The Deep and Enduring History of Universal Basic Income

MIT Press Reader

Support for Universal Basic Income (UBI) has grown so rapidly over the past few years that people might think the idea appeared out of nowhere. In fact, the idea has roots going back hundreds or even thousands of years, and activists have been floating similar ideas with gradually increasing frequency for more than a century.

Since 1900, the concept of a basic income guarantee (BIG) has experienced three distinct waves of support, each larger than the last. The first, from 1910 to 1940, was followed by a down period in the 1940s and 1950s. A second and larger wave of support happened in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by another lull in most countries through about 2010. BIG’s third, most international, and by far largest wave of support began to take off in the early 2010s, and it has increased every year since then.

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