It’s an incredibly simple idea: universal basic income – a monthly allowance of enough to pay for your basic needs: food, shelter, education. And it’s completely unconditional: not a favour, but a right.
But could it really be that simple? In the three years that followed, I read all I could find about basic income. I researched dozens of experiments that have been conducted across the globe. And it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the story of a town that had done it, had eradicated poverty – after which nearly everyone forgot about it.
This story starts in Winnipeg, Canada. Imagine a warehouse attic where nearly 2,000 boxes lie gathering dust. They are filled with data – graphs, tables, interviews – about one of the most fascinating social experiments ever conducted. Evelyn Forget, an economics professor at the University of Manitoba, first heard about the records in 2009. Stepping into the attic, she could hardly believe her eyes. It was a treasure trove of information on basic income.
When Forget found them, 30 years later, no one knew what, if anything, the experiment had demonstrated. For three years she subjected the data to all manner of statistical analysis. And no matter what she tried, the results were the same every time. The experiment – the longest and best of its kind – had been a resounding success.