Living on basic-income for 2 years made me ‘feel free’ says a journalist who took part in one of the world’s largest trials

finland universal basic income
Finland undertook what has been described as the world’s “largest complete UBI study.”

  • Finland’s two-year basic income trial was controversial.
  • Most commentators focused on the fact that it did not increase employment levels.
  • But Tuomas Murajatold, who took part in the trial, told Insider that it was a liberating and empowering experience.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Tuomas Muraja was selected for Finland’s basic income trial in 2018, he says he felt like he was “winning the lottery.”

The freelance journalist and writer was selected for the trial, which gave 2,000 unemployed people $600 each month for two years, because he sometimes seeks unemployment benefits when he is living between grants and other income sources.

The idea of a basic income – an unconditional, regular cash payment to adult citizens – has become an increasingly popular policy proposal in recent years, and Finland’s government-backed trial was one of the world’s largest to date.

However, when the results of Finland’s trial were published last year, some commentators said the test was a failure for basic income because it did not significantly increase their chances of being in work.

However, what some of this commentary missed is that recipients did, however, report significantly greater life satisfaction, and less mental strain than those outside the trial.

For Muraja, the basic income experiment was transformative, and he is now a vocal proponent of the concept.

“Basic income would liberate creativity, increase equality, and provide more free time for all,” he said.

He was able to put the basic income payment towards his €2000 ($2400) monthly rent, and it replaced a complicated old system of filling out multiple forms and attending courses to claim benefit payments every month.

‘When you feel free, you feel more secure.’

finland ubi

Mujara says that while the experiment did not make a huge financial difference to his life, living as he did in a country that already had a generous welfare system, it did have a significant impact on his wellbeing.

“The psychological effects were positive,” he told Insider.

“I much prefer receiving basic income rather than dealing with the old system and filling in its complicated forms or participating in mandatory courses.”

He said the universality also had a de-stigmatizing effect.

“If we had a basic income, it would put an end to the humiliation of the poor,” he said.

Under Finland’s welfare system, which is generous by international standards, claimants can earn up to €300 ($360) a month before they have to start paying back 50% of their earnings above that amount.

Now, Mujara was free to accept smaller jobs without fear of losing access to those benefits, and he also had more time to pursue creative projects.

“I could accept the small jobs and I didn’t have the fear of losing my benefits,” he said.

“It makes you feel free,” Mujara says of his experience on basic-income.

“You don’t have to work, for instance, every day. You could work only for four days a week, and the fifth you do whatever you want – so it makes you creative.

“And when you are creative and motivated, that makes you productive, even if you don’t calculate productivity always by money.

“When you feel free, you feel more secure. And then you create something. People in supermarkets, people cleaning – it helps them as well.”

‘Why can’t poor people be satisfied?’

Tuomas Muraja
Tuomas Muraja. Photo credit: Laura Oja

Much of the criticism towards Finland’s experiment focused on the fact that it did not increase employment levels among those trialed. The BBC’s report said it left people “happier but jobless.”

But Mujara says the results of the trial should be seen differently. “All those who received the basic income felt more satisfied. My question is: Why can’t poor people or unemployed people be satisfied?”

“It didn’t decrease [employment levels]. So it’s better than the normal system. Because we felt better.”

“You have to calculate it in a different way.”

The other frequent criticism of a basic income model is how expensive it would be to roll out to all adults. But Mujara believes its introduction is a question of political consensus, rather than affordability.

“Of course it will cost a lot,” he said. “But free education costs a lot and we’ve managed to deal with that. We have free highways in Finland, and we manage that. The thing is: Are we willing?”

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5 more countries that are impossible to conquer

US Army Vietnam War
A US infantry patrol moves up to assault a Viet Cong position during Operation Hawthorne, in Dak To in South Vietnam.

  • Conquering a country means not only defeating its military but its population as well.
  • Throughout history, some peoples have been particularly successful at resisting invaders.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The true conquest of a country is more than just invading its land borders. To truly conquer a country, an invader has to subdue its people and end its will to fight.

There are many countries in the world with a lot of experience in this area, and there are many more countries who were on the receiving end of their subjugation.

At the end of World War II, the age of colonialism was officially ended for most of these conquerors and what grew from that end was a rebirth of those people and their culture, which just went to show that their people were never really subdued in the first place.

And then there were some countries that either never stopped fighting in the first place or have been constantly fighting for their right to exist since they won their independence. Some of them overcame great odds and earned the respect of their neighbors and former enemies rather than allow themselves to be subject to someone just because they didn’t have the latest and greatest in military technologies.

In the last installment, we looked at countries whose people, geography, sheer size, populations, and culture would never allow an invader to conquer them. This time, we look at smaller countries who took on great powers as the underdog and came out on top.

1. Vietnam

vietnam war

The Vietnam War wasn’t some historical undercard match. It was actually a heavyweight championship fight – the United States just didn’t realize it at the time.

