Kenya.
"The Niskanen Center believes in the immense humanitarian advantages of a dynamic, open market order," said Will Wilkinson, the center's vice president for policy. "However, market dynamism by its nature disrupts the status quo and dislocates workers. When people don't have a buffer against creative destruction, we run the risk that they will turn to leaders who make big promises but whose economic policies in fact threaten economic freedom, innovation, growth, and well-being. We see a UBI as a promising way to sustain and promote broad-based prosperity by protecting people against the downside risks of market disruption."