Basic Income/Negative Income Tax

The Indestructible Idea of the Basic Income

Is this the only policy proposal Tom Paine, Huey Long, Milton Friedman, Timothy Leary, and Sam Altman can agree on?


Andy Stern is a former president of the Service Employees International Union. Charles Murray may be America's most prominent right-wing critic of the welfare state. So when they appeared onstage together in Washington, D.C., last fall to discuss the basic income—the idea of keeping people out of poverty by giving them regular unconditional cash payments—the most striking thing about the event was that they kept agreeing with each other.

It isn't necessarily surprising that Stern and Murray both back some version of the concept. It has supporters across the political spectrum, from Silicon Valley capitalists to academic communists. But this diverse support leads naturally to diverse versions of the proposal, not all of which are compatible with one another. Some people want to means-test the checks so that only Americans below a certain income threshold receive them; others want a fully universal program, given without exceptions. Some want to replace the existing welfare state; others want to tack a basic income onto it. There have been tons of suggestions for how to fund the payments and for how big they should be. When it comes to the basic income, superficial agreement is common but actual convergence can be fleeting.

In Stern's case, the central issue driving his interest in the idea is the turmoil he expects automation to bring to the economy. In the future, he and Lee Kravitz predict in their 2016 book Raising the Floor, tens of millions of jobs will disappear, leaving much of the country stuck with work that is "contingent, part-time, and driven largely by people's own motivation, creativity, and the ability to make a job out of 'nothing.'" A basic income, he hopes, would bring some economic security to their lives.

Read Murray's first detailed pitch for a guaranteed income, the 2006 book In Our Hands, and you won't see anything like that. Its chief concern is shifting power from government bureaucracies to civil society. It doesn't just propose a new transfer program; it calls for repealing every other transfer program. And automation isn't a part of its argument at all.

But onstage at the Cato Institute in D.C., Murray was as worried as Stern about technological job loss, warning that "we are going to be carving out millions of white-collar jobs, because artificial intelligence, after years of being overhyped, has finally come of age." Meanwhile, Stern signaled that he was open not just to replacing welfare programs for the disadvantaged but possibly even to rethinking Social Security, provided that people still have to contribute money to some sort of retirement system and that Americans who have already paid in don't get shortchanged. He drew the line at eliminating the government's health insurance programs—but the other guy on the stage agreed that health care was different. Under Murray's plan, citizens would be required to use part of their grant to buy health insurance, and insurance companies would be required to treat the population as a single pool.

The Murray/Stern convergence comes as the basic income is enjoying a wave of interest and enthusiasm. The concept comes up in debates over everything from unemployment to climate change. Pilot programs testing various versions of the idea are in the works everywhere from Oakland to Kenya, and last year Swiss voters considered a plan to introduce a guaranteed income nationwide. (They wound up rejecting the referendum overwhelmingly, with only 23 percent voting in favor. I didn't say everyone was enthusiastic.)

This isn't the first time the basic income or an idea like it has edged its way onto the agenda. It isn't even the first time we've seemed to see an ideological convergence. This patchwork of sometimes-overlapping movements with sometimes-overlapping proposals has a history that stretches back centuries.

It Usually Begins with Tom Paine

Just where you pinpoint the start of that history depends on how broadly you're willing to define basic income. The idea's advocates have identified plenty of precursors to their proposals, but sometimes the connection can be a little tenuous. It's true, as they'll tell you, that in 1516 St. Thomas More suggested that society could reduce crime by "provid[ing] everyone with some means of livelihood." It's a bit of a leap from there to the plans being debated today.

But we have to start somewhere, and for two reasons 1795 is a good place to begin. That's the year Thomas Paine started to write his pamphlet Agrarian Justice. It's also the year some squires introduced a new system of relief to the English district of Speenhamland.

Agrarian Justice, which was ultimately published in 1797, posited that "the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was…the common property of the human race." Therefore, Paine argued, each landowner "owes to the community a ground-rent" to compensate the dispossessed for their loss. From those fees, "the sum of fifteen pounds sterling" should be paid to everyone when they turn 21, with another "ten pounds per annum" paid after they've turned 50.

Joanna Andreasson

Eighteenth-century England already had a welfare apparatus. Under the Poor Laws, different local governments devised different systems for distinguishing the "deserving" from the "undeserving" poor, and for extracting labor from able-bodied paupers. Paine was proposing something else: money for everyone just for being alive and of age, delivered as a matter of "justice, and not charity."

The squires of Speenhamland were less idealistic and more afraid. The cost of grain had skyrocketed in Britain, food riots were breaking out, and the landed classes were casting their eyes uneasily at the revolutionary violence in France. And so in May of 1795—just a few months before Paine began his pamphlet—the Speenhamland magistrates decided to adopt a new method of public assistance. Junking the old deserving/undeserving distinction, they would now ensure that all the poor in their village received an income, with the level of aid varying with the market price of bread.

The so-called Speenhamland system was soon adopted in other parishes. It persisted until 1834, when a royal commission declared it a failure. Parliament then adopted the New Poor Law, which required able-bodied paupers who wanted relief to be confined in tightly disciplined workhouses.

The commission's report on Speenhamland painted a picture of indolence and immorality, accusing the system of discouraging men from working and encouraging women to have children out of wedlock. The royal report also suggested that the system subsidized low wages, making it more a ceiling than a floor for poor people's incomes. Since then, several scholars have challenged the commission's conclusions, noting that its data were not collected very scientifically, that many effects attributed to the system actually preceded it, and—perhaps most notably—that the Speenhamland approach wasn't actually all that widespread. (Different districts had continued to give relief in different ways.) But those critiques are a relatively recent development. In between, the commission's conclusions influenced figures ranging from Marx to Mises.

Neither the system in Paine's pamphlet nor the system in Berkshire County was a full-fledged basic income. But between the radical calling for a new allocation of power and the insiders afraid their power would be overturned, the 1790s anticipated a lot of arguments to come.

From Huey Long to Timothy Leary

Several similar proposals circulated in the ensuing centuries. The economist Henry George, famous for arguing that government should be funded by a single tax on land, thought that any "surplus revenue might be divided per capita." The philosopher Bertrand Russell suggested that "a certain small income, sufficient for necessaries, should be secured to all." The engineer C.H. Douglas proposed a "national dividend" as part of his economic philosophy of "social credit." Douglas' doctrine was briefly in vogue among modernist intellectuals, with advocates ranging from the anarchist art critic Herbert Read to the fascist poet Ezra Pound.

Pound's favorite governor, the Louisiana populist Huey Long, launched a Share Our Wealth campaign during the Depression; its planks included a guaranteed annual income of $2,500 per family (and confiscatory taxes on incomes over $1 million). In the early '40s, the literary socialists H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw proposed a basic income of $3,200 to $4,800 a year. (When The Tuscaloosa News reported this, it presented the idea to its American audience as "a sort of intellectual Huey Long Share-the-Wealth plan for Great Britain.") And there were others, from the English Quakers who called their proposal a "state bonus" to the market socialists who endorsed a "social dividend."

Some of these thinkers hailed from the left, but many did not; or at least they weren't a part of the conventional left. There is a current of thought that's deeply skeptical of both the statist forms of socialism and the monopolistic forms of capitalism, and which often fixates on quirky policy ideas—George's land tax, Douglas' monetary scheme—that aim to tame concentrated economic power without concentrating power in the government instead. The basic income fits snugly in that tradition, especially when the payments are presented not as a form of relief but as dividends to the owners of society's resources.

Those third-way ideas tend to take hold in two places that aren't usually associated together: avant-garde intellectual circles and populist movements. Social credit, for instance, made a strange transit from the modernists' salons to the prairies of western Canada, where the Depression left voters eager to try something new. In 1935, the Albertan electorate swept a party based on the philosophy into power; the new premier, radio evangelist William Aberhart, pledged to distribute dividends of $25 a month. This turned out to be more easily promised than delivered, and in 1937, frustrated Social Credit Party backbenchers revolted over the government's failure to issue the checks. They won the political battle but lost the policy war. (Two decades later, flush with energy wealth, a Social Credit government finally distributed "oil dividends" to Albertans in 1957 and 1958. A Tory government reprised the idea in 2006, this time calling the oil-fueled checks a "prosperity bonus.")

