The 'Pay to Live' Paradigm just isn't Working Anymore

Necessity is the mother of innovation, but innovation hasn’t solved the problem surrounding meeting basic human needs. Everyone needs a place where they can rest and feel safe, and everyone needs food to sustain them. Modern capitalism has done a wonderful job of providing these things for a profit, but this has not solved the underlying issue; that it costs money simply to live.

Whether one’s effort is needed or not, they must somehow find a way to exchange that effort for money, to exchange for food and shelter – quite the barbaric and inefficient system indeed. With the upcoming automation revolution, more people than ever will be displaced from employment, and their skills no longer required, through no fault of their own. People deserve to have their basic human needs met no matter who they are, and if our species is to become anything more than petty, squabbling apes, those needs should be met at no personal cost.

This isn’t a cry for universal basic income. What this is, is a call for meeting basic human needs in the most basic, cost effective, yet humane way possible. In some countries, the unemployed and other disadvantaged people are given allowances and pensions by the government, as well as free housing in apartments or small houses. For such a well-meaning system, this is incredibly inefficient.

The idea

Instead of giving money to individuals so they can exchange it for food and other goods, why not provide everyone in need with nutrient-rich shakes containing all their body needs to function? Instead of relatively expensive houses only for disadvantaged people, why not provide small, inexpensive sleeping areas for everyone who wants them? Think ‘Soylent’ for efficient nutrient delivery, and ‘hundreds of bedroom-sized one-room apartments with shared bathrooms’ for an efficient way to provide a safe place to rest each night, utilities included.

‘Utilities included’ might sound a little extravagant the fist time you hear it. Unlimited water, electricity, and internet for free? Well see that would be extravagant, which is why it isn’t included. A fair allowance of water and electricity per day, along with 5 megabit internet, is all every mini-apartment is provided. Those who want more will pay for it. What constitutes a ‘fair allowance’ of water and power are details to be later determined, but the concept is solid.

None of this sounds appealing. That’s because it isn’t. It’s a starting point. It’s a solution to the unfortunate fact that, in today’s society, it costs money to simply be alive. If you want more then you can have more – but you have to get it on your own. Want a big house in the hills and a Mercedes in the driveway? You can have that. Want to sleep in your free housing and spend all day roaming about? You can do that too. It’s freedom from the endless grind with the option to have whatever you want as long as you can pay for it – it even has potential to show cost savings when compared to the welfare systems of some countries, where money is given directly to recipients to spend as they wish.

Governments around the world struggle with providing for their less well-off citizens. This system is the most efficient way to provide a healthy starting point that will let people worry about bettering themselves and reaching their potential, instead of wasting time and energy working whatever minimum wage job will pay the rent and buy groceries. Imagine what someone could do if they were freed from the choice to work at Wendy’s for $4.75 an hour, or starving. Learning a new skill, starting a business, training for a job that they actually want; it all becomes possible.

Why we need it

You might say that many billionaires are self-made and they didn’t need any handouts, but they had incredibly rich families who were able to provide them food to eat and a place to live, freeing them up for higher pursuits that made them incredibly wealthy. Had they instead been forced to work whatever job they could find in order to meet their basic needs, would they have become even a tenth as successful as they are today? Likely not. That same principle applies to the rest of the population; if a portion of people are forced to devote their energy to barely getting by, instead of excelling at school or learning an income-producing skill, then it’s hardly a surprise that low-income earners tend to stay low-income earners.

Imagine a world where Mark Zuckerburg or Bill Gates had to stock shelves or flip burgers to get by – we would likely not have Microsoft or Facebook. Now imagine what other innovations we could be missing because potential innovators are busy moving furniture. Social benefit programs like this benefit more than the individual – they benefit society. The public housing recipient of today can go to school and be an integral part of a team that develops a cure for cancer tomorrow.

What this idea isn’t

This isn’t ‘giving everyone free stuff’. It’s a taxpayer-funded safety net that provides the bare minimum, allowing people to thrive for the benefit of all. No-one will enjoy this life, but millions would be thankful for the chance to reach their potential in life. It isn’t communism. Nothing but the bare essentials are provided free of charge, and aside from this, citizens are free to engage in the free market as they wish.

Auxiliary benefits

Lower healthcare costs thanks to a generally healthier population, as people switch from a diet high in sugar and salt, to the more nutritionally-sound diet that Soylent provides.

Lower crime rates since losing your job no longer means starvation and homelessness, and since even being close to broke for years and years can still create a half-decent quality of life.

A mentally healthier society created by easing every day stress and allowing people to focus on their mental issues.

A more politically and socially aware society that has time to engage in the political system and fight for what matters.

The conclusion

Capitalism has created a situation wherein profit is derived from the act of being alive – with an individual shut off from basic, easily provided necessities, simply because they don’t have the money. No matter the circumstance, under this plan, every citizen will have society at their back, should things go horribly wrong in their professional or personal lives. With the stress of existence gone, people will be free to reach their personal potential, which, in the long term, is better for everyone.