Lindsay Tedds on basic income during COVID-19 paper transcript

This is the transcript from our bonus interview with Lindsay Tedds on the latest paper from BC’s Basic Income Task Force. Apologies for any errors.

Ian: [00:00:00] Welcoming you back to the podcast after, I think quite a while, Lindsay Tedds. Former professor of public administration at the University of Victoria school of public policy. I’m going off memory here, but you’re now at the University of Calgary. How are you doing?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:00:18] I’m doing well. I find it quite interesting now being at Calgary. I, I, Oh geez. I just had my second year anniversary. Who knew? But I must admit I’m, I am missing the weather of Victoria because it’s May 20th and we have no buds on the tree and the snow melted like 10 days ago. So what have I done?

Ian: [00:00:44] So we’re having you back because there’s a new report coming out, looking at these questions around whether basic income is a good policy response to COVID-19.

Before getting into this new note itself, maybe just sort of walk through listeners who aren’t familiar with what exactly this taskforce you’re on is, what you’ve been tasked for tasked with. Why are you studying basic income in British Columbia?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:01:11] In some ways, you could say I’m being penalized for my work on the MSP taskforce or being rewarded.

So in July of 2018, the panel was put together and so it’s myself, David Green at UBC and Rhys Kesselman, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University. And this is an outcome of the CASA agreement between the NDP and the Greens, it’s sort of a combination of their two platforms too.

The Greens are very interested in a basic income. The NDP are very interested in whether or not we can reform our income support system to be, well, better, let’s be honest.

So it’s bringing those two together of what is a basic income, how would we go about implementing it, is it a good idea or a bad idea or like how do we go about thinking about a basic income. And then, are there principles of a basic income that could be used to look at our income support system through that lens and think about reforms to our system. And then what would be a better approach or a preferred approach? Or do we need to think about a staged approach in that? Are there things that we need to change before we can even move towards a basic income?

Scott: [00:02:40] Currently, there are renewed discussions around a basic income in light of the CERB payments that have been rolled out as response to COVID-19 by the federal government. You state that the goal of the note is to assist in the debate over basic income by highlighting the extent and nature of the complexities of real world policy choices.

Could you give some examples of why you think the discourse around basic income needs this additional complexity?

 Lindsay Tedds: [00:03:07] What I find can be frustrating, look, a basic income conceptually is a great idea. Yeah, of course it is. Like give people money, they’ll be better off. Yup. Yup. Got it. Okay. So that’s the easy part.

Now how do we go about designing this and implementing it? And that that’s what I do, right? I mean, that’s my focus in both my research as well as my work with governments is how do you move from concept to actual design and implementation? That’s where the debate has to go. The debate over whether or not it’s a good concept, I mean, we need to move beyond that. We need to roll up our sleeves and really tackle the really fundamental issues and we need to have this within an understanding of what is a basic income and what are its principles. A basic income is not just another cash transfer.

If all we’re going to do is design another cash transfer, well, push posh, that’s easy. You know, what is it?

But the thing is is that a basic income is supposed to achieve certain things. It’s supposed to be simple. It’s supposed to reduce stigma or eliminate stigma. It’s supposed to give people economic security, and it’s supposed to bring in social inclusion, which is just so important.

And so if those are its principles, well now, okay, how do you design a cash transfer that achieves that? Next step is, well, what are your objectives? Like are you trying to eliminate poverty? Are you trying to address unpaid caregiving? Are you trying to distribute the spoils of natural resource exploitation?

Like what is it that you’re trying to do? Because there are tons of different objectives of basic income and depending on your objective depends upon how you’re going to design it, a basic income.

And so that’s what we want to do. Like we’ve been working on this for two years and we’ve got about another eight months to go to finalize our thinking and bring together all of the evidence.

This is not easy. And that’s what we’re really trying to get people do. Let’s move this debate forward by getting into these details that are really complicated. They’re not straightforward and we need help, by the way, in answering some of these questions. When we go out and talk to people too often, they say, Oh, those are for you, the experts to figure out. Well, some of these are really challenging and shouldn’t just be left to, you know, three economists working in a room together, to be honest with you. They need more engagement, more of a back and forth with everybody, to be honest.