Yet another version of the idea took hold among free market economists. In the 1940s, Milton Friedman and George Stigler started exploring the concept of a negative income tax. The idea here, in Stigler's words, was to "extend the personal income tax to the lowest income brackets with negative rates in these brackets." By making sure "the negative rates are appropriately graduated," he added, "we may still retain some measure of incentive for a family to increase its income." Stigler thought this would be a good way to give a hand to low-wage workers without the market-distorting effects of a minimum wage. By 1962, Friedman was proposing it as a substitute for virtually the entire welfare state—or as he put it, "the present rag bag of measures directed at the same end."

By then a push was coming from still another direction. Convinced that automation was on the verge of driving unemployment to unsustainable levels, several social scientists argued that a guaranteed income could cure the crisis. If you're familiar with modern worries about what artificial intelligence and self-driving trucks will do to the job market, the rhetoric of the early '60s will sound familiar. "The coming replacement of man's skills by the machine's skills will destroy many jobs and render useless the work experience of vast numbers now employed," the futurist Robert Theobald argued in his 1963 book Free Men and Free Markets. Since only the most skilled workers will enjoy the "possibility of obtaining employment in one of the restricted number of new fields," he feared we were headed for "the complete breakdown of our present socioeconomic system."

Theobald's ideas inspired the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution, whose 1964 manifesto declared that "the combination of the electronic computer and the automated self-regulating machine" was breaking "the traditional link between jobs and incomes." The solution, it concluded, was an "unqualified right to an income" that would "take the place of the patchwork of welfare measures." That part may not sound so different from Friedman's proposal, but the document also called for government planning and for a transition program that featured public works, public housing, public coal plants, and other interventions in areas that Friedman would leave to the market. The statement was signed by a collection of left-leaning intellectuals, from Linus Pauling to Tom Hayden, and it left enough of a mark on the culture to inspire everything from a Martin Luther King sermon to a Philip José Farmer science fiction story.

In another quarter of the left, activists formed the National Welfare Rights Organization in 1966. One of their chief complaints was the intrusiveness and humiliation built into America's welfare bureaucracies; they too soon called for replacing the existing transfer programs with a guaranteed income.

Yet another version of the concept picked up fans in the counterculture. When the LSD evangelist Timothy Leary ran for governor of California in 1969, he declared that the state "should be run like a successful business enterprise. Instead of extorting taxes from the citizens a well-run state should return a profit. Anyone smart enough to live in California should be paid a dividend."

Needless to say, not everyone liked such notions. When Eugene McCarthy called for a guaranteed income in the 1968 presidential primaries, his rival Bobby Kennedy derided the proposal as "a massive new extension of welfare," declaring that the proper "answer to the welfare crisis is work, jobs, self-sufficiency, and family integrity." Shortly after the election, a Gallup poll showed 62 percent of the public rejecting the concept of a guaranteed income.

Nonetheless, by the end of the decade the idea had fans everywhere from the Black Panthers to the Nixon administration. That's quite a convergence. But convergence doesn't always last.

A Moment in the Sun

Those converging forces might not have agreed on everything, but they were listening to one another. When Ralph Helstein of the United Packinghouse Workers read Friedman's proposal for a negative income tax, he thought to himself: "That's it. This conservative has provided us with a way to get guaranteed income." When the Ripon Society, a liberal Republican group, endorsed the negative income tax in 1967, it cited Robert Theobald along with Friedman. And when John Price—one of the Ripon Society's founders—brought the idea to Nixon's attention one evening in 1968, he had convergence on his mind. According to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's The Politics of a Guaranteed Income, Price "proposed, at a dinner meeting with Nixon, that the negative income tax and the volunteer army were the two issues that might unite the liberal and conservative wings of the Republican party."

Moynihan, who despite being a Democrat had gotten a job on the White House staff, folded a version of the negative income tax into a proposal he called the Family Security System. When he presented his plan to the president in 1969, Nixon asked if it would "get rid of social workers." The aide replied that it would wipe them out, and Nixon took the news with pleasure.

Moynihan's blueprint wended its way through the West Wing, evolving as different aides and interest groups encountered it. (One Nixon advisor opposed to the plan, the Randian economist Martin Anderson, put together a memo for his boss titled "A Short History of a 'Family Security System.'" It was a critique of Speenhamland.) Wary of phrases like guaranteed minimum income, Nixon took to calling the bill "workfare"—though the legislation did, in fact, leave some space to draw a check from the government without working. The final bill, now dubbed the Family Assistance Program (FAP), was a jerry-rigged mix of liberal and conservative ideas held together by a president who was no more idealistic than the Speenhamland squires had been.

The convergence didn't hold. The National Welfare Rights Organization wouldn't back the plan, in part because it included work requirements. Milton Friedman opposed it too, on the grounds that it maintained too many of the programs and poverty-trap incentives that the guaranteed income was supposed to replace. ("The bill in its present form," he wrote in Newsweek, "is a striking example of how to spoil a good idea.") In theory, a negative income tax could appeal to the left because it stopped trying to tell poor people what to do, to the right because it displaced dysfunctional welfare bureaucracies, and to libertarians for both reasons. But the FAP didn't do either one.

The bill did pass the House in 1970 by a vote of 243–155, and in 1971 it passed again with an even more lopsided margin. But each time it ran aground in the Senate. In the 1972 election, Nixon's opponent, George McGovern, called for guaranteeing every American a "demogrant" of $1,000; Nixon found it expedient to attack the proposal, and McGovern retreated rather rapidly. Other versions of the basic-income idea were floated in the Ford and Carter years, with little success.

In the meantime, several field experiments attempted to test the concept's effects in the real world. The Office of Economic Opportunity launched the first in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1968. That urban effort was soon joined by the Rural Income Maintenance Experiment, or RIME, conducted in Iowa and North Carolina. Those were followed by the Seattle Income Maintenance Experiment, also known as SIME; the Denver Income Maintenance Experiment, also known as DIME; and the Gary Income Maintenance Experiment, whose creators tried to avoid calling it GIME. (It looked too much like "gimme.") Separately, in Canada, researchers ran the "Mincome" experiment in Manitoba; it included a unique effort in which every family in a town, the 10,000-head burgh of Dauphin, was invited to receive the money.

In Canada, the experiment was cut off early and the records were stuck into storage; no one even attempted to draw conclusions from the data at the time. Later analysis suggested that recipients came away from the experiment in better health and that they didn't reduce their workload very much.

The U.S. experiments, meanwhile, were widely considered failures. This was partly because they showed some work disincentives, but that wasn't the biggest problem: Pretty much everyone expected there to be some impact on how many hours people worked, and the effect was much smaller than the idea's opponents had predicted. In Seattle and Denver—the efforts that got the most attention—employed men spent up to 10 percent less time working. The numbers for women were higher, but Congress didn't necessarily object if more women were opting to stay at home.

What did make Congress uncomfortable was the idea that those women might opt to leave their husbands. Yet in Seattle and Denver (though not the others), the experiments appeared to raise divorce rates by 40 to 60 percent. In the late '80s this figure would be sharply challenged, as a pair of economists at the University of Wisconsin re-analyzed the data and concluded that any permanent difference in divorce rates that could be traced to the program was less than 5 percent. But in the late '70s, the news ensured that Jimmy Carter's variation on the negative income tax would not pass. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, now a senator, noisily recanted his support for the idea. "Were we wrong about a guaranteed income!" he wrote to William F. Buckley. "Seemingly, it is calamitous."

The only piece of policy passed in all this time that had more than a faint connection to a basic income was the earned income tax credit, a 1975 measure inspired by the negative income tax. (It was proposed by Sen. Russell Long, son of Share-Our-Wealth Huey.) It didn't replace any other programs, and the unemployed didn't qualify to get it, so it fell far short of Friedman's proposal, let alone the plans pushed on the left.

You can also arguably find traces of the basic-income idea in the Supplemental Security Income, a system for the disabled that passed easily in 1972. In practical terms, this was yet another addition to the maze of federal welfare programs. Still, it had legislative roots in the FAP—and as the historian Brian Steensland notes in his 2008 book The Failed Welfare Revolution, it was "the first federally recognized minimum income guarantee for any category of persons."

As the Reagan era began, the government seemed to lose all interest in the concept. No longer plausible as legislation, the basic income was back to being a utopian thought experiment. Or at least that's the conventional historical wisdom. Looking back from 2013, the liberal site Remapping Debate declared that the idea died because "market devotees drowned out those who continued to believe that government has a vital role to play.…By Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, the country in which [a guaranteed income] had seemed mainstream a decade earlier looked considerably different."

