Thursday, August 4, 2016

Basic Income MOOCs Lesson for Asia Asia University, Taiwan

Basic Income
Main reading materials
Part 1: Warm Up Questions
  1. How much money do you think an adult living in Taiwan, would need each month (at least) in order to live a dignified life?
  2. Do you think giving a certain amount of money unconditionally to every adult is a good idea? Why or why not?
  3. What are three circumstances in which you that, the government should give money unconditionally to people?
Part 2: Conversation
Speaker 1
Wow! Aren’t you excited that, we will be graduating in only ___ more years? I can’t wait until I start making lots of money.
Speaker 2
No, I’m really scared! In fact, I’m thinking about going to graduate school, just so I can prolong my happy college days for a couple more years.
Speaker 1
Are you kidding? You want to take out more students loans and stay in school just because you’re too lazy to get a job and start working?
Speaker 2
I’m not lazy and I hate taking on more debt. The problem is, there are not enough jobs for university graduates, and the situation is getting worse.
Speaker 1
Yea, I understand what you’re saying. Yesterday, I read that, they’re going to allow self-driving cars and trucks on the roads. This means that, truck and taxi drivers are not going to have jobs. What are they going to do?
Speaker 2
New technologies are eliminating traditional jobs, which is going to leave people without a way to make a living and this is everyone’s problem.
Speaker 1
Somehow, we have to either create new jobs or figure out a way for people to have at least enough money to live.
Speaker 2
Yea, because if people don’t have money to spend, companies will not make profits, the economy will stop functioning and society could break down.
Speaker 1
Many people are calling for a basic income or cash grant to be given to every adult in order to make sure that everyone has at least enough money to live a dignified life. What do think about that?
*Complete the conversation (with your ideas) and then practice it with a partner.
Speaker 1:
Speaker 2:
Speaker 1:
Speaker 2:
Part 3: Reading Passage
Basic Income Proposals
Basic Income (BI) is a generic term for proposals calling for a cash benefit or minimum income to be paid unconditionally to every adult in a population, on an individual basis (rather than a household basis) without a means test or work requirement. For example if Taiwan were to implement the Basic Income Guaranteed proposal (BIG), every resident of Taiwan (from a certain age onward) would be entitled receive a weekly, monthly or yearly subsidy regardless of their current income, wealth or family status. The main premise of basic income proposals (such as Living Income Guaranteed) is to create “an economic and political mechanism to ensure the establishment of Fundamental Human Rights of the public through allocating an allowance on a monthly basis to every eligible individual that is currently in a position of being unable to sustain themselves and/or the people in their custody (What Is Living Income Guaranteed?, 2013).

While advocates of basic income cite such ideas as human rights, democracy, technological unemployment and higher birth rates as reasons for implementing a basic income, opponents claim that, giving money to people for nothing would only encourage laziness. Even if it were a good idea, they say that, there just is not enough money to pay for such a proposal. Let us have a look some of the arguments for basic income and then you can decide how basic income might affect the population where you live. What do you think? If you were guaranteed a basic income each month, just enough money to live a dignified life, would you choose to sit around all day and play video games or would you motivate yourself to contribute to society, perhaps by finding a job, creating a new job, participating in political discussions or just doing whatever you enjoyed doing?

Basic Income and Human Rights
While human rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security are legal-entitlements that (should) belong equally to everybody, over half of the world’s population are still not permitted to live according to their human rights, simply because they do not have enough money to pay for the basic goods and services necessary to do so. This condition, called the unequal application of human rights is caused by allowing the world’s wealthiest individuals to own and control most of the world’s resources; thereby, creating false conditions of scarcity throughout humanity. Scarcity or a shortage of resources has forced billions of people to live in slave-like conditions just to survive. In fear for their lives, due to a lack of food, water or shelter, people have few choices but to do whatever it takes just to survive, even if this means working less than $2.00 a day. Scarcity within populations has changed the nature of people’s relationships to one another. Human relationships ought to be based on human rights and the principles of equality; however, when there is scarcity of food and water, these relationships change from that of equality to that of master/slave.

