July 9, 2024

Like giving money to a baby

Before we landed on the final outline of Simply Put, I initially had a whole section of the book about simplicity in action. Where did Occam's razor cut the sharpest?

There was research into how universal basic income experiments around the globe have proven that "just giving people money" is the most effective policy to combat poverty and economic insecurity. It also turns out that the most effective tool to addressing homelessness is to "just give people homes," the most effective policy to reduce housing costs is to "just build more houses," and the best way to get people to bike more is to "just build more bike lanes."

I ended up cutting this section to focus (appropriately) on communication rather than implementation. But with the baby on its way any day now, I decided to share one of these "simple" policy prescriptions with City Limits: to ensure a more prosperous future, just give money to babies.

This idea, widely known as "baby bonds," can seem radical – but it's actually been put into action successfully all around the world. Here's what I wrote about it:

"Baby bonds, a seed account granted to every child and placed in a trust as they grow, is our opportunity to do just that. The concept is simple at its core: just give babies some money and let it grow into a fund that can be used for education, buying a home, starting a business, or otherwise enriching their lives. With investments starting at just $1,000 per newborn, the next generation of New Yorkers will be better prepared to thrive.

This idea sounds radical at first, but it is a proven policy. Connecticut introduced a similar program last year, and nearly 8,000 babies have already qualified. Washington DC implemented bonds in 2021. California has a pilot program, and over a dozen other states have considered this proposal in some form. On the federal level, Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ayanna Presley introduced legislation for federal baby bonds in 2021 and again in 2023."

If you do this right, a baby bond policy (either locally like the one I outline here, or on a national level), addresses inequality, economic vitality, and educational outcomes. It's an excellent bang for your buck.

Thanks again to the City Limits team for allowing me to share this article. Go read the whole thing there, and if you're a New Yorker, give them a follow – they're doing some of the best local news in the game.


About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just wrote his first book (Simply Put), and works with cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

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