The history of Vietnam’s formidable people and defenses date well before the Vietnam War and even before World War II. Vietnam has historically been thought of as one of the most militaristic countries in the region, and for good reason. Vietnam has been kicking invaders out since the 13th century when Mongol hordes tried to move in from China.

While it wasn’t Genghis Khan at the head of the invading army, it wasn’t too far removed the then-dead leader’s time. Kubali Khan’s Yuan Dynasty tried three times to subdue the Vietnamese. In the last invasion, Khan sent 400 ships and 300,000 men to Vietnam, only to see every ship sunk and the army harassed by the Vietnamese all the way back to China.

Vietnam maintained its independence from China for 900 years after that. In more modern times, Vietnam was first invaded by the French in force in 1858 and they couldn’t subdue the whole of the country until 1887, 29 years after it first started.

It cost thousands of French lives and the French even had to bring in Philippine troops to help. Even then, they won only because of a critical error on the part of Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc, who terribly misjudged how much his people actually cared for his regime.

The Japanese invasion during WWII awakened the Vietnamese resolve toward independence and they immediately started killing Japanese invaders – and not out of love for the French. They famously gave France the boot, invaded Laos to extend their territory, and then invaded South Vietnam. That’s where the Americans come in.

The American-Vietnam War didn’t go so well for either side, but now-Communist Vietnam’s dense jungle and support from China and the Soviet Union gave the North Vietnamese the military power to match their will to keep fighting, a will which seemed never-ending, no matter which side you’re on. North Vietnam was able to wait out the US and reunite Vietnam, an underdog story that no one believed possible.

Vietnam’s resistance to outsiders doesn’t end there. After Vietnam invaded China-backed Cambodia (and won, by the way), Communist China’s seemingly unstoppable People’s Liberation Army with its seemingly unlimited manpower invaded Vietnam in 1979.

For three weeks, the war ground Vietnamese border villages in a bloody stalemate until the Chinese retreated back across the border, taking an unexpectedly high death toll.

2. Finland

Soviet Union Russia Finland winter war snow grave frozen
Members of a Finnish ski patrol examining the tomb of two Russian officers on the Salla front in Finland on February 10, 1940.

Though not much about early Finnish history is known, there are a few Viking sagas that mention areas of Finland and the people who inhabit those areas. Those sagas usually involve Vikings getting murdered or falling in battle. The same goes for Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and virtually anyone else who had their eyes set on Finland.

In the intervening years, Finns allowed themselves to be dominated by Sweden and Russia, but after receiving their autonomy in 1917, Finland wasn’t about to give it up. They eventually became a republic and were happy with that situation until around World War II began.

That’s when the Soviet Union invaded.

The invasion of Finland didn’t go well for the USSR. It lasted all of 105 days and the “Winter War,” as it came to be called, was the site of some of the most brutal fighting the world has ever seen to this day.

Finns were ruthless and relentless in defending their territory. For example, the Raatteentie Incident involved a 300-Finn ambush of a 25,000-strong Soviet force – and the Finns destroyed the Russians almost to the last man. The Finnish sniper Simo Hayha killed 505 Russians and never lost a moment’s sleep.

When the retreating Finns destroyed anything that might be of use to an invader, it forced Soviet troops to march over frozen lakes. Lakes that were mined by the Finns and subsequently exploded, downing and freezing thousands of Red Army invaders.

The Winter War is also where Finnish civilians perfected and mass-produced the Molotov Cocktail.

From the British War Office:

“The Finns’ policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defenses, even inducing them to do so by ‘canalising’ them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages.”

This was the level of resistance from a country of just 3.5 million people. Finns showed up in whatever they were wearing, with whatever weapons they had, men and women alike.

In short, Finns are happy to kill any invader and will do it listening to heavy metal music while shouting the battle cry of, “fire at their balls!”

3. Israel

Israeli air force fighter plane independence
An Israeli air force Avia S-199 in June 1948.

If part of what makes the United States an unconquerable country is every citizen being able to take up arms against an invader, just imagine how effective that makeshift militia force would be if every single citizen was also a trained soldier. That’s Israel, with 1.5 million highly trained reserve troops.

Israel has had mandatory military service for all its citizens – men and women – since 1949 and for a good reason. Israel is in a tough neighborhood and most of their neighbors don’t want Israel to exist.

This means the Jewish state is constantly fighting for survival in some way, shape, or form, and they’re incredibly good at it. In almost 70 years of history, Israel earned a perfect war record. Not bad for any country, let alone one that takes heat for literally anything it does.

Not only will Israel wipe the floor with its enemies; it doesn’t pull punches. That’s why wars against Israel don’t last long, with most lasting less than a year and the shortest lasting just six days. As far as invading Israel goes, the last time an invading Army was in Israel proper, it was during the 1948-49 War of Independence. Since then, the farthest any invader got inside Israel was into areas seized by the Israelis during a previous war.

