Berlin startup offers a year with no money worries

April 17, 2017 by Coralie Febvre
Mein Grundeinkommen's founder Michael Bohmeyer insists no one who has received the cash has become a layabout

Miko from Berlin may only be five, but he already has 1,000 euros ($1,063) per month to live on—not from hard graft, but as part of an experiment into universal basic income.

He is one of 85 people, including around 10 children, chosen by startup Mein Grundeinkommen (My Basic Income) to receive the payments for a year since 2014.

Founder Michael Bohmeyer has set out to prove to a sceptical public in Germany and further afield that the universal (UBI) idea is workable.

"Thanks to my first startup, I got a regular income, my life became more creative and healthy. So I wanted to launch a social experiment," 31-year-old Bohmeyer told AFP.

And he wasn't alone in wanting to test the idea, as some 55,000 donors have stumped up the cash for the payments in a "crowdfunding" model—with the final recipients picked out in a "wheel of fortune" event livestreamed online.

Mother Birgit Kaulfuss said little Miko "can't really understand, but for the whole family it was exhilarating" when he was chosen—offering a chance to live "in a more relaxed way" and take a first-ever family holiday.

Trying things out

"Everyone sleeps more soundly and no one become a layabout," Bohmeyer said of his beneficiaries.

Recipients' experiences range from a welcome spell without financial worries to major turning points in their lives.

"Without day-to-day pressures, you can be more creative and try things out," Valerie Rupp told public broadcaster ARD in a recent interview.

She was able both to take care of her baby and start a career as a decorator—even as her husband, newly arrived from Mali, was taking German lessons.

Winners have left jobs that were doing little more for them than put bread on the table to become teachers, taken time out to address chronic illness, broken alcohol addiction, taken care of loved ones, or paid for children's studies.

"It's at once a gift and a prompt" to make a change, explained Astrid Lobeyer, who used the money to give eulogies at funerals and studied the therapeutic Alexander technique, a method for relieving stress in the muscles.

Bohmeyer's experiment has fascinated social media and boosted discussion about a universal income in Germany.

At the same time, Finland is testing the idea with 2,000 homeless recipients and the idea is a flagship policy for French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon.

The start-up used a "wheel of fortune" event to pick the recipients for the payments

Reward for laziness?

In 2009, the German parliament flatly rejected a petition from some 50,000 Germans demanding a universal income.

Nevertheless, some 40 percent of the public still think it's a good idea, according to a survey last June by pollsters Emnid.

Supporters have formed a campaign group called "Buendnis Grundeinkommen" (Basic income federation) with their sights on September's legislative elections, but so far no major party has taken up the cause.

There are pockets of support among left-wingers, the right, Catholic organisations and even industry leaders, whose reasoning ranges from fighting poverty to simplifying bureaucracy or smoothing the transition into the digital era.

Resistance to the idea is more focused, centering on how UBI would change people's relationship to work.

Right-wingers dismiss it as a "reward for laziness", while the Social Democratic Party (SPD) worried in 2006 about unemployed recipients being "labelled useless" rather than getting help to find jobs.

Meanwhile, major unions like IG Metall and Verdi denounce the idea as a "liberal Trojan horse" that would "boost inequality" by paying millionaires and poor people alike.

Thankless jobs

Mein Grundeinkommen is "poorly thought out" as a response to broader social questions, University of Freiburg economist Alexander Spermann told AFP.

The startup's 20 employees eat up "60 percent of the budget", founder Michael Bohmeyer admits—while the idea of basing the funding on curiosity or activism by thousands of donors is hardly applicable on a large scale.

For Spermann, the Berliners' experiment has only succeeded in answering the question "what would I do with a blank cheque if I got one for Christmas?"

People's choices in terms of qualifications or work if they were guaranteed the payments for life are the real mystery, the economist argues.

"Who will take on the exhausting and sometimes less attractive tasks, like emptying bins or taking care of the elderly?" asked Werner Eichhorst of the Bonn Centre for the Future of Work (IZA) in 2013.

UBI supporters argue such jobs would either be taken over by robots or find a new place of honour in society if the policy were enacted.

"No machine will take over working for us and pay our taxes at the same time," Eichhorst and opponents shoot back.

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16 comments

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SkyLy
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 17, 2017
This is totally stupid, and against the law. It's basically a lottery with 60% taxes, even Scientology doesn't go that high.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 17, 2017
All of these tests of UBI, every one of them, miss understanding about the effects of UBI and the cost to society. Certainly, someone who wins the lottery big can have a better life if they use that lottery money wisely.

A small scale test such as this one will change lives for the better as it is simply a gift of about $1000 per month. Everyone can benefit from extra income.

