Helicopter Money Comes To Canada: Ontario Pledges "Basic Income Experiment"

Tyler Durden's picture

Earlier today, we explained why so-called “helicopter money” can’t save the world when ZIRP, NIRP, and QE have all failed to revive global demand and boost inflation.

The reason: QE is helicopter money. That is, we’ve been doing this for 8 years and it hasn’t worked yet.

Some readers were reluctant to buy this rationale, but the fact is, just because the bank intermediary failed to do its part for Main Street doesn’t thereby mean this entire experiment isn’t still a farce. Think about the mechanics of it: 1) the government prints a liability (a bond), 2) that liability is sold to a primary dealer, 3) the central bank buys that government liability with yet another liability (dollars) that the government also prints.

That’s a scam. It’s deficit financing with one (very tenuous) degree of separation. The fact that the middlemen (the banks) didn’t pass along the benefits to you doesn’t make the mechanics of it any less ridiculous.

But if that’s helicopter money “v.1,” Main Street thinks it didn’t work out so well. Banks recovered, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein became billionaires, financial assets soared, and everyday people got Gene Wilder’d.

Well if helicopter money “v.3” entails flying around and raining actual banknotes onto the hapless masses, then we suppose we should at least try “v.2” first, and “v.2” is what many have called a “basic income.”

The idea is to send everyone a monthly check that would either supplement or replace altogether, complex systems of state benefits thereby making households better off and saving the government money in the process.

As The Independent notes, Ontario is set to become the latest locale to float the idea: “Ontario has announced it could soon be sending a monthly cheque to its residents as it plans to launch an experiment testing the basic income concept."

Here are some excerpts from Ontario’s budget statement:

"The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market.


The pilot would also test whether a basic income would provide a more efficient way of delivering income support, strengthen the attachment to the labour force, and achieve savings in other areas such as health care and housing supports. The government will work with communities, researchers and other stakeholders in 2016 to determine how best to implement a Basic Income pilot.”

Right. So basically they have no idea how this is going to work or how to go about implementing it.

But don’t think Ontario is alone.

“Finland plans to outline a basic income plan for its citizens later this year, while the Dutch city of Utrecht launched an experiment in January, involving welfare recipients, to see what effect a basic income would have,” Huff Post wrote, late last month. And don’t forget, “the Swiss will vote in a referendum in June to decide whether to implement a basic income of some C$3,200 per month.”

We profiled the upcoming Swiss vote here, noting that the plan could make the country the first in the world to pay all of its citizens a monthly basic income regardless if they work or not. 

Amusingly, the Swiss said something similar to the Canadians about the link between the basic income and work. "The initiative’s backers say it aims to break the link between employment and income," The Daily Mail wrote, of the Swiss plan. Much as Ontario thinks a basic income would "strenghten the attachment to the labor force." 

Those statements are so counterintuitive as to be laughable. 

As long as federal and local governments are running a surplus that can account for these programs while staying in balance we suppose that's fine, but what happens when people simply stop working and tax revenues fall? Do you then tax the basic income to pay for the basic income? That seems silly. And if not, do you sell bonds to the central bank to fund the program? And wouldn't those bonds be claims on tax revenues which would only keep falling as the incentive to work decreases?

Who knows, but we're sure smarter people than us have thought it through. Or not.

Or maybe we're asking too many questions and the government would just say this:

As an aside, with property prices soaring as they are in Ontario, they'd better start handing out basic incomes or they'll have a homeless epidemic on their hands.

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max2205's picture

Shits getting real

TeamDepends's picture

What could possibly go right?


Call it a "basic income" or ebt. What is the difference?

stacking12321's picture

"strengthen the attachment to the labour force"

like the attachment of a parasite to its host?

BTW, we already have a basic income. it is $0.

want to make more than that? do some work.

general ambivalent's picture

You want to be Trudeau's maid? Or sign up for some Gay for Pay?

Aside from being the same gig, there's not going to be a lot of jobs left in Canada. Do proponents of capitalism understand the function of unemployment at all?

greenskeeper carl's picture

this 'gay for pay' thing, I havent heard of it before. What exactly do I have to do, and do I have to actually like it or just try to act like it?

tmosley's picture

I really don't understand Tyler's idiotic assumption that UBI is helicopter money, especially when it is just one province doing it.

Helicopter money is when a central bank prints money and gives it to the people, not when a government collects money from the people and redistributes it in some way (which is already does, and less fairly than is the case with a UBI).

If this is funded by the central bank, that is one thing. But if it is funded by taxes or even by bond sales (to non-CB parties), then it is most certainly not helicopter money.

