Could a state enact a basic income? What about a city or county?

Could a state enact a basic income? What about a city or county? 

Answer

Yes, definitely, at least a small one.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend has been operating since 1982. Every resident gets an equal cash payment every year, dividends from oil royalties. It’s normally between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on oil prices, so it’s too small to be a full basic income, yet the social, cultural, and economic benefits are well documented. Alaskans love it.

Although there are no current examples of local programs, our government funded a series of local experiments in the late ’60s and early ’70s. More than 8,500 families in New Jersey, Denver, Seattle, and other locations had guaranteed payments to keep them at or above the poverty level. The final analyses showed a slight decline in total work hours, but that was mostly wives staying home with their kids and teens staying in school or going back to school.

A similar experiment in Canada had even more positive results. Between 1974 and 1979, poor residents of Dauphin, a town of 10,000 people in Manitoba, received regular unconditional payments to cover basic living costs. There were notable gains in health, education, employment, and social conditions.

Basic Income Action is forming chapters around the country, and will be supporting local efforts.