Time for a Guaranteed Income?

The pros and cons of a welfare idea championed by liberals and libertarians alike

Switzerland will soon hold a nationwide referendum on granting a guaranteed and unconditional minimum monthly income of $2,800 for each Swiss adult. In America, where Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty just celebrated its 50th anniversary of failing to achieve victory, liberals jumped on the Swiss news to reconsider the un-American-sounding idea of a universal basic income.

Surprisingly to some, they were joined by many libertarians. The list of intellectuals who have made cases for a guaranteed minimum income over the years includes such laissez-faire luminaries as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Charles Murray.

Friedman favored a negative income tax (NIT), in which taxpayers who earn less than the established minimum taxable income level would receive a subsidy equal to some fraction of that difference. (A watered-down version of this became the Earned Income Tax Credit.) Hayek defended a minimum income floor, in which the government provides a conditional income to each adult. Murray's 2006 book In Our Hands argued for an unconditional $10,000 annual cash payment to all adult Americans, coupled with a repeal of all other welfare transfer programs.

Their proposals aim to fully replace the current welfare state with a less-bad alternative. In a world where government already redistributes income, with all of the inefficiency that comes with overlapping bureaucracies, the idea of direct cash payments has an intuitive appeal because of its comparative simplicity and fairness.

Any alternative might seem preferable to the welfare system we currently have. Federal welfare in the U.S. today consists of a highly complex maze of 126 separate anti-poverty programs, many of which are redundant. (There are, for instance, seven different housing programs.) While the system benefits the many government employees who manage these duplicative programs, it is neither easy for poor Americans to navigate nor is it an effective way to deliver anti-poverty services.

According to Cato Institute analyst Michael Tanner, the federal government spends close to $1 trillion each year at the federal, state, and local levels on anti-poverty programs-everything from Medicaid to job training to food stamps. After adding in the bureaucracy that attends to applying for food stamps, rent subsidies, and everything else, it isn't hard to imagine how moving to a cash transfer system would make the entire process far less time-consuming and humiliating for the poor. In addition, getting rid of the bureaucrats who administer these programs would save between 10 and 15 cents on every welfare dollar, a significant amount.

Welfare programs are demeaning by design, because they dictate to poor people what they must spend on food, housing, or health care, rather than letting them make those trade-offs themselves. The government even dictates what food poor people may or may not buy with food stamps. The libertarian interest in a guaranteed income scheme proceeds not simply-or even mostly-from the desire to make government smaller and more cost-efficient. It stems from a belief that all individuals have the capacity to promote their own interests, and in fact are better able to make decisions about their lives than anyone else.

However, the abstract idea loses some of its appeal when one starts looking at its realistic cost. The details vary from one version to another, but even in the best of possible worlds, none are likely to save much money, if any. Consider a plan to provide a $12,000 annual subsidy to every adult above 18.

Giving $12,000 a year to the 237 million adults in the U.S. above the age of 18 would cost $2.8 trillion a year. If we add this amount to the other big-ticket budget items, such as the $550 billion we spend on the Pentagon and the $200 billion devoted to misguided corporate welfare and other wasteful programs, this plan would break even with the current system, if and only if we get rid of all other anti-poverty programs and tax breaks, unemployment insurance, Obamacare subsidies, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and so on.

Another possibility would be to limit transfers to the estimated 106 million individuals who currently qualify for welfare programs by earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (i.e., $23,440 a year). That would cost $1.3 trillion a year, an amount that exceeds the current $668 billion in welfare spending at the federal level and the additional $284 billion at the state and local levels (not all of which would disappear if Washington replaced the old federal welfare state with a basic income). Restrict payments to the 100 million people currently receiving means-tested public assistance, and it will still cost $1.2 trillion.

Even if we assume that all other anti-poverty programs will disappear (which is assuming a lot), it's conceivable that taxpayers would not save money compared to the status quo. Don't forget, they would still be on the hook for the military, for corporate welfare, and-if middle-class entitlements stay in place-for part of Social Security and Medicare. In 2012, the government spent roughly a trillion dollars on Medicare and Social Security recipients (excluding the Social Security benefits that go to Medicaid recipients). That amount will grow as more baby boomers retire in the next decade.

A cash transfer program to adults at the poverty line level ($11,720 a year) would still cost around $600 billion a year. And, of course, if the transfer extends to those above the 200 percent level, that cost would go way up.

The appeal of a guaranteed income also diminishes when judged against its ability to move people away from government dependency. There is some evidence that a guaranteed minimum scheme would undermine incentives to seek employment. Four landmark experiments in the 1960s and '70s examined the Negative Income Tax's impact on labor supply. The recipients of NIT grants tended to work fewer hours compared to control groups that did not receive the grants.

Making the NIT more progressive in order to placate these disincentives to work, as Milton Friedman suggested, does not seem to help. Pointing to a series of 30 welfare experiments conducted in the 1990s, National Review's Jim Manzi argued in 2011 that of all the policy options tested, only welfare policies that included work requirements pushed people off welfare and back to self-sufficiency. Manzi concluded that taxpayers' moral aversion to subsidizing sloth will ultimately undermine any move to a guaranteed income or negative income tax scheme that lacks work requirements. People, he demurs, seem to prefer the paternalism.

But my main objection to a guaranteed minimum income is rooted in the wisdom of public choice: The poor structure of government incentives ensures that good intentions and elegant theories rarely equal expected results in public policy. The biggest risk in implementing a guaranteed income is that it won't completely-or even partly-replace existing welfare programs, but instead simply add a new layer of spending on top of the old. Friedman learned this the hard way: After years of promoting the NIT, he wound up opposing Richard Nixon's NIT-inspired Family Assistance Plan precisely because it would not displace the preexisting welfare state.

So what are libertarians to support? If nothing else, more research: We could use a new series of voluntary, dispersed trials aimed at finding ways to avoid work disincentives while delivering payouts more efficiently and tying the hands of special interests and politicians.

But more importantly, as economists Peter Boettke of George Mason University and Adam G. Martin of Kings College in London remind us in a recent paper, libertarians shouldn't forget that "the most robust protection against poverty comes from institutions that generate a harmony of interests rather than those that foment distributional conflicts." A guaranteed income may or may not be an improvement over the current state of affairs, but a massive transfer and regulatory state harms the poor either way.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • waffles||

    Moral Hazard, here we come! The biggest issue I have with the guaranteed income is that it further erodes what little incentive I would have to work my way into a better life. It's the same gristly nag I have with food stamps, the ACA, and a myriad of other means-tested programs. They all punish you for trying to get off the teat.

  • Rich||

    Another aspect is: "Guaranteed" income can come with all kinds of strings attached.

    "Hmm. We see you were involved in an 'incident'. No income for *you*!"

  • Loki||

    The biggest issue I have with the guaranteed income is that it further erodes what little incentive I would have to work my way into a better life.

    Depends on how it's done. What Milton Friedman proposed for his NIT might not because the way his proposal would work is that you get a fraction of the difference between your income and the income "floor".

    So, for example if the income floor was $10,000/ year, and let's say the fraction you get is 50% of the difference between your pay and the floor, a person making $0 (unemployed) would get an NIT of ($10,000-0)/2 = $5,000. A person making $5000 would get an NIT of ($10,000-$5,000)/2 = $2,500 for a total after tax income of $7,500. So there would still be an incentive for an unemployed person to get a job, even if it doesn't pay that well because they'll still end up with more total income.

    Where a person might be disincentivized to improve their lot is if they were just under $10,000, they may not want to take a higher paying job if they would then have to start paying taxes instead of recieving the NIT. Not sure how to get around that.

    And of course, this is assuming that people are smart enough to figure out that they'll still come out ahead by working and not just focus on "OMGZ, my NIT was $5,000 before I took this job that pays $5,000/ year, and now my NIT is only $2,500?! NOT FAIRZ!!!111!!"

  • Alan||

    The Fair Tax takes care of this rather elegantly. You always pay a national sales tax, but you get a prebate check each month. You'll be paying the tax regardless of what you do, but every dollar in income is yours.

  • ||

    Not sure how to get around that.

    Stop taxing fucking income would be an okay start. If you're going to tax anything, consumption is better than production.

  • GamerFromJump||

    ^ This. Getting a better job/raise should be a reason to celebrate, not worry.

  • ajspades||

    A big problem I see with not taxing "income" (depending on how you define it) *at all* is that it can further widen the gap between wealthy and not so wealthy, potentially creating another aristocracy that doesn't work at all. For example, if no income was ever taxed, a person/family/family line could just live off interest.

  • gimmeasammich||

    ....Wut? So you are saying that these supposed "wealthy" won't ever buy anything? They will be their own self-sufficient lands that will NEVER have to *buy* a new Bently, *buy* food, *buy* gas for their jet where they will then *buy* shit wherever they go?

    Where did you equate getting rid of an income tax as the same thing as getting rid of all taxes? Right in PM's comment he said, and I quote, "If you're going to tax anything, consumption is better than production." As of now consumption AND production are taxed.

  • Brandon||

    How does the ACA, which actively fucks up an existing market, relate to any of the other programs?

  • waffles||

    It penalizes me for having income.

  • Alan||

    On the other hand, right now the government is putting people who can't find work on disability, so that even if they can find a part-time job they can do they had best not take it for fear of losing what little income they have - thus creating a permanent impoverished class. This is a serious disincentive for work and the numbers are rapidly growing.

    Take into account that we are entering an age of technological unemployment, in which many skilled jobs will be replaced by machines (and many already have been) and we are facing some serious issues. We could have an economy where everything is cheap but 90% of the people have no money to buy anything because there is no job they can perform better or cheaper than a machine. In such a case, the few working hours that are left would be better divided among everyone than concentrated in the hands of a few while everyone else starves.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Wrong.

    The GMI targets exactly that issue - that the current system punishes those trying to work and improve their lot in life with effective marginal tax rates often exceeding 100%, taking away more than a dollar of benefits when a marginal dollar is earned.

    Under a GMI, you're not paid for being unemployed or needy, you're just paid. That's the guaranteed part. If you work and make a dollar, you're taxed like everyone else, but the GMI still comes in. You have just as much marginal incentive to work as everyone else.

  • XM||

    Who's going to clean our toilets and prep our food if everyone can make a guaranteed income of even 1 thousand dollars per month?

  • Marshall Gill||

    Welfare programs are demeaning by design, because they dictate to poor people what they must spend on food, housing, or health care, rather than letting them make those trade-offs themselves. turn people into infantile adults.