Except that such a program was adopted in the Reagan years. What's more, it passed in a state with a Republican governor, it got an important assist from the market devotees of the Libertarian Party, and it was a lot more radical than Nixon's scheme. It had more in common with a different notion from 1969: Timothy Leary's seemingly wild suggestion that a state should stop charging taxes and start paying dividends.

A Moment in the Midnight Sun

When Alaska started raking in money from the Prudhoe Bay oil boom, officials there decided to invest the money rather than blow it all at once. So in 1976 the state decided to channel a share of its resource revenue into an investment pool called the Alaska Permanent Fund. A debate quickly began: What should the government do with the fund's earnings?

Arlon Tussing, an energy economist at the University of Alaska, had proposed an idea shortly after the oil was found. "The only way to guarantee that the money does any good to most of us," he told Time in 1970, "is to hand it out to the people. The state should form an investment company, something like a mutual fund, and distribute the stock to Alaskans." Tussing was an ideological maverick—one of his friends called him a "mix of Leon Trotsky and Milton Friedman"—and the coalition that formed around his proposal was also a mixture. Terry Gardner, a Democrat, was the first legislator to formally propose it. Jay Hammond, a Republican, was the governor who championed and signed it. And it got significant legislative support from Dick Randolph, who in those days was one of the Libertarian Party's two representatives in the Alaska House.

The Libertarian Party supported the dividends partly on the grounds that sending the money to individual citizens was preferable to letting officials spend it, and partly as a second-best option as long as privatization was off the table. "The reason we have a Permanent Fund in the first place is that with all of the subsurface wealth, the royalty income goes to the government," points out Randolph, who left the legislature in the '80s and now works in insurance. "There is very little private property up here—and even what private property there is, unless it was homesteaded before statehood, you don't own the subsurface rights." As long as that restriction was written into the law, he figured that this "money that should be in the people's hands anyway" might as well be distributed as dividends.

Almost simultaneously, thanks largely to the Libertarians, the state repealed its income tax. Since it doesn't levy a sales tax either, Alaska is the closest approximation we have to Leary's dream of a dividend-paying state that doesn't charge you anything to settle there—unless, of course, you're an oil company.

National Archives

Since 1982, Alaskans have received a check for hundreds and occasionally thousands of dollars each year. The fund remains on decent footing, though the state government is not: Alaska has been running a big deficit for the last few years, and political pressure has been building to either pass a tax or dip into the fund's earnings to make up the difference. Not surprisingly, Randolph would rather cut spending instead. (The discovery in March of approximately 1.2 billion barrels' worth of new oil in the North Slope may allow the state to delay whatever reckoning is to come.)

While the Alaska Permanent Fund is the biggest example of a political unit treating its citizens as stockholders, it isn't the only one. The state's Native Americans are organized into regional and village corporations, and those companies pay out dividends as well, though the checks are usually substantially smaller than the payments from the statewide fund. And of the nearly 240 Indian tribes in the U.S. that run gambling operations, about half regularly distribute profits to their members.

Global Experiments

Versions of the basic income have been proposed and occasionally enacted in other countries as well. Mongolia flirted with an Alaska-style scheme from 2010 to 2012, sending all its citizens a share of the money made from a mining boom, but then it decided to replace the system with one that directed its benefits to children. The Chinese city of Macau, a former Portuguese colony that retained some autonomy when it was handed back to Beijing in 1999, adopted a "Wealth Partaking Scheme" in 2008 that in some ways resembles a citizens' dividend: The government distributes annual payouts meant to "share the economic fruits" with the residents. It is unlike the Permanent Fund dividends or the Indian casino checks in that the authorities set the amount they'll pay rather arbitrarily; there's no guarantee that they'll even continue the program from year to year.

A more substantial reform was adopted in Iran. In 2010, the government in Tehran decided to phase out its controls on the prices of several goods, including electricity, water, bread, and especially fuel. To compensate for the ensuing increases in the cost of living, it decided to replace those price subsidies with direct cash payments to the people. Initially these checks were to be means-tested, but that produced public dissatisfaction over who did or didn't qualify for the money, so the country's rulers decided to go ahead and send the payments to anyone who wanted them. They thus essentially stumbled into a universal basic income after setting out to do something else.

That wasn't the only way they stumbled. The authorities eased several market-distorting subsidies, but they didn't eliminate them. (The price of gasoline is still below the market rate.) Meanwhile, they wound up committing to much higher payouts than they had initially expected. Soon they were asking wealthier Iranians to opt out of the program voluntarily; last fall they bit the bullet and adopted a means test that removed about a third of the country's population from the rolls. Replacing regulations with cash is an interesting idea, but Iran's example is not an inspiring one.

The biggest international shift toward something like a basic income hasn't been confined to a specific country or city. It's a movement within the aid community.

Global aid has traditionally focused on in-kind assistance: sending meals or medicine, helping build houses or schools, and so on. This can lead to all kinds of unfortunate side effects, as when free food from abroad undercuts local farmers. There is also a recurring mismatch between what the planners in aid agencies think a community needs and what the people on the ground actually want. And so, since the turn of the century, a cheaper, more flexible, and less paternalistic approach has become more popular: Just send people cash instead.

Initially, this took the form of so-called "conditional cash transfers," in which the recipients get money as long as they agree to certain stipulations, such as vaccinating their kids or sending them to school. Several Latin American countries had moved their social welfare systems in that direction since the '90s, and the new programs seemed to work better than the previous approaches. Elements of the aid community adopted their own versions of the idea, arguing that the needy know their needs better than outsiders do. Sure enough, the money was sometimes spent in useful ways that had not occurred to aid agencies—on mattresses, for example, or bicycle parts.

To be clear: Most aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations have not moved in this direction. A 2015 report from the Center for Global Development estimated that only about 6 percent of international humanitarian assistance takes the form of cash or vouchers. That's up from less than 1 percent in 2004, but it's still a small portion.

But while most NGOs still approach conditional cash transfers warily, a dissenting segment of the aid industry has moved on to an even simpler idea: conditionless cash transfers. The leading player here is GiveDirectly, a U.S.-based group buoyed both by the research showing cash transfers' effectiveness and by the rise of mobile payments, which have made it much easier to send people money without passing through political or bureaucratic middlemen. Follow-up research on GiveDirectly's efforts in western Kenya showed that the recipients used the money to build assets, invest in small businesses, and purchase more food; contrary to some cynical expectations, and in line with other studies of cash-based aid, there was no boost in spending on alcohol, tobacco, or gambling.

Having moved from conditional to conditionless cash payments, GiveDirectly's directors started thinking about taking another step and experimenting with a full-fledged basic income—not just payments to a village's neediest families, but a long-term income for everyone in town, one set high enough for people to live on it. Other aid groups had already conducted experiments along these lines in India and Namibia; the results appeared to be favorable, but these studies were too short-term to draw firm conclusions from them, and the Namibian experiment had the additional problem of not being randomized.

And so GiveDirectly devised a randomized control trial—sort of a privately funded Kenyan sequel to the SIME/DIME experiments. In one set of villages, every adult will receive monthly payments equivalent to 75 cents a day for two years. In another set of villages, every adult will receive such payments for 12 years. In yet another set of villages, the adults will receive a single lump-sum payment equivalent to what the two-year group will be receiving. The fourth set of villages is the control group, so they don't get any money at all.

The aim here, GiveDirectly's Ian Bassin explains, is "to isolate the effects of what most people consider a 'basic income'—that is, a permanent payment over time—from something resembling more traditional temporary supports. For example, when someone knows they have a long-term, guaranteed floor below which they cannot fall, do they take more risks like starting a business or going back to school? And does that security produce greater overall returns?"

The current plan is for about 40 villages to go on the 12-year plan, 80 to go on the two-year plan, 80 to get the lump sums, and 100 to be in the control group. To answer the first question that probably popped into your minds: No, a villager can't change which deal he's getting by moving from one town to another. Once enrollment has started in a village, no new arrivals can take advantage of the payments there. Conversely, if you're already enrolled in the program, you still get the money if you leave town. After all, one potential outcome the researchers are looking for is whether people will use their payments to move someplace with greater opportunity.

The group expects the experiment to cost about $30 million, and they have thus far raised more than $24 million toward that. (The lump-sum payments are being funded separately, with the money coming from GiveDirectly's ongoing efforts in Kenya. They expect the costs there to be a little higher than $6 million, which is within the program's usual annual budget.) One village in the 12-year group is already receiving funds—sort of a test case to work out any logistical kinks in advance. If all goes according to plan, the rest will start receiving their money this year.