Ian: [00:05:49] Right? So there’s lots of questions in this paper. It’s as far as I read it, basically just here’s all the questions you should be thinking about. It’s kind of the person who sits at the back of the room and go, well, did you think about this? And you don’t pose any of the answers here. I don’t think that was your goal here. That’s what your final report will start to get at, I get the sense. I think it really does give some sense of the complexity here.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:06:14] Well, and the trade offs, right? Cause you get to a point like, like one of the ones I always bring up is, okay, a fundamental principle of a basic income is that we’ve got to get rid of stigma, right?

We’ve been able to do that, right? If people who get the GST HST tax credit, we don’t go, Oh, you’re lazy and you don’t work hard. Right? But we do that for people who are on income support. You’ve seen it with some people talking about the CERB too. We’ve got to get rid of this kind of idea.

But if we want to get rid of stigma, we have to make sure we don’t design a system that can bring in stigma. One way that we can design a system with stigma is to deliver a basic income to a household. Because what that means for women particularly, and women of color for sure, is that as soon as a quote unquote partner enters into the household, then what happens? Our boot under the bed audits, that’s what we call them in the income support system, and then that brings in stigma.

It’s this idea of as soon as somebody enters into the household, they are taking care of that person and therefore that person is no longer worthy of income support, that stigma. So there’s a complex interaction between that principle of stigma, yet delivering it to the household.

And so, which one’s more important? That’s a trade off. That’s a really hard one for somebody like me to say, well, it’s cheaper to deliver it to the household, therefore that’s what we should do. When I know that it’s women predominantly, who’s then going to face the consequences of that decision

Ian: [00:07:52] Well and I think that’s the kind of thing a lot of these questions raise and you ask for help right off the top and you say, you know, we’re the experts who can come up with questions and some of the ways to start to answer, but what I think you’re getting at is a lot of these aren’t just about what the evidence says, and in many cases there isn’t any evidence, but you know what are people’s actual values and trying to put those into contrast. And try to say, all right, here’s three ways you could do a basic income, for example, and there’s obviously more than that, but which one of these achieves the goals you want. And I think that’s why you get the sense your first two questions are what are the principles you actually want and what specifically is your objective? What is this trying to do? Because I don’t think people have figured that out.

 Lindsay Tedds: [00:08:34] We would agree. So we evaluated the literature and this was a big part of my team’s work. I mean, we read hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of studies on basic income and we parsed out some principles that they seem to all share.

And that it was those four that I mentioned. I’m not saying that there aren’t other ones, but when you read the whole literature, you know, simplicity, stigma, economic, security and social inclusion, everybody, all, all the people writing about basic income shares those ones.

And then we moved into what we call elements. These are the choice elements. Well we came up with a 13 by three matrix of choice elements. To give you an idea of the amount of complexity that’s out there with the proposals. You know, what is it that you can do? You can do a lot of things with a basic income and every single thing that you choose has tradeoffs. And they’re hard trade-offs. They’re complex trade-offs.

Like, if, okay, let’s do a refundable tax credit, therefore it will be in the tax system. And then I go, well, do you know that only 3% of people who are dealing with homelessness file their taxes. So are you okay with missing out that population? Or 30% of social assistance recipients or you know, two thirds of the indigenous population on reserve?

You know, though those are the questions I have to ask, because if the outcome is to get this into the hands of the universal population, well that’s at odds with that.

Scott: [00:10:13] And from my understanding, there is no general database of all Canadians with the relevant financial information tax information that this can easily draw from.

So kind of, no matter what, we’d be building up some sort of system to patch the informational gaps that exists. Correct?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:10:32] That is absolutely correct. There isn’t a ready to go database that’s available and you know, pesky people, they move, they change bank accounts all the time. So even if you have one, it wouldn’t be accurate.

But what we do actually have it, in government, is the ability to have that, it just requires more horizontal work between government entities. A little more updating, a little bit more of a concerted effort to actually want to deliver benefits to people. We are often phrasing that, you know, when you put together a program and there’s something that somebody can be eligible for, they are owed that. And that is how the government needs to think about it.

And so you have to go, you have to make sure that you design it and implement it in a way with that attitude. How do we make sure that people get it so we can do it, can we do it right away?

No, no, no. It would, it would take several years to get a system going like that. We can build off of other countries though that have done it.

Ian: [00:11:43] So off the top, Scott mentioned the CERB, and I think that’s why a lot of people are looking at basic incomes right now and we see the federal NDP talking about making that more universal, and there’s a number of calls to sort of expand that and make it more permanent as kind of the scaffold or the initial structure for basic income.