    I can see that there are a lot of reasons and/or ways to change our vast welfare system but shame at receiving it should never be minimized. How the fuck can it ever be proper to steal from your neighbor simply due to your own personal "need"? It can't.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I completely understand where you are coming from, but how well is shaming working now? Mitt Romney, in private, made a pretty defensible statement about the number of people benefiting from government largesse and most people ended up shaming him.

  • Joao||

    The problem is he didn't make a good defense of his statement.

    He should have been unashamed and made it a real sticking point for his campaign, but instead made excuses.

  • Alan||

    Yes - in the current environment, we will have wealth transfer programs - the only question is how we can make this hurt the least.

    But, throw in technological unemployment and the challenges it creates, and this may be necessary for a while anyhow. On the other hand, once the new economy is mature it should make such transfer payments meaningless.

  • buybuydandavis||

    For the moral justification for *some* kind of guaranteed income, you can go back to Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice and the Lockean Provisio.

    The most general application of these idea comes from Geolibertarians, who argue that private property in decidedly finite natural resources has no moral justification itself, and that the "owners" owe compensation to those they dispossess of the equal right of the use of those resources.

    This is generally extended to all natural resources, and damage done to those resources, such as pollution. I would extend it further to "intellectual property" laws - abolish ownership of ideas, or compensate the "nonowners" for their forbearance in this unjust scheme.

  • waffles||

    the estimated 106 million individuals who currently qualify for welfare programs

    Wow. Fully a third of this country is in on the take? If anything this article has convinced me that no welfare state is so bad that it can't be made worse.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Social Security alone has 55 million on the dole.

  • KPres||

    Social Security isn't included in that figure.

  • Calidissident||

    Makes it that much worse. I assume that Medicare, government employees, contractors, etc. aren't included in that figure either.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    Right, because I'm over hear just fucking off in Afghanistan.

    When's the last time you worked a 100 hour consistently?

  • Procrastinatus||

    Doesn't matter if you're fucking off or working 100 hours consistently. The point is that you're a drain on the economy and markets if you work for the government.

    You working 100 hours straight in Afganistan makes all of us just a little bit poorer.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    SS and Medicare are our two biggest entitlement programs in dollar expended.

    Food stamps have 52 million recipients but at a relatively paltry $75 billion cost.

    The Cato claim that "welfare" cost us $1 trillion without SS/Medicare would be ludicrous if that is their actual belief.

  • KDN||

    The Cato claim that "welfare" cost us $1 trillion without SS/Medicare would be ludicrous if that is their actual belief.

    The last time the subject came up you disputed the number because the biggest driver is Medicaid, an explicit antipoverty program. Adding SS/Medicare only makes the number bigger.

    I know you have terrible reading comprehension, but, again, the paper's not very long and has an appendix that even a retard like you can sort through.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Read the article. The federal portion is $660 billion. I knew $1 trillion plus was impossible.

    Of that $660 billion a sizable portion goes to children and the elderly. Much of the rest are tax credits.

    I would say about 10% of our federal budget goes to adult "welfare".

  • XM||

    "I would say about 10% of our federal budget goes to adult "welfare"."

    I doubt it. And we taking on future costs that we have no way to pay for.

  • KPres||

    The Cato claim that "welfare" cost us $1 trillion without SS/Medicare would be ludicrous if that is their actual belief."

    I don't know. I think you're just looking at federal. He's talking about federal, state and local. That's $6.1 trillion total spent. Claiming that 15% of that goes to anti-poverty programs seems about right, even excluding Medicare and SS.

    This site...

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/

    says $0.5T going to welfare but then has another $1.3T going to "health care", of which I bet a huge chunk includes Medicaid. Counting that as anti-poverty would put you right around $1 trillion.

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, shreeky, damn those people for getting back some of their own money. Gawd you are stupid.

  • KPres||

    Shrike is a statist through and through. He just pretends to be anti-SS and medicare because he knows those programs are popular, and he can sacrifice support for them hoping to justify his phony libertarian-ish credentials, which he'll use to defend every other piece of the progressive program he loves.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Wrong. I oppose the Team Red statist hypocrites who lavish themselves with entitlements for the "right people".

    See Medicare Part D for example.

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Beat that Strawman!!!

    You got him good! His head is off!

    Now, can we get back to the topic at hand?

  • ||

    This is an important distinction. Shreeeek strongly opposes Big Government when the Top Men from the opposing team are in charge.

  • OneOut||

    After paying into Social Security for 40+ years I find it somewhat hard to accept that I will be on the dole if, and when, I ever receive any of it back.

  • ||

    This can't be said often enough:

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

    All of the money you "paid in" to Social Security is GONE. You paid that TAX and the money was spent giving a benefit to old people from the previous generation. You aren't entitled to anything "back" from what you "paid in" to Social Security. It is not a retirement account. It is not a savings account. No portion of your own money is being returned to you - you simply become a burden on the next generation in the same way the previous generation was a burden on you.

    SOCIAL SECURITY IS A FUCKING TAX!!!!!

  • perlhaqr||

    *looks for the "like" button*

  • Jennifer O||

    It is only "gone" if you consider any money lent to anyone to be "gone".

  • Sudden||

    If you lent your rent money to yourself to buy hookers and blow, would that money not be gone?

  • Procrastinatus||

    98% of the general population, both Right and Left can't comprehend this. There's no savings account for the government to "pay back" what it stole from you. They took it, to give to other people, with the explicit promise that you would be paid when you needed it. It's exactly like every other entitlement.

    And if it were a savings account, how asinine would people have to be to believe that this government would be a good steward of it anyway. Asking the govenrment to babysit your retirement is like asking to unibomber to wrap Christmas presents.

  • Will Nonya||

    I can see the appeal this would have to many millennials. They already think that working hard means coming in late, leaving early and browsing Facebook or other parts of the web in between. It is only a matter of time before they are in a position to guarantee themselves an income.

  • Adam330||

    So says the guy posting on a website on a weekday during normal work hours.

  • lap83||

    Yeah but he paid his dues by never being able to edit comments. Those whippersnappers have it so easy with their likes and their edit buttons.

  • Wayne||

    The problem with a guaranteed income is that none of the other programs would go away. There would be a transitional period that would go on and on...

  • KDN||

    Correct, this is the practical issue. The reason why libertarians favor a guaranteed income / negative income tax over the status quo is because it would eliminate the need for the vast social service bureaucracy, but the bureaucracy would likely figure out a way to stick around.

  • Andrew G.||

    You're probably right. Scaremongers would get the Right worked up over the idea of lazy people using the money to sit around all day watching TV and smoking weed. So they'd conspire with the Left to put all sorts of restrictions on the basic income that would require a large bureaucracy...

  • Bill Dalasio||

    No. A more likely scenario is that people will blow their guaranteed income on weed and junk food (to take your example) and rather than accept the results of some people's poor decisions, the proggies will tell us we just have to make accommodations for the poor souls who "fell through the cracks".

  • KPres||

    The thing is, even if they did "blow" their money on weed and junk food, I have no doubt their lives would still be better than having the bureaucracy spend their money for them.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    But, KPres, you're missing my point. We wouldn't have them blowing their money on weed and junk food or the bureaucracy spending their (Actually, it isn't their money. It's money forcibly taken from somebody else.) money for them. We'd have them blowing their money on weed and junk food and the bureaucracy spend their money for them.

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Why don't we just give mandatory weed and junkfood? Then they can spend the taxpayers' money on hookers and blow, the true American way to spend welfare money.

  • SusanM||

    Why can't it be both? In such a situation you know some bluenose from either team won't like the idea that government money is going to weed and lapdances.

  • gimmeasammich||

    "Raise the minimum income! These poor people aren't able to pay their rent AND jack off all day! They have the RIGHT to watch Jerry Springer from the comfort of their own bathtub!"

    /progtard

  • Tony||

    Not much on liberty then?

  • gimmeasammich||

    No, if you want to do those things then go right ahead. I just don't think that other people should be paying for it.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    What are you talking about? Choney has it on the highest authority that freedom means "free shit". Why do you think they call it FREEdom?

  • gimmeasammich||

    Tony,

    Just how do you expect to pay for this supposed "liberty" that you talk about? By infringing on someone else's liberty like the despot you are, that's how. "It's for the chillunz," after all.

  • Tony||

    I dunno, why should I pay for police and courts to protect your shit?

  • gimmeasammich||

    Way to change the subject. Since you brought it up, the police don't "protect" my shit. They are there to take statements after the fact.

    I ask again, how do you plan on paying for this "liberty?" Or in your mind are the police and courts there to protect *your* shit, or at least my stuff that you *think* is your shit?

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    I don't think you, or anyone, should pay for the goddamn police either, Tony.

    Especially since they're just another way for the state to put its boot in my ass and its hands in my wallet (or nether regions, a'la TSA)

    Individual communities should be allowed to pay for their own security, and I beleive that about everything else, too. If the state takes nothing, then we're far wealthier and more capable of taking care of ourselves and our community.

  • Tony||

    I still have to pay for them.

  • XM||

    "I dunno, why should I pay for police and courts to protect your shit?"

    Then why shouldn't you pay for my gun so I can defend myself? Or pay for my lawyer if I'm in the mood for litigating? If the government guaranteed my own lawyer, I would sue the living crap of something almost every year.

    It's sort of amusing to see libs insist that because we pay taxes for SOME things, that gives the government the license to force others to pay for everything. An army and police who requires funding to be trained and equipped is an equivalent of guaranteed housing or rent for even someone who did nothing to deserve them?

  • Tony||

    The government does guarantee you a lawyer if you need one.

    Taxes can't only be theft to pay for things you don't like.

  • gimmeasammich||

    So you agree that taxes are theft... except when they aren't. Got it.

    Weren't you the one squawking on about "arbitrary ethics" before? So only your "arbitrary ethics" are OK, but not anyone else's who disagrees with you?

  • Free Society||

    It is not a practical issue. Every issue that concerns libertarian philosophy is a moral one. And massive amounts of coercion and redistribution is not moral.

  • KPres||

    Yeah, it has to be all-or-none. But the thing is, it's actually sellable as all-or-none because any argument from the opposition can be reframed as "You just think poor people are stupid! I think poor people are smart but the system is holding them back!" Plus, it forces them to drop the mask and expose their totalitarian nature, since it's not the aid itself they'd have to defend, it's the bureaucracy. That's not a good position for them to be in.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If we could, as a people, institute such a program and then say "You have a basic income, so no more whining!" I might be for it. We can't. Further, such a program would have to be administered by the Government, and the Government could screw up a beer-bash in a brewery.

    And that is the problem with pretty much all large Government schemes; If they could be counted on to work AS ADVERTISED they might be great ideas. They won't. No planner will ever be able to take into account all the little ripples of a real economy, and one who claims that he will is either a fool or a scoundrel.

