Disclaimer: As a pathological lurker, I'm partially asking this question to help pave the way for questions/posts that I have spent more time thinking about and am more emotionally invested in. However, this question also struck me as important and relevant to the miscellany of other half-baked posts bouncing around my head.

Without any further ado, where in the world will a UBI develop first?

I feel like stabs, some tentative, some rushed, have shown up in a lot of the western world. I'd disqualify them from the status of full UBI, because of either:

  • Less than universal. Examples: Pilot projects done by philanthropists, universities, and governments.
  • Less than basic. Examples: SNAP [food stamps], EITC [tax credits].
  • Less than an income. Examples: COVID-19 direct payments by the US Government, Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend.

So, even though this question is probably hosted in some form on PredictIt and Metaculus already, I ask you, LessWrong, where do you think a UBI will first develop, and why?

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California. Just a hunch.

Makes sense:

  • Tech brings in a lot of per-capita income
  • Tech brings in utopian, disruptive voters
  • One of the most progressive states

If we're counting states then Alaska already has UBI.

Thanks for the comment, lechmazur, I referenced Alaska in my question, but disqualified it from UBI status on the basis of it not being an "income", e.g. not being significant enough to live on, and also to a lesser degree, not being paid monthly or weekly, but yearly. I do agree with you though, that Alaska seems to be the US State most oriented towards a UBI, the dollar value of their PFD would just need to increase by an order of magnitude for it to qualify as a UBI, imo.
2Lech Mazur2y
Sounds like a sensible distinction. When it comes to countries, I think Norway should be the odds-on favorite. Their sovereign wealth fund is at $250k per citizen.
4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:02 PM

The next steps:

  • move there and get citizenship, to qualify for the future UBI;
  • buy land, because a part of UBI will translate to higher rents.

buy land, because a part of UBI will translate to higher rents.

Land taxes will likely be a big part of funding the UBI.  That's one mechanism by which rents will rise, but it means that buying land doesn't evade it.  

At it's base, this is redistribution of wealth, not creation of wealth.  I support it on humanitarian grounds, while recognizing that I probably will lose monetarily in any implementation.  Anyone rich enough to rearrange their life to get UBI is likely in the class of funders, not funded.  That's OK!  Moving to help get it started, even if it means paying higher taxes yourself is a public service.

The first point seems reasonable, but maybe moving there to bring about a UBI sooner could be seen as an equally valid reason for the move?

The second point is an interesting one, that I hadn't thought much about. Do you think there will be a general cost of living increase under a UBI? And thanks for reminding me about that fantastic book review!

There is some uncertainty in my opinion. First, as far as I know, we do not have experimental evidence what happens in long term under UBI. (The existing experiments were too limited in time and scope.) Second, I am not sure how much I understand the factors behind land/house costs, but I assume that Georgism is approximately correct, and that the obstacles against building more homes are more legal/regulatory than economical. (Which means that a change of law could change the situation on the housing market.) I assume that the reason for rising costs is simply "not enough houses" so the people auction for the existing ones, and the reason for not enough houses is that it is legally difficult to build them in sufficient amounts.

If the following is true, then pouring more money to economy simply means that people will have more money to auction against each other; that is, the costs of housing will rise. (Like, if 1200 families are fighting over 1000 houses, and new houses cannot be built fast enough, then even if you made all of them billionaires, ultimately some of them would not have enough money to buy a house.) But it is not obvious how will this interact with UBI. Maybe the prices will rise just high enough that you cannot afford your own house on UBI alone (or on UBI plus the average wage), and then they will stop.

The regulatory reasons against building more homes are the following: First, people who already own houses in the city, do not want every remaining piece of grass in their neighborhood to be replaced with new houses, so they will elect politicians who vote against this. Second, there are rules saying that a house must have at minimum a certain number of square meters, etc., which on one hand sounds like a good rule that prevents horrible homes from being built, but on the other hand it also puts a minimum price on a home, which some people can't afford. (From the average voter's perspective, it is a choice between a good house and a house that sucks. From the homeless person's perspective, it is a choice between a house that sucks and living on the street. So if voters remove the "house that sucks" option...) Plus there is an interaction between these two effects; people who already own houses in the city also do not want a lot of "houses that suck" to be build in their neighborhood, because it would mean that a lot of poor people (e.g. former homeless) will move there. Also, there is a zero-sum game between those who already own houses, and those who don't -- higher costs for the latter mean more profit for the former.

To provide affordable living for everyone, you would need a combination of "build a lot of new homes, even if it means many of them are small and uncomfortable" and UBI. Only after you built enough homes so that everyone can have one, then their costs will stop growing; and only then people will be able to afford one on UBI alone. -- The question is, whether the government willing to enact UBI will also be willing to build a lot of cheap homes. It sounds reasonable, but there will be strong lobbying against it.