I get the sense from the questions you’re posing in this report in general that you’re trying to not kill that idea, but kind of pour cold water on it and invite more skepticism of it.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:12:18] Well, I mean, the CERB, the objective of it is to replace lost employment income. It has an objective, right? It’s, it’s an emergency benefit to replace employment income.

So if that’s your objective of a basic income, which would be an odd basic income. You know, the CERB is actually doing a very good job at that. Would it do a very good job of dealing with the complexity of this idea of a basic income?

No, because again, a basic income isn’t just a cash transfer. It has more elements to it, and that is what you have to grapple with in order to make sure that it’s a basic income and not just another cash transfer.

Scott: [00:13:06] So what does separate out a basic income from a general cash transfer. What specific elements need to be there?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:13:13] Well, you hit it there. They are these fundamental principles. As I said, you’re trying to achieve simplicity. You are getting away with this idea of stigma and another area of stigma that we can talk about is labor force participation. That would be the big one that, and I’ve seen it come up with the CERB quite a bit there, a lot of people have an expectation of work. And when you have an expectation of work, we’re going to start talking about stigma again.

So you really need to tackle this issue of stigma. We need to make sure that there is, so economic security, for example, is not only stability, but it’s also resiliency as well as predictability.

There needs to be predictability there, whereas right now, I mean, a lot of people are talking about, I mean, I just read a paper that talked about, well, the CERB is great because you can just take it away at any point in time. That’s not a basic income. People need to be able to rely on it. They need to be able to make longterm decisions off of it.

And there needs to be, it has to have an element of getting people who have not been included in our society to allow them to become socially included. And that would be particularly focused on say people with disabilities and say indigenous people for example. Right?

It’s not just about giving people money. It’s about making sure that our system isn’t just reinforcing the reason why we have to give them money. That it’s also addressing the problems of discrimination and inequality. And you know, all of these things that lead to the problems that we have.

And so that’s really a basis, is that an acceptance of a degree of social solidarity, if you will. That we’re trying to move towards something else and we’re all in it together for real, not just, you know, wearing masks and what have you. That we are here together, we are human beings in a society and we are here to be social animals together. And that part of that is supporting each other when crisis happens and crisis happens to people at different times, and it’s not just when I’m affected that it’s a real crisis that needs to be addressed.

And I think that’s the most interesting thing about this pandemic is because it’s so widespread that we’re hoping as a panel that this reinforces this idea that anybody can be a month away from losing their house, from losing their children, from a health shock or what have you. You know, these are things that do happen to people regularly and we need a system that responds to shocks that happen, whether or not it’s in a pandemic or otherwise.

So it’s this idea of, you know, social solidarity that is an important part of a basic income. So those, those are fundamental principles that are a really important part of the basic income. Does that make sense?

Scott: [00:16:20] Yes, it does. I actually want to touch on this question of responsiveness because that was one of the things I found really interesting reading this, is what it takes to actually set up a responsive system that can deal with those short term shots. I mean, when I’ve thought about basic income in the past, I’ve always had this kind of model that, Oh, you know, you take last year’s tax returns and like it wouldn’t be ideal but that’s probably the best way to structure it for bureaucratic simplicity reasons. But there’s a lot of challenges around that because those don’t capture those sudden shocks. Like a lot of people’s 2019 taxes and the income they reported on there really have nothing to do with their current situation at all.

And there was some talk in this piece about what it would mean to go to say a monthly tax system and a negative income tax structure. Kind of talk about what would be entailed in actually creating a system that would be responsive on say monthly timetable.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:17:16] So, I think responsiveness, this is something that also came out of the 2015 oil collapse because a lot of the supports were not responsive to the degree of income collapse that a lot of the oil and gas workers faced. Because in 2014 they made a hundred thousand dollars and then in 2015 they made nothing. And so the system is just not responsive in tax year shocks.

So, you know, we could think about a system, it’s 2020, we have a lot of technology, we know how to do AI and big data analytics. We can actually have T4 reportable employees, which is the majority of us to be honest with you, instead of just our employer handing in a T4 in February or March to CRA, that could happen every month. I mean, they remit aggregate payroll, most employers, like large employers have to remit every month. But you can just make that and you can make a system so that it’s just integrated and all of that information is transmitted on an individual level basis. It could be monthly. I mean, you could, you could move to a system that’s even daily or weekly. All it takes is change, right?