Convergence (Again)

GiveDirectly's project isn't the only basic-income pilot in the works. The governments of Finland, Ontario, San Francisco, and several Dutch cities have experiments either underway or on the horizon. Y Combinator, the firm run by the venture capitalist Sam Altman, is planning a privately funded effort in Oakland. The German entrepreneur Martin Bohmeyer has been crowdfunding yearlong no-strings-attached incomes for dozens of randomly chosen winners.

Then there's Scott Santens, a writer who's been using the crowdfunding platform Patreon to generate his own "basic income," shooting for $1,000 a month. In practical terms, it's not entirely clear what the difference is between Santens and any other fellow with a Patreon account, other than that Santens calls his proceeds a basic income and writes about the basic income a lot. But the fact that his pitch actually attracts donations speaks to just how fashionable the concept has become. Over the past half decade or so, there has been a renaissance of interest in the idea.

As in the 1960s, the interest is coming from many different directions. Center-left wonks perceive the basic income as a more market-friendly approach to welfare policy. Radicals hail it as an alternative to the "neoliberalism" they associate with those same wonks, imagining a day when work is detached from income and we live in a world of postscarcity abundance. Silicon Valley figures hope it will help us survive the upheaval to be unleashed when artificial intelligence wreaks havoc on labor markets. Libertarians see it as a way to simplify the welfare maze into a cheaper and less intrusive single program.

It has even entered the climate debate. In the 1990s, the environmentalist Peter Barnes proposed a "Sky Trust," based on the notion that the atmosphere is common property; companies would have to buy carbon emission rights, and the money would then be distributed to the people in a system he modeled on Alaska's dividends. This version of the cap-and-trade idea picked up some steam on the Bush-era left, with articles touting it in such progressive outlets as Yes! and In These Times. Meanwhile, proposals for a carbon tax routinely include a provision to rebate the proceeds to citizens. In February, the conservative Climate Leadership Council called for a gradually increasing carbon tax, with all of the money collected then sent to Americans as quarterly dividend checks, direct deposits, or IRA contributions. (When British Columbia adopted a carbon tax in 2008, the provincial government actually issued what it called "climate action dividends." But this was a one-time gimmick, not an ongoing feature of British Columbian life.)

Different as these currents may be, they're often aware of each other. Silicon Valley has been a center of support for GiveDirectly. Peter Barnes has been flirting with social credit ideas about "debt-free money." Andy Stern likes the idea of carbon dividends. And the Climate Leadership Council's carbon-tax proposal was co-authored by George Shultz, who was one of the most vocal proponents of the negative income tax inside the Nixon administration.

Perhaps these tribes will manage to band together and pass something. "It's going to take coalitions to get anything done," Stern told me after he spoke at Cato last year. "Being in Charles Koch's institution in the Friedrich Hayek hall is not a place where I feel, 'Boy, I have a lot of things in common here.' But I'm willing, because I think it's necessary to find allies wherever you can."

But convergence, you'll recall, can be fleeting. It's hard to imagine Congress and the White House passing a sweeping basic-income plan in the current political environment. This is especially true of the plans most likely to attract libertarian support—the ones that supplant rather than supplement the existing system. Replacing the entire welfare state in one fell swoop is a tall order, especially if you want to include popular middle-class entitlements as part of the deal. And if you're thinking of following Stigler's suggestion and eliminating minimum wages as well, you may find yourself pretty lonely.

For all the recent buzz about a basic income, the recent trend in welfare spending has been away from conditionless cash transfers. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the country's chief program for assisting the poor, used to devote a majority of its money to direct cash assistance. Now the number is just over 25 percent. According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the remainder is funding everything from abstinence education to drug treatment.

And for all the agreement among the political tribes, there are wide splits within them too. Some figures on the left see the basic income as a form of "pity-charity liberalism" and want to focus instead on strengthening unions and creating jobs. Many libertarians dislike even Friedman's version of the idea, arguing that it won't displace the rest of the welfare state for long: Other programs could still creep back, leaving us with an even costlier system than before. And environmentalists have never been united on the best way to reduce the species' carbon footprint. Even if all the strange bedfellows agreed on a plan, they'd still have to contend with dissension from their usual bedmates.

The Incrementalist Approach

Yet the forecast isn't hopeless for basic-income fans. For one thing, there's the possibility that some other nation might take the plunge, adopting either a full-fledged basic income or a policy that resembles one. Last year, for example, Prime Minister Theresa May raised the possibility that Britain might start issuing shale gas dividends. A move like that could change the debate in other countries.

Beyond that, there are at least two ways the idea could progress incrementally here at home even if Washington is unwilling to enact a vast reconstruction of the relief system.

First: We might see a sequel to the Permanent Fund. From time to time a state will find itself awash in riches from natural resources. Some voices will suggest that the government not spend the new money at once but put some away for a rainy day. Some fraction of those voices will suggest it create a sovereign wealth fund to invest the windfall. And some fraction of that fraction will want the fund to pay dividends.

Now, there are all sorts of potential problems with government-run investment portfolios, as anyone who has followed California's pension troubles can tell you. If you're wary about mismanagement, you'll be wary about states playing the market; they won't all invest as conservatively as Alaska has.

Still, several states have such funds already—the most recent additions to the list are North Dakota and West Virginia—and the number may well grow. None has followed Juneau's example and started paying dividends, but it is hardly unimaginable that someone else will eventually adopt an Alaska-style system.

Second: Congress might not be about to pass a basic income, but it can pass reforms that make the welfare state more like a basic income without adding a new entitlement to the mix. More specifically, it can cashify and combine programs.

By cashify, I mean taking a subsidy with strings attached—food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, anything like that—and instead simply send money to the people who qualify for it, letting them choose how to spend it. In other words, Congress can turn vouchers into conditionless cash grants. If it wants to really slash some bureaucracy, it can replace actual government services with cash grants, too.

The more programs you cashify, the more programs you can combine. Right now the system is set up to ask whether someone is poor enough to qualify for housing assistance, for health assistance, for food assistance, and so on. What if it just asked if someone is poor enough to qualify for assistance, period?

Those programs might not converge all the way to a basic income, but they could at least become simpler, less intrusive, and less expensive. They might even stay that way. Occasionally a convergence can last.

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  1. Good article, lots to think about. My belief is self support. Since 1996 I have been reinforcing the reserves for my (eventual) family. All into the credit trap of the ’80s. Worked my way out by forgoing spending in order to clear my debt. Focussing on savings, particularly a pension and other retirement income, instead of funding loan agencies, hopefully will ensure my family will avoid ‘socialized income’.

    Have y’all watched the David Lean version of Oliver Twist recently. Have y’all read books such as ‘inside Job’ or ‘The Big Short’. History shows that in America if there is a scheme that involves ‘Money’ the government will collude with the private financiers to make a profit – even ‘Pocahontas’ Warren and then transfer any problems to us – the minority tax payer.

    1. Since 1996 I have been reinforcing the reserves for my (eventual) family

      Dude, it’s been 20 years. If you don’t have a family yet, you’re running out of time.

      1. Well men have plenty of time, it is the women that have that clock running.

        1. Trust me, as a father of five over 20 years. To be a good father, it helps to be young and energetic. Also, it’s not the best for your kids if you are hitting retirement age when your kids are graduating from high school (as happened to me with my Dad).

          1. That’s where I’m at. I’ll be getting to retirement when my son is graduating high school. There is so much I was unable to do with him that I could have if I was younger. You really want to be no older than 35 (preferably 30) when having kids.

    2. I LIKE IT. Perhaps some universities should create special R&D scholarships to get some feasibility studies into how to make it work while we still have a middle class and no military conscription. How will you avoid sloth and degradation or stimulate the ambition to maintain the system once you eliminate the mother of invention, necessity? Or the driving principal of capitalism,: Nothing happens until somebody sells something? R&D indeed!

  2. IFFF it could be implemented in place of every other redistribution scheme, and IFFFF the only alternatives were the current mishmash of redistribution schemes, THENNNN it would be better.

    But everyone knows the other redistribution schemes could not be done away with. There would always be special cases for extra income and hard cases to get less income and special rules for regional variations, special allowances for rich and poor districts and grandfathered schemes, all sorts of spending requirements (Obamacare) and prohibitions (no ciggies or booze), and new special cases and hard cases and special rules would be proposed starting immediately, and in the end it would be just another redistribution scheme.