  • GamerFromJump||

    "the Government could screw up a beer-bash in a brewery."

    We already know they can't make a profit on a brothel.

  • Major Johnson||

    If I were given $30K/year by the government what incentive do I have to work? We have people right now who work hard to stay on the teat, this would make it even easier.

    How about we allow the states to deal with poverty of their citizens? The federal constitution allows no such thing, giving those powers to the states and the people of those states. I see no good reason for the federal government to attend to state issues.

    Think about this, right now states can strip you of your inalienable, enumerated, constitutional rights as provided under the federal constitution. At the same time the federal government mandates that states, at great expense, provide for rights they have every power to deny or allow. The federal government mandates that states provide medical care when that is very obviously (to me) a state issue. At the same time the federal government will allow a state to strip you of your second amendment rights.

  • Free Society||

    The constitution is merely an ineffective safeguard against the violation of rights and liberties you were born with by virtue of the fact that you are a human being.

  • KPres||

    Ineffective compared to what? Look at gun control in the US compared to other countries and tell me the 2nd Amendment is "ineffective".

  • Free Society||

    Ineffective yes. I love the constitution and the values it represents. It's possibly the most sublime document written in the last several hundred years. And I never said it hasn't stemmed the tide.

    But tell me, Hows that 1st Amendment doing? 3rd? 4th? 5th? Hows that 10th amendment doing? Tell me about how the Commerce Clause and General Welfare clause limits the federal government. Tell me how well the government limits itself. Tell me how those checks and balances are doing.

  • Free Society||

    Even the 2nd Amendment was flagrantly violated all across the country until very recently with DC v Heller and the Chicago case. Nevertheless ask Coloradans and Connecticutans (?) and New Yorkers how that 2nd Amendment is protecting them.

    Ask those Katrina survivors how well the 2nd Amendment protected them. The constitution is only as effective as the political culture of the people it supposedly protects.

  • Major Johnson||

    The 2nd is flagrantly violated every day across this nation by government with full approval of the citizens. If you commit a crime that becomes a felony over a $5 difference between felony and misdemeanor limits in the only state that considers that crime a felony you are stripped by federal legislation from ever owning either firearms or even cartridges, ever, for life, permanently.

    Then people can't figure out how congress thinks it can force us to buy insurance, or how it can limit free speech.

  • Major Johnson||

    In South Carolina until just a few years ago it was illegal to have oral sex with your wife and that crime was a state felony. If you were convicted of that crime your right to bear arms would have been stripped permanently in the United States by federal statute, with full support of both R and D politicians and voters. If they can strip you of your inalienable right to bear arms they can strip you of your right to free speech, which they've already done via both legislation and use of tax code, they can strip you of your right to negotiate wages, as they do with minimum wage laws and which they did during FDR's wage freezes.

    Saying the 2nd amendment is effective is like saying the 1st is effective because you're fine with only saying what the government allows you to say and you don't like polygamy anyway because Mormon isn't a real religion. And the 4th is doing just fine, because you don't really mind the searches that much. And the 10th is OK because states do silly things like let men marry if you let them.

  • creech||

    Wow, $33,600 per year goes a lot farther in Burlington, Iowa than in
    Manhattan. So the artiste gets a room-mate, also guaranteed $33,600 per year, moves to Boise, and lives a darn nice life at the expense of Joe the Plumber and Rosie the Riveter. Certainly no H&R commenter would mooch on this deal but we all know plenty who would.

  • Christophe||

    People moving where the cost of living is lower is not a bad thing.

    Besides, there's still an incentive to work, especially if you compare it to the current welfare system.

    Mr Artiste is probably on disability already, living at the expense of all of us. The difference is that he has zero incentive to also work on the side.

    Not a defense of minimum income, but it's hard to do worse than our current setup.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."
    -Bastiat

  • Andrew G.||

    Ideally the income payment would be taxable, and would replace all tax credits and deductions as well as welfare programs. So while it would cost $2.4 trillion, much of that would be offset as people with higher incomes ended up giving it back as part of their taxes. Given withholding, a lot of the money would only change hands on paper (or computer database).

  • ||

    ...the people with higher incomes probably just shouldn't get the payment.

  • RussianPrimeMinister||

    Neither should yo momma.

    Zing.

  • GamerFromJump||

    But they'll still have to pay in, right

    "I do think at a certain point you've made enough money" - "Enough" being defined down as far as needed to make sure no "enemies" get money.

    This is just the same problem, where some people pay and get jack for it. And pols and progtards pull the strings.

  • DrZaius||

    $2800 is a little less than what gets deposited in my bank account each month from work. As a single male it's more than enough money to have a nice car, multiple vacations a year, and basically do whatever the hell I want without budgeting.

  • Cloudbuster||

    I say make it mutually-exclusive options: you can get the guaranteed income, or you can get to vote. Not both.

  • ||

    Chuck a couple more rights in there and I'm sold. At the point where people can't call you a 'cog' because cogs are productive, you stop qualifying as human and should start to lose out on all the human rights and personal sovereignty stuff.

    Maybe some nice person will draft a 'Bill of Dead Albatross Rights' that we can all observe for the people who can't seem to qualify as cogs.

  • Adam330||

    I'd take the guaranteed $30k a year. I've never voted for a candidate that actually won.

  • OneOut||

    A small college professor from Mississippi did a study a discovered that a man and a wife with two kids had 92% of the income level if they took every advantage of government programs that the same man had if he worked and made 60k a year.

    Since reading it I have looked and looked for it again but cannot locate it.

    It's doubtful that those versed in working the system would be satisfied with the pay cut from a 30k guarantee.

  • OneOut||

    The welfare family may not have the freedom of being able to live in the neighborhood of their choice but they do enjoy the freedom of being able to go fishing every day if they choose.

  • Free Society||

    Libertarianism is a moral philosophy, not an economic or political one. If a libertarian supports something as immoral as a living wage, that person is not a libertarian. All pragmatic arguments aside, supporting such a thing is both logically inconsistent and in violation of the NAP. As for pragmatics, I can't think of a single instance of coercive redistributionism that is more effective/efficient than voluntary trade so I have to doubt the practicality of this policy, even if it was supported by the great lite Keynesian Milton Friedman.

  • KPres||

    ^ This is why we can't have anything nice.

  • Free Society||

    If something nice is coercion and extortion then I guess not.

  • KPres||

    Something nice is less coercion and extortion vs. more coercion and extortion. You'd think that people that talk a lot about voluntary interaction would understand what trade-offs are.

  • Free Society||

    Trade-offs? You'd think that people who call themselves libertarian would have understand what morality is. Or maybe give a little thought to what a false dichotomy is.

    You traded off your logical consistency and moral standing when you opted to condone what you perceive to be a more preferential version of evil.

  • KPres||

    No, I didn't. I just understand what realpolitik is. In a democracy, your hard-line approach creates a backlash that expands the state even further. Evidence abounds.

    Also, you should call yourself an Ancap rather than a libertarian. I don't mean that in a derogatory way toward Ancaps, since I share the basic moral framework, it's just that radical ideas turn a lot of people off, even while they attract a lot of others. So let's distinguish, please, so that I don't have to defend anarchy when trying to talk about the virtues of a smaller state to more moderate people.

  • Free Society||

    No, I didn't. I just understand what realpolitik is. In a democracy, your hard-line approach creates a backlash that expands the state even further. Evidence abounds.

    Not robbing Peter to pay an army of populist Pauls is a hardline stance? Seems like Morality 101 to me.

    Also, you should call yourself an Ancap rather than a libertarian.

    Anarcho-capitalists are a school of thought within libertarianism. And I do. I don't really care to debate semantics and labels, there is plenty of well-regarded libertarian literature that would confirm that for you.

    So let's distinguish, please, so that I don't have to defend anarchy when trying to talk about the virtues of a smaller state to more moderate people.

    Voting for lower taxes is one thing. Voting to exponentially expand the proportion of people dependent upon coercive redistribution for their livelihood is entirely another.

    How exactly does this sort of policy make for a more libertarian culture? How will it make libertarianism more palatable to average Joe Dependent? How would the sociopathy of the electorate be alleviated? Please share your insight to answer such questions because I stand aghast when someone proposes these ideas and then call it liberty.

  • KPres||

    "How exactly does this sort of policy make for a more libertarian culture?"

    It will if it came from libertarians. A lot of people don't really think much about politics, they just follow a banner, and they usually follow the banner that's winning (that's not a knock against them, political ignorance is rational behavior, after all). So get people to follow your banner first and they'll open up to your outlook.

  • Free Society||

    It will if it came from libertarians. A lot of people don't really think much about politics, they just follow a banner, and they usually follow the banner that's winning (that's not a knock against them, political ignorance is rational behavior, after all). So get people to follow your banner first and they'll open up to your outlook.

    It defeats the entire purpose! You want to attract people to libertarianism by advocating socialism?

    When something marketed as libertarianism espouses positions antithetical to liberty it ceases to be libertarian and to try that as a method for enhancing liberty is completely absurd. Coercive socialism as a vehicle towards liberty is nonsensical.

    If it were popular to advocate a genocide, and some group of self-described libertarians decided to support a genocidal policy to gain some popularity, would that group qualify as libertarian? Would they be furthering the cause of liberty?

  • KPres||

    "I don't really care to debate semantics and labels, there is plenty of well-regarded libertarian literature that would confirm that for you."

    But see, nobody reads the literature. Most people have just a vague sense of what these words mean, if they have any idea at all. If I'm debating a social democrat from a minarchist position, I can win. If I debate a totalitarian communist from an anarchist position, I can win. But if I debate a social democrat from an anarchist position, I lose. The social democrats know this, so they just reframe all of my arguments as if I was an anarchist and all of the sudden I'm on the defensive. And winning matters, because it gets people on the right side of the status quo. So, in the popular mind, let libertarian mean minarchist and an-cap mean anarchist.

  • Free Society||

    But see, nobody reads the literature. Most people have just a vague sense of what these words mean, if they have any idea at all.

    You yourself seem to have a vague sense of what these words mean, if any at all. You would misrepresent notions of liberty and feed the leviathan of ignorance in an effort to increase liberty. That doesn't strike you as profoundly illogical?

    And just because "no one" reads the literature doesn't mean you should be increasing that ignorance and pretending words have no meaning.

    I'm sorry you have trouble debating social democrats. Perhaps it's because your notions of liberty are just so darn close to that of a social democrat? I'm trying to figure out whether you are a prog troll or just intellectually dishonest. Maybe spend some time on that literature no one reads.