I mean, our whole system was set up pretty much in 1918, so you know, it’s time to change. I mean, we’re learning through this whole shock, right? Our whole employment insurance system in Canada and the United States still coded in COBOL. So, well, there’s a huge degree of of ability to change here. All we need is an imagination and a reason to do it, and this could be a reason to do it.

Ian: [00:19:07] Well in addition to responsiveness, you mentioned earlier predictability for people, so it’s not just that we want something that could probably react pretty quick or reasonably quick to changes in people’s circumstances, but also something that they can rely on for at least, you know, a few years and probably, you know, beyond the next government or two.

Can you speak to the challenge of a system of developing a system that can survive, you know, the policy swings that can happen when you go from Conservative to Liberal or NDP in BC? And do we need a consensus on basic income to really make this last?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:19:49] So, yes. So the cancellation of the basic income pilot in Ontario happened shortly after we were formed. I mean, it, it took our breath away, but I’m not gonna lie, it was just how could you do that? How could you do that to people? You know, we worked and talked quite closely with the team that was involved on the evaluation of that. And, you know, as, I mean, not just researchers, but as people. It was just like, how could you just pull the rug out from people like that?

So from that side of, I’ll try to talk about the two ways that we’re thinking about stability, is one, when we talk about the system being responsive, we’re much more worried about negative income shocks than positive income shots.

So, you know, we can bake into a system such that we are responsive to negative income shocks. Positive income shocks we can bake in some degree of certainty for some degree of positive shock. Like somebody sending them got a million dollars. You might expect the public to not want that person to have a basic income anymore.

But you know, if somebody is earning an extra thousand dollars a year, having some certainty over, you know, a six or 12 months’ period that’s not an unreasonable expectation.

So we want to manage negative shocks, definitely. But also then positive shocks, make sure we don’t overestimate the benefits of that positive shock and keep that support there for a period of time, to make sure that that’s a permanent income shock and not a temporary income shock.

On the politics side of things, yeah, we think about this because we would not want to put anybody in the situation of those people that were on the pilot in Ontario.

So we do very much think about the politics of it. And how do you think about this so that it can survive any kind of philosophy, political philosophy that would come in, or at least majority for the most part, survive it. And a lot of that has to do with grappling with these issues and transparently walking through it and making sure that there’s a firm understanding of what we’re doing.

When we submit our final report, I don’t and nobody should expect that the next day a basic income is implemented, right? I mean, it might be a dream, but what’s going to have to happen is this is where we go, okay, so what, and it’s what you said, Ian, we have to have some shared values here.

What are our shared values? What can we agree on and how can we use that to make changes in the system? Because we’ll have, and we’re going to have to have, a series of recommendations that include, say, okay, so if we want to get to a basic income, but we need to make some fundamental changes to ensure that our values are in the right place so that that’s successful. Here are the changes we have to make first to pave the way for that.

So you can take a look at our income support system and look at what’s in place there, clearly has some values that are at odds with the basic income. You know, we do asset tests, we scale back, the income support as soon as you earn more than, I think it’s about $400 in a month, you have to do monthly audits, there’s the boots under the bed audits. You know, there’s a lot of fundamental things that are in our system, that if we can change that, then that should change some values and then that makes the system right for the next step towards reform. So there’s lots of different paths that we can take to get to the end objective.

Scott: [00:23:49] So one thing that always comes up when basic income’s discussed is the price tag of the situation and in your report it raises questions around it, but it doesn’t really lay out what the final cost would be, because there’s a lot of details that are throughout this that need to be sorted out before that.

But can you kind of walk us through what the financial implications are, such as they’ve been put forward in this report and what kind of some of the ballpark estimates are? I think I saw a Twitter thread, perhaps by you detailing some of the pretty wide range that it could be depending on program design.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:24:25] Pretty wide range. So you know, we can design a basic income that ranges in cost from 845 million to 5.5 billion. Right. So that’s a pretty wide range. Yeah, there’s a lot of parameters that you can, you can play around with.

Again, you know, what are you trying to do? What are you trying to achieve? What other programs are gonna stay in place? What’s going to be eliminated? Right? You know, there’s, there’s a ton of questions that you can answer here.

Let’s be honest, like 50, $55 billion basic income price tag is like more than the size of the, of the BC government right now.

