Øyvind Steensen has been spokesperson for BIEN Norway since 2016. He is currently writing about Universal Basic Income in a column for the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet and works as a visual artist, film and game director and entrepreneur.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL OF UBI
From time to time, we are warned that UBI proponents shouldn’t extrapolate too much about the broader effects of UBI, but there is reason to challenge this narrative. UBI could affect society in many ways, and perhaps there is more empiric evidence of such effects than commonly thought?
Why should UBI be any less transformative for society than the democratic welfare state and mixed economy of the Nordic model? By investing in the general population and distributing opportunity, our societies are held in high regard around the world.
While the Nordic welfare state is a step away from UBI, it’s perhaps no less comparable to a true, full UBI than many Basic Income pilots we tend to talk about – and we have a lot of empiric evidence of its effects.
Problem is, today, the Norwegian welfare state is in decline, with cuts and stricter rules pushing more and more people out of its reach. A widening wealth gap and an economic bubble looking like it could burst will make this approach more expensive and even less fruitful.
A sufficiently high UBI would further expand people’s freedom and safety and thus build on what has worked. It can be key in transforming society by distributing opportunity and making markets more democratic, creating stability and flexibility at the same time and giving room for sustainable growth.