At his Harvard commencement speech, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg called for universal basic income — UBI — as a new social contract during a time of growing inequality and the technological displacement of jobs.
“Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract,” Zuckerberg said. “We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful.”
“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things,” he said.
Zuckerberg noted that he wouldn’t have founded Facebook without having a safety net to fall back on. “If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Scott Santens, one of the leading experts on universal basic income, shared his thoughts on this development with AliveTampaBay.
Santens wrote, “Yeah, this is big. I would put this endorsement of basic income right up there in history alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s on the left and Milton Friedman’s on the right as far as the potential to influence the conversation. The fifth richest person in the world, and the richest millennial in the world, just endorsed the idea of unconditionally providing everyone enough money for basic needs, and he even discussed it in the context of enabling the pursuit of meaning.”
Santens continued, “[Zuckerberg] did not say because of automation, people will need basic income or die. He said people seek purpose, and that with the greater opportunity that basic income provides, along with other programs like childcare, healthcare, and education, people will be more enabled to find their purpose.”
Santens says this goes beyond a mere endorsement, and that Zuckerberg shows a much deeper understanding of basic income than what he’s accustomed to seeing. “Take this understanding of how basic income isn’t charity but a means of equalizing opportunity as part of a new social contract, and combine it with the global loudness of his voice as chairman and CEO of Facebook, and we’ve got a potential recipe for greatly accelerating the timeline for basic income adoption. We’ll see just how much he ends up actively advocating for basic income in the years ahead, and how much of his own money he puts behind the idea itself, like perhaps helping fund a pilot somewhere in the U.S. as Sam Altman has.”
Santens went on, “But I think I just woke up today into a world with millions more people having heard or read the words ‘universal basic income’ for the first time, which on its own, is no small victory.”