Scott: [00:25:09] Sorry, just to clarify, this is within BC we’re talking about, not Canada wide?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:25:13] Oh that’s just within BC, yeah, just within BC.

And so, you know, are we going to get rid of K through 12 education, health care, higher ed, social assistance? Like are you just gonna or are we just going to include the whole government and do a basic income?

I hope the answer is no. That was just, by the way, I don’t even have to be a panel member to say this, that would be a really bad idea. You really don’t want to take away those, basic services that we’ve all agreed on, right?

But you know, you can get into a realm where somebody like me can suck my teeth, okay? So, you know, 10 billion, can we potentially fund a $10 billion basic income, which would, I’m trying to look in my list here, that can get you something like a $12,000, negative income tax type system paid to the household with the benefit reduction rate of 30%. I mean, it’s not going to eliminate poverty, obviously, but you know, it’s something and it’s feasible, and reasonable.

It’s still now, five months ago, I had a plan. Yeah. Okay. Here’s some ways that we could possibly think about raising $10 billion. Now this is tough. I mean, we were in a completely different situation. I mean, the BC government is doing, I mean in Canada, it’s kind of a leader amongst the provinces in terms of its response to the pandemic. But there is going to, at some point in time, be reckoning after this and we’re going to have to address that budget situation.

And so now I’m, I do have to admit, not knowing the future and more so now than ever before. I just want to make that clear that this now becomes a much more difficult exercise for me, a tax economist, to think about how do I start thinking about this when I know we’re probably going to have to do some massive investments in K through 12 school because I don’t know how we’re going to get our kids back to school full time with the schools that we have, given the social distancing measures that are probably gonna have to be in place for longer than we probably can wrap our heads around.

So you know, this pandemic has really, I mean, we’re incorporating this a great deal, but it does really change the conversation on a few things.

Ian: [00:27:41] I was almost going to ask you about that, but I think you’ve kind of addressed it as that a lot of these task forces gets set up and then, you know, the world can change a little bit, but it rarely changes so much and often the taskforce just kind of like trudges along and releases the report as though nothing had happened. But sometimes you know, that’s the difficulty of timing. Like you were about to hit publish and then the world imploded and you’re like, well, we could spend another three months or we could just get on to other things.

I take it this has significantly affected the work of the task force and not just literally in terms of you can’t get together and have beers and talk about it.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:28:20] Yeah. To be honest with you, I mean, I think that’s great. I’m much more happy to be sitting at home and not traveling, getting up and being on a plane at 6:00 AM and spending all day in Vancouver and then flying back.

I mean, I have to admit it’s much more conducive actually to my productivity. I mean, one really negative way that we were affected with the shutdown is the research data centers where all our confidential data was housed shut down. We lost access to that data and we’re still trying to get some of our results out of the research data center.

So in some of the papers, so we have 40, more than 40 researchers involved, there’s more than 40 papers. You know, this is, this is a real deep dive on basic income and income supports. So some of those papers, more than half of our papers are done, but some of those papers have been delayed.

And so we’re doing the best we can within this environment. We’re proceeding with our report. The thing that we noticed most about the pandemic – which absolutely wrote this without referring to the pandemic, I mean, people would think we were crazy, well, ivory tower academics, I’m sure – is that actually what it did is it gave us an anchor point for some of the things that are often too theoretical to talk about. And I think one of them, for me, not being much of a political philosopher, unlike David Green, who quite is, is that, you know, we often do talk about the importance of social solidarity. Well, now we can talk about, well, social solidarity, you know, like wearing masks in public or shopping for somebody who fell ill or banging our pots and pans. So we can contextualize that now in a way that everybody in this country can go, oh, right.

So that’s been quote unquote, the nice part of the pandemic, is that it gives us the ability to give day to day people and understanding of some of these concepts that we as academics sort of take for granted.

Scott: [00:30:28] So as part of your research and report writing, have you been doing much in the way of public consultations? Do we have a sense of where the public is on this? Who supports UBI? Is there demographic information on that sort of thing?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:30:41] So there are, and I have to admit I can’t remember if it’s Rhys or David, that have been, so we each, we have these roles as panel members, but each of us is also engaged in research that we bring to the panel to consider because we all can’t do everything. Although sometimes it feels like it.

So there are surveys that already exist that we’re bringing in as evidence on it. There’s even been a recent one, which I’ll be gosh darn if I can remember which group did it, but there’s a very, very recent one actually on a basic income of a polling group that did it.