Nobody wants to live and work in slave-like conditions; however, when people do not have enough money to buy the food and water that is necessary to live, they are left with few options but to work as slaves, steal, fight or die. Basic income proposes to correct (to some extent) the unequal application of human rights, by providing everybody with just enough money to ensure that they are able to pay for the goods and services necessary to live according to their fundamental human rights.   In other words, ensuring that everyone has at least enough money to survive would increase people’s ability to pay for the most basic goods and services needed to live according to their human rights, thereby removing the conditions that force them into slavery.

Basic Income and Democracy
Recall that, democracy, as a form of collective decision-making is dependent on people being able to participate in the decision-making process. Therefore, when it comes to measuring the quality of our democracies, the question to ask is, how equal is everyone’s opportunity to participate in all of the decision-making processes of society. To answer this question, all we have to do is look at the distribution of wealth within the population. Those with more money have more opportunity to participate, simply because they are able to pay for more participation. Clearly, basic income by itself is not going to elevate a low functioning democracy to a pure democracy. However, it would go a long ways towards giving the most disadvantaged people more of a voice in politics, thereby better incorporating their needs into the decision-making processes of government.

For example, the United States has approximately 580,000 homeless people who are not represented in government simply because they are not provided with an equal opportunity to vote. Why? Because, they do not have the means (equals money) to take time, out of their survival-schedule, get on a bus and go to vote. America’s so-called democratic government claims it does not have the money to solve the homelessness problem. Nevertheless, when it comes to spending 1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) dollars to upgrade nuclear missiles, the US government has no problem finding the money. To put this into better perspective, consider that the USA has allocated 400 billion dollars to create a new fleet of F-35 Fighter jets. That is enough money to purchase a $600,000 home for each homeless person in the USA and still have money left over to feed him or her. Why do wealthy democratic nations still have homeless people sleeping on the streets? Because a corrupt world system of money also corrupts our democracies. Consequently, more money equals more opportunity to participate in the democratic system. How much influence do you think homeless people have in your governments? Why have governments not yet eliminated the problem of homelessness?

Basic Income and Education
It is no secret that, lower-income families often have to accept a lower standard of education or no education at all because of their financial status. Kindergartens, cram schools and daycare centers cost money. More money to spend on education means higher quality options. Even when education is subsidized by governments, many children still do not have the opportunity to go to school because they have to work to help support the family. A basic income of the amount of money necessary for families to live dignified lives would go a long ways towards ensuring every child is able to receive an education.   How do you think a basic income would change the lives of university students?

Basic Income and the Birth Rate
Although many believe that, the birth rates are decreasing due to the high amount of pollution in the air and chemicals in the food, another possibility to consider is that of insecurity. Faced with the high costs or penalties associated with having children, more and more young couples are choosing to put off having children until they are more financially secure. Some are even choosing not to have children at all. Though, a basic income by itself is probably not going to reverse declining birthrates, it would at least, provide an additional layer of financial security for parents and potential parents by reducing the financial burden of having children. Some basic income plans even call for parental guardians to receive an additional sum of money for each child they care for. Would a basic income influence your decision to have or not to have children? Do you think parents should receive extra money for each child they care for?

Basic Income and Gender Equality
Basic income is a hot debate among proponents of gender equality. Some say that, basic income has potential to overcome the gender divide simply by satisfying the principles of gender equality, meaning both men and women would be receiving exactly the same treatment. Others, however, argue that a basic income would only increase the incentive for women to reduce their participation in the labor market, especially given women’s weaker attachment to the labor force due to their traditional roles as homemakers. (McLean, 2016) What do you think?

