Money. For free. It's been tested in Canada and India. Now one Dutch city wants to give it a whirl.

The Dutch city of Utrecht wants to run a scientific experiment on its residents.

The researchers want to test a concept known as "basic income." Their hypothesis? People aren't all that bad.


Photo by FuFu Wolf/Flickr.

Basic income is "an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement," according to the Basic Income Earth Network, a global network focused on basic income research, education, and advocacy.

The idea is to cut out all the rules and complexity of systems like social security and create a stable socioeconomic floor — a minimum standard of living that's available to everyone, rich, poor, and in between — by simply giving money to people.

To some, it sounds like a fantastic idea. ("I'll vote right now!")


Others, especially those who are generally against government assistance programs, grow prickly at the thought. ("Free money? Try getting a job, leech!")

GIF from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

The Dutch researchers believe those fears are misguided. In the Netherlands, they say, current welfare policies do something they shouldn't: assume the worst of people.

Jacqueline Hartogs, a spokesperson for the alderman who oversees Utrecht's work and income programs, spoke with Business Insider about the idea:

"The current rules in welfare are bureaucratic and, in a way, based on mistrust. In our scientific experiment, we will approach people with less or no rules, to see whether they still make an effort."

Let's paint a quick picture to see why basic income is an idea at least worth exploring.

Imagine you're one of several dozen worker-shareholders at a technology start-up. Your company is doing something innovative (and doing it well) and has found its place in the market.

Then one day, you get bought out by a giant tech conglomerate and, overnight, your founders join the " three comma club," and you and dozens of worker bees become plain old millionaires — if you're lucky.

Photo by Jan Persiel/Flickr.

If you follow business or technology news, that probably sounds like a familiar scenario. On one hand, it is a fairly common story these days. Though finance geeks call them "unicorns," they've become a lot less rare or mythical than once upon a time.

On the other hand, deals like this are still only slightly more common than winning the lottery. This is a much larger hand. You can slap the entire world in its mostly poor face with this hand.

Technology is reducing the need for a human workforce.

And it's going to continue to do so as we find ways to make it more powerful.

"They took err jerrrbs!" Industrial robots spot weld BMW cars in a factory in Leipzig, Germany. Photo by BMW Werk Leipzig/Wikimedia Commons.

And that's the idea, right? Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. I'd argue that not having to work a job in order to meet our most basic human needs would make life immensely easier.

Technology. Making life easier.

I'd also argue that anyone who desires the perks and comforts of greater wealth will be motivated to work toward that goal.

The ironic thing is most people on earth don't even like their jobs. There's something plainly unsettling about an economy designed to make people unhappy.

But alas, the rules of the economy lag behind technology, and for the time being, financial security for most of us hinges on having jobs.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich explains why this doesn't make entire sense, citing a real-world example:

"[T]he model we're rushing toward is unlimited production by a handful, for consumption by the few able to afford it. The ratio of employees to customers is already dropping to mind-boggling lows.

When Facebook purchased the messaging company WhatsApp for $19 billion last year, WhatsApp had 55 employees serving 450 million customers. When more and more can be done by fewer and fewer people, profits go to an ever-smaller circle of executives and owner-investors. ...

This in turn will leave the rest of us with fewer well-paying jobs and less money to buy what can be produced, as we're pushed into the low-paying personal service sector of the economy."



Based on his views, I imagine Reich would think basic income is a great idea. He even proposes that, in the U.S., it could be paid for, not with higher income taxes, but with a percentage of the profits from all patents and trademarks, which have made some people very rich.

Basic income could solve growing income inequality and poverty in a world where technology makes jobs with living wages harder to come by.

Research by the International Labour Organization shows that, globally, wages are flatlining and more than 200 million people are unemployed. And the lack of a safety net, like basic income, is stoking the flames of social unrest.

The ironic thing is most people on earth don't even like their jobs. There's something plainly unsettling about an economy designed to make people unhappy.

GIF from "Office Space."

But does it have to be this way? There's no telling what sort of world-bettering creativity and innovation could be unleashed if masses of people were freed from working jobs they hate just to survive and have the free will to pursue the things they believe are most important.

"If development is about freedom, one should challenge sceptics to show a better way to expand it."

What better way to find out if basic income works than by actually testing it?

Plus, there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. A 2013 UNICEF-funded basic income experiment in India resulted in higher economic activity, work, and entrepreneurship; and the socioeconomic boost was especially visible for women, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The researchers also found improved nutrition and health, school attendance and performance, and even sanitation.

A family in Orchha in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Photo by Rebecca Conway/AFP/Getty Images.

But there's more: Basic income was liberating in the most literal sense of the word, with some families being able to escape or make significant strides out of debt bondage.

"The primary value of a basic income would be its emancipatory effect," wrote Guy Standing, one of the researchers behind the UNICEF study. "If development is about freedom, one should challenge sceptics to show a better way to expand it."

A basic income experiment conducted almost 40 years ago in Canada produced amazing results, too. And today, countries like Finland and Switzerland are considering adopting basic income systems.

Let's hope Utrecht gets this experiment off the ground.

Because they wouldn't just be addressing a question of whether all Utrecht residents should have access to a basic and dignified standard of living. They'd also be demonstrating some truth about human integrity.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via US Secretary of Defense / Flickr and The Today Show

As the nation braces itself for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, President Biden has embraced the family of George Floyd at what has to be an incredibly stressful time.

Following closing arguments in the Chauvin trial on Monday, Judge Peter Cahill has sent jurors to deliberate. The verdict is expected to come in the next few days.

"He was just calling," George's brother, Philonise Floyd, said about the president. "He knows how it is to lose a family member, and he knows the process of what we're going through. So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything will come out to be OK."

Biden lost his wife and one-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident in 1972 and his son Beau to cancer in 2015.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.