For this week of Nonfiction November I’ll be reading several books on Universal Basic Income, including Annie Lowrey’s Give People Money, as well as Dani Shapiro’s memoir on paternity, Inheritance.
Last week I focused on reading memoirs, but over the weekend I’ll check out books on Universal Basic Income (UBI), including Annie Lowrey’s Give People Money, Andrew Yang’s The War on Normal People, and Philippe van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght’s Basic Income. The subject’s becoming increasingly popular in American political discourse; it seems like a useful thing to learn about ahead of the 2020 election, and the third prompt for Nonfiction November offers the perfect chance to do so.
Later in the week I’ll finish Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance, the author’s memoir on discovering her dad was not her biological father, for a BookBrowse review. Information on all four books can be found below.
Imagine if every month the government deposited $1,000 into your checking account, with nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy, but it has become one of the most influential and hotly debated policy ideas of our time. Futurists, radicals, libertarians, socialists, union representatives, feminists, conservatives, Bernie supporters, development economists, child-care workers, welfare recipients, and politicians from India to Finland to Canada to Mexico–all are talking about UBI.
In this sparkling and provocative book, economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how a UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor, South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in expectation of a world with advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labor.
Lowrey examines the potential of such a sweeping policy and the challenges the movement faces, among them contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and, most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing. She shows how this arcane policy offers not only a potential answer for our most intractable economic and social problems, but also a better foundation for our society in this age of turbulence and marvels.
The shift toward automation is about to create a tsunami of unemployment. Not in the distant future–now. One recent estimate predicts 45 million American workers will lose their jobs within the next twelve years–jobs that won’t be replaced. In a future marked by restlessness and chronic unemployment, what will happen to American society?
In The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang paints a dire portrait of the American economy. Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans’ livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills. The future looks dire-but is it unavoidable?
In The War on Normal People, Yang imagines a different future — one in which having a job is distinct from the capacity to prosper and seek fulfillment. At this vision’s core is Universal Basic Income, the concept of providing all citizens with a guaranteed income-and one that is rapidly gaining popularity among forward-thinking politicians and economists. Yang proposes that UBI is an essential step toward a new, more durable kind of economy, one he calls “human capitalism.”
Providing a basic income to everyone, rich or poor, active or inactive, was advocated by Paine, Mill, and Galbraith but the idea was never taken seriously. Today, with the welfare state creaking, it is one of the world’s most widely debated proposals. Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght present a comprehensive defense of this radical idea.
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her.
Inheritance is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in–a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.
Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.