Basic Income and Technological Unemployment
Technological unemployment refers to unemployment that is caused by technological advances. Automated machines, such as robots and computers that can think and learn are taking the place of human labor because they are more efficient. As a result, more people, especially university graduates are finding that, traditional jobs are no longer available. Although, new technologies will also create some new jobs, the main concern is that, there still will not be enough jobs to sustain a growing human population. Basic income advocates argue that, the only way to keep the capitalist market going is to keep money moving within the system by ensuring that everyone has money to spend. What do you think; if robots can do all of the labor, will humans even need to continue working for a living?

Equality, as a measurement of each person’s opportunity to live has largely been ignored by governments focusing on the economy and the GDP rather than on the quality of people’s lives. This is a consequence of human-interactions being tied to money within a malfunctioning money system.  Whereas, money should be used only as a tool to price and exchange products, we have instead defined money as the primary value, thereby downgrading the value of life to that of a product.  This is why; we humans destroy the life of the sea and the forests of the earth, transforming the life into money within the human competitive race to consume. In order to save this planet and humanity, we must reverse the course of the human race. This means letting go of the idea of money as value, and replacing it with the value of life. From here, we are able to redesign the money system to one that functions equally for the benefit of all life. Basic income is a step in the direction of reversing the course of the human race, ending the disregard for life and establishing the principle of equal life.

Part 4: Vocabulary
Prolong (v)
to extend the duration/time of
Failure to address and correct inequality within humanity will only prolong human suffering.
Generic (adj.)
characteristic of or relating to a class or collection of things; not specific
Generic drugs are usually cheaper because they do not have brand names on their packaging.
Means test (n)
an investigation into a person's financial circumstances to determine their eligibility for assistance
An unconditional basic income grant would not require a means test.
Subsidize (v)
to financially support an organization or activity
The government of Taiwan subsidizes both public and private education.
Implement (V)
to carry out or put into effect
Various countries are now considering implementing a basic income program.
Status (n)
professional or social position
A basic income program could improve the financial status of men and women.
Premise (n)
a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred as correct
The main premise of basic income proposals is to create an economic and political mechanism to ensure fundamental Human Rights
Allowance (n)
the amount of money that is given or permitted for a certain purpose
Parents sometimes gives children a weekly allowance to buy food.
Custody (n)
the protective care or guardianship of someone or something
My mother is under the custody of my brother.
Advocate (n)
a person who publicly supports and/or recommends a particular cause or policy
Advocates of BI say it will help solve the problem of inequality.
Technological unemployment (n)
the loss of jobs caused by advances in technology
Millions of truck drivers and taxi drivers will lose their jobs due to technological unemployment caused by self-driving vehicles.
Motivate (v)
to provide someone with a reason for doing something
The desire to do well motivates people to work hard.
Scarcity (n)
being in short supply
In times of food scarcity, people will do almost anything to get enough food to stay alive.
Fundamental (adj)
forming the necessary base of what is most important
Fundamental human rights should apply equally to everybody.
Elevate (v)
to raise or lift something to a higher position
Basic income would elevate the most disadvantaged people to a level, wherein they could then begin to participate more in society.
Fleet (n)
a group of ships or planes, engaged in the same activity, under the same command
For the cost of America’s fleet of F-35 fighter jets, we could house and feed all of homeless people in the US.
Influence (v)
the capacity to have an effect on someone or something
Basic income might reduce crime, because people would not need to steal for money to buy food anymore.
Penalty (n)
a punishment (usually a fine) for breaking a rule, law or contract
Having more children comes with the penalty of having to pay more for raising them.
Incentive (n)
something that motivates or encourages someone to do something
The desire to survive is most people’s incentive for working.
Labor market
the place (within the economy) where workers and employees interact with each other
College graduates often find it difficult to enter the labor market due to the lack of jobs.
(, n.d.)
Part 5: Supplementary Materials (additional reading, video or website suggestions)

Questions and Activities
Part 1: Comprehension Questions (5)
  1. How would you define basic income?
  2. What are the names of three other basic income proposals?
  3. What is the difference between “paid on an individual basis” and “paid based on a means test”?
  4. How would basic income improve the fundamental human rights of financially disadvantaged people?
  5. How would basic income affect democracy?