We have some political scientists at UBC doing a fairly extensive survey. We are sort of gathering that kind of information. So the poverty reduction strategy task force, group, committee, whatever that group was called, remember they toured the province for two years and were the ones that did the poverty reduction strategy? We have all of their focus groups and interviews and everything that they compiled. That’s up on a public website anyway, but we have all of that information and we’ve actually, one of our researchers, Myles Leslie here went through all of that evidence again with our task in mind to look for information for our purposes, as opposed to for the purposes of the poverty reduction strategy because they consulted very, very broadly with the same kind of people that we would be consulting with. And we didn’t want to, you know, we always do worry about consultation fatigue, right?

And then we have reached out to individuals and groups. I remember in what I call pre pandemic times, had a meeting that I Skyped in for, in the Downtown Eastside with some poverty groups and representatives of people with disabilities, to really get a sense of lived experiences, especially users of the programs, to really sort of, you know, get a feel of what it’s like to work through this system.

That was really relevant for me cause my team went, we did the whole overview of the existing system and it’s interesting listening to their lived experience because it interestingly enough, even as an economist, as I was looking at it, going through the programs and trying to visualize it, everything that they said, I could go, okay, you know, I can see your experience right here. And that was really, really helpful for me to be able to see how that system plays out for the user.

We also met with, you know, groups, jeez, that was like a year ago. And so I’m not gonna remember who. Well, we spent two or three days in Vancouver where we had, you know, very particular groups come in to talk to us about, you know, and we tried to have a casual conversation, questions back and forth.

And for us, even though it was a year into it, at that time, it was still early days for us I mean, it’s just such a big topic. And it’s such a complex topic that it’s only really now that we feel like we have a sense of the questions, but not the answers. So that, that’s how we’ve gone about thinking about consultation.

Now we also have, a very, very large project looking at this from the lens of Indigenous people. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic that that project is very much paused right now. And we’re a little uncertain how it will move forward because that one was very much designed and had to be much more face to face and that’s just not feasible right now.

Ian: [00:34:34] Right. And the other half, I guess, of the approach that I found interesting in the top here is the, and you’ve touched on this a couple of times, is the coordinated comprehensive research agenda. You’re working on putting out over 40 research papers from 40 researchers across Canada and the world. That’s just staggering. I don’t really have a question there that just seems like a lot of work through in two years for the pace of academia.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:35:01] Yeah, I know, right. Thank you.

Ian: [00:35:05] Or I guess the question is like one of the things you raised is that there’s a lack of evidence around many of these questions. Was that surprising to you?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:35:14] Yeah, actually. We were grappling with this one just today as a panel, you know, putting out all of the claims of, you know, a basic income, what is the evidence for it. And you know, what can we conclude from that? And a lot of places, you know, right now on this, after you just said, we’ve had, you know, 40 researchers and we have a lot of research coming in.

And then when we start placing it into, you know, this kind of matrix, it’s today just made me suck my teeth, we go like, oh my God, you know, we need to ask another question. Because we thought we asked the right question and then we get the answer. And then like, all academics, we go, Oh, you know, we really needed to have this question. The answer was really interesting, but now we need to have a little bit more information here.

So there’ll be a lot of back and forth, but yeah, I, I’d say, there’s extensive, extensive literature on a basic income. Like when I talk, at some point in time, I am going to add it up. I said hundreds and hundreds. It’s more like thousands. And my team and I, we went through all of that, piecing it, trying to piece it together. Like what are, you know, what are the themes? And a lot of it is just claims. It’s not necessarily evidence in what we would want for program design.

And it’s also contradictory and that is always really challenging. So, you know, we have to weigh, you know, research, design and data, how generalizable it is. And you know, how much do I want to weigh my hat on it? And then, unfortunately, in other cases, you know, studies just actually didn’t hold up to replication and deeper scrutiny. I mean, that’s academia. I shouldn’t say that that’s unfortunate. I mean, that just happens, you know?

And I think it’s interesting to put it all together. It is interesting to see you know how research, like one of the ones we were talking about today was, you know, what is the evidence on like labor supply?

This is always the big one, right? What is the evidence of the labor supply of a basic income? Well, we don’t really have a lot of basic incomes, but what we do have is a lot of cash transfers. What can we piece together from that? And that’s what we’re going back out now to piece together, because what we do know from is that the labor supply response is actually quite heterogeneous. And I say that a lot of time on Twitter, right? Single women, when you give them money, work more, blows people’s minds. But now they’re able to pay for childcare and they work more. Married women tend to work a little bit less. Lower income people work more. Higher income people work less. So these are complex things that you have to put together.