    And even if all other redistribution schemes were eliminated for decades and centuries, it still doesn’t take into consideration that people actually have different needs and wants, that one person’s needs are another person’s wants, that politicians would start codifying purchases into government-approved, -mandated, and -prohibited categories.

    But I won’t be surprised if it is implemented some day. It has all the hallmarks of an innovative new way to empower yet more government control of, and intrusion into, daily life. It’s too damned clever for politicians to ignore, too damned good bait for statists to ignore.

    1. IFFF it could be implemented in place of every other redistribution scheme, and IFFFF the only alternatives were the current mishmash of redistribution schemes, THENNNN it would be better.

      Why not just reform welfare? Germany replaced all its welfare programs with a single cash welfare benefit a decade ago, means-tested and with work requirements, where applicable. The reforms were effective. No UBI needed.

      1. Did Germany get rid of EVERY OTHER form of redistribution — unemployment pay, college assistance, public pensions?

        I kinda doubt it. I really kinda doubt “Germany replaced all its welfare programs with a single cash welfare benefit “. Really really doubt it.

        1. I even looked itup. You are either a liar or ignorant. From Wikipedia:

          Social security in Germany is codified on the Sozialgesetzbuch, or the “Social Code”, contains 12 main parts, including the following,

          Unemployment insurance and public employment agencies (SGB II and III)
          Health insurance (SGB V)
          Old age pension insurance (SGB VI)
          Invalidity insurance (SGB VII and IX)
          Child support (SGB VIII)
          Social care (SGB XI)

          Fuck off, slaver.

          1. Social security in Germany is codified on the Sozialgesetzbuch, or the “Social Code”, contains 12 main parts, including the following,

            Those aren’t welfare. Furthermore, many of those programs (health insurance, pensions, invalidity insurance, long term care) are not paid for by taxes, but by premiums. Health insurance in Germany is, in fact, pretty much completely run by private companies.

            You are either a liar or ignorant. Fuck off, slaver.

            People like you really hurt the libertarian cause more than anybody else. So in your own spirit: Fuck off slaver.

        2. Did Germany get rid of EVERY OTHER form of redistribution — unemployment pay, college assistance, public pensions?

          No, Germany did not get rid of “every other form of redistribution”.

          As I was saying: they replaced their welfare programs.

          1. You have a pretty limited and warped understanding of “redistributionist” and “welfare” which only a statist could enjoy. Fuck off, slaver.

            1. So you’re saying that instead of taking dozens of US welfare programs (welfare, food stamps, Medicare, housing assistance, etc.) often amounting to thousands of dollars per month and reducing them to a single $400 monthly payment, which is what Germany did, you prefer keeping the current system? It’s obvious it’s you who is the “statist” and the “slaver”.

              As for Germany, yes, this replaces “unemployment pay”. There is nothing like the American Social Security system, Medicare, or Medicaid in Germany, i.e., no public retirement system or public healthcare system. As for “college assistance”, there is indeed means-tested college assistance, but it amounts to even less money than welfare.

              Any other issues you’re confused about? Or do you want to continue wallowing in your ignorance?

              1. Of course, college is dirt cheap in Germany, and health care is also relatively inexpensive too. These 2 things are ridiculously expensive in the USA.

                1. Because in Germany these things are being subsidized by taxes. The ridiculous costs of their programs are being hidden.

                  USA healthcare costs are actual costs (high) + subsidies from taxpayers funded ObamaCare, Medicare, Medicaid.

                  German healthcare costs are actual costs (lower) + subsidies from taxpayers.

                  1. In the case of college, the problem is administrative overhead along with providing student housing at inflated rates. Both problems are “fixable”, but not as long as demand exceeds supply.

                    German doctors have their education paid for by the government. Their incomes are considerably less than their American counterparts. I also suspect that German hospitals operate much differently than do US hospitals. Nursing tasks are performed by nurses trained to the level necessary. Overspending on high tech medical equipment is prohibited. The insurance companies are non-profit and have overhead costs far smaller than their US counterparts. The American doctor has a full staff of paper pushers and keyboard tappers. Germans get along with out all of that staffing. This is “why” it costs less. I also expect it would be very difficult in Germany to sue a doctor for malpractice. That is another issue that is uniquely “American”.

                  2. Health care is not “relatively inexpensive”: Germany has some of the highest per capita healthcare costs in the world. Furthermore, low-income earners are not cross-subsidized by high-income earners because Germany has a two-tier system in which high-income earners (the top 10%) are in an entirely different system from low-income earners.

                    The way Germany controls costs for the lower tier is by limiting services: long wait times, generic drugs, limited benefits, no frills.

    2. The whole point of the Paine/George system – based on it being funded by a ground rent or land value system – is precisely that it does replace other redistribution schemes and it levels the current playing field currently tilted towards rentiers and by leveling the playing field it actually diminishes the need for redistribution in future.

      The core tenet here is that a land tax DOESN’T diminish the amount of land. It wasn’t created by man and lower land taxes only create speculation fueled by debt. Of course that debt and the dependence on it (by both govts and the banks that create it) is why economics decided to ignore land as its own separate factor of production and pretend that land is just the same as capital.

      There is a big risk with this sort of land tax. Bureaucrats and landowners are both pigs. And both will ally and put pressure on these land tax systems to end them. That pressure is what destroyed Detroit (which had a land tax from 1890-1950) and Denmark (which had a land tax and very very low income taxes until 1960). But in both cases, that pressure was to END the land tax (which actually solved problems) and replace it with taxes that distort things and cause problems and raise more short-term revenue from the wrong sources.

      1. The whole point of the Paine/George system –

        I’d say the whole point is a *moral* point. In the absence of establishing a right to point a guy at your neighbor for your “ownership” of natural resources, you’re simply an aggressor if you do so or threaten to do so.

        The Lockean Proviso once arguably held in the US. It hasn’t for a long time, and so the justice of property in natural resources hasn’t held, for a long time.

        I would extend this to intellectual property as well. “My idea”. The constitution doesn’t even argue that government monopoly in ideas is right, it just states a desirable goal “to promote the progress of science and useful arts”.

        Is that what Reason’s libertarianism is? Violate people’s rights as long as you can state a desirable goal supposedly served by that violation?

        1. I don’t think it is mere morality. I agree that if it were mere moral argument, then it would just be rhetoric not a pragmatic basis for both funding government AND establishing the limits of it. Every landowner relies on the govt grant/protection of title/monopoly. If they don’t have that they won’t invest in and develop it. In nature, they can NEVER have that – the lion always has to be prepared to fight for his claim to territory. There is no obligation on anyone else to respect his ‘claim’ or his ‘mixing of labor with land’ – and he is not ‘free’ to pass anything on to heirs uncontested. Heirs also have to perpetually fight for their claim too.

          So what exactly is that service worth – to the owner/claimant of land? The answer – from George’s economic stuff (not his policy prescription) – is up to the entire increase in the price of raw land. Especially once the Lockean proviso no longer can work because there is no remaining unclaimed ‘frontier’. Once the frontier ceases to exist, the value of a land monopoly claim goes up at the direct expense of those who do not have an enforceable claim because those folks have lost their natural right to ‘escape’. ‘Gummint’ itself is not the rightful ‘owner’ of the land – but it is the service provider and the allod and it is the only ‘agent’ of both those who have a claim and those who don’t (and those future generations who have their own legitimate agenda if they are to be born as free as their parents).

          1. It’s a bit more complex than that.

            The real value in ownership (barring sale) is the use/right to exclude. One the one hand, you have absentee land owners who lose their claim via squatters rights (effectively losing the right to exclude). One the other, you have zoning, eminent domain, etc.dictating use, which really makes clear who the real owners are.

            Essentially everyone short of the government is just a renter under the current schema, with several questionable rationalizations to justify the status quo. And it is too much of a mess to unravel, and even if you could, you’d have a similar mess trying to work out use from scratch with similar hypocrisies.

            I might even go so far as to say the land is mostly arbitrary; it’s the contract that’s important. Compare the US idea of ownership to areas with the right to roam. You could make the argument land tax/citizen’s dividend is recompense for rights lost.

            And several support the Georgist conception not out of any moral or economic reasoning, but sheer expediency: it is the least intrusive means to raise revenue and confines state control to something they lord over anyway- land.

