Well-being — happiness in some sense — is what the best versions of our ragged welfare programs aim for. Health is a key measure of well-being. Adequate food and housing support it. Education is meant to support civic trust and provide hope for the future.
We could also stand to reflect on how the well-being of others impacts our own. And as the specter of automation and mass unemployment draws nearer, remember that we’ll all be trapped here together. (Excluding, perhaps, those lucky billionaires who have already planned to flee to the moon — or New Zealand.)
Yet it’s possible that our thinking is beginning to change, at least around the edges. A limited UBI pilot will begin in Stockton, Calif., this month, while another has been proposed for Chicago. It’s in this phase that we should take the time to ask the questions that will shape the programs, and how we perceive the results. Which outcomes do we really care about? Which ones should we? Work isn’t all that matters. Improving well-being is a more than respectable goal.