  • Alan||

    I agree with KPres here. Morality means nothing if it is inherently self-destructive and can never be put into practice.

  • Free Society||

    Morality means nothing if you violate the moral principles you're trying to promote. Using an expansion of the welfare state as a vehicle to limiting the welfare state has no rational basis.

  • Andrew G.||

    It is possible to accept something as being more free, and a step to greater freedom.

    If you demand all or nothing, prepare to get nothing.

    In our society and world the choice isn't between a free market minarchy and a totalitarian welfare state. It is between a totalitarian welfare state and a less totalitarian welfare state.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    But, in practice, it never IS a step toward greater freedom. And the only person's "freedom" enhanced by such a program is that of the person receiving others' largesse. Sorry to have to break this to you, but they don't have an inalienable right to my stuff. What they're being given is charity coerced from me. There's an old saying that might be somewhat relevant here - he who pays the piper gets to call the tune.

  • LynchPin1477||

    You're right, they don't have an inalienable right to your stuff. And yet they are getting it anyway.

    A GMI isn't libertarian, it isn't even good on libertarian grounds, but it *could* be less bad than what we have now. As a libertarian, I'd take that offer if it was on the table.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Except, it simply won't remain as instead of. It will inevitably devolve into in addition to. When people make bad decisions with their guaranteed income (and some inevitably will), you won't see a public say "Oh well, screw you. You got your allotment. It's no longer our problem". I wish they would. But, they won't. They'll give the "Awww, poor thing" spiel about the fact that their poor innocent baby shouldn't have to suffer just because its parents made a few mistakes or about how just a few bad decisions shouldn't mean you sleep out on the street.

  • Free Society||

    Exactly. To say that this will replace instead of augment the welfare state, is to deny every single lesson in history about polities and their relentless march towards increased power.

    There is really no rational defense of this policy. I don't see why we even need to debate against the claim that it will somehow lead to more liberty.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Yes, that is definitely a danger, and if history is any guide, a likely outcome.

    The world is never static, and it seems like the trend is to get liberty and slowly trade it for comfort. But if we can turn the dial back and move in the direction of liberty, even if temporarily, isn't that better than continuing on the current path we are on? Let's say we managed to completely replace the welfare state with some form of GMI. Maybe 50 years from now, the welfare state would have crept back in, but then we would only be back where we started. To me, that beats 50 years of continued welfare-state failure. And maybe, just maybe, we could break the cycle, or at least extend a period of relative freedom and smaller government (relative to what we have now).

  • Bill Dalasio||

    But if we can turn the dial back and move in the direction of liberty, even if temporarily, isn't that better than continuing on the current path we are on?

    But, this isn't expanding liberty. It's simply expanding the privilege of those extracting my stuff at gunpoint. A system expanding liberty would be one which rendered their theft as unpleasant as humanly possible.

    Let's say we managed to completely replace the welfare state with some form of GMI. Maybe 50 years from now, the welfare state would have crept back in, but then we would only be back where we started.

    Except it wouldn't be fifty years. It would be more like five or ten. And no, we wouldn't be "only be back where we started". We'd have both the welfare system and this additional system of tribute to the non-productive.

    And maybe, just maybe, we could break the cycle, or at least extend a period of relative freedom and smaller government

    Except a systematic creation of a universal entitlement defined merely by one's existence is NOT a recipe for relative freedom and smaller government.

  • LynchPin1477||

    There is a reason I said "in the direction of liberty". If this resulted in less government spending, less bureaucratic rules, and more freedom of choice for people on welfare (yes, that enters into my calculus), then it is moving in the direction of liberty.

    50 years was a throw away number used to illustrate a point. I think it would be longer than 5 years. Maybe 10 for things to start to creeping back in. The exact number isn't central to my argument.

    Look, I'm not arguing that this a great idea and we should all love it. I'm arguing that it *could* be less bad than what we have now, and therefore it's a start. And it *could* be politically palatable to the rest of the country. "Fuck off slaver" isn't politically palatable, so it's a non-starter. And so it basically cedes control over the direction of welfare spending to the progressives who want to go full European socialist with it.

  • Free Society||

    There is a reason I said "in the direction of liberty". If this resulted in less government spending, less bureaucratic rules, and more freedom of choice for people on welfare (yes, that enters into my calculus), then it is moving in the direction of liberty.

    Selling socialism with a libertarian label on it will not increase liberty. It will not further the cause of liberty and it will not teach people the value of liberty. Why in the world, do so many self-described libertarians think political expedience trumps moral constraints and logical consistency.

    It's raining psuedo-liberty on the Reason staff and on these boards.
    Why don't you guys just write some op-eds to MediaMatters and Salon.com about how socialists were right all along and you repent your for your former allegiance to the cause of liberty.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Why in the world, do so many self-described libertarians think political expedience trumps moral constraints and logical consistency.

    I think I explained my reasoning pretty well down below in response to one of your posts.

    Why don't you guys just write some op-eds to MediaMatters and Salon.com about how socialists were right all along and you repent your for your former allegiance to the cause of liberty.

    Careful, you're starting to sound like an anti-Tony.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    And so it basically cedes control over the direction of welfare spending to the progressives who want to go full European socialist with it.

    And your "alternative" is to institute a system where some portion everyone's work must be put into a pot to provide everyone else a "guaranteed income" completely divorced from any productive activity. And you admit that doing so isn't going to relieve the bureaucratic drift to European socialism from the welfare state in any case. Sorry, all you're doing is turbo-charging the process.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I would like to see something like a GMI tied to work, be very small, and structured in such a way that it minimizes disincentives to work. Scratch that. I'd like to see a system of private charity and to get the government out of it. But until that day, the right form of GMI is vastly preferable to what we have now.

    Remember, we aren't comparing a GMI of some form to libertopia. We are comparing it to the world as it exists.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    If this resulted in less government spending...then it is moving in the direction of liberty.
    Except it doesn't move in the direction of less government spending. It's creating a brand new universal entitlement. Saying, oh, but we'll cut the other for a few years is NOT a recipe for reduced spending.

    If this resulted in ....less bureaucratic rules...then it is moving in the direction of liberty.

    Less bureaucratic rules for WHOM?

    If this resulted in...more freedom of choice for people on welfare (yes, that enters into my calculus), then it is moving in the direction of liberty.

    And now we arrive at the crux of your argument. And it's the point I disagree with. You don't have an inalienable right to other people's money. The freedom of choice you're talking about isn't a protection of anyone's natural liberty, but simply a more favorable set of terms amongst those looting others. As long as it's me getting looted, I'm not all that concerned about how sweet a deal the respective looters get out of the deal. It's only an increase in freedom if you take my being sacrificed on the alter of their rapaciousness as a given and take the presumption that I'm only a useful victim. I ought to have no say in the matter.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Except it doesn't move in the direction of less government spending.

    If real spending goes down, then yes it does.

    Less bureaucratic rules for WHOM?

    Everyone, that is the point. There is some well defined formula that ties income level to payments, with some simple rules like having a job. And then payments go out. That would require vastly less bureaucracy than what we have now.

    You don't have an inalienable right to other people's money.

    We don't disagree on this in the slightest. But your larger argument is undoubtedly a reasonable one. It is totally natural for you to want to have a say in how people are spending your tax dollars. The reason I think a GMI is less bad than, say, a voucher system is because 1) it requires less bureaucratic overhead and 2) it provides less opportunity for government to decide what is and isn't good for the poor. Some poor people will make bad choices, but some might use the payments to get an education, start a business, or invest in their children's future. That can help break the cycle of poverty. I don't see the same opportunities being as readily available with a voucher system, a perverted version of which we kind of have now. Hence, I think a GMI would be less objectionable. But I see both sides here.

  • Free Society||

    We don't disagree on this in the slightest. But your larger argument is undoubtedly a reasonable one. It is totally natural for you to want to have a say in how people are spending your tax dollars

    I don't just want a say in how my money is spent, I want to the final and only authority on that. I do not consent to being robbed even if it's called something else and perpetrated by "the people".

    What evidence do you have to show how a big unprecedented government programs will limit themselves and will not grow in the future? Or that it would result in a real decrease of spending? Here's your chance to peruse through old Tony posts to use one of his arguments about the efficiency and trustworthiness of government.

  • LynchPin1477||

    There is no permanent solution to authoritarianism. None. Societies are dynamic and you are going to always have an ebb and flow between greater and lesser freedom. Minarchism can't stop that, anarchism can't stop that. The best you can hope for is to find a system that can defend freedom for a while, practically I would say that a few generations is probably the best you can do. And really, the system is less important than the character of the people that control it.

    So I make no argument or pretense that government programs will limit themselves. They won't. But that is also an impossible standard to meet, so if that is what you demand, then there are zero solutions.

  • Free Society||

    So I make no argument or pretense that government programs will limit themselves. They won't. But that is also an impossible standard to meet, so if that is what you demand, then there are zero solutions.

    You said it yourself that the system is less important than the character of the people that control it (political culture). Creating legions of dependents will not infuse the culture with a sense of liberty.

    For you to say that without a big massive government program there are zero solutions, is to make and confirm every fallacious argument made by progressives and socialists.

  • OneOut||

    30k a year guaranteed
    free Obamacare
    free phone
    What else that doesn't directly fall under gov direct pay programs ?

    If I'm allowed to retain any assets I already have

    I'm In

  • ||

    The exact number isn't central to my argument.

    I agree.

    Let's say we managed to completely replace the welfare state with some form of GMI.

    This is a nearly impossible hypothetical to begin with. You won't get rid of the welfare state. You'll get GMI with SS or a GMI/SS hybrid (or medicair/medicaid or food stamps...) or a GMI for the layperson and GMI+pension for the gov't employees and contractors.

    Additionally, others have made the point, besides the principle of theft, there's an issue of dependence. In this regard, taking 100M off welfare by putting 300M on GMI is counter-productive. In this regard, classicly, the notion of welfare only gets traction with a large portion of the population as a safety net and for niche applications not as a broad spectrum source of guaranteed income.

    GMI is as foreign a concept to the average voter as a zero welfare state.

  • Alan||

    As for children - give the basic income to everyone regardless of age and let children decide where they want to live - and all but the youngest will quickly figure out whether it is better to live with grandma, or Aunt Betty, or the weird but friendly guy who lives down the street than with their parents. I expect parents would have to fuck up pretty severely before most kids would leave them, but the kids will figure out their best options better than any bureaucrat can - and if they have their own income, they'll be empowered to.

  • OneOut||

    I don't think most teenagers are able to make that decision in their own true best interests.