TheRedScourge's picture

UBI is very similar to Milton Friedman's "negative income tax" idea. The only difference is one sounds better to the left, and the other sounds better to the right.

Pairadimes's picture

Great horny toads, but these statists are stupid.

The9thDoctor's picture

You could call it basic income, negative income tax, permanent dividend fund, or free money, or whatever newspeak buzzword you'd like, this is the future as we are going to head toward an automated society.

The masses need some method to afford automated goods and services.

Tyler is all upset that this basic income experiment is going on now in 2016. It's better to experiment now then wait another 25 years when unemployment is the norm and everything is automated due to robotics and A.I.

The days of 100,000 workers building cars by hand at the Ford Rogue Plant are over. Economists have to get that through their thick skulls. The Puritan beliefs of a hard work ethic performing manual tasks have no relevance in an automated world.

It makes no sense from an employers' standpoint to deal with human resource issues when a robot or A.I. can perform the task much more efficiently.

While right-wing and even left-wing politicians talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, all day; I laugh because I don't want a job! I want unemployment to be as close to 100% as possible. I sarcastically want a $100 minimum wage to force companies to innovate and bring the automated world to today.

Most jobs today are busywork to keep our Rube Goldberg society kick the can down the road another day. Resources are horrendously wasted and the masses run a rat race chasing 1s and 0s that make up today's dollar. That system is on its way out.

Gen Xers are running the show now and we want to toss out the old failed systems of war for profits to enrich the Rothschilds and endless busywork for the masses and replace it with a holistic system that benefits both man and the environment.

Get ready to see more radical changes. Eliminating all welfare and the bureaucracy that issues it and replacing that failed system with basic income is just the beginning.

StackShinyStuff's picture


Laowei Gweilo's picture

They've been in Ontario for a while now


And asking patriotic Canadians to donate extra taxes to help pay down their debt out of civic duty lol.

nmewn's picture

The final, desperate act of scoundrels, the appeal to patriotism.

Not only does history repeat it always slips up behind you when you're not looking, knocks you in the back of the head, rifles through your shit taking anything of value and then chunks you, penniless, into a jail cell to await your fate before some patriotic judge with your court appointed lawyer.

Now, where's my little flag? ;-)

new game's picture

it is call being owned, powned as my son would say. so like a dog, your handler is the gov.com. where can i get some? s/  kneegrows need not apply or anybody that doesn't want to work. s/

upstanding hard working citizen qualify s/

get to work fucker, there are some people that desereve thre fruits of your labor.

oh, the newest polls rate very favorable towards the progressive socialists floating these fantastic plans that will leave no deserving human behind...

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture
KesselRunin12Parsecs (not verified) new game Mar 8, 2016 7:10 AM

Maybe the A.I. positions you refer to need to start out by replacing politicians with robots... Oh Wait!

Sages wife's picture

Canadians; god bless their hearts.

ejmoosa's picture

Explains why so many want to move to Canada fron the US unless Clinton or Sanders is elected, doesn't it?


evokanivo's picture

Thoughtful comments like this are the reason I still make it to the site. Occasionally someone says something intelligent...

Lore's picture

I find the comments brash, adolescent and thoughtless.  Some angry young hipster-wannabe with authority issues read some trans-humanist shit by Crichton or one of his ilk, wrapped his ego around it, and now parrots his favorite bits to sound 'intellectual.' 

We've all been there, kid -- even the boomers you hate.  Every generation gets led down a garden path.  Yours just happens to be more recent and ugly, but don't blame them for that. 
Envisioning a future of roboticized comfort in a super-welfare state is very warm, fuzzy and Marxist of you, but if you're going to "be a part of the change that you want to see in the world" (per Ghandi), then you need to give a little thought to how you can realistically reconcile the present with the future in your own lifetime. Disregarding obvious technical limitations, how and where do you propose to form the requisite capital for such innovation, sitting as we do on the verge of the greatest episode of wealth destruction in human history?  Secondly, where will you find the energy?  The time required to resolve the present situation and reach a stage where humanity can even begin to focus realistically on the scale of innovation that you have in mind for all but the most elite segment of society is far in the future.  In the meantime, we face a period of de-mechanization, when much of the activity previously made economical by cheap energy is going to become at least temporarily uneconomical.  Where you envision robots, you're more likely to see a lot of upset people rolling up their sleeves and pitching in, many against their will, longing for the old days when a 'career' could be spent hiding unproductively behind white-collar desks.

Socratic Dog's picture

And that's if it all goes well.  If it doesn't, which seems increasingly likely, well, do you know how to start a fire with two sticks?  If not, you might want to start practicing.

