The idea of an unconditional basic income (UBI), is an increasingly prominent topic in progressive economics. This complex idea is often understood in a rather simplistic scenario where every citizen receives a guaranteed monthly income, hopefully enough to live by, with no questions asked. But basic income is not basic income!
In this interactive installation visitors playfully experience two different basic income economies, using coffee to visualize the flow of money. Upon entering the café, visitors receive a free ‘cup of basic income’. They see where the coffee came from, and if they want more, they just need to ‘go to work’ (grind coffee beans). That way, value is generated (brewn) – part of which is their extra salary (additional income) – the other part flows off as tax contribution to the communal coffee pot. Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants are able to test potential social situations in the basic income scenarios. What happens to our work ethics? Will there be enough coffee for all or do we fall into a “financial crisis” ( = run out of coffee)? How do people invest the ‘extra’ energy they got? By creating an environment in which these social and economic futures can be prototyped, the café acts as a research tool to find out where the public sees the optimal relation between work and income. For that reason the café opened for 3 months as a public pop-up café in The Hague, which included a series of semi-structured interviews with people from all walks of life. In essence, research on basic income is translated, and shared within an engaging educational format, through which new knowledge is gathered, to again inform further political action.