            1. Hernando de Soto Polar’s work re land titles shows how important that function is today and that it just doesn’t arise spontaneously or purely by the effort of the claimant.

              In Henry George’s case, he did not think that a citizen’s dividend was a primary function of those land tax revenues. The primary function was to fund infrastructure – thought of very broadly as all sorts of things that increase the value of nearby land (schools, roads, etc) and/or increase the ability of citizens to reap usufructuary benefit. The dividend is merely what one does with any surplus. So it can’t be thought of as compensation for a right lost even if in a sense it is. The right lost is reimbursed through all the other stuff that everyone benefits from regardless of whether they claim land or not.

      2. Fascinating about the land tax in Detroit. I didn’t know that.

        1. Detroit is an interesting case study. Lot of local politics in why the system put in place by Hazen Pingree ended – but a lot of it boils down to city/bureaucrats wanted to spend more via larger debt issuance – and white homeowners wanted black renters to pay more in taxes (and as a side effect increase the mortgagability of their homes so they could more easily sell and leave).

          Land taxes and debt are very linked together – since pretty much all debt ultimately boils down to it being collateralized by land.

  3. It could work in theory, BUT, I do not trust the government to manage most things properly. There’s the strong possibility that all it will do is raise the base line for poverty as prices increase with the extra cash floating around in the system. Also, employers may lower wages at the low end to account for the extra income, like they do now with waiters to account for tips. Its also a huge invitation for busy bodies to say “we are paying you, so we get to tell you how to live your life!”

    1. This last, the nannies trying to run the lives they now pay for, is something inevitable which will never be acknowledged.

      1. The nannies already run the lives of the people paid by the welfare state. And the people taxed to pay for it.

        red herring

    2. As with all things, implementation matters. Even the best ideas will be catastrophic with poor implementation. There are numerous ways UBI could become disastrous.

      That said, seeing the failures of other welfare programs, it is pretty obvious there should be tight controls and self-correcting feedback loops baked in.

      Something like pegging it to a percentage of GDP would work (as well as getting rid of all other welfare) to keep government from warping it beyond usefulness.

      The concerns over inflation have already been addressed by Friedman, and are mostly a non-issue.

    3. Actually the effects on wages could go in the opposite direction. Unlike with tips, with a UBI people are getting paid to do nothing, which reduces their incentive to work, so employers may end up having to pay people more to get people to work at all.just think: someone who is starving is going to be willing to work for a lower wage than someone who has the option of getting by without working at all.

      This is why leftists are wrong to assume welfare subsidizes low wage employers like Walmart by allowing them to pay lower wages – in fact, by making people less desperate for work, welfare may force Walmart to increase wages to lure people on welfare into the workforce.

      1. Yeah. Why would I work infinitely more for only 10% more income?

        That said, I might be willing to do fun work for cheap if I didn’t need the money.

        The waiter example is off. Waiters show up for the combined income. Not for the $2.75/hr.

      2. Unlike with tips, with a UBI people are getting paid to do nothing, which reduces their incentive to work, so employers may end up having to pay people more to get people to work at all

        There’s a real problem when Type B’s (work-to-live) folks get the means to live without having to work. But the reality is that Type A’s (live-to-work) have been screwing the Type B’s since forever. Type A’s always ultimately end up owning most everything – which means they end up having a common interest in ensuring that Type B’s lose their freedom to withdraw their labor from the workforce. And since Type B’s are not ambitious, they withdraw that labor whenever they earn enough to live. Type A’s collude to make sure the playing field gets tilted – that Type B’s have to work longer and longer – or more incomes per household – just to afford rent/food/etc. And when they can’t withdraw, that merely tilts the labor market against them as well.

        1. i am completely debt-free, and every cent i make is under the table. Please, tell me, where do i go to get all my free shit? i’m needy.

          1. Type B’s prefer the time off not the free shit. In the High Middle Ages (post-barbarians/pre-enclosure), the estimate I’ve seen is that peasants worked about 150 days per year or so. The same is true in most pre-enclosed land societies – and for that matter the (free) rural US for most of our history. The most obvious observation about most of them is how much time they spend talking and playing and just enjoying life. The thing that is the most offensive (to an observing Type A) about those is how little they work. How can you force them to work longer?

            Once you tilt the playing field so that you can force them to work 100 days just to pay the rent to a rentier, then you have taken some of their freedom to do with their time what they want. And in the US now, about a third of renters have to work 150 days just to pay the direct rent.

            1. Enforcing private property rights is not “tilting the playing field”.

              1. Unless of course that is exactly what it is. On my side, I have actual examples from history – enclosure, chattel slavery, etc. On your side, you have a self-contained theory that can’t admit even the possibility and therefore doesn’t look

    1. HERE IS THE ANSWER!!!! No government programs. No need for a huge bureaucracy. Bill Gates gives everybody in the country a computer bought by the gazillions he hides overseas, and they do whatever that is above, and no worries.
      (Probably just as realistic as the fantasy in the article)

      1. Ok, but how many people can actually earn a living being fisted by primates on webcam?

        1. If you put an infinite number of two-fisted monkeys in a room with willing webcam workers, they will eventually fist out the complete works of Shakespeare.

        2. There is someone on this very forum who is constantly and helpfully informing us that her cousin’s brother-in-law makes $24156 a month working at home on a computer.

          1. But, isn’t Tony our retarded monkey? Does he receive subsistence funds for fisting clients? i will grant you that his little, furry, monkey paws can’t be that big, but his energetic thrusting might make up for size.

            1. I think that Tony is the one getting fisted in that situation. Which is the way he likes it.

      2. +00000001.

      3. (Post was originally under one of the spam work from home thingies)

  4. Nice blog sir .. Thanks for sharing …please keep it up sir.

  5. I think with the shining example of Obamacare as a benchmark. the government has shown an ability to manage a complex program without falling prey to micro-management, crony capitalism, cost over-runs and program delivery shortfalls. Just give people who need it a subsidy for health insurance and get the hell out of the way, and now everybody has affordable healthcare.

    1. /S?

    2. Yep. And they didn’t even get caught in the trap of sleazy behavior like giving the website contract to the First Lady’s college pal for a cost of a hundred times the actual money needed. Only to have that website completely fail.

  6. Of course, I don’t understand why some state like California hasn’t already instituted a basic income scheme – everybody knows if you give people money they will spend it and spending money creates jobs and economic activity and you’ve got this whole multiplier effect thing going. A state that instituted this would see an economic boom that would attract industry and jobs and tax revenues like nobody’s business.

    Look, Paul Krugman can explain it much better than I can, he makes perfect sense when I read his stuff about how if the government just buried money and then paid people to dig it up it’d be great. Unfortunately, the only time I read his stuff is when I’m far too drunk to operate a keyboard so I can’t explain to you just what it is about his ideas that make sense, and when I sober up enough to operate a keyboard his ideas don’t make sense any more.

    1. California is now going to try to create a single payer health care system. The chances of success is not high. If health care costs too much, then the solution is to do things that will reduce that cost. While California on its own can’t repeal prescription laws, it can give almost any provider it wishes the power to write prescriptions. State licensing of medical providers is a function that states have enjoyed for a long time. As it stands, nurse practitioners can write scripts. In England pharmacists have this authority. So creating primary care providers is well within California’s legal authority. States also license hospitals and insurance companies. Thus, states can to at least some degree control costs. Wisconsin also managed to de-unionize at least some state workers. Michigan did pass “right to work”.

      What all of this means is that states can “go their own way” on a lot of things.

  7. It’s magical thinking, intended to obscure the slavery inherent in the notion.

    To provide an unearned income to X, money must be stolen from Y. Z will need to be hired and paid to perform the theft. A and B and C (and D … n) will need to be hired to do the hiring, supervise the work, disburse the funds, enforce the thefts, account for the various outlays, both the ‘guaranteed basic income’ itself and the administrative infrastructure it requires, etc.

    So even if we were all to somehow magically agree that some amount is ‘worth’ giving to a population as a ‘guaranteed basic income’, the total cost of the the program would be substantially greater than that amount.

    Theft is theft.
    Resources are scarce.
    Transfer costs are considerable.
    Magical thinking is attractive but spurious.

    1. Amen!

    2. It’s magical thinking, intended to obscure the slavery inherent in the notion.


    3. Consider it a fee to keep the peasants from storming the castle.

      And to get rid of large numbers of government workers.