CheapBastard's picture

I'm all for robotization if it includes a Woody Allen orgasmatron. But taxing all the people who actually work for a living to pay for parasites is anathema.

cheeseheader's picture

Er, you do know 'The9th...' forgot the /s (sarc) tag?

Kiwi Pete's picture

You're torally right. Why should all the benefits of automation go to the holders of capital? They shouldn't and one way of ensuring that is the basic income. Otherwise we'll end up with a dozen mega-rich families owning the robot factories and evryone else starving.

Don't just downvote me unless you can come up with a better solution.

RockySpears's picture

For whom are these factories making stuff if everyone is starving?

Debugas's picture

Q: For whom are these factories making stuff if everyone is starving?

A: For their owners. In the end owners can sell to each other completely forgetting about the rest 99%


Yes we are moving towards a society were main source of income is dividents from stocks you own. Once everything is automated the wages for human work will disappear completely together with the need for human work. Only capital owners will have source of income

ejmoosa's picture

Businesses used to be in business for profits.  Now they are in it for tax breaks, tax credits, to borrow funds from the banks at ultra low rates, and then somewhere down the priority list is profits.

Profits are falling for the US as a whole, and not by a small %.

But, as long as these busineses get all of this non profit support, they stay in business and keep chugging along.

Any business with actual profit motives is left competing against entities that should not exist.

This by itself drags productivity down across the board.

As economics go, we are not seeing capitalism, we are seeing an aberation and all we know is it will end at some point and it will end badly.

ATM's picture

What we are seeing is a planned economy where the real economy is at a huge disadvantage since it cannot and never could compete with TBTF or SIFI government enterprises.

BarkingCat's picture

Actually, it can compete and win....if it was allowed to.

Kiwi Pete's picture

It won't just happen overnight. First the factory jobs have all gone to China. Next, the high-paying jobs will go (are going). Either replaced by robots or shipped over to China where they will work remotely for a tenth of the money. With 5th gen wireless being 65,000 times quicker than current speeds (http://digiworld24.com/2015/03/26/5g-5th-generation-wireless-internet-co...) it will soon be possible to beem a doctor's avatar anywhere in the world. Then when you go see your doctor they will still be based in China and just transmit to your local doctors office where you will get a virtual examination. Teaching will be done the same way as will nearly all professional jobs. 

Then more and more until there's just the minimum wage jobs left that the basic robots can't do and can';t be done by an avatar. Then even they will go as tellers, checkout operators, barmen and waitresses are all automated. Driverless cars will decimate the taxi and haulage jobs. The end result is less and less available 'work'. So do we then live in a society with a few haves earing megabucks and many more have-nots earning nothing? It cannot last because those people will either vote it out or there will be a revolution.

laomei's picture

Aaaaand now the unabomber doesn't look so crazy eh?

Arnold's picture


My favorite part:


19. The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter, a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong, and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant behavior. [1] But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.

onthesquare's picture

have you read Joseph Conrad's - "The Secret Agent" history again.

Lore's picture

+1 to Arnold. Very good quote, also valuable for understanding stubborn, even militant adherence to the "global warming" scam. It's a very deep matter of self esteem!

That Unabomber treatise is worth reading in its entirety. Spot the assumptions.

tmosley's picture

Yeah, just like they kept the internet and smartphones for themselves. Those jerks!

FYI, home robots are coming available this year, and they are cheap ($1000-$1500: https://www.autonomous.ai/). In another year or two, they will have hands and will be able to perform manual tasks (http://singularityhub.com/2016/02/18/this-remarkable-robot-hand-is-worth...). Another year or two after that, they will be able to perform manual tasks at human-superhuman levels.

Thing about robots is that they can build more of themselves. Even in the worst case scenario, all you need is a single nice rich guy to give away just one robot off of the assembly line, and BOOM, everybody has a robot of their own. Nevermind the fact that almost all of this stuff is open source and runs off of freely accessable APIs, so any hobbyist could build one with a few servos and instruction off of the internet.

You think the Chinese wouldn't reverse engineer anything made by these guys (or just steal the plans since they would probably be manufacturing them in China) and releasing their own cheap version?

No, robots will be just as abundant if not more so than smartphones. THey may have varying capabilities, with the low end models being smaller and lagging in capabilities a couple of years behind the high end ones, but that's not a big deal. It means everyone will still get there eventually.

BarkingCat's picture

I cannot wait for the model with hands . I have a very specific task for such robot. I already have a name for this robot - Pamela.

RockySpears's picture

Gen X  Born 1960 - 1980 (or so)

Rather than shaking things up, at least the oldest 1/2 is looking at retirement, not radical stuff.  They are almost 60 now and think it is time for more fishing and days out with the grandchildren.