  • LibertarianX||

    They are legaly adults at 18. If they can't make these decisions they haven't been raised very well. Because whether they make the decisions well or not, they are responsible for them.

  • Jennifer O||

    You forget history. If you knew history, you would know it was in your best interest to let some people have some of your stuff.

    Call it insurance against the mob and rebellion, who if driven that far, will take ALL your stuff.

  • Bubba Jones||

    The problem is that a guaranteed income doesn't really replace Medicaid in a useful way. You still need someone to administer the healthcare.

    For the basic income to make sense, it can't disincent work. But at the same time it needs some sort of income-based phase out. Either reduction in payment or increase in tax rate that will by definition disincent work.

  • KDN||

    The problem is that a guaranteed income doesn't really replace Medicaid in a useful way. You still need someone to administer the healthcare.

    Agreed. Instituting such a system would require a complete overhaul of the healthcare payment system to make it based around consumer choice instead of third party payers (which should happen anyway).

    For the basic income to make sense, it can't disincent work. But at the same time it needs some sort of income-based phase out. Either reduction in payment or increase in tax rate that will by definition disincent work.

    Also true, but that's built into the negative income tax system. I prefer that the NIT base rate to be low enough that it provides basic necessities (i.e. rice and beans plus a room in a boarding house) and phases out at the same marginal rate as the income tax. Just saying "everyone gets $20k! Hooray!" is stupid.

  • Free Society||

    A socialist by any other name would smell as foul.

  • KDN||

    Shrug. I'd prefer nothing at all, but I'm aware that it's a complete impossibility barring a massive sea change in culture or the establishment of a brand new state. Since culture moves slowly and is at least partially influenced by policy, and since I don't plan on seasteading or moving to an asteroid anytime soon, I'll settle for incremental improvements.

  • Free Society||

    I don't see how supporting this massive expansion of the welfare state is an incremental improvement. Nor do I see how putting every man and woman on the doll is going to make our political culture more libertarian or make libertarianism easier to sell. Quite the opposite will happen. But pragmatics aren't really the issue.

    I'd prefer if you didn't murder my whole family. I'd also prefer if you didn't murder just a few members of my family. Neither proposition is more moral than the other. And by condoning or even acquiescing to the most preferential of two immoral propositions, is itself an immoral act.

  • Robert||

    Nor do I see how putting every man and woman on the doll is going to make our political culture more libertarian or make libertarianism easier to sell.

    No, but it would keep everyone occupied.

    Inflatable or rag?
  • KPres||

    "I'll settle for incremental improvements."

    Heretic!

  • Jennifer O||

    So where did the government of Louis XVI go wrong, in your opinion?

  • OneOut||

    Very many would not work unless the pay was well above 20k.

    I would not. Life is short and there is no reason to go to a job everyday when you could go fishing if the lifestyle is comparable.

    I like the idea of doing away with the overlapping bureaucracy though.

  • Adam330||

    Huh? There are these things called insurance companies that sell a product called health insurance that is pretty much the same thing as medicaid (but better). Medicaid doesn't administer healthcare. It just pays medical bills.

  • Alan||

    The Fair Tax does this pretty well. Everyone pays the same sales tax, but gets a prebate equal the amount of tax that someone at a poverty level would pay. Instant progressive taxation combined with tax simplification that would get rid of a major drain on the economy (tax compliance and administration costs) - and little disincentive to work.

    Though with the prospect of technological unemployment and decreased opportunities for human labor, we may wish to create some disincentives for work anyway.

  • jonl||

    Guaranteed income may seem practical but, like a sales tax, taxes on income is theft and should be removed. We should tax the earth's worth e.g. LVT, severance of resources, and share it equally i.e., citizens dividend. Each person must compensate those whose access he impairs when he monopolizes, depletes, pollutes, or congests a natural commons.

  • ||

    So what are libertarians to support? If nothing else, more research

    WTF, No! Constitution and common law has all the research required; taking from those who have or have earned without their consent is theft. Always. Every time. The intent of the theft, NIT, living wages, or JSFs made of gold, doesn't justify or fix the theft.

    Find a way to get it or make it work without stealing. If you're currently stealing to make a welfare system(s) work, find a way to stop.

  • Hyperion||

    That's more than $33k a year. For a couple, it's a guaranteed income of $67,000 year, for doing nothing.

    Which begs the question. After this is implemented, who will have any incentive to work? Why would a couple who are currently making 60k a year, combined income, and having to maybe pay for childcare expenses, 2 cars, gas to drive to work and back, choose to keep working?

    This is a guaranteed way to 80% unemployment. Better get those robots up to speed fast, because there will be one left to perform any manual labor, in the county, period.

  • Adam330||

    Precisely. More than 60% of households already make less than 67,000 a year.

  • jonl||

    From Wikipedia, In 2007 the grossmedian household incomein Switzerland was an estimated 137,094USDatPurchasing power paritywhile the median income was 95,824 USD

  • Andrew G.||

    Because the resulting inflation will make $67,000 worthless? :)

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    yep

  • Loki||

    Why would a couple who are currently making 60k a year, combined income, and having to maybe pay for childcare expenses, 2 cars, gas to drive to work and back, choose to keep working?

    Because then they'd be able to make 127K (67K+60K) a year? And because as Andrew G. points out, they'll need it to make up for inflation?

    Also, in Switzerland, IIRC, the average income tax rate is something like 50% or more, and if the gauranteed income payment is counted towards their income, then after taxes they'd end up giving most if not all of that 67K right back to the government anyway. Though I'm not sure if the Swiss proposal would tax that "guaranteed income" or if that money would be handed out tax free. But your fictional couple would probably still end up with higher aftertax income if they keep working in addition to the guaranteed income.

  • Jennifer O||

    We work for personal satisfaction, not money. That's just a way of keeping score. Those of us inspired by hard work will make greater incomes as an outcome.

    And all of us will still want to outdo our neighbors.

    Many, many people work in spite of not needing to - myself included.

  • sarcasmic||

    Those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

  • Free Society||

    So what are libertarians to support? If nothing else, more research: We could use a new series of voluntary, dispersed trials aimed at finding ways to avoid work disincentives while delivering payouts more efficiently and tying the hands of special interests and politicians.

    I can't believe I'm having to tell a member of the Reason staff this; What to support? How about morality? How about libertarians throw their support behind not stealing, kidnapping and murdering others? How much research do you need to do in order to come to the conclusion that those things are immoral?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Here is reality: there is always going to be some portion of the population that makes bad choices or lacks the skills and work ethic to raise themselves out of poverty. In a society as wealthy as ours, there will also be a segment of the population that has no moral qualms about using government tax dollars to try to alleviate poverty for those people, and in fact a fair number of people will pat themselves on the back for it. Right now, those types of people outnumber libertarians and small-government types by a wide margin. So you can talk about morality all you want, and I applaud you for it, because I agree with the moral sentiment, but it won't do a damn bit of good as long as a substantial portion of the population doesn't share our moral values.

    So what to do? Number one is to try and change the culture, try to change people's sense of morality on a large scale. But that isn't easy, hell it might not even be possible on the scale necessary to make a difference. It sure as heck isn't going to happen in the short term. And being an absolutist, while it might make you feel good, isn't going to help when it comes to changing hearts and minds. Most people in the country right now look down on absolutists and don't take them seriously.

  • LynchPin1477||

    So, in the meantime, I think it makes sense to try and make a bad system less bad. We should be clear -- as libertarians we don't think ideas like a GMI are "good", we just think they are less bad, but if less bad is all we can get, then I think we should take it.

    And let me be clear: I think people with an absolute approach, like yourself, are really important. You keep the debate anchored in strong principles. But that isn't going to move our culture and government forward towards greater freedom. Recognizing that, and recognizing the practical value of people who are willing to take an incremental approach without calling them socialist-lite or claiming that they support theft and murder, would be a good thing.

  • Tony||

    In the end aren't you saying that the most moral system is one that punishes people for what you call making bad choices--by starving them?

    What about the disabled? Poor children? Others for whom choice isn't a factor?

  • LynchPin1477||

    I just farted.

  • Free Society||

    @Tony

    What about the disabled? Poor children? Others for whom choice isn't a factor?

    Well obviously violence is the answer. Because what the fuck else could the answer be?

  • Tony||

    It takes a village? Which is not really a shocking answer considering civilization figured it out thousands of fucking years ago, with only libertarians not getting the memo.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Boy, I am really gassy today. I just farted *again*.

  • DH||

    Is Tony actually Melissa Harris-Perry? You decide.....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qtpdSQox0

  • Free Society||

    It takes a village? Which is not really a shocking answer considering civilization figured it out thousands of fucking years ago, with only libertarians not getting the memo.

    So a community just isn't a community unless everyone is violently compelled to join it. Yeah I guess libertarians never did quite figure out how you can rely on the conventional wisdom of a thousand years ago.

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    I dunno Tony, what are you doing to alleviate those issues? Oh, right, you just lick the boots of the thugs that beat people into paying guilt tributes to the welfare state. Nevermind that for many of the "choice isn't a factor" folks, just dumping more money on their heads doesn't help a bit.

    How about we find a solution (however imperfect it may be) that involves voluntary contribution and charity rather than emoting do-gooders prodding scary men with guns to force us to pay guilt tributes to the leviathan.

  • Tony||

    Actually just giving people money tends to improve a lot of things. I realize that your politics stems inherently from a prejudice that poor people are bad at life, that poverty is a moral vice (and wealth a virtue), but you'd be amazed by how people simply not being poor leads them to make better, more careful choices.

  • OneOut||

    You should give them any tuition money you are wasting.

  • Free Society||

    but you'd be amazed by how people simply not being poor leads them to make better, more careful choices.

    You'd be amazed at how careless people are with other people's money, as has been proven repeatedly.

    Poverty is a terrible thing caused by the ignorance of people like you.

  • Jennifer O||

    I just love that new word going about - "thugs". Where did you get it from? All these people spontaneously picking it up.

    You rarely heard it 2 years ago. It must be contagious.

  • Free Society||

    So what to do? Number one is to try and change the culture, try to change people's sense of morality on a large scale. But that isn't easy, hell it might not even be possible on the scale necessary to make a difference. It sure as heck isn't going to happen in the short term. And being an absolutist, while it might make you feel good, isn't going to help when it comes to changing hearts and minds.

    Great point, to teach people the value of liberty you should become shills for massive redistributionism and invalidate every sensible argument for liberty you've ever made. Nothing says liberty like advocating socialism. And it's only an absolutist worthy of scorn who would dare be intellectually honest and logically consistent.

    And let me be clear: I think people with an absolute approach, like yourself, are really important. You keep the debate anchored in strong principles.