      1. Couldn’t they just be paid with bits of lead?

    4. It’s only stolen if the taxes are raised via taxes on income or profits or interest. If the tax is on land itself (not improvements ON that land but the land value itself), then those taxes are not theft. They are a fee charged by the grantor/protector of a monopoly to the recipient/beneficiary of a monopoly. If the landowner doesn’t like the fee, they can sell the land to someone else.

      1. Sorry, my property taxes are still taxes, and taken under threat of armed eviction. If someone wants to sell me fire insurance and security patrol services and education services for my kids they are welcome to. Saying the county government needs the money presupposes we need the county government.

        1. OK then I have no problem with no property taxes. And the government should then immediately ‘fail’ to recognize your deed claim in court. You are a squatter – just like anyone who might want to invade ‘your’ home and steal ‘your’ stuff off of ‘your’ property. Neither of you has any superior claim to be recognized as a victim in court. So its your problem. And good luck getting a bank to loan you ‘their’ money on ‘your’ collateral.

          Oh – and land taxes are not the same thing as property taxes. But of course your self-contained theory can’t even remotely comprehend the difference.

    5. To provide an unearned income to X, money must be stolen from Y

      Hence the criminality of government granted rights that enable rent seeking. Like land ownership.

      1. So if there’s no government, who owns the land?

        1. The biggest baddest grizzly bear or lion or wolfpack.

          Certainly not any pretentious bipedal individualist ape who has a labor theory of value about land.

        2. “If there’s no government”

          You should ask an anarchist how it should work with no government. I’m not one.

    6. Shirley is a much clearer thinker than is poor Jesse W. Thanks for the deserved slap across the face, Shirley.

  8. In all likelihood UBI would be a disaster. The ONLY way it works is:

    1) Completely eliminating all other forms of welfare, most importantly the minimum wage
    2) Tying the benefit to work as an income subsidy.
    3) Eliminating most restrictions on employment.

    So basically everybody gets a job. With the elimination of the minimum wage, employers can pay what you are worth. And we basically add on enough to make it livable. So if you are worth $4/hr, we kick in another $6.

    For a better explanation search for: Morgan Warstler UBI

    Of course this is not the type of idea that UBI proponents want. An entitlement with no obligation besides having a pulse has always been a disaster. It would be extremely expensive, and subject to very unpredictable costs as more people decide its better to not work.

    1. I do not think the issue there is the obligation, although that does bring up the slavery some have pointed out, but it is the “add on enough to make it livable”. If we are going to pull a David Ricardo, why bother? At least in his model there is a cycle, and on both the up swing and down swing there is opportunity to move out of the lower caste.

      I think UBI is years away, as it borders around the Utopian, in which those getting those payment would still want to contribute. Right now, it is primarily the very rich trying to feel a little bit better about themselves without giving their cash reserves to charity.

    2. Define “work” in this scenario. I hire you at $0 to surf

    3. (1) If Guaranteed Income were high enough so that no one would need any other welfare, then yes, all the other welfare could be eliminated, and the minimum wage could be dropped. Of course, the minimum wage would be replaced with each individual’s reservation wage, and you can bet your sweet bippy that for any cr@p job, that reservation wage would be pretty high.

      (2) This would require some sort of job-rationing or “Chairman Mao’s shovel brigade” to be effective. What’s the point? With not enough work around, the idea that everyone has to be working all the time becomes ridiculous. I’d be happy if such folks just stayed out of trouble.

      (3) Not sure what you exactly mean here.

    4. In all likelihood UBI would be a disaster. The ONLY way it works is:

      A disaster, compared to what?

      The current system is designed to trap people in government dependence and on the voting plantation, and it works. It’s designed to destroy people and keep them destroyed.

    5. I expect there would be a lot of “gig” workers with a UBI. There would be no reason for a minimum wage. We could put every government provided benefit (Social Security, unemployment comp, etc) under the UBI. Everyone could be a self employed contractor. Good bye to all the employment laws. Plus people who could live off the UBI could live anywhere. Grow their own food, Interesting concept.

    6. You left off the most important requirement for UBI to work.
      4. Leaving the unfortunate who spends his UBI check on booze, drugs, and entertainment rather than first obtaining the essentials of life to his fate.

  9. So in a poor country, they’re going to give a bunch of people a guaranteed steady stream of cash, and others nothing. Hope that works out.

  10. I don’t see how inflation is not an issue with this.

    1. If it’s revenue neutral wrt current welfare, it can’t be any worse.

      1. If your going to give it to everyone, I’m not sure how that’s possible.

        1. The high costs of administration (tens of thousands of workers) could be reduced to a handful of people and a computer.

  11. Even though you sorta’ kinda’ touched on it, it’s important to note that Friedman did not support the idea of a UBI, but rather argued that if the nation was content to keep its welfare system, then a UBI was preferable to the current welfare system.

    1. True.

      Do you have a reference where Friedman argues against the moral arguments of Paine/George/Locke?

      Very few support the UBI. Even fewer have arguments against it.

  12. Under Murray’s plan, citizens would be required to use part of their grant to buy health insurance, and insurance companies would be required to treat the population as a single pool.

    Treating the population as a single pool really means there would be no risk pools at all, and no truth or reality involved in pricing, because no way would the government let insurance companies price insurance to levels that would realistically be required to support a global risk pool.

    1. I would think that if we are going down the path of Guaranteed Income, we would get Medicare-For-All early on. (Of course, this Medicare-For-All could be something that incentivizes folks to be frugal.)

      1. The main problem with medical care isn’t the cost but the control.

        Information technology. Should be getting cheaper. Gets more expensive because of government enabled rent seeking.

        Medical care is cheap. Government enabled rent seeking is very expensive.

    2. True free market health care wouldn’t be that expensive. Repeal all the laws pertaining to health care except fraud and the cost of health care drops a whole lot. People would have to accept however that diseases like cancer would be a “death sentence” and the best you could hope for is a painless end.

  13. One of the many problems with the UBI is bleeding heart liberals.

    A) People don’t much respect unearned money they receive
    B) There is a certain percentage of the population that has the effective future orientation of a grasshopper.

    These people will blow all their UBI on beer, hookers and blow the day the check hits their bank account.

    Then some bleeding heart liberals will scold us all about how we can’t just leave that person to die in the street, so they’ll want another program on top of UBI to help those people who “fall through the cracks” of UBI.

    I’ll be the guy saying “Yes, we totally can leave them to die in the street. They pissed away every opportunity given to them!” But people like me never win those arguments, because “compassion.”

    1. Every stable system requires negative feedback (no cute pedantry on regenerative systems, please). EVERY ONE. When we detach people from the consequences of their actions, economists invent their own silly word for it called “moral hazard.” Instability is a much better description. By removing the restorative you virtually guarantee that the system will run out of control. This is intrinsic to the design of any wealth redistribution and a major reason why socialism and socialism-lite fail. It goes beyond just the “Fatal Conceit.”

    2. “But people like me never win …”

      That sounds more like a problem with you rather than a problem with the universal dole.

      1. I’d ask you to explain, but I’m just not in the mood for smelling diarrhea.

        1. Your moods are important to us here.

    3. I think the answer is that you make UBI untouchable in the case of bankruptcy.

      No matter how much you screw up this month, you get a fresh start next month.

      This eliminates the scenario where someone signs over their checks and then becomes distitute.

      I think you also need to make it a capital crime to steal UBI or keep cashing a dead person’s check.

    4. If there’s a Universal Basic Income, EVERYONE should get it, right up to Bill and Melinda Gates. People could choose to work or not, but I’m betting most would choose to work. Right now, many on welfare and food stamps don’t work because it would take them OFF welfare. And if single or divorced moms are able to stay home with their kids, rather than go be waitresses and dump the kids off at daycare, why is that a bad thing?

      1. If there’s a Universal Basic Income, EVERYONE should get it

        Hence, Universal.

        Whether more people go to work or stay home, the important point is that their choices would occur in the absence of perverse incentives, and thereby be expected to create more actual value, whether or not that value is monetized.

    5. If part of the Guaranteed Income is Medicare-For-All, there would be no way to blow it. Another big part would be SNAP (“food stamps”), so anyone blowing that would have to be a farmer. And for someone to blow the rent, he would need to be getting cheap rent, so his economizing allows him to benefit; doesn’t this sound like what conservatives want to see?

