January 1, 2025 was a pivotal date in our nation’s history. This coming new year marks the 20 year anniversary of the introduction of citizen’s income, so we’re taking this opportunity to look back on its history and reflect on the impact this unconditional basic income has had on our society.

Back in the 2020s, the nation was reeling from almost half a century of failed market fundamentalism. Inequality had reached grotesque proportions, the rights of ordinary citizens had been steadily eroded and absolute poverty had become widespread once again as the economy became ever more controlled by, and run for, the richest few. Mass unemployment, overwork, overconsumption, low wellbeing and the lack of time to live sustainably, care for each other and enjoy life plagued our society. Individualism and greed established themselves as human virtues. Successive governments failed to reverse a dependency on debt and another global banking crisis in 2018 led many to realise the system was fundamentally broken. The people demanded an alternative.

The campaign for basic income was initially led by the progressive left as a radical means to combat poverty, rebalance worker’s rights and redistribute income. But as the campaign gathered momentum, those on the right began to recognise that basic income offered a fairer welfare system, reduced government bureaucracy and increased liberty for all citizens. The campaign finally succeeded and in 2025 a citizen’s income, sufficient to cover an individual’s basic needs, began to be paid to each person as a right of citizenship, irrespective of whether they were working or actively seeking work.

There were many who said it would not work. They said we couldn’t afford it, that people would become idle, that our economy would crumble. But 20 years of basic income has transformed the prosperity of our nation, the nature of work and the very fabric of our society.

Citizen’s income was eminently affordable. The majority was financed through the replacement of most existing social security benefits, tax-free allowances and state pensions, the remainder through a clamp down on tax avoidance and a reduction in state subsidies paid to corporations. And although it was intended to reduce the dependence on economic growth, this stimulus in fact led to a rise in economic growth.

But this growth wasn’t fuelled by consumer credit and material purchases. Instead, the empowerment people felt under the security of basic income saw a steady transition towards spending on more meaningful activities, like learning, leisure, sports, culture and tourism. Without the necessity to earn purely to live, people became more enfranchised to rebalance their lives towards more worthwhile pursuits which enhanced their own and their family’s wellbeing.

Other than new parents and young people, who stayed on longer in education, people actually worked more. No longer forced by the threat of poverty to take any job they could, people became more likely to seek meaningful employment that aligned with their interests. Many made the transition to a shorter working week – not to become more idle but, with less pressure to earn a higher salary, they began to focus on what most human labour should consist of – caring for, educating, protecting, feeding and entertaining each other.

Then there was the entrepreneurial revolution. Millions of people who had always dreamt of running their own business suddenly had the financial security to take the plunge. What followed was an explosion in the number of small businesses and a transition to a more localised economy. Despite being considered a large state intervention, citizen’s income actually made the free market function far more effectively. The power of multinational corporations reduced over time as people switched focus towards the re-energised small business sector, both online and in their own local communities. A more vibrant, local and genuinely competitive economy emerged, and unemployment, although now redefined to a much broader concept of work, plummeted despite rapid technological development.

Of course, poverty still exists, but not nearly on the same level. The citizen’s income has helped rebalance our unequal society, empower millions and make a transition away from mass consumerism and growth dependence, towards a stronger and more sustainable economy in which people have learned once again to play a more active role in their communities.

This article is an idealistic vision, but it is a vision of a realistic and possible future if we embrace basic income. Find out more about the potential benefits at basicincome.org.

Jon Maiden