Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, has done some of the best research on the results. Some of her findings were obvious: Poverty disappeared. But others were more surprising: High-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down. “If you have a social program like this, community values themselves start to change,” Forget said.Evelyn Forget is such a great name that I almost want to believe what she's selling. But I'm one of those people who fear the lost incentive to work. I remember a professor here at UW some years ago propounding a guaranteed minimum income of $20,000. He just assumed most people would work so they could have more than that. What if you were just starting out in life and knew you could go work-free if you were willing to live on $20,000?
I'm sure if that deal were offered to me when I was 20, I'd have taken it. I'd have worked at living on that $20,000. Oh, yes, eventually I might have wanted to write a book called "How to Live Well on $20,000 a Year" — because it would have amused me and I wouldn't have minded some extra spending money.
But who knows what the psychology of it all would be? It's one thing to experiment on a tiny town in Manitoba, but what happens when it gets bigger... and less Canadian?