Blue Ice Docs presents
Free Lunch Society
A film by Christian Tod
What do we do when jobs become anachronistic?
Christian Tod’s Free Lunch Society uncovers widespread, global support for a guaranteed minimum income.
Opens in Toronto
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
“A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things.’ We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.” – Capt. Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Space isn’t the only final frontier. Inspired by Star Trek’s utopian vision of a future without need, Austrian director Christian Tod examined the concept of a guaranteed minimum income and found it to be more reality than science fiction.
His globe-trotting documentary Free Lunch Society, examines the surprising history of a concept that, to some, seems like an idealistic fantasy. Imagine every single American or Canadian receiving, say, $20,000 a year, a fixed minimum that could be added to with further employment.
In fact, the notion of a flat minimum annual government pay-out for all citizens originated with conservative economists like Milton Friedman (who euphemistically called it, “negative income tax”) and very nearly became law in the U.S. in the late 1960s under President Richard Nixon as a replacement for the tangled bureaucracy and indignity of the welfare state.
And, as Free Lunch Society reveals, it was an idea that would not be denied as time went on. In Alaska, where the oil boom contributed billions of dollars to state revenues, the government has been, with great fanfare, sending out annual cheques of up to $3,000 per person for years (we meet a young couple who’ve been banking their children’s cheques for future college tuition).
We hear about the four-year “Mincom” experiment in Dauphin, Manitoba in the ‘70s, in which every person over 18 – including high school students – received $1,250 up front annually (the equivalent of $8,000 today when adjusted for inflation). Though the results were almost universally favourable, the study was never followed up.
Free Lunch Society then takes us to Germany, where activists have turned to crowd-funding to fund an experimental “lottery-based” experiment in basic income, and to Switzerland, where a referendum on a guaranteed income was included in the federal election (it lost, but more than a quarter of the population voted yes, a starting point for activists).
And it moves on to Namibia, an African country with one of the world’s highest rates of income disparity, where a guaranteed income experiment has turned around a poverty-stricken village, raising hopes that it could become the first country to embrace the concept nationally.
“Basic income is founded on the premise that natural resources belong to all of us,” says Tod, who uses Woody Guthrie’s anthemic This Land Is Your Land in his film (as well as footage from Star Trek: The Next Generation).
But surprisingly, he found some of the strongest arguments for the concept from among the business leaders who currently take personal advantage from those resources. “Technology companies, CEOs of large or small companies, these are people who can afford to think about making the world a better place.”
“I think we’re living in a time when everything is possible. That makes me very optimistic. It’s shocking that a Donald Trump could be elected US president. But the upside is, it shows the system can be changed – even in extreme directions.”
About BLUE ICE DOCS
Founded in 2014 in partnership between Robin Smith, president of KinoSmith, and Blue Ice Group co-owners, Steven Silver and Neil Tabatznik, Blue Ice Docs uses the expertise and skills of both organizations to acquire, fund and develop a wide variety of non-fiction projects from around the world. Upcoming releases include, SPETTACOLO, MOUNTAIN, AIDA’S SECRETS, THE WORKERS CUP, MUHI: GENERALLY TEMPORARY, MODIFIED, and DRIES.