Why Facebook should pay us a basic income

No, Facebook and Google shouldn’t start cutting checks to their users

It’s perhaps the great scam of the Internet age: “Get paid to surf the web!” Not surprisingly, something for (virtually) nothing has trouble passing the market test.

Yet some policy wonks think they can nudge Big Tech to make this fantasy a reality. They want Amazon, Facebook, Google and other web firms to pay us for our personal browsing info that they collect and use. Some advocates want to somehow devise a micropayments system, others would have these tech giants finance . . . wait for it . . . a universal basic income.

As columnist John Thornhill writes in the Financial Times today:

The most valuable asset that Facebook possesses is the data that its users, often unwittingly, hand over for free before they are in effect sold to advertisers. It seems only fair that Facebook makes a bigger social contribution for profiting from this massively valuable, collectively generated resource. . . . Such a data-for-basic income swap is simple and clear. It should appeal to the solutionist mindset of Silicon Valley. Many tech entrepreneurs are suspicious of government intervention. But there is no rule to say that only governments can be in the wealth redistribution business.

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No, Facebook and Google shouldn’t start cutting checks to their users

 James Pethokoukis is a columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously, he was the Washington columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, the opinion and commentary wing of Thomson Reuters.

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