Instead of Universal Basic Income, Try Universal Basic Stakeholding
Universal basic stakeholding (UBS) is a generalized theory of granting all individuals “skin in the game” in a collective society. The stake granted to individual stakeholders of a system is called a universal basic stake. Alignment of interest, goal congruence and interdependent inclusiveness are the fundamental values of universal basic stakeholding.
UBS differs from universal basic income (UBI) in that UBS is a vested interest in the system and not a payment taken out of the system. An argument can be made that UBI is indirectly tied to the success of a nation—the way an employee’s salary is indirectly tied to the fate of a company. However, direct ties that people can appreciate, by virtue of a stake, is the essential basis of appreciation of value.
The model is similar to stock grants made to employees of a corporation except all stakeholders of a company, not just employees, would have a stake. One example of a specific implementation of universal basic stakeholding would be a tradable blockchain token granted to every citizen of a nation or the globe. Another example would be a system of “likes” granted to every verified citizen of the internet. As with currency, finiteness of quantity—whether tokens or likes or any other unit of value—is essential.
In the broader context, the idea behind UBS is to provide an updated, more robust social algorithm to mimic and replace the bioalgorithm of inclusive fitness that served as the social operating system during the kin hive era of human evolution. For most of evolution, the kin hive was the operating unit of human social systems. Everyone had kin skin in the game in each other’s welfare that kept extractive behaviors in check.
In the post-diaspora melting pots of genetic strangers, however, this hard-wired programming of inclusive fitness became maladaptive as everyone began extracting from, rather than investing in, their community of strangers in order to preferentially serve their own kin. Our factory-setting instinct to “feed one’s family” became the basis of mutual extraction among kin networks that coexisted in larger melting pots. That dynamic translated into the emergence of extractive social, political and economic institutions everywhere in human society.
Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, famously claimed that feudalism is a natural condition of human beings. He said, “We tend to fall into it, given any chance at all, given the proper stresses or given the proper lack of stresses, and I think we could extract away from that notion that we have many more feudal or tribal aspects in our society than we might’ve otherwise thought about it.”
This view is inconsistent with evolutionary biology. The natural condition of human beings is to live in tribal social groups governed by kin skin in the game. Competition selects for power. Whereas in a kin tribe, the empowered are genetically motivated to rule in the best interest of the kin hive, in melting pots the empowered are genetically motivated to self-deal at the interest of the people. The empowered could represent a political, social or economic elite that extracts value from the total system, widening wealth inequality.
Today, the factory-setting bioalgorithm of inclusive fitness has been rendered maladaptive in the post-diaspora global village, spilling a myriad of seemingly intractable social issues from Pandora’s Jar and posing existential risk to the future of human evolution. The current system naturally promotes inequality, buffered by payouts to the disadvantaged to attenuate revolutionary ardor. Universal basic income is an example of such a payout. By contrast, universal basic stakeholding, in the form of equity in the collective prosperity, offers a heretofore unprecedented social algorithm for equality: the leading edge pulling up the trailing edge rather than leaving the disadvantaged behind.
Universal basic stakeholding represents our greatest existential hope.
Joon Yun and Eric Yun are principals of the Yun Family Foundation.