Business Insider spoke with O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly about how Universal Basic Income could help us and reduce the number of hours we work each week.
Full transcript below
Tim O’Reilly: I think universal income might be the right idea sold the wrong way with the wrong implementation. That is I believe that the fruits of machine productivity should be distributed more widely. I’m not sure we know yet what the right way to do it is.
I do think that the Silicon Valley notion that the reason we will need universal basic income is because there is not enough work to go around, it’s just wrong.
What we really have to figure out is how to distribute the fruits of that work to make sure that we give it to people.
I had an interesting conversation with the labour economist David Autor from MIT. I asked him if there were there any natural experiments in effectively the equivalent of universal basic income he said “Sure, Saudi Arabia, and Norway.” He said in Saudi Arabia, they look down on work, they created a sinecure high-value universal basic income for members of Saudi families and most of the work is done by guest workers who are paid terribly and it’s not a very good society.
He said in Norway they took that oil wealth and they funded generous social safety net, everybody works, they just work a little less and I think that idea of just working a little less is a wonderful way to think about what we should be doing.
What if we put people to work but what if we actually said: “well we don’t actually have to work as much as we used to.”
That’s what we did in the past. The average workweek in 1800 was 70 hours a week, we brought it down to 35-40, we used to send children into the fields and factories and then we sent them to school, we could do that again, we could reduce the work week. We could create an allocation for people to do continuing education to always learn new skills. There’s all kinds of other ways to take this bounty of machine productivity and put it into a more human economy.
Produced by Jasper Pickering
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.