Part 2: Vocabulary Questions
Choose the most appropriate word from the list of vocabulary to complete the sentences.
Generic (adj.)
Premise (n)
Means test (n)
Subsidizes (v)
Implement (V)
Status (n)
Allowance (n)
Custody (n)
Advocates (n/v)
Motivates (v)
Scarcity (n)
Prolong (v)
Fundamental (adj.)
Elevate (v)
Incentive (n)

Part 3: 10 other type of questions (could be matching or cloze test)
  1. ____________ drugs are often cheaper to buy because the sellers do not have to advertise a name brand.

  1. The lower income ____________ of women is a consequence of gender inequality.

  1. The rising ____________ of food and water will require that humans work together in order to survive.  

  1. The ____________ of a basic income is to ensure that everybody is able to live according to his or her fundamental human rights.

  1. My friend receives $500 NT per week for his food ____________.

  1. By not addressing and correcting the problem of inequality within society, we will only ____________ the suffering within society.

  1. An unconditional basic income would not require a ____________ to determine one’s eligibility.

  1. After the couple got divorced, the mother got ____________of all of the children.

  1. Access to food and water is a ____________ human right.

  1. The government ____________ public and private education.

  1. Some ____________ of basic income claim that, it will improve the quality of human rights and lead to better functioning democracies.

  1. Although, basic income would not ____________ a poorly functioning democracy to that of a pure democracy, it would at least give financially disadvantaged people more opportunity to participate in the democratic system.

  1. If Taiwan were to ____________ an unconditional basic income (UBI), all adult residents would receive a certain amount of money without requiring a means test.

  1. The need for money to feed their families ____________ people to accept work in unfavorable conditions.

  1. The company offers bonuses (extra money) to workers as a/an ____________ to work harder.
Part 4: Activities on Global Citizens’ knowledge and Literacy (Group discussions questions)
  1. Discuss basic income in relation to human rights: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve human rights, explain your reasons.
  2. Discuss basic income in relation to democracy: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve the quality of our democracies, explain your reasons.
  3. Discuss basic income in relation to gender inequality: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve gender equality, explain your reasons.
  4. Discuss the possibility of implementing a basic income plan where you live: list the pros and cons and decide if BI is a suitable option, then organize and present your conclusion.  

Part 5: Online Reading/Exercises to choose from
  1. Write a blog post (3-5 paragraphs) about basic income in relation to human rights: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve human rights, explain your reasons and post it to your blog.
  2. Upload a YouTube podcast (3-5 minutes) about basic income in relation to human rights: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve human rights, explain your reasons.
  3. Write a blog post (3-5 paragraphs) about basic income in relation to democracy: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve the functioning of democracy, explain your reasons and post it to your blog.
  4. Upload a YouTube podcast (3-5 minutes) about basic income in relation to democracy: give three reasons why basic income would or would not improve the functioning of democracy, explain your reasons.
  5. Write a blog post (3-5 paragraphs) in favor of or against implementing a basic income plan where you live.
  6. Upload a YouTube podcast (3-5 minutes) of your views, in favor or against implementing a basic income plan where you live.
  7. Read: How Universal Basic Income Will Save Us From the Robot Uprising; write a blog post (3-5 paragraphs) about basic income in relation to technological unemployment: give three reasons why basic income would or would not address the problem of technological unemployment, explain your reasons and post your blog.
  8. Upload a YouTube podcast (3-5 minutes) about basic income in relation to technological unemployment; give three reasons why basic income would or would not address the problem of technological unemployment, explain your reasons.
  9. Participate in a Google hangout with 3-5 people discussing basic income; upload the hangout to each participant’s YouTube channel.
  10. Work together with a group to create an online presentation or live presentation that advocates or opposes basic income where you live.

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