Give People Money

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

Give People Money is a comprehensive and in-depth look at basic income. The author has looked at schemes around the world and while sympathetic, is frank about some of the difficulties.

In Kenya, she sees how an NGO called Give Directly does just that. It pays everyone in a  particular village a basic income for twelve years. This security allowed people to buy equipment to start small businesses and improve their living conditions, and meant children could stay longer in education. Most people did not waste the money but made sustainable changes to their lives.

She contrasts this with aid projects which give people what they think they need, meaning they receive items which often go unused, or have complex and bureaucratic ways of assessing entitlement, which divide communities when some people are deemed eligible and their neighbours are not.

She discusses issues around automation and flexible working. A basic income would give people the freedom to work fewer hours, do more fulfilling work, or develop other interests. It might also mean that people at the bottom would be paid more. At present many unpleasant jobs with unsocial hours are low paid because the people who do them have no choice. With the floor of a basic income, employers might have to pay more to get people to do them.

She contrasts this with the current difficulties of accessing welfare benefits in the US in particular, and the problems of getting into work when it might mean an unpredictable income and the loss of the little amount of money you are receiving (further complicated in the US by the issue of healthcare coverage).

Although its scope is global, Give People Money is written from a US perspective and one thing that she doesn’t address is whether the basic income model should incorporate additional payments for disabled people and for parents of young children. In the UK such benefits are largely paid in recognition of the additional costs of being disabled, or bringing up children, and are not means tested.
One element of her argument that I found disheartening is that universal benefits or schemes that resemble basic income have been most effectively applied in homogeneous communities (she cites Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries). She believes that it might face greater resistance in a divided society such as the US. She points out that entitlement in the US is often linked to the notion of the ‘deserving poor’, and that many benefits are delivered at state level. She argues that the legislation was framed this way specifically so that southern states could exclude black people from entitlement.

Give People Money is ideal if you who want to think in detail about the social and policy implications of basic income.

NB This is an extract from a longer piece on basic income on my blog
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A compelling read which opens up a whole host of questions about how to construct a future where all of society is equal. 

As robots begin to take over many mainstream jobs, this is no Steven Spielberg film but a harsh reality. 
With first hand accounts of people struggling to make ends meet and the unsettling prospect of a jobless world, Lowrey m’s writing makes it a necessity that we know these things now. 

A fairly quick read but most enjoyable and enlightening.
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To show my bias plainly, I have been an advocate of basic income for many years. Obviously, this book is right up my street as a result, but I have to say I was surprised to actually learn from it also. The book explores UBI in terms of social issues like poverty, labour and social inclusion, The book isn't a perfectly scientific undertaking- there are no heavy economics here- and so several of the author's conclusions are based on supposition and presumption. However, from a 'get to know the topic' perspective, the book gives a good introduction, explains the concept with social-economic inferences and citations, and tries to show the reader what a UBI system might look like in reality. If you've ever heard of UBI, this is worth picking up to greater understand the concept and at least, learn enough to know how to question and challenge it.
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I must admit, I have read a lot around this subject (especially relating to Elon Musk) and must admit, it is starting to bore me. It is a great concept but at this point, the literature of people's opinions are in abundance but policy is not. Could this be something that is probable (not possible) when or will it play out?