    I appreciate your appreciation, but I think what you are doing is setting back the cause of liberty for an indefinite amount of time. I am not an "absolutist" because it makes me feel good, I take the positions you describe as absolutism because I seek truth and will not yield or lend credence to fallacious reasoning and injustice. Selling socialism and calling it liberty is just absurd. It amazes me that this even up for debate within a group of people who so value liberty.

  • LynchPin1477||

    but I think what you are doing is setting back the cause of liberty for an indefinite amount of time

    Fair enough, but I disagree. Large numbers of people won't turn towards liberty unless they see real world examples of less bureaucracy, less spending, and less government interference and distortion delivering tangible benefits. I think that a GMI has the *potential* to deliver on those things, if done in the right way.

    The moral arguments simply won't get that far with the average American. So, respectfully, I don't think your stance does anything to advance the cause. Rather, it causes it to stagnate, and as a result, libertarian ideas get left behind.

    And I just want to be clear, every single time, without fail, that I have discussed a GMI or some other welfare program with a progressive, or just about anyone else, I make it very clear that I think a system of private charity is vastly preferable for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is that it is more moral. I should have done that here from the beginning. But I can advocate, passionately, for a truly libertarian approach to welfare while still admitting a GMI is a potential improvement over the current system when judged against my libertarian values.

  • Free Society||

    Fair enough, but I disagree. Large numbers of people won't turn towards liberty unless they see real world examples of less bureaucracy, less spending, and less government interference and distortion delivering tangible benefits. I think that a GMI has the *potential* to deliver on those things, if done in the right way.

    So you would propose a massive government program, that would legitimize the welfare state like never before, to turn people on to liberty?

    We don't need any more proof of the practical superiority of laissez faire economics. The overwhelming benefit of laissez faire economics over any centrally planned or politically regulated market system is proved by the modern world around us. Libertarians won that argument almost a century ago and what has it gotten us? The argument for morality is the way to win. You don't teach people that stealing is unjust by encouraging theft.

    But I can advocate, passionately, for a truly libertarian approach to welfare while still admitting a GMI is a potential improvement over the current system when judged against my libertarian values.

    If your truly libertarian approach involves taxation and redistribution to the politically favored, how is it truly libertarian?

  • LynchPin1477||

    The overwhelming benefit of laissez faire economics over any centrally planned or politically regulated market system is proved by the modern world around us.

    See my point above. In any laissez faire system you will have people living in poverty. Resources will have been distributed with maximum efficiency but there is a very sizable portion of the population that will not accept the perceived human toll on the people at the bottom of the income ladder.

    If your truly libertarian approach involves taxation and redistribution to the politically favored

    I guess I needed to be more clear. My truly libertarian approach is a system of voluntary charity.

    You seem to think that everyone who says "A GMI is less bad than what we have now" is somehow becoming this huge cheerleader that just loves a GMI and thinks it's super. That's not the case for me and I suspect others. So that is a strawman that should be retired.

  • Free Society||

    See my point above. In any laissez faire system you will have people living in poverty. Resources will have been distributed with maximum efficiency but there is a very sizable portion of the population that will not accept the perceived human toll on the people at the bottom of the income ladder.

    Again you're using a socialist argument. Laissez faire economics has lifted billions of people out man's natural state of abject poverty. Far far better than any system of mercantilism, feudalism, collectivism etc...

    Without laissez faire economics the vast majority of people would be shitting in a ditch outside of their hut. The poor in a relatively free economy have televisions, toilets, refrigerators and opportunity for betterment to name a few. The existence of poverty is a relative thing, but the harshness of that poverty can be ameliorated.

  • Jennifer O||

    Poverty, I grant you, is a lot less grim than it once was. However there used to be more opportunity for the poor to make money. Now they cannot sell food on the streets or fish out of sewers.

    However, the perception of poverty has nothing to do with absolute standards of living. It has to do with relative standards of living compared to your neighbor.

    If you do not think this is true, try telling one of your children there is no more internet, no more TV, and still tell them how prosperous they are compared to other children - while their sibling plays WoW all day.

  • Freddy B||

    Although I concur with Ludwig von Misus assesment that this sort of government intervetnion and redistribution creates a negative perversity in the market. I would also assert it is unethical, you don't steal from people.

    However, IF they'd wipe out all the other entitlements, the corporatism, and the beauracracies that go with those entitlements to something easier to administer. Get government out of healthcare, Medicaid, Medicare, and ObamaCare. Get rid of the ponzi scheme of Social Security...then a minimum government wage would be an improvement.

    Otherwise, it is one more beauracracy, one more redistribution plan, less liberty, more government. These are all goals for the established parties. Which means, no other entitlements would be eliminated by Red Team and Blue Team.

  • Free Society||

    To sum up your statement; If unicorns farted rainbows I'd get a pot of gold from a leprechaun? So what? I'd be rapist if rape wasn't morally repugnant, but rape is rape and I can't support it.

    I would support communism IF it weren't an unjust system of thuggery that perverts incentives and contributes to the sum total human misery. But alas communism is communism. You have to deny the nature of government to even entertain this GMI idea as some sort of net gain for liberty.

  • Malkavian||

    Without eliminating current welfare state, minimum income is a non starter, however, if it's a trade, a minimum income of $6,000/year per head (about half the poverty line), would cost $300 billion for the poor, and $600 billion for all currently eligible for welfare. Seems like a good tradeoff for the $trillion we are currently spending.

    Why is it important? To have an honest discussion about the size of welfare state. It is currently impossible, because the moment you bring it up, Tony's of the world accuse you of taking food and shelter from the poor. Average Joe on the street laps it up because real numbers for welfare spending are buried in the maze of bureaucratic agencies. A single, simple check will undo it all, and people will be able to decide how much, if anything, should welfare cases get, with much reduced leftist rethoric.

    Bottom line - people feel guilty about 'taking food and shelter from the poor'. People don't like giving out cash for idleness. It's a feature, not a bug, so use it.

  • Freddy B||

    People don't seem to mind giving out other people's cash for idleness.

  • Freddy B||

    People don't seem to mind giving out other people's cash for idleness.

  • Malkavian||

    Maybe. It'll come down to how much. My bet is, when exact welfare transfer quantities are known, taxpayers will start actively seek to minimize them, and ignore leftist 'food and shelter' proclamations. If I'm wrong, we are all screwed anyway - welfare state will keep growing as ever before. But my hope is, once costs are known and clear, people will wise up.

  • Hyperion||

    Here's a simple solution. The US government supposedly spent 3.5 trillion in 2013. Let's cut one trillion from that and divide it up equally for each American and send them a check. How much money is that for each American? Anyone? It sure shines some light on just how wasteful our government is.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    For a scheme like this to work (I'll leave aside the question of morality), you'd need to have the guaranteed income replace the entire body of existing transfer payments. But, for that to happen, you'd have to have a body politic that would be much, much, more inclined to respond "tough fucking shit" to people's sob stories.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    People are, as often as not, on the dole because of poor life choices. That we give them a big check every year isn't going to make their life choices any better. The result will be, even with that big check, they'll wind up in the same dire straights for which we are giving them the dole in the first place. Now, a reasonable and just response would be "Too bad. You made your choices. Hope you make better ones next year." But, that just isn't going to happen. The body politic isn't going to sit by and watch people suffer, even when their suffering is a direct consequence of their choices.

  • Jennifer O||

    But at least they're not throwing a Molotov Cocktail through your bedroom window.

  • KPres||

    "you'd need to have the guaranteed income replace the entire body of existing transfer payments. But, for that to happen, you'd have to have a body politic that would be much, much, more inclined to respond "tough fucking shit" to people's sob stories."

    Why? It seems to me the whole point is that the sob stories don't come into play since they're getting the same benefits either way.

    Plus, you're too pessimistic about the American people. Poll after poll shows that people prefer smaller government to larger when given that choice. Where we lose is when you ask about each given program individually. Since each program is small, it lets the statists build concentrated special interest around each program, and if you know your Public Choice theory, special interests have an inordinate amount of power in a democracy.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    How the hell do the sob stories not come into play? If somebody pisses away their guaranteed income by mid-May, and has three hungry little tykes with big eyes looking at the news cameras, are you going to say with a straight face that we're not going to get the sob story? People aren't going to say, "Well, they ran through their guaranteed. Too bad for Starvin' Marvin.". They're going to say "Oh we have to help those POOR PEOPLE!!!"

    We went over this upthread.

  • Malkavian||

    You would be less likely to get a sob story because everybody would know how much exactly they got in welfare. Right now, nobody knows, so sob stories are possible. If people knew exactly that they pissed away $18,000 given to them for doing nothing, they wouldn't be sorry, they would be pissed.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I think this is probably right for most people. If everyone knew they pissed away $18,000 when they had three starving children, I don't think most people would be calling for more welfare. I think they'd be calling for child protective services to take the kids away. Which is potentially a problem, but one of a completely different nature.

  • Malkavian||

    Yep. This.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    If people knew exactly that they pissed away $18,000 given to them for doing nothing, they wouldn't be sorry, they would be pissed.

    For a while, they might. But the entire program establishes that $18 K as a right, not a helping hand. Eventually, the public mindset evolves to meet the logic of the program. Do we control the speech of people on welfare (any more than we do for people generally)? Not really. How about the religious liberties? Again, no. Gun rights? Nope. We don't do those things because they're rights. When we establish "free money" as a right, the fact that they pissed it away becomes incidental to their hardship cases.

  • Alan||

    Give the basic income to everyone regardless of age, but allow children to decide who their guardian will be. They'll quickly figure it out if their parents waste their food money on hookers and blow, but Aunt Betty will buy them food with it and provide them with a warm place to sleep.

  • OneOut||

    Or if their parents mandate them to stay in school and do their homework they will gravitate to "Uncle Bob" who sells them pot and buys them beer on school nights.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    So, your "answer" is to give the biggest wastrels in our society the biggest incentive to pump out the most worthless rugrats they can to increase their take on the productive. Great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Jennifer O||

    My great-grandfather was a semi-famous bandsman. His brother was very famous.

    Unfortunately, my great-grandfather died young, and his rich brother refused to help his sister in law and nieces.

    So my great-grandmother had to put her children into an orphanage as she could not afford to keep them.

    My grandmother thought it was a positive experience. But others may differ.

    How many here would be willing to give up their children if you experienced an extended job loss?

  • Loki||

    In addition, getting rid of the bureaucrats who administer these programs would save between 10 and 15 cents on every welfare dollar, a significant amount.

    B-b-but... TEH JERBZ!!!!11!!!! The cushy, do nothing, unionized JERBZ!!!!!1!!!!11!!!