But UBI, when fully implemented ($1000 per month for everyone) will bankrupt the government funding it. UBI is based on the belief that automation will do away with most jobs and humanity will need an income without work. The amount is poverty level and even at poverty level, is unsustainable.

UBI will not bring a utopia. It will bring a dystopia of poverty without hope.

Fortunately, we do not have to accept such a world. We can do much better.
Munix
2 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2017
I, at one time was homeless. About 90% of the people that I met on the street were lay-abouts. Not wanting to work and simply getting high on whatever was available.

Sure the other 10% were on the street because of circumstance and bad luck.

90-to10%

From MY experience the above experiment will not work.
rderkis
3 / 5 (2) Apr 17, 2017
UBI is the future of mankind and for each of us. Just before robots do ALL the work, replacing human workers, we will need a system to distribute goods to the growing number of unemployed.
In other words UBI will be a necessary transitional step on the way to Utopia.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2017
So theyre unemployed for a year which makes it even harder to get a job when its over.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2017
and against the law

How exactly is that against the law?
(Hint: no, it's not a lottery since people don't pay to enter)

It's like charity but without the bureaucracy middleman. Instead of people giving taxes and then a portion of the taxes being paid out with umpteen levels of paperwork and complicated allotent schemes in between they are just trying out something vastly simpler and more fair.
It'll be nteresting to see how this works out (also how the Norwegian experiment works out)

From MY experience the above experiment will not work.

We're talking germany, here. Not the US. The proportion of 'layabouts' is different.

Meanwhile, major unions like IG Metall and Verdi denounce the idea as a "liberal Trojan horse" that would "boost inequality" by paying millionaires and poor people alike.

Rather that than what we have now: paying millionaires a lot more than the poor.
geokstr
1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2017
Rather that than what we have now: paying millionaires a lot more than the poor.


Because millionaires do not earn it by hard work, creativity, risk-taking, thrift and putting off gratification. No, according to the average Marxist, every millionaire inherited their wealth from daddy, who got his by stealing it from the poor and/or slave labor. They are actually stupid enough to believe that if the state would just give $50,000 a year to every person, society would be so wonderful.

Since no one would have to struggle or compete for valuable resources, everybody could do what makes them happy, and somehow it would work out that the material needs for all would be filled. No one would have to work 24/7 on a farm to put the arugula and range-free broccoli on every table. None would have to study 24/7 for 20 years so they could learn how to do brain surgery. Appliances and homes would magically appear.

And when they don't, that's when the genocide invariably begins.
barakn
not rated yet May 03, 2017

Because millionaires do not earn it by hard work, creativity, risk-taking, thrift and putting off gratification.

If Trump is any guide, yes. They earn it by cheating on taxes, refusing to pay contractors for work performed, bribing politicians, funneling money using fake charities, and running sham universities.
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) May 03, 2017
Trump is any guide, yes. They earn it by cheating on taxes, refusing to pay contractors for work performed, bribing politicians, funneling money using fake charities, and running sham universities.


Wow, unless your a total liar or morally and ethically bankrupt, why don't you make a citizen's arrest?
I think you have no proof and these are just slanderous lying statements for which you could be sued.
barakn
not rated yet May 04, 2017
"My university was 100% total legit, but I'm paying my former students 25 million dollars."
https://www.nytim...ent.html
barakn
not rated yet May 04, 2017
Donald Sued Other People Named Trump for Using Their Own Name
http://www.mother...ed-trump

When Donald Took Revenge by Cutting Off Health Coverage for His Sick Infant Grandnephew
http://www.mother...cal-care

rderkis
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2017
"My university was 100% total legit, but I'm paying my former students 25 million dollars."
https://www.nytim...ent.html


So if it's not illegal why do I care? I am sure it's not the first time a settlement has been reached. As a matter of fact if President Trump sued you for slander, I am sure you would settle for $1 if it would cost you your home and family if you did not settle..
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) May 04, 2017
Donald Sued Other People Named Trump for Using Their Own Name
"My university was 100% total legit, but I'm paying my former students 25 million dollars."


Thanks for letting us know, but how do you figure that's any of our business? Do you work for the Enquirer or are you just trying to land a job there?
Now for important stuff!
How many times does he flush the john in one day?
barakn
not rated yet May 05, 2017
How Donald Trump Exploited Charity for Personal Gain
https://www.theat.../499535/
rderkis
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2017
Like I said if you don't like it either sue him or make a citizen's arrest. That is if your not morally and ethically bankrupt. Or perhaps your just some old woman spreading rumors to whomever will listen.
barakn
not rated yet May 05, 2017
What a surprise, ageism and misogyny from a Trump supporter.

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