"If you were handed $1,100 a month, would you amount to anything?" So asks the Los Angeles Times in a Sunday headline atop a piece about a unique experiment underway in Germany. Michael Bohmeyer, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur in Berlin, is behind Mein Grundeinkommen (My Basic Income), which, so far, is giving 26 people $1,100 each month to spend any way they choose. It's all about helping people feel secure and free, he says, and it's an idea that springs out of his own experience. In an August 2014 interview with Vice, he explained that he had that year made the choice to stop working and start "living off the approximately $1,300 I get out of my company. I just wanted to put my feet up and do nothing. Instead, I found a crazy drive to do things. I had a million new business ideas, I take care of my daughter, and I work for ... local community radio."
The money for Mein Grundeinkommen comes from crowdfunding (more than 31,000 donors so far), and when enough donations are collected, more people are selected via a random drawing from a pool of 66,000 applicants, according to the Times. Deutsche Welle reports things kicked off in July 2014, and the winners thus far have included students, the unemployed, and two children, ages 4 and 8. How are the winners using the cash?
- One recipient spent a month's stipend on partying (Bohmeyer: "He needed to get that out of his system").
- Another quit his call-center job and went back to school to become a kindergarten teacher.
- And another intends to "hire a new employee to help my ecological vegetable garden business grow."
"The one thing that everyone tells us is that they're able to sleep much better," Bohmeyer tells the Times
. Not much really changes in recipients' day-to-day lives, he adds, "but there is a big change that takes place in their minds. People feel liberated and they feel healthier." (A surprising number of people don't know what their partner makes