In fact, when an Arab coalition surprised Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973, the Israelis nearly took Cairo and Damascus in just a couple of weeks.

More than just securing their land borders, Israel keeps a watchful eye on Jewish people worldwide, and doesn’t mind violating another country’s sovereignty to do it. Just ask Uganda, Sudan, Argentina, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, UAE, Tunisia … get the point? If a group of Jewish people are taken hostage or under threat somewhere, the IDF or Mossad will come and get them out.

The Mossad is another story entirely. Chance are good that any country even thinking about invading Israel is probably full of, if not run by, Mossad agents. Israel will get the entire plan of attack in plenty of time to hand an invader their own ass.

Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Mossad agent Eli Cohen became a close advisor to Syria’s defense minister. He actually got the Syrians to plant trees in the Golan Heights to help IDF artillery find the range on their targets.

4. Japan

Japan military parade WWII
Japanese military students parade in front of Japanese officials and the German and Italian ambassadors in Tokyo in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Japan was able to keep its culture and history relatively intact over the centuries because mainland Japan has never been invaded by an outside force.

Contrary to popular belief, the “divine wind” typhoons didn’t destroy the Mongol fleets outright. Mongol invaders were able to land on some of the Japanese islands, but after a few victories and a couple of stunning defeats, the Japanese exhausted the Mongols and they were forced to retreat back to their ships. That’s when the first typhoon hit.

Mongols invaded again less than seven years later with a fleet of 4,400 ships and some 140,000 Mongol, Korean, and Chinese troops. Japanese samurai defending Hakata Bay were not going to wait for the enemy to land and actually boarded Chinese ships to slaughter its mariners.

Since then, the Bushido Code only grew in importance and Japan’s main enemies were – wait for it – the Japanese. But once Japan threw off its feudal system and unified, it became a force to be reckoned with. Japan shattered the notion that an Asian army wasn’t able to defeat a Western army in a real war, soundly defeating the Russians both on land and at sea in 1905, setting the stage for World War II.

Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a great idea, the Japanese made sure the Americans knew that any invasion of Japanese territory would cost them dearly – and they made good on the promise, mostly by fighting to the death.

The United States got the message, opting to drop nuclear weapons on Japan to force a surrender rather than attempt an invasion. Even though the US got the demanded surrender, Japan was not a conquered country. The United States left Japan after seven years of occupation and the understanding that communism was worse than petty fighting.

“Bushido” began to take on a different meaning to Japanese people. It wasn’t just one of extreme loyalty to traditions or concepts, or even the state. It morphed throughout Japanese culture until it began to represent a kind of extreme bravery and resistance in the face of adversity.

While many in Japan are hesitant to use Bushido in relation to the Japanese military, the rise of China is fueling efforts to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution to enable its self-defense forces to take a more aggressive stand in some areas.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked not to dominate the region militarily but economically. Japan’s booming economy has allowed the country to meet the threats raised by Chinese power in the region, boosting military spending by $40 billion and creating the world’s most technologically advanced (and fifth largest) air force, making any approach to the island that much more difficult.

5. The Philippines

Katipuneros
Armed Filipino revolutionaries known as Katipuneros.

The 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines are not a country that any invader should look forward to subduing. The Philippines have been resisting invaders since Filipinos killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

For 300-plus years, people of the Philippines were largely not thrilled to be under Spanish rule, which led to a number of insurrections, mutinies, and outright revolts against the Spanish.

As a matter of fact, for the entire duration of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Moro on Sulu and Mindinao fought their occupiers. That’s a people who won’t be conquered.

By the time the people of the Philippines rose up to throw off the chains of Spanish colonizers, there was already a massive plan in place as well as a secret shadow government ready to take power as soon as the Spanish were gone.

This revolution continued until the Spanish-American War when the Americans wrested the island nation away, much to the chagrin (and surprise) of the Philippines.

Freedom fighters in the Philippines were so incensed at the American occupation that US troops had to adopt a new sidearm with a larger caliber. Moro fighters shot by the standard-issue Colt .38-caliber M1892 Army-Navy pistol would not stop rushing American troops, and the US troops in the Philippines were getting killed by lack of firepower.

Meanwhile, the Philippines created a government anyway and immediately declared war on the United States, and even though it ended with the capture of rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, American troops would be in the Philippines until 1913, attempting to subdue guerrillas in the jungles and outlying islands. Until, that is, Japan invaded.

If you want to know how well that went for the Japanese, here’s a photo of Filipino freedom fighter Capt. Nieves Fernandez showing a US soldier how she hacks off Japanese heads with her bolo knife.

So even though the actual Armed Forces of the Philippines might be a little aged and weak, anyone trying to invade and subdue the Philippines can pretty much expect the same level of resistance from the locals.

Consider hot climate and dense jungles covering 7,000-plus islands, full of Filipinos who are all going to try to kill you eventually – the Philippines will never stop resisting.

Like the Moros, who are still fighting to this day.

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