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What if we paid everyone a basic, bare-minimum livable wage — in exchange for absolutely nothing?

Nothing fancy, mind you; you'd still have to work in order to afford the finer things in life. But enough to cover food, housing, health care, and other essentials without all the frills.

That's the fundamental concept behind universal basic income (UBI), an economic model that's garnered support from allacrossthepoliticalspectrum.


Lose your job? Too overworked to take those higher education courses you wanted? Scared to launch that company you've always wanted to start? UBI would have your back. Instead of worrying about how to make ends meet, everyone — regardless of their income — would have their basic needs taken care of, freeing them up to actually, you know, positively contribute to society in whatever way that they saw fit.

Photo by Stefan Bohrer/Flickr.

It might sound ridiculous. It might seem impossible. But it's happening as we speak.

UBI has already been or is currently being tested in places like Germany, Finland, Namibia, and Canada. And those experiments have all yielded some pretty remarkable evidence in favor of this radical idea.

Contrary to popular assumptions, free money didn't turn people into lazydrunks. Sure, some of them worked a little less — like 5-7% fewer hours on average. But they also invested more time, money, and energy into education and entrepreneurship, and their overall happiness vastly improved.

Photo by Heikki Saukkomaa/Getty Images.

But most of these experiments only lasted for a couple of years at best. No one's ever tracked the long-term impact of UBI ... until now.

The nonprofit GiveDirectly just announced a comprehensive plan to study the effects of UBI through a decade-plus social experiment.

"We’ve spent much of the past decade delivering cash transfers to the extremely poor through GiveDirectly, but have never structured the transfers exactly this way: universal, long-term, and sufficient to meet basic needs," GiveDirectly Chairman Michael Faye and Director Paul Niehaus wrote in an article for Slate. "And that’s the point — nobody has and we think now is the time to try."

If all goes according to plan, GiveDirectly will provide 6,000 people in a Kenyan village with a universal basic income for the next 10-15 years. The exact number all depends on how much money they can raise.

Photo by Tony Karumba/Stringer/Getty Images.

Why Kenya? Because most Kenyans already live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day.

As such, GiveDirectly expects the total project costs to run around $30 million, less than 10% of which will go to general administrative costs.

Nothing fancy here. Just the bare minimum that someone would need to live.

A similar initiative in a developed country would cost more than a billion dollars. And unfortunately, that's not a practical price to pay for an experimental program — even one that, if successful, could improve living conditions for everyone across the board.

Photo by Tony Karumba/Stringer/Getty Images.

But that question of cost does tend to pop up pretty quickly in conversations around UBI.

It's why some people are skeptical about the idea from the start. It's probably why no one's attempted such a grandiose plan as GiveDirectly until now. And that's exactly why their mission is so significant.

For now, GiveDirectly is soliciting donations to provide these 6,000 Kenyans with their salaries. Other economists have suggested funding UBI through standard taxes, the same way we fund our current social programs; others have pointed out that the potential income from untaxed loopholes for the wealthy would be more than enough to cover the cost.


Photo by Tony Karumba/Stringer/Getty Images.

The truth is, there are some things that we just can't know until we try — and that's why GiveDirectly's new initiative is so exciting.

The theoretical evidence all looks to be in favor of a universal basic income, but there are still some things that can't be solved on paper until they're put into action.

Worst-case scenario? GiveDirectly improves the lives of 6,000 Kenyans for a while. Best case? In 15-20 years, someone could be paying you to live as well.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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