What makes Andrew Yang a strong candidate

The unconditional basic income as a unique selling point


Read on one side

The fact that Yang chose the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) as a programmatic unique selling point is only surprising at first glance. If you look at the UBI's history of ideas, you understand it better. There was and is support for this concept from all political camps. In the meantime, UBI has become a kind of universal projection surface for people who change society of almost every kind and political origin.

There is, for example, Charles Murray, a political scientist and book author who has been talking about IQ differences between whites and blacks for decades and is probably the best-known representative of the unconditional basic income from the right-wing spectrum. In his book In Our Hands - A Plan To Replace The Welfare State Murray explains his plan, according to which all Americans would get $ 10,000 a year, but would also have to forego any social benefits: child benefits, housing subsidies or food stamps (which even some members of the lower middle class in the USA use to keep themselves afloat) There would be less bureaucracy in Murray's world, but people would be largely on their own.

Left theorists such as Peter Frase and Kathi Weeks, on the other hand, argue that the UBI does not have to replace the welfare state, but rather expand it. Previously unpaid work (child and elderly care, work in the household) could also be recognized financially and enable women in particular to be more independent. "An unconditional basic income could not only protect the working class and harness the potential of a highly developed economy; it could also break the false dichotomy between well-paid workers or labor-saving machines, between strong unions or technological advances," wrote sociologist Frase in an article for Jacobin.

Tech billionaires are Yang fans too

In recent years, tech billionaires such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Richard Branson have also called for the introduction of a UBI. "There are fewer and fewer jobs that a robot can not do better," said Tesla boss Musk at a conference in 2017 - and at the same time warned, much like Yang, of future mass unemployment and social unrest. "In the end we will have to have some form of unconditional basic income. We have no other choice," said Musk. The start-up accelerator Y Combinator, which provides countless start-up companies in Silicon Valley with capital, plans to start a multi-million dollar test program this year, in which selected Americans will receive 1,000 dollars per month for five years.

What unites the tech-libertarian to right-wing conservative advocates of this idea, whether Yang, Murray or Musk, is ultimately their belief in capitalism. You see in the unconditional basic income something like a start-up aid, which ensures that competition and consumption can remain at today's level. Another requirement from Yang's program also fits in with this: a "Digital social credit"System that financially rewards people for creating" social values ​​". Whoever can afford that - in other words: who has time and energy for charity has - Yang does not talk about it. Just as he hardly talks about capitalist structures, production conditions, labor rights or activism. Yang does not want to be a democratic socialist, as his competitor Sanders, for example, calls himself.

Who is still normal?

The War on Normal People is the name of Yang's book, which was launched a year ago but is only just climbing up the bestseller lists. As always, when the word "normal" is used, the question arises who is meant by it - and who feels meant by it. In the case of Yang, it seems to be mainly the mass of white men who already see themselves as losing out and who fear even worse for the future.

Hillary Clinton spoke of them in the 2016 election campaign as "deplorablesIt didn't help her with this part of the electorate. Yang wants to win these very people back from Trump by promising them an unconditional basic income and almost unconditional empowerment.

That could be expensive. Not just for the US Treasury. The political price could be higher than the economic one.