Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has made what he calls the "Freedom Dividend" the key aspect of his platform. A version of universal basic income, Yang's Freedom Dividend would give every single American a monthly stipend of $1,000. And Yang's campaign is gaining ground: He has polled as high as 3 percent and has inspired a legion of #YangGang fans online. As an entrepreneur himself, Yang is the founder and longtime CEO of Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that provides a fellowship program for top college graduates to work for two years in startups and early-stage companies in emerging U.S. cities.
Yang isn't the first notable person to recommend universal basic income. At a time when automation, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence are expected to eliminate millions of jobs in the next 20 years, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson have all gone on record as saying that universal basic income is a concept at least worth exploring.
What would Yang's plan mean for entrepreneurship and business in America? Here are three possibilities:
1) Stimulate the economy
According to Yang's website:
"A Universal Basic Income at this level would permanently grow the economy by 12.56 to 13.10 percent--or about $2.5 trillion by 2025--and it would increase the labor force by 4.5 million to 4.7 million people. Putting money into people's hands and keeping it there would be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy."
Clearly, this is the potential broadest economic impact of Yang's plan on the economy, and should it happen, it would have a massive impact on small businesses in the country.
2) Support entrepreneurship and innovation
I have met hundreds of people who have told me they have ideas for businesses they'd like to start but don't have the money to start. How many more people might try entrepreneurship if they had the cushion and cash that universal basic income provides? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a recent commencement speech: "We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas."
3) Happier, more productive employees
Every entrepreneur knows that happier employees are more productive employees. And yet currently, according to a Motley Fool report, a dismal 40 percent of American employees are happy with their jobs. With more economic security from Yang's Freedom Dividend, the 60 percent of American workers who are unhappy could actually leave their miserable jobs and look to do the kind of work they really want, which could have a huge positive impact on small businesses.
To be clear, there are many critics of both universal basic income and Yang's plan. Critics say the United States couldn't afford to do it. They say there are too many unknowns. They say people would misspend the money.
But when Andrew Yang, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk are all saying something, we have a responsibility to at least listen and do the research. To me, it is clear that among other things, universal basic income and Yang's Freedom Dividend could have a lasting, meaningful impact on small businesses and entrepreneurship in America.