Utopia in one city: Stockton

Of all the candidates for utopia, Stockton, California would be on the bottom of my list. But a 27-year-old mayor, with the backing of a foundation, is trying for utopia, as seen by supporters of the Mommy State: Universal Basic Income. Futurism.com writes:

 Stockton, California, is about to become the first city to test government-supported universal basic income in the U.S. The program is the idea of the city's 27-year-old mayor and will be primarily funded by the basic income advocacy group Economic Security Project.

The idea of a guaranteed income for all citizens regardless of their social and economic standing is called universal basic income (UBI), and it’s been floating around for centuries. Thomas Paine wrote about it back in the 1790s, and in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his support for a universal basic income in the U.S. Now, Stockton, California, mayor Michael Tubbs is keen on implementing such a system in his city.

To test out the idea, Tubbs is planning to launch an experiment he’s calling the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). When the project kicks off next year, it will be the first trial for universal basic income in the U.S. to receive government support.

Most of the financing for SEED will come from basic income advocacy group the Economic Security Project (ESP), which pledged $1 million to launch the program. The plan is to select a yet undisclosed number of recipients from among Stockton’s 315,000 citizens to receive a fixed $500 monthly income — or $6,000 a year — for the duration of SEED, which Tubbs hope will last three years.

Stockton is a wreck, but a least it returned to solvency in 2015, having gone bankrupt in 2007.  John Huston's 1972 film Fat City paints an indelible portrait of a hard luck town that hasn't gotten any better. It consistently appears on “worst places to live” lists, ranking #13 on the most recent one.

> Population: 305,650
> Median home value: $224,300
> Poverty rate: 21.8%
> Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 17.8%

There were 1,352 violent crimes per 100,000 Stockton residents in 2015, more than three times the national violent crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. In addition to a high crime rate, Stockton suffers from heavy air pollution. San Joaquin County has good air quality just 331 days out of the year on average, less than most U.S. counties.

I give the utopians credit for taking on a hard case. When you start at the bottom, the only way is up. But the dreams are utopian -- that is, contrary to human nature:

Solving current poverty is just one potential benefit of UBI. Many experts believe such a system could effectively curb the unemployment surge expected to follow the rise of intelligent automation, in which machines will replace greater and greater numbers of human workers, both those employed in minimum wage jobs as well as those in industries like finance and information technology. Some experts also think UBI could provide an alternative to today’s social welfare programs.

Hat tip: Misanthropic Humanitarian