That being said, if you haven't read a lot of the subject already I would recommend this book. Annie Lowrey and her journalism past really do tie you in and know what keeps people reading. It is a well-written book and I would recommend. Maybe it just wasn't for me?
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You have to hand it to Ms Lowrey, her journalistic skills shine throughout this book and she writes using all the persuasive skills of the true convert. Her use of rhetorical devices is secure and she builds impressive edifices with fairly inusubstantial materials. However, at heart she fails to convince on the merits of a true Universal Basic Income and tries to stretch fairly limited evidence beyond its realistic bounds. A few examples may suffice to illustrate the flaws in her arguments. Time and again Ms Lowrey refers to various trials underway around the globe but fails to give sufficient weight to such things as scalability; the very limited evidence base available due to the short duration of the trials;  the cultural contexts in which many trials are located; and the fact that many so-called UBI trials are - in reality - variations on targeted financial support. Ms Lowrey raises suspicions at an early stage over her personal sympathies by appearing to agree with the idea that 'there may be something in this UBI idea but I don't think the evidence is yet secure'. It may be that the fact that the book in part draws together articles previously separately published elsewhere is responsible for the incoherence and inconsistency found in the book but, despite this apparent doubt expressed in early chapters,  by the final few chapters Ms Lowrey seems to be fully sold on the idea of UBI as an answer to most of the ills that beset mankind, even if it were to be paid for by governments printing money rather than funding the massive costs by taxation or other fiscal measure. Ms Lowrey is in fairly good company, though, as many protagonists of the UBI concept ignore such problems as funding the huge costs and addressing the manifestly different needs of different vulnerable individuals and groups that cannot be solved through a UBI. Similarly, Ms Lowrey fails to sufficiently identify the issues associated with the UBI-lite approaches she applauds in the book where the UBI is more targeted (so therefore not universal) and inevitably leads to the 'cliff edge' difficulties experienced by vulnerable individuals and groups who aren't quite vulnerable enough to benefit from targeted funding. The wider societal risks that may be associated with a wholesale adoption of UBI are also dismissed almost out-of-hand on the basis of very small scale trials with limited history. This reader is fairly obviously somewhat sceptical, but pleads with the UBI-converts and UBI-zealots to join forces with UBI-sceptics to - at the very least - agree on the need for some genuine large scale and sufficient duration trials, whose effectiveness would be assessed by genuinely disinterested researchers. Until then, this book joins the many others that singularly fail to advance the UBI argument.
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A really interesting book written by an amazing economics writer. The idea of a universal income is a divisive one, but his book is an facsinating argument in favour.
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I’m in! After reading this I’m ready to join the revolution...very thought-provoking and challenging approach to fix society. Well worth a read!
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Posted on on 11th Sep 18-

The premise: The book introduces the concept of Universal Basic Incoqme, by which everyone receives an amount of cash regularly (obviously there’s more to it than that, but that’s the essentials right there). We are given an insight into the challenges that face us, including robots taking our jobs and companies being greedy, and presented with a solution. Guess what it is? Yeah you’re right, it’s a UBI. 

The author: Annie Lowrey, journalist and author

The good stuff: We should realise that here in the UK, despite not having an equal society, we still have it pretty good as there are case studies from around the world that show more unequal societies and worse welfare services. When I say that this is ‘the good stuff’, I don’t mean that I’m happy about this. However, in order to solve inequality we need to know what people face, for example how black people are discriminated against by the US welfare system. Only by understanding can things change. Also, I was shocked to find out that people in the US only get six months of unemployment support...

The bad’s not so simple after all...

Best line(s) of the book: “In the village, the idea of waste—as well as the idea of not trusting people with cash—seemed absurd. It was not just that the villagers seemed uninterested in wasting the money, or stopping working, or spending it on frivolous things. It was that their ingenuity with and excitement for the capital far outstripped anything I imagined. They were not charity cases. They were businesses waiting to start, individuals striving to prosper, families searching for a better life. The main thing they lacked was cash.”

An eye opening example: “At times charity aid can even be counterproductive, hurting those it means to help. Take Toms, the popular shoes. Buy a pair and a person living in poverty gets a pair too, a feel-good practice the company calls “buy one, give one.” But a glut of Toms shoes disrupts the businesses of local shoe manufacturers and shoe retailers, much as donated clothing from the United States has damaged the local retail trade in many African markets. Toms are also not appropriate in many situations and climates, but Toms shoes are what Toms gives out. And as I saw in Kenya, they tend to make their way into the hands of people who already have shoes, but might not have, say, electricity or clean water.”

