UNIVERSAL basic incomes are one of the hottest topics in economics today. The idea has the backing of people from quite different parts of the ideological spectrum, from Charles Murray, a libertarian-minded scholar, to Andy Stern, an American labour leader. 

Over the past decade interest in basic incomes has grown alongside worries that the wages earned by workers are not rising quickly enough to boost living standards. Some basic-income supporters worry that powerful new technologies, like artificial intelligence, will make life even harder for workers in future.

Now UBI is moving from the theoretical to the practical. Finland and Canada have been experimenting with UBI trials. Scotland is exploring how a UBI might work in practice, as are other places. The Economist’s Open Future initiative has invited two British politicians to weigh in on the UBI question. 

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, writes: 

“Now I am both interested in UBI and sceptical of some of the claims made around its impact—but because of that I believe it’s right to test those claims and to properly explore whether there could be a role for UBI in our social security system.”

Read her full commentary here.

Frank Field, a Labour MP and an expert on welfare, writes: 

“Proponents argue that by adopting UBI, the welfare state will be so geared as to abolish poverty, enable people to navigate more easily the modern labour market, and simplify the process of administering and claiming benefit. There are three main flaws in their case.” 

Read his full commentary here.

For more on the role the economy plays in supporting an Open Future, please visit our hub