And anybody who says, well, when you give people money, they work less. That is a very simplistic response to a very complex question.

Scott: [00:38:20] Right. I suppose a lot of the challenges here is that it hasn’t really been much of a practical basic income anywhere in the world. There’s been some pilot programs, but those have always been temporary and it’s hard to really get a sense of how people are going to respond to a temporary program versus a permanent one.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:38:38] We absolutely don’t have that from that basic income perspective. No basic income pilot has been permanent. We do have some cash transfers that are permanent that we can kind of get a sense of some of the questions. But no permanent cash transfer is high enough to eliminate poverty, for example. So you’re always just answering one component of the question of, you know, if you give people money, do they work less, but we can never ask if you give people $50,000 a year permanently, do they work less?

Scott: [00:39:17] So what are the next steps for the panel going forward from here?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:39:22] Too many meetings during the week to try to write the report. Yeah. So we are actively writing our report we’re getting the rest of the input papers in from our team of academics. We’re trying to have quote unquote a draft report and we’ll come back to that draft by the end of July, but because a lot of our studies, we’re still trying to figure out when they’re going to be able to get their data out and, the quality of that data and so forth, when I say draft, it’ll be a draft that is still going to have to have some of the details pumped into it as we’re slowly getting some of these pieces in. And it is possible that as we get more of those pieces in that we could change our minds without a shadow of a doubt.

So the draft, I don’t think, would be made public, not for any other reason than all of the evidence isn’t in. And so I wouldn’t want people reacting to something when we haven’t had a chance to have all of the evidence. But you know, we’re academics. We need a deadline for something.

And so, you know, then I plan on taking some time off in August, and then we’re going to come back to it in September and really hammer it out, get into the last of the details during the fall and submit it no later than the end of December.

So, I mean, it’s a lot of work. I can’t tell you like more than 40 papers. Some of our academics are writing like 110 pages. So it is a very comprehensive piece of information and everything will eventually be made public. So we are designing an independent website to put everything up on and we’re hoping to put all of the papers also into a compendium, into an edited volume to be released as well.

It will get out there. We just need some time as all academics do, right?

Ian: [00:41:21] Yeah. I’m a big fan of open access, but I know how long all of that can take. So all of that’s good to hear. My last question to really wrap up is, let’s just bring it back to the beginning, what do you want people to take away from this paper?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:41:36] What I want people to take away from this paper would be, okay, great. You want a basic income or you don’t? One of the other, like whatever side of the fence that you are on, we all need to roll up our sleeves and really tackle in these issues of why you think it’s a bad idea and let’s get into the evidence and make sure that we understand that we know that you actually have the right evidence at your fingertips and that that actually makes sense to you and you agree with that, as opposed to, you know, like people who will come out and say, I don’t believe in a basic income because it means people will be lazy and they won’t work. And if I can come up with evidence that says, well, that’s not true, if you’re just going to say, well, I still don’t like it as an idea, then you know, don’t bother.

We want people who, if you’re into this for good or for worse, roll up your sleeves, help us with these questions. These are serious questions. And while we might have more evidence, a lot of these are just about what are your trade offs? What are you willing to trade off to get what? And that’s what I would really like to hear from some people on both sides of the argument.

Scott: [00:42:48] So if people are interested to find out more, or just following you on Twitter, where can they go?

Lindsay Tedds: [00:42:54] Yeah, it’s really hard to find out more, but you can follow me on Twitter at Lindsay Tedds. I do release, I mean, I don’t, it’s not like I release information, but I mean, debating about a basic income there’s like some stuff here that is just fundamental and is not like secret stuff as part of this panel report.

Do I have an opinion on a basic income? No. I can argue any side. And the more you take an opinion, the more I’ll sort of push you on what are your fundamental assumptions and what are you basing that on? And you know, are they deep enough to launch a system off of?

Ian: [00:43:29] Well that sounds great. Thanks for reaching out to us and taking the time to speak about this.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:43:34] No, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Ian: [00:43:36] All right. Have a great weekend.

Lindsay Tedds: [00:43:37] Yes, you too. Thank you.

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Background in physics, works in non-profit, an excess of opinions.

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