Rating 4⭐️

Final thoughts, and should you read it? ‘The simple idea to solve inequality and revolutionise our lives’...the book on the one hand thinks that a UBI - universal basic income - is a brilliant idea but on the other hand presents many reasons why a UBI isn’t such a simple idea, as there are so many differing opinions on what it should look like and how it would be administered. The book doesn’t present a perfect solution to inequality. Why? Because that doesn’t exist. But it does argue the case for something to help tackle inequality and why it should be cash, and the reasons are an interesting read. But it also argues cash, as part of capitalism, exacerbates inequality. There are examples of projects taking place on a smallish scale to trial different ideas though, which is promising. If you want to read all about the simple idea that the cover suggests might be found inside this then you will be disappointed, but if you want to read an interesting book about inequality, give it a go. 

Give People Money was published on 12th July 2018 by WH Allen. Thank you to Annie Lowrey, WH Allen and NetGalley for the ARC
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Universal basic income was a subject I knew a little about but hadn't gone into at length.  This book was an amazing introduction to the subject, easy to read, with case studies to support the argument.  It was highly informative regarding the American welfare system but left me wondering how it would translate here in the UK. Recommended.
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This is a new look at an age old problem. What is the basic amount of money people need to live on? If only we could get every politictions around the world to read and implement this way of lifting everyone out of poverty.
It does have its limits. I agree with others that it may encourage some to quit school or sit around and do nothing. This already happens with our UK benefit system. It’s the working family that really struggles to survive. There is the unaccounted expense of going to work that is never taken into account. It doesn’t pay to work , it costs to work! Childcare been a major factor. This can be seen in the growing number of working families needing to use food and clothing banks. Everyone in employment should receive this minimum basic allowance which is then topped up buy their employment. Those who want more strive more. We cannot all be rocket scientists but we will still need people to do the menial jobs, brush the streets, clean our hospitals will there be anybody to do this if they don’t have to? Lots to think about.
Thank you to Annie Lowrey for an insight into how giving everyone enough money to cover their basic living requirements would mean and what pitfalls might be encountered.
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Very insightful and well rounded book discussing the economical and ethical reasons for introducing a universal basic income. It was very interesting and changed my thinking somewhat. I already agreed that it was the right thing to do but didnt believe it should be given to everyone, for example i di dnot think it should be given to anyone under the age of 21, and nobody that earnt over £100,000 per year, but when i stopped and researched the amount of tax that people have to pay on top earnings then my opinion changed and i now think it should be given to everyone, but still not to under 21's as i think it would just encourage them to quit school and sit on their backsides. 

As for wehether it would encourage the lower classes to not work, well that would be their choice, i personally think it would have the opposite effect, it would free the lower classes from being stuck in dead end jobs that they hate, encourage them to take up further education and improve their lives. 

Very interesting read.
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I am ambivalent about the concept of "universal basic income". I have heard of it through newspaper articles and I like the idea of "money for nothing" but I can't quite understand how it works. The author here is very thorough in her research and in her reporting but the book is not dry and academic. It is a fairly easy read with lots of examples in many places. The writer and her slant is American so it may not be so easily replicable in the UK where our welfare system is different. But the attempts by the current government to bring in a universal credit shows the idea is in the zeitgeist.

It's easy to see that the idea of free money is attractive but there are stumbling blocks... Do you give it "universally" to everyone? Even the millionaires and wealthy? If not, where do you draw the line? Isn't that means testing just like current systems... Ms Lowrey covers all the possibilities while travelling the world. Interesting chapter on UBI in Africa and its impact in the small villages it was tried in. 

If people no longer need to work, will they be demotivated in their lives and sit at home playing video games or go out and do something amazing with their time? In Canada, a pilot scheme was launched with the Ontario premier, Kathleen Wynne, saying, "Our goal is clear. We want to find out whether a basic income makes a positive difference in people's lives. Whether this new approach gives them the ability to begin to achieve their potential."

I like the idea that when people have no money worries, even if they are not rich, they will start to achieve great things. Art, crafts, social interactions... It is an interesting concept and well introduced in this book. Recommended if the concept of a Universal Basic Income is something you have started to think about. 

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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Based on the economy and laws of the USA, I found this book somewhat difficult to truly follow as I am a lay reader in the UK. However reading it as a theoretical work with a 'What if' mentality, it is an interesting read and made me wonder how and if this idea of giving everyone (or some) £1000 would translate into our British economy, especially in view of the year ahead for us with Brexit looming!
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This is more an introduction to the topic, I think, than a fully-developed treaty on how exactly a UBI (Universal Basic Income), but it remains an interesting book no matter what. While heavily focused on the USA, it also considers other countries, so it’s definitely not just US-centric with no mentioning the rest of the world (examples from Finland and India, for instance, are included).

The idea itself (giving a basic sum of money to everyone, every month, so that their basic needs are ensured) is not new. Lots of people will tell you “money can’t buy happiness”, but let’s be honest: when you don’t have to worry about when (when, not if) power will go out in your home because you can’t pay your electricity bills, when you know you can give your children the food they need, it makes life better all around—and also allows you to focus on finding a job and other needs, or simply help you not getting sick all the time, or any other issues one faces that lack of money can cause.

Of course, it clearly opens the way to many disagreements, including fear that “if people have money, they’ll become lazy and complacent”. Which is, 1) I guess, very specific to “work hard, thrift societies”, 2) not necessarily true, 3) why should the “American way” (that false assumption that if you only work hard, you will be successful no matter what) be the only valid one? Most people want a job, especially since our world in general values a human life according to whether it’s “productive” or not—another issue we’ll need to address sooner than later, since automation and incoming AI are very likely to make us redundant when it comes to jobs, and we’ll need to rethink ourselves in other terms.

Is it doable? Possibly, I think… provided governments think about it the right way, and provided people don’t consider it in terms of “something that should only go to a certain class of people”, or “welfare queens will abuse it”, or “those people will only buy drugs with it”, or “it’s good if it’s for us, but we don’t want immigrants to have it” (apparently, the more diverse a society, the more this question reveals rampant racism: “we want it for US, not for THE OTHER”—and sadly, I wouldn’t even be surprised if that was a wide-spread opinion).

The book considers these questions, as well as others and what they really entail, such as giving supplies, clothes etc. to people rather than money: it’s all well and all, but we don’t think about all it implies. One of the examples involves giving shoes to people in a poor village, with two unwelcome effects: what they need is not necessarily shoes, but, for instance, clean water; and doing this also deprives the local shoe-making economy of customers. If those people were given money instead, they could help that economy (by buying shoes, by buying a cow and starting their own farm/business...) AND get the water they need, too. To me, it makes sense.

On the other hand, the way the book is currently laid out doesn’t show references well enough. And while the ideas developed here are definitely food for thought, I believe they stand better as an introduction, as stepping stones for more in-depth research and reading, rather than as sturdy research. I wouldn’t call that an issue, because it does pave the way to opening up to the idea of a UBI, and to really thinking about it, about what’s trickling down from it and how current demographics may influence it (in a good or a bad way). I simply wouldn’t take the book as THE work of reference about it.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Clearly a good starting point if you’re getting interested about this subject, and aren’t sure how to approach it.
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This is such an interesting book.
I initially only requested it as it was based on a premise where I would obtain free money from the government, but jumping into it and looking at the reasons and benefits behind it, it became so much more.
Universal basic income, for example of $1000 a month, would free the lower classes from domestic abuse, poor salaries, the streets and from not being able to pursue education.  While at the same time invested money into small businesses and improving the economy ten fold at least.
The government should be able to do this for each and every citizen through a tiny rise in tax,,,something amazing that would relieve pressure on all but there is the issue of EVERYONE getting this, even the rich who don't need it or maybe wouldn't even have notice it.
Lowrey goes through various case studies and economic situations from the US and is very persuasive.
This would be something I would very much like to see tackled from a UK perspective.
Very interesting.
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An excellent discussion of the principles of Universal Basic Income (UBI), with illuminating case studies from across the world. The majority of the text concentrates on the United States economy, political structure and social systems, but the ideas translate to both developed and underdeveloped countries
Other types of social reform are also discussed. Some ideas, such as universal Child Benefit and access to healthcare both endemic in British society, since the twentieth century, although it has to be said the successive government in recent years have actively worked to dismantle them.

The UBI principle is not new, but perhaps it has never been more relevant with a growing social divide between the rich and the poor, exacerbated by technological developments reducing the needs for routinised jobs. The idea that everyone should receive a basic income regardless of status would bring most out of poverty and improve their quality of life.

This book shows the cost while high is not prohibitive and the improvement in people's lives, which may ultimately reduce health and social costs, immense. Funding such a scheme is not the only issue, the population's mindset needs to change, to accept everyone's right to have a decent life, whether or not they have money, a high earning job and good health.

Women could be the primary benefactors from UBI, often they assume the role of homemaker and carer of elderly relatives. They are penalised for this in financial and social terms. Even though by doing so they allow countries to make a significant financial saving. They also improve the lives of their children and relatives by providing them with a caring, supportive environment. These are roles I have personally undertaken, and while I gained immeasurable emotional benefit from doing this, I have suffered in career terms and financially.

Written in an informative, easy to read style, well-researched with clear, representative arguments, this book is worth reading, whether or not you are interested in economics.

I received a copy of this book from  Penguin Random House - Ebury Publishing -W. H Allen via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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The concept of a universal basic income – UBI – seems to be gaining some traction in various quarters around the world and this book is a very readable and informative guide to its pros and cons. Author Annie Lowrey looks at UBI as a way of addressing changes in the structure of employment brought about by new technology, a way of levelling out the social inequalities perpetuated by a welfare system and as a way of minimising extreme poverty. She looks at projects in Kenya and India, but her detailed analysis of why a UBI is needed, what it might cost and what impact it could have are focused on the US. She’s an American, so that’s unsurprising, but as a British reader I would naturally have liked some discussions of the effect a UBI could have in the UK. That’s a minor caveat, though, because overall I found this a very interesting introduction to an important idea.
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The author of this book is a very clever and well regarded economist, so I wasn't surprised to learn that this book had been written or that the author's personal opinions became obvious. 

UBI has been gaining media coverage recently so I came to the book already with the view that a basic income for all might just be the answer to several problems in our world. I enjoyed reading the arguments and reasoning in more depth, it wasn't hard to comprehend and made even more sense by the end.

My only issue is the length of the book, which felt padded out at times but this didn't stop me from already recommending the book to others!
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When I heard about this book I knew it was something I had to read. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is something I have hear murmurings about but it isn't something I knew about in detail. Many different countries have looked at implementing a form of UBI, which is giving people, all people, a basic income regardless of their working status. Indeed some countries already do it or have started experimenting with it. Proponents say it will end poverty and ensure everyone gets their basic rights met.

Lowrey takes us on a journey across countries, events and industries, speaking to those who are both for and against the idea. She does a good job of balancing the arguments although I did feel at times it was clear she felt UBI was a good idea..

It's a fairly short book and I think the author did an amazing job at pulling together all the research she conducted. The weak parts of the book for me were the epilogue - it made strange comparisons to science fiction movies and TV shows which I didn't feel added anything to the book - and the huge focus on the US. I struggle with books when constant references to "we" and "us" only apply to those living in the US.

Overall this was really enjoyable and if you're looking to find out more about UBI (or, like me, didn't really know anything about it) then I recommend it.
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