Poverty Makes the Pursuit of Happiness a False Promise

Jan 29, 2020, 11:00 AM

Could Guaranteed Income be one way of ensuring we all have the agency we need to pursue “the good life”?

When I travelled across the country to report out this podcast, I found myself doing a lot of thinking about “the good life.” As I talked with folks who are struggling to make ends meet about guaranteed income, it became clear to me very quickly that what is on people’s minds isn’t captured by a conversation about one specific economic policy.

As soon as you start talking to people about money—about what it feels like not to have it, about what would be different if you had just a little bit more—the conversations becomes about something more fundamental to our experience as humans.

Money has a practical impact on our daily lives, but the sense of scarcity that so many of us feel when it comes to money also affects our sense of wellbeing. Money (or the absence of it) can limit what you think is possible for your life, how you’re able to spend time with your loved ones, where you’re able to go, how you feel about yourself, and who you can be. Money, practically and psychologically, impacts how much agency we have. We all want “the good life,” however we define that, and these conversations made me think about what we believe about who deserves it (and who doesn’t).

Part of my work over the last couple of decades has focused on how social capital can mitigate people’s experience of being poor. One of the things I’ve learned is that when people who experience economic injustice get the financial resources they need to care for themselves and their families, they will often expand their focus to support others in their community.

Cash allows you to pay for what you need and want, when you need and want it. When we have that kind of agency, we can make those decisions based on what makes sense in our own lives. That self-determination is what allows us to build our futures.

Could Guaranteed Income be one way of ensuring we all have the agency we need to pursue “the good life”?

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For a full transcript visit https://www.thenation.com/podcast/economy/poverty-universal-basic-income/

Show Notes

—Princeton Study “Income’s Influence on Happiness”
All of Us or None - a project of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

More Than Enough was developed by Next River Productions. Created and hosted by Mia Birdsong. Audio engineering and music by Nino Moschella. Script development and production by Allison Cook. The content of this podcast was informed by the stories of hundreds of people across the country, only some of whom you heard from. Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak with me and share their story.

Support for the production of More Than Enough was provided by a few generous folks and the Economic Security Project, an organization advancing cash-based interventions in the United States and reigning in corporate monopolies.

More Than Enough is a project of The Nation Magazine.