  • LynchPin1477||

    Leaving aside the details of implementation, an equally big problem not touched on here is a lack of control in how individuals would spend the money. Would taxpayers be OK with cash payments to the poor that could be used to buy alcohol, drugs, guns, or non-necessities like designer clothes or fancy electronics? I doubt it.

    I personally highly doubt that such behavior would be wide spread, and in fact the freedom that people would have to spend the money in a free market, without government dictates, is one of the more appearly aspects of a GMI for me. The poor could conceivable live extremely frugally and save as much money as possible to get an education or start a small business. But it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.

  • Malkavian||

    Would taxpayers be OK with cash transfers spent on booze and drugs? I hope not. But that's the whole point! Otherwise, enjoy the growth of welfare state, while listening to Tony expounding about safety nets.

  • Hyperion||

    Would taxpayers be OK with cash payments to the poor that could be used to buy alcohol, drugs, guns, or non-necessities like designer clothes or fancy electronics?

    Are you saying that people on welfare are not already doing that?

  • LynchPin1477||

    Certainly some do. I don't know how many. Could be lots, could be a minority.

    My point was that the current bureaucracy throws up a smoke screen that allows central planners to try to tinker with the personal choices that people make. That is why we have programs specifically designated for medical, housing, education, food, etc. So even if the poor are spending some of their money on hookers and blow, your average American can ignore it and comfort themselves with the knowledge that at least their tax dollars aren't supporting that behavior directly. Silly? Yes. That doesn't stop it from happening.

    With a GMI, you couldn't do that.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Certainly some do. I don't know how many. Could be lots, could be a minority.

    My point was that the current bureaucracy throws up a smoke screen that allows central planners to try to tinker with the personal choices that people make. That is why we have programs specifically designated for medical, housing, education, food, etc. So even if the poor are spending some of their money on hookers and blow, your average American can ignore it and comfort themselves with the knowledge that at least their tax dollars aren't supporting that behavior directly. Silly? Yes. That doesn't stop it from happening.

    With a GMI, you couldn't do that.

  • Duke Trshmnstr of Stench||

    Given the number of very fancy cars that I loaded EBT-purchased goods into as a high-schooler, I hazard to guess that it is a minority, but a quite large one.

    They didn't ever tip well, though. They must have spent all their money on the name brand purses and clothes.

    In reality, I lived in a nice part of town, so I didn't get to see the average welfare recipient. However, the fact that they could live so lavishly made quite an impression on high school me.

  • Acosmist||

    Hey, what a good idea.

    Like when PA legalized gambling to eliminate property taxes, and then didn't fucking eliminate property taxes.

    That's what ratchets do. Guaranteed income + all the welfare that already exists, is all you'll ever get with this. No thanks.

  • Alan||

    Obviously, the same bill that introduces this will have to abolish everything it replaces.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Again, doesn't matter. Within a few years, the hardship cases will be pouring in and there will be a demand to "take care of" the people who "slipped through the cracks".

  • Will4Freedom||

    "We could use a new series of voluntary, dispersed trials aimed at finding ways to avoid work disincentives while delivering payouts more efficiently and tying the hands of special interests and politicians."

    You mean like Private Charity organizations have been doing since the dawn of this country? Churches, Soup kitchens, Good Will, etc?

    Even if they would elminate all other forms of government charity (which they won't becuase all those union federal workers would be displaced), how long before The Left is crying... 'they can't make it on what we're giving them. The children are still going without lunches. We need to feed them. They just need a little more'.

    If there's one thing the Government know how to do and do well, it's grow. It takes good people in and out of government to make it shrink. And we just don't have enough good people.

  • Jennifer O||

    So you agree that your children should go into a work-house if you become unemployed for an extended period?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I'll add that, from a moral perspective, this fundamentally transforms the nature of the dole. It turns the system from one of handouts that the recipients really have no legitimate claim on to something that is theirs by legally mandated right. As a result, it enshrines the notion that people have an inalienable right to free stuff from their fellows in the law.

  • Robert||

    I think that's only because of the word "guaranteed". Take that away, and it has no such effect.

  • KPres||

    Yep. "Minimum Income" is better. That way, if you're on receiving end, it's still clear that you're in the lowest part of the social strata...something most people would want to avoid.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Tying it to work can also help. Though I think it is inevitable that some people will view it as a "right".

  • Free Society||

    By the way, your argument has passed Tony's logical scrutiny. He agrees with you. Congrats, he's more of a libertarian now right?

  • Free Society||

    Most people would want to avoid being on the doll?

    That must be why food stamps come in the form of prepaid debit cards to remove the stigma at checkout and record numbers of people are on said food stamps. You do know the welfare state currently exists right?

  • Robert||

    The EITC is funny in that it's not a linear difference-between-your-income-and-some-number thing. Up to a point, the amount of EITC you get increases with your earned income; it's supposed to be an incentive for very poor people to earn more. Then another function is applied that causes it to level off & drop to 0.

    In actuality, after paying Soc. Sec. & other income taxes, hardly anybody comes out with more than a token net positive from EITC, and usually it's not even that. So the fact of its being "refundable" makes hardly any difference.

  • Tony||

    Giving poor people money does not harm them any more than giving rich people money harms them. You gotta get your stories straight.

    But I like the idea. It would seem to be an improvement on a patchwork system that pries into people's private lives. Government should care whether people can meet basic needs, not whether they're satisfying someone's arbitrary ethic of labor.

  • gimmeasammich||

    But they *should* worry about satisfying your arbitrary definition of "rich," right? Because not taking is giving?

  • Tony||

    You can tickle your ass with that semantic loophole all you want, but a tax cut means more money in their pockets, period. Why doesn't this encourage them to be layabouts? Indeed I'm supposed to believe it encourages them to be more productive!

  • LynchPin1477||

    *FART*

    Shoot, that was a wet one :-(

  • Free Society||

    You can tickle your ass with that semantic loophole all you want, but a tax cut means more money in their pockets, period. Why doesn't this encourage them to be layabouts? Indeed I'm supposed to believe it encourages them to be more productive!

    Great point, Tony. If you don't steal someone's money, they have more money. Revolutionary. You should write a book.

  • Malkavian||

    Nobody is stopping you from giving away your money to poor people, or rich people, or a mix of your choice. Question is, how to minimize amount of money forcibly taken away from you.

  • Tony||

    Why is it so difficult for you people to understand that being taxed is not the worst harm that can come to a human being?

  • Malkavian||

    Yes, being robbed is not the worst thing that can happen to a human being, but still, it would be wise to minimize the occurance.

  • Tony||

    Nobody's forcing you to live in a tax-and-spend society. It's just that most people understand the practicality of it.

  • Free Society||

    Well yes, they are. There is thing called a government that does exactly that.

  • Jennifer O||

    It's not robbery. It's the law of the land. Based on a Democratic system of voting. While not perfect, is still better than any other system, to paraphrase.

    And if you don't like it, you do have many, many choices.

  • gimmeasammich||

    So slavery wasn't wrong, because it was the law of the land? Rounding up gypsies, homosexuals, Jews, and the handicapped and sending them to camps wasn't wrong, because it was the law of the land? Just because people vote for it doesn't make it right. That's why we are (supposedly) a republic, not a democracy.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Le's replace "guaranteed income" with "standard deduction" and then talk about why the dollar amounts aren't the same for the two.

  • ziggy||

    So the idea is replacing a terrible system with a slightly less terrible one? Even if all welfare programs would be removed and instead people received a yearly salary eventually welfare programs would return and we would be left with a yearly income and welfare programs.

  • gimmeasammich||

    "So the idea is replacing a terrible system with a slightly less terrible one?"

    If by "replacing" you mean "adding to," then yes.

    "Even if all welfare programs would be removed and instead people received a yearly salary eventually welfare programs would return and we would be left with a yearly income and welfare programs."

    You forgot the part about how there won't be anyone actually earning money to pay for it.

  • Malkavian||

    While I understand absolutist libertarian position, the thing is, arguing it in the modern world strikes even me as a bit heartless. When government outlaws poor people's labor (min wage and labor regulations), and destroys their future (drug war - good luck getting a job with a prison record), telling them to go get a job may not be very productive. So for now, I'd settle for simplifying welfare system, getting rid of bureaucracy, and minimizing payouts. Once poor people's labor is legal again, we can talk abolition.

  • gimmeasammich||

    It's the same thing that happened with the PPACA. First we had charity hospitals that were treating people that couldn't pay. Then someone died because they didn't get immediate treatment and we got the EMTALA. That helped contribute to hospitals' costs, so the solution *obviously* was to just force more people into the pools to try and offset these costs. That seems to be working out beautifully.

    Government fuckups don't get undone, they just get put in the pile with all of the other ones.

  • Tony||

    Poor people's labor? Shouldn't the goal of any system be not to have poor people? We've had (what economists call) full employment in this country even with minimum wages and such. I don't understand the point of advocating for lower pay and labor standards, as if quasi-indentured servitude were some kind of economic necessity.

  • Malkavian||

    By absolute measures, there are no poor people in US. Relative poverty will always be there, simply because we are not of equal skills/abilities. What you call 'quasi-indentured servitude' is, in reality, the first step to obtaining the necessary skills/abilities. By denying the relatively poor this first step, you condemn them to generational poverty.

  • gimmeasammich||

    What economists call what we have "full employment?" Whoever they are, they should be fired. Not even you can be so dumb as to believe this nonsense.

    I'm not surprised that you don't understand the point of getting rid of the minimum wage. You seem to be advocating for the poor, and yet what you are calling for has been shown to increase unemployment. Do you know who unemployment hurts the most? The poor you supposedly are fighting for. It keeps the lowest skilled out of the workforce, hurting their ability to learn skills that will help them get a better paying job in the future. Why is this so fucking hard to understand?

    In other words, you are either willfully ignorant or just plain dumb. I've been reading your drivel long enough to believe that it is the latter.

  • Free Society||

    Yep. Minimum wage law is a policy that forces employers to discriminate against low-skilled workers. It's pretty simple.

  • MaxH||

    This article is (perhaps purposefully) misrepresenting what the 'libertarian economists' mean when they say 'guaranteed income.'

    It's not a bonus. It's a floor.

    If you're at double the poverty line, you're making above $12,000.

    You would not be getting a check on TOP of that, as the article's author suggests. You make over $12,000, so you are ALREADY MAKING the guaranteed income.

  • Christophe||

    You can't make it a hard floor without completely disincentivizing work. You have to phase it out gradually, and the slower the better (from that perspective).

  • buybuydandavis||

    No it's not. No one means that, and it completely vitiates the whole idea.

