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Mark Zuckerberg again defends government giving people free money

  • Zuckerberg explains how a form of universal basic income works in Alaska.
  • He doesn't address Alaska's deficits, however, and the governor's call to increase taxes.
  • He also uses his company as grounds to argue in favor of basic income for individuals.

Following a trip to Alaska, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote a blog post defending — yet again — the idea of establishing a form of basic income in the U.S.

Zuckerberg said he supported Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend, which pools money from the state's oil revenue and returns it to residents at the end of the year. In 2016, that dividend amounted to $1,022 per eligible resident.

He used his experience at Facebook to explain how the economics of human condition can change for the better if people are given a basic income to live off, such as the Permanent Fund Dividend in Alaska.

"Seeing how Alaska put this dividend in place reminded me of a lesson I learned early at Facebook: organizations think profoundly differently when they're profitable than when they're in debt," Zuckerberg wrote. "When you're losing money, your mentality is largely about survival. But when you're profitable, you're confident about your future and you look for opportunities to invest and grow further. Alaska's economy has historically created this winning mentality, which has led to this basic income. That may be a lesson for the rest of the country as well."

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

Whether humans act the same as organizations is up for debate. Does giving someone free money each year really brighten the future and compel people to look for opportunities to invest and grow further, or does it make them lazier and less likely to seek additional income?

Also, the Alaska model depends on the government assuming some measure of stable and consistent revenue — hard to do when the source of revenue is a globally traded commodity. Thus, while Alaska's oil has put money in the pockets of its residents, recent severe declines in oil prices have also led to discussions of state tax increases. In December 2015, for example, as Alaska faced a $3.5 billion deficit, Gov. Bill Walker suggested boosting taxes unless oil hit $110 a barrel. The price of oil per barrel is currently trading at less than half of that.

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