It turns out that in the 1970s, the Canadian government performed an experiment in guaranteed minimum income in a small town. It ran for four years, they gathered a mountain of data about the effects ... and only started analyzing the data very recently. The results shouldn't be surprising
Initially, the Mincome program was conceived as a labour market experiment. The government wanted to know what would happen if everybody in town received a guaranteed income, and specifically, they wanted to know whether people would still work.
It turns out they did.
Only two segments of Dauphin's labour force worked less as a result of Mincome—new mothers and teenagers. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies. And teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families.
The end result was that they spent more time at school and more teenagers graduated.
Still, too expensive, right? Oh, wait.
In the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent. Fewer people went to the hospital with work-related injuries and there were fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. There were also far fewer mental health visits.
It's not hard to see why, says Forget.
“When you walk around a hospital, it's pretty clear that a lot of the time what we're treating are the consequences of poverty,” she says.
Give people financial independence and control over their lives and these accidents and illnesses tend to dissipate, says Forget. In today's terms, an 8.5 per cent decrease in hospital visits across Canada would save the government $4 billion annually, by her calculations. And $4 billion is the amount that the federal government is currently trying to save by slashing social programming and arts funding.
Still, it's socialism, so we should set this out of our minds.