    Guaranteed income means checks go to everyone, including Bill Gates.

  • MaxH||

    No. That is flatly not what it is. Please, go out and read Friedman. He advocates for a floor - not for everyone to get checks.

  • Alan||

    First, we need to keep in mind changing technology. We are entering an age of technological unemployment, and it may be necessary to create a disincentive for work. In short, we will probably be looking at reduced working hours soon, and we would be better off with a society where everyone works 20 hours a week than a society in which half work 40 hours and the other half have no work at all.

    Second, we do not need to make a big jump all at once. In fact, I think it would be best if this change happened gradually. Adopting the Fair Tax idea might work as a good introduction.

    Third, we could get rid of most anti-poverty programs and still keep a few means-tested ones - such as for severely disabled persons. Just, very few.

    Fourth, these payments could be subtracted from Social Security payments so that those who paid in would still get the level of benefits they are entitled to.

    Fifth, fewer working hours and less anxiety about money may have other effects such as better parenting which leads to fewer social problems such as criminality:

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytim.....blogs&_r=0

  • Free Society||

    It will not be necessary to create a disincentive for work. You sound like a Luddite Futurist.

    The Agricultural Revolution was the result of a combination of farming techniques, new technology and property rights. Prior to this, upwards of 85% of society had to work in agriculture just to feed themselves and the predations of states. The lack of demand for farm labor put millions of farmers out of work and guess what? The net result was great human progress and an improvement of living standards.

    It freed up enough labor to allow for the existence of scientists, entrepreneurs, scholars, artists and an almost countless variety of occupations that previously would have been unfeasible, with so much of society required to participate in subsistence farming.

    We don't need to build a massive living wage welfare state for society to adapt to changing technology. We don't need to use violence and aggression to solve economic change. We need to inhibit political regulation of markets if we want to maximize the sum total of human happiness and dignity.

  • Christophe||

    Not to be a dick (since I agree with you), but you know what you want won't happen in your lifetime in the US, right?

    In fact I have a hard time seeing it happen in any existing political jurisdiction.

    What's your plan? Just push libertarian morality to anyone willing to hear and hope the next generation reaps the benefits?

  • Free Society||

    Yeah pretty much. We change the culture, that is our mission. Guess what won't happen anywhere in the world in our great-grandchildren's lifetime if we don't?

    What's your plan? A Che Guevara insurrection? Implement GMI to make people more conscious of the value of liberty? Maybe after that happens we can round up all the entrepreneurs and execute them Stalin style in order to make our culture more entrepreneurial.

    Or maybe we can teach people about the value of human life by supporting a policy of wanton murder by the state, yeah that should do it.

  • Free Society||

    also not to be a dick. I'm just trying to demonstrate the (lack of) logic of empowering welfare statism in order to reduce the prevalence of welfare statism.

  • buybuydandavis||

    and it may be necessary to create a disincentive for work.

    Dumb. Why would there be an incentive to stop producing value?

  • Major Johnson||

    Give them $36K this year, next year they'll demand $46K.

  • Christophe||

    But it's a very visible number, so it's harder to increase it without some level of taxpayer backlash.

    Compare with the unemployment extensions and food stamps enrollment increases. There's no way for opposition to rally against it.

  • Carnival||

    OT: A recent study at Johns Hopkins found the repeal of Mississippi Background Checks to be directly associated with an increase in murders.

    http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news.....rders.html

  • PaulW||

    Correlation does not equal causation. Fucking pay attention in 5th grade science.

  • buybuydandavis||

    If Veronique de Rugy wants to reject GMI plans, she should reject those actually suggested, not ones she pulls out of her ass.

  • LibertarianX||

    This is all a load of crap. A method of taking from some to buy votes from others.
    No one deserves a check from the government unless you do a job for the government. Cut the grass at the courthouse, get a check. Sit on your butt at home, no check.

  • Jennifer O||

    Even if you lost your arms due to disease?

  • SOS||

    "he wound up opposing Richard Nixon's NIT-inspired Family Assistance Plan precisely because it would not displace the preexisting welfare state."
    And then congress gave themselves a big fat raise.

  • Response||

    So social security starts at 18 years old... hmmm... I think a lot of young people would take that opportunity to roam around the world (ok, that's not necessarily bad) for 5 to 10 years. Then they would come back and do what? Sure, some would go to school. But taking a 5 to 10 year break from any responsibility is going to result in some seriously ingrained habits that will be almost impossible to break. And if someone doesn't have to live in the US to get that check, then living in the cheapest parts of Latin America just surfing every day is going be common place. Seriously, as a middle-aged adult, I would even consider doing that now.

  • Jennifer O||

    As an American who has lived for many, many years overseas, I would recommend that to every young American.

    Corporations like mine jump to hire young people with international experience, and some languages.

  • UncleWaldo||

    Okay, this might be extremely simplistic, but just looking at the government's numbers:

    $500 billion spent on Welfare
    $800 billion spent on Social Security
    $1.18 trillion spent on government pensions
    $1.27 trillion spent on healthcare

    Total: $3.75 trillion

    There are 242 million Americans 18 years of age and over.

    Current Social Security payments average at $1260/mo or a little over $15,000/yr.

    Shut down those four entities and give each of the 242 million Americans a "social security" check for $1260 a month. That would total approximately $3.64 trillion a year.

    This is a check ON TOP of what they earn (to encourage working). If you can't work, you'll at least get $15k a year to live on. You can work? You'll get an extra $15k to supplement your wages.

  • NuvoDev Technologies||

    Great piece of writing, I really liked the way you highlighted some really important and significant points. Thanks so much, I appreciate your work.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Any sort of BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) *MUST HAVE* three things to have even a chance of working:

    1) Border control - BIG can't possibly work if we're paying for anyone and everyone under the sun. (Reason has regularly come out against border control.)

    2) Dismantle ALL other welfare programs - Adding a BIG without getting rid of everything else just stacks a new expense atop the old ones, with none of the "simplifying" benefits.

    3) Total ban on raising the BIG faster than inflation - By which I mean, complete, total, writ in stone, signed in blood, shoot-anyone-who-even-SUGGESTS-violating-it BAN. Failing this just gives pols a chance to bribe the populace with BIG raises. Just like they do with the tax code now. (Read the beginning of the Honor Harrington series for a summary of where that goes.)

    And a bonus:

    4) If you are working abroad and not receiving the BIG, no taxes. If you don't get the BIG, you don't pay the vig.

  • Rebecca Dalmas||

    In the studies where people that received a basic income, yes they worked less, but not much less - and perhaps we work too much ( and automation is growing)- and what happened, which was also in the study and not mentioned ( reason?) , is that health improved ( savings) and children attended school more consistently ( cost effective) and parents had more time with their children ( which is another form of work that has immense value). So, if adults are less stressed, healthier, and children are attending school ( developing) and parents spend more time with their children and/or gardening/maintaining their shelter, then the whole of society is rewarded with more behavior of self responsibility which over all is cost effective. Also, crime goes down, which saves money.
    Also, we must realize that our war budget alone would support everyone, as it stands, war is usurious, it moves the principle of resource and labor into the hands of a few, leaving poverty and lack in its wake. In this respect, the welfare babies are those addicted to wealth accumulation at the expense of life.

  • Jennifer O||

    That's the problem with thinking only things that can be monetized have value.

    As if they all married for gain.

  • Mark22||

    I actually think this is a better alternative to the welfare system. But it would have to replace everything: food stamps, etc.

    If we look to Germany and its unemployment system, we can get a better idea of what is actually needed; PPP is about one. Out of work Germans get about $500/month for rent, another $500/month for all other expenses, and the government covers the legal minimum for health insurance.

    In Germany, there are income limits and you can have at most about $5000 in net worth (you need to spend down). Administration is a nightmare. It would be easier just to send everybody a check for $1000 and increase taxes on low- to middle income earners slightly to pay for it. Social security contributions probably would about pay for it.

  • Daar||

    A nice solution to "guaranteed income" debate would be to enact the #FairTax! The FairTax "prebate" would be a cash "demogrant" to all resident households, and would amount to an advance cash reimbursement for FairTax expense on retail spending to the poverty-level ceiling (monthly). Plus, the FairTax would bolster our productive economy and employment by not punishing growth. As well, it would begin reverse historic high of income inequality:
    • Implementing the FairTax at a 23 percent rate gives the poorest members of the generation born in 1990 a 13.5 percent improvement in economic well-being; their middle class and rich contemporaries experience a 5 percent and 2 percent improvement, respectively.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/9806.....onclusions

  • JeffreyinSandySprings||

    the problem is this - whatever the government legally grant they can also legally take away. That is why life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are considered god-given rights that the government can neither grant nor take away. The bill of rights are full of these god given rights including the right to bear arms, free speech ect... all of which are under attack.
    When you take money from the government you become its slave. You must dance to whatever tune it plays.
    If we didn't have the current plantation system and the democrats(and republicans too to a large degree) would stop destroying the economic base in this country then we wouldn't even be having this stupid conversation. Like North Dakota right now, you would have to hide under a rock not to be offered a job - how is that for "Guaranteed income".
    It would also help if we stopped giving all of our low end jobs to illegals. These jobs should be done by Americans. That way the money stays in the country and the employers would have to pay fair wages and pay taxes which illegals don't.

  • Tibor Machan||

    How on earth can income be guaranteed? Some must earn it and may fail to do so, may be unable sell his or her work and accumulate the funds to have available for government confiscation. The idea is grotesque! Must we then force people to get jobs and earn the income from which the funds for the guaranteed salaries, wages, etc., will be forthcoming? Soon we will have justifications for labor camps provided by "libertarians."

  • gimmeasammich||

    By decree, of course.

  • Training Semarang||

    thanks for these info. visit our web on Outbound Training Semarang.
    please comment to improvement.

    success for you all.

    PUSAT PELATIHAN SEMARANG

  • Alissa @ TeleTrade||

    To me a state must think about the welfare of every citizen of the country. In fact, the five basic needs (Proper calories of food, Shelter, Basic clothes, Health, and Education) for having a respectable life must be ensured to every individual by the state. If these are ensured then only a nation can grow on a relatively equitable manner. If that means provision of a guaranteed minimum income for all, then let it be.

  • c5c5||

    My main objection to a guaranteed minimum income is rooted in the fact it is wrong to forcibly take from one to give to another.

    I understand the argument that perhaps one welfare experiment may be more efficient than the existing welfare state. That would argue for a good stepping stone approach. But I would always qualify it with the moral case that welfare period, either guaranteed income vs whatever is the status quo, is wrong to begin with.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement