Episode 796: The Basic Income Experiment : Planet Money The basic income. A flat payment to citizens, without strings. Is it a progressive fantasy, or sensible policy? We may soon find out. The Finnish Government is testing it on 2,000 unemployed citizens.

Episode 796: The Basic Income Experiment

Euro bank notes lie on a table in counter of a bank in Dresden, Germany, Monday, June 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)

The basic income is a hot topic of social policy. It's a steady payout to citizens. Liberals argue it provides support to struggling citizens with dignity and freedom. Libertarians like that it can be dispensed without an expensive, and controlling, bureaucracy. The rest argue that it's a giveaway that will inspire laziness.

In Finland, unemployment is 8.8 percent, and most of the time, citizens can't collect unemployment if they're making additional money, discouraging recipients from finding jobs. So the Finnish government has set up something unusual: a live experiment. A test to help settle the debate, or figure if it's even worth having. A test group of 2,000 unemployed Finns receive 560 euros each month from the government. No strings attached. For unemployed researcher Sanna Leskinen, that meant being able to apply for part time jobs and plan for the future. Avery Trufelman went to Finland to see how the experiment was working.

This week on the show: how does the basic income work in practice? And could it work in the U.S.?

Today's show is adapted from 99% Invisible, a podcast about the forces of design and architecture that shape our world.

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