Why would I want to be getting radical when really, what I would like, and can now afford, are outdoor barbecues, boats and horses.

  Nothing radical will happen unless it is a SHTF / RESET event, in which case I am glad I know how to barbecue and ride a horse.

duo's picture

Born in 1962.  The "baby bust" was in full swing.  30% fewer kids in the incoming freshman class than graduated.  The schools were still good, but the boomers had made it through school and their parents no longer wanted to pay for public schools anymore.  Prop 13 and the like spread through the land.  Tuition at my state U doubled in 3 1/2 years.  Graduated in the Reagan boom years.  1960-1964 was kind of a sub-generation between boomer and X, but I identify with X more because the opportunity to get ahead by hard work alone was fading fast.

True gen X had to find work during the Bush and early Clinton years.  No picnic, but Clinton hadn't started the de-industrialization of America yet.

BarkingCat's picture

I come from the same year and identify with neither. I once read an article that called us "the lost generation".

I remember when some were trying to lump us into the boomer generation.

It actually pissed me off. We have nothing in common with the boomers.


nscholten's picture

The 64 trillion dollar question is:  will they ever reduce the redudant government agencies.  

If everyone is getting a monthly checks; how long will it take for a loaf of bread to be $12.00 and rent prices double or maybe it does really just replace the present dole which is handed out in the various programs. Add a consumer tax and eliminate the income tax.  Aren't the refugees getting a basic income and health care anyways.

Gold $10,000

walküre's picture

For every free Dollar in income, the banker gets $1000

Enough said.

Al Tinfoil's picture


"The masses need some method to afford automated goods and services." 

Very true, if the masses are going to consume automated goods and services.  If your method is to have government provide the funds necessary, where is the government to get the money?  If your goal of "unemployment to be as close to 100% as possible" is realized, what becomes of the government's sources of tax revenue?  Forget individual income tax, and forget high sales taxes since that cuts into the guaranteed income from the government.  Corporate taxes?  The corporations will simply move their robots to lower-tax countries.  Import tariffs?  Again, that would have the effect of requiring increased payments to the unemployed so they could afford the increased prices of goods.  Tax the local farmers?  - merely increases the food prices and again, requires higher monthly income cheques. And why would anyone work as a farmer in a society of unemployment?  Will all food production be automated?  Who will invest in the necessary automation in a society in which all profits are expropriated by the government to pay monthly income to the masses?  

IMHO, your vision of utopia would require government to own and set up the robotized and automated production of goods and services.  Soviet Russia tried this model, but it did not work.    

Or maybe you envision some "cloud" of money hovering in the sky that the government need only tap into to afford all this.  

Your method sounds like a guaranteed way to create runaway inflation, such as experienced in Weimar Germany, Zimbabwe, or present-day Venezuela.

Your vision of utopia with humans unemployed and robots producing everything could soon turn into a dystopia in which the government views each unemployed citizen as a mere expense, a useless eater, and actively tries to eliminate such people.

There remains the issue facing modern societies and governments such as Ontario:  In a world of automation, robotization, and job flight to low-wage, low-regulation countries, the traditional working class of the Developed World is finding it harder and harder to find well-paying jobs.  Increasingly, the Middle Class and Working Class are seeing their standards of living fall.  In the last few decades, the apparent standard of living in America and Europe has increased, but that was largely from an increase in debt and inflation of asset prices such as home prices.

Governments have increasingly taken over individual responsibility for health and welfare expenses, and increasing portions of national GDP and tax intake are devoted to the support of the aged, unemployed, and unemployable.  Guaranteed Annual Income is a logical progression in this process. BUT governments cannot afford the payouts they are making already, which fact is reflected in their increasing debt levels.  If governments increase taxes, that lowers the standard of living of the citizens.  How low must the average person's standard of living have to be driven, so that government can collect enough tax to afford a guraranteed minimum income plan?

 Or, perhaps, therein lies the key: The government could afford to institute a guaranteed minimum income for everyone if everyone, workers, producers, employers, and unemployed alike, will accept a very minimal standard of living.

Hobbleknee's picture

There will always be jobs that require people. Who will do the real jobs, while everyone else is on vacation their whole life? There's your dilemma.

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Well...  If say 66% of people are 'unemployed', or only 33% of current fulltime jobs remain, why not SPREAD IT AROUND?  Why have 33% of people working full time, when you could have 100% of people working 33% of a fulltime schedule?

Radical idea, I know...

Jack's Raging Bile Duct's picture

You have absolutetly no understanding of the actual status of AI or robotic capacity right now. While great leaps of technology have been made, you're like one of those films from the 1970s that show people in the year 2000 driving flying cars in white cities. Or how about even 1985? Been Back to the Future, much? Eh, Doctor?

Money is an abstract of reality, whether it be tangible matter or some form of work/labor/energy/expertise. To give everyone money without destroying the unit that money is denominated in, scarcity would need be abolished. We are a long time from that.

Kiwi Pete's picture

Check out the Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics/Google:




He can open a door, walk to work in the snow and stock a shelf already!

Jack's Raging Bile Duct's picture

Yes, and there were cars in 1910. How many of them can actually think today? Most people have zero experience with programming , ergo, zero comprehension of what it takes to produce genuine thought that can interpret a situation and apply tangental knowledge to create the desired solution. Robots today have at best a highly robust list of specific instructions. Even quantum computing will not necessarily provide the frame work for true thought. You're confusing form with substance.

geeves's picture

The problem with an experiment that involves handing out money is that those benfitting will continue to vote for it forever.  So regardless of how this experiment goes, as long as (ever de-valuing) free money is flowing into the hands of the majority of the population it will grow and continue.

I sympathize with wanting to bring about the absence of the big government/big corporation complex; I just don't think this must be done to achieve that.  I suppose you could argue it will just speed up the collapse of the whole system, so maybe there's an argument for it buried in there.

Renfield's picture

<<Gen Xers are running the show now and we want to toss out the old failed systems of war for profits to enrich the Rothschilds and endless busywork for the masses and replace it with a holistic system that benefits both man and the environment. Get ready to see more radical changes. Eliminating all welfare and the bureaucracy that issues it and replacing that failed system with basic income is just the beginning.>>

Um, guys? It's going to be spun like that but it isn't that. What this will do, is SWEETEN NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES. This is to make sure you spend from a bank account, that gov is going to keep full for you as long as you are a good li'l citizen. No bureaucracy will be cut. On the contrary, it's going to take a lot more bureaucracy to administer this. Let alone, figuring out the taxes, etc., and a whole raft of new regulations. busybusybusy

Think about it. The free money is not going to be sent to you in a cash-filled envelope.

It will be sent to your account in a BANK, prolly from an approved list of TBTF. (No independents or small credit unions need apply.)

And you won't be allowed to withdraw it as cash -- you'll get a special card, a nice tracked one that you can use for spending on anything you want. And that card will work AS LONG AS you are paid up on your taxes, your licenses, your registrations, your fees & fines, etc. But if you don't get that nice little NIRP account, or pay all those skims, or your spending habits look, errm, 'suspicious', then NO FREE MONEY FOR YOU.

No, there's nothing in the article to suggest that. I'm just thinking it through here.

9thDoctor, I upvoted you for the perspective. You are correct insofar as you go, but I think you and a lot of other people have missed the point of this. It'll start in Ontario, but it'll spread from there, b/c gov is not going to pass up a nice control mechanism when they see it. And this sure looks like one to me. Why do you think it's coming from a broke Ontario, populated by paper-pushers and dependents? They need a whole new paradigm here, before the house of cards collapses. Ontario won't stay broke for long if there is Canada-wide takeup of this idea, backed by the central bank.

Best of all, the 'folks' will love it. Free money for everyone! As long as 'everyone' includes you and your lifestyle choices, anyway. Off to the races: we'll see if that amount of free money keeps up with prices about as well as COLA does for the 'folks' on social security.

I'm not against the concept, but I do not trust the central banking administration at all. If they start handing out free money so many years after they began handing it out to the banks, just think about how much that's really worth and what the real purpose is. And about where we are on their fiat timeline, when it gets to the point that they're actually volunteering to share some of it with their human assets. It isn't because they suddenly found their long-hidden love of humanity...

BarkingCat's picture

Doctor, I think you have seen too many Star Trek episodes.


.....but let's look at automated world. Even if we automate as much as possible there will still be need for some human labor. How does it get decided who does that labor?

I will readily admit that if I did not have to work I did not. 

If the government were to make an offer to send me a check or credits that can keep a roof over my head and food in my belly I would take that offer.

Instead, they suck on the results of my labor like a mindless parasite.

Income tax, sales tax, real estate tax and fucking fees on anything they can think of.


...but let's suppose that all reverses and they start to nurture people instead.

What about birth rates???

Right now it is the dumbest and the laziest that reproduce most.

Will the more intelligent reproduce more? 

Will the level of intelligence decline?? After all, when you have everything provided why struggle to enhance your knowledge???

Chances are we will go back to age of super geniuses, like Leonardo de Vinci, those that persue knowledge for pleasure. Many other very intelligent people will simply say "fuck it, I rather go fishing".