      1. You, apparently, don’t know any real, chronic losers.

    6. There is a certain percentage of the population that has the effective future orientation of a grasshopper.
      These people will blow all their UBI on beer, hookers and blow the day the check hits their bank account.

      Deposits can be made incrementally every day. Every hour. Or every minute. Not a serious objection.

      1. True.

        In the increasingly digital age, it would be 100% possible to do daily deposits rather then weekly/monthly/yearly.

        The caveat there is that it would require people to be banked, which is currently an issue for people in poverty. Sure, something like 96% of American workers use direct deposit, but that 4% is mostly people that have trouble getting and maintaining a bank account. Those are the people that bring their paycheck to Wal-Mart to cash there.

        You want to do micro-deposits, then you have to tackle how to get all people in the banking system. Which will require either an incentive/subsidy to banks, or some sort of “government” bank?. So it’s a solvable problem, but not necessarily one we want to solve.
        ?On an unrelated topic I saw it suggested that the Post Office could provide simple banking services like cashing checks, receiving direct deposits, simple savings accounts and so-on. The idea was that we already literally have Post Offices in every zip code, so it would be far simpler then trying to set-up something new.

        1. Banking is a solved problem.

          And “I can’t be bothered to set up a bank account to get free money” is not a problem I am going to worry about.

          1. But poor folks can’t open up a savings account because they can’t get the $50 for the initial deposit.

      2. You clearly do not spend a lot of time around chronic poverty and chronic losers.

        It doesn’t matter when or how big the deposits are, or if use of the money is restricted to “approved” goods. In Appalachia, where I live, people will trade use of their SNAP cards for drugs and alcohol or simply foods not allowed by SNAP. They will buy approved goods and trade *those* for drugs and alcohol.

        They will spend money earmarked for vital services — rent, utilities — on impulse buys, drugs, alcohol, parties, cigarettes, lottery tickets, you-name-it.

        I say this as a landlord for rentals in a poor, mixed-race urban area and as a resident of a poor, appalachian hillbilly area. You have no idea the lengths these people will go to in their irresponsible impulse to screw up their own lives. You have no idea of the level of self-destruction, of infantile inability to make basic economic decisions.

        Even if you stopped it from being a UBI and instead made it cradle-to-grave nannying — paying for all their needs and keeping any direct spending out of their control, people would find a way to destroy their lives. And bleeding heart liberals would demand more “programs” to help them. That’s what I’m talking about.

        1. Even with a UBI, we would still sometimes be sad, therefore it is useless.

          1. It’s not the sad. Look around you. The country is populated with vast numbers of people who never met a problem they thought couldn’t be solved with another government program and another big chunk of taxpayer money. It’s how we got in the dire straits we’re in. You can’t expect that human nature will change just because we implement a UBI.

            1. You can’t expect that human nature will change just because we implement a UBI.

              I don’t expect it to. Imperfect mortals will remain imperfect mortals.

        2. So what are these folks eating? Grass? The only explanation must be that such folks have a garden or farm, in which case they are earning the right to spend their food stamp money elsewhere.

    7. One thing that always amused me was that the liberals tend to make fun of anyone who doesn’t believe in evolution, then they design a system whereby evolution is bypassed. The weak, defective, lazy, and stupid should just die out, shouldn’t they?

      1. Perhaps they should. But I would treat them justly in the meantime.

        The argument from Paine/George/Locke is for justice, not alms.

    8. Wouldn’t be that much different from the homeless that we have now. Charity feeds them and often houses them at night.

      1. Most of the poor excuses for charity we have today are heavily government-subsidized. Take refugee resettlement. It’s a cash cow for the social justice church organizations out there.

        I don’t see human nature changing anytime soon.

        The UBI will be buried in taxpayer-funded “exceptions” and “additional charitable/humanitarian programs” in no time.

  14. Agrarian Justice, which was ultimately published in 1797, posited that “the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was?the common property of the human race.”

    And on the second day, one tribe smashed in the heads of another tribe for encroaching on its hunting territory.

    Lord save me from fuzzy-headed Utopianism, even from the likes of Thomas Paine.

    1. That’s just because the head smashing tribe spent money on its military. Just outlaw that and all problems are solved, right?

    2. “People go to war, therefore don’t worry about being unjust to other citizens.”

      Curious theory.

      1. That wasn’t my point. Paine’s “earth, in it’s natural, uncultivated state” never existed.

        Like all Utopianists, he thinks we can simply rewrite human nature.

        1. Paine’s “earth, in it’s natural, uncultivated state” never existed.

          Creationist? The earth is 6000 years old?

  15. When the LSD evangelist Timothy Leary ran for governor of California in 1969, he declared that the state “should be run like a successful business enterprise. Instead of extorting taxes from the citizens a well-run state should return a profit. Anyone smart enough to live in California should be paid a dividend.”

    Since the only way the state receives income is to take it from citizens by force, the “successful business enterprise” he’s proposing to emulate is the mafia. And, considering that the state offers extensive systems of protection, extortion, blackmail and bookmaking (legal gambling whether through state lotteries of government oversight of ‘private’ casinos,” that lesson has been learned well.

    Only, they also learned, like the mafia, that actually showing a profit on paper is a sucker’s game, because that would mean giving money back. You make sure you “spend” every dime, and then some.

    1. And the idea of running government like a business is literally nonsense, at least the way we define those words now. Controlling people with force is kind of antithetical to the sovereignty of the consumer. The best you could possibly do is a cheap facade missing all the machinery that makes free markets superior in the.first place.

    2. the “successful business enterprise” he’s proposing to emulate is the mafia.

      I was thinking the Apaches.

    3. Alaska didn’t take its oil by force, nor did Russia before that. The czar did claim the oil in a way that would not be available to most of us in dealing with real estate, but the way most of us could claim the unclaimed relies on backup by the sovereign anyway.

  16. “Just where you pinpoint the start of that history depends on how broadly you’re willing to define basic income”

    If I knew how to embolden things I’d get those last ten words, cuz thats the basic problem with all equity-centric redistribution plans. Well, that and the different values that different people put on different things. but that’s essentially the same problem, come to think of it. I think the fairest thing would be some kind of coupon that people could exchange for whatever goods or services they value the most, but I know how crazy that sounds.

    1. If I knew how to embolden things I’d get those last ten words,

      Place “less than” and “greater than” marks with the letter b between them at the beginning of the phrase, and then place “less than” and “greater than” marks with a /b between them at the end of the phrase.

  17. Would the cost of universal income be more or less that than all the various welfare programs.

    1. Irrelevant because:

      A) The various welfare programs (including pension, healtcare and other entitlement programs) are bankrupting us today.

      B) It’s all but an ironclad law of human society that welfare programs expand to consume all available funding.

      1. Or it’s an ironclad rule that thieves will eventually steal every last single dime you have.

  18. As a libertarian transhumanist, this is one of those concepts I’ve never been very comfortable talking about. As a matter of ideals, I have a problem with giving the idea of forcibly taking money from one group of people and giving that money to everybody else. On the other hand, if UBI isn’t the answer, we need to have discussions about what does happen when mass automation does arrive. And arrive it will.

    We’re not talking about solely blue-collar jobs like cashiers or manufacturing being impacted. Artificial Intelligence will soon be able to automate white collar professions like the medical field, law, and finance soon as well. According to an Oxford study, in the next 25 years, fully 47% of current occupations could be completely automated.

    So if not UBI, what is the solution? There are more “free market” UBI options which have been suggested above such as tying the UBI to a physical job. What happens when there are so few jobs available that humans can subjectively add more value compared to a robot? In the past, technological progress has always led to a shift in where the jobs are. You would hope this would also occur with the incoming automation revolution, but I’m not so certain that is going to be the case this time.

    I certainly don’t know what the answer is. I know I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a Universal Basic Income, but I also know that we need to start coming up with solutions and preparing for this issue.

    1. Let’s worry about a complete lack of work once it arrives. AI is far away from what pop-sci/pop-mech claims. Deep Blue, Deep Mind, Deep Throat are mostly parlor tricks today with their hyperspecialization.

      1. Even hyperspecialization type AI is an issue. Does it realistically make a difference whether you have a vast variety of different types of AI that are designed to be hyperspecialized at their respective tasks or if there’s a General Artificial Intelligence that can do everything? I don’t think so. Once you can specialize a specific program to subjectively add more value than a human ever could, the cat is out of the bag.

        1. IBM has had Watson for what, a decade? How’s that working out for them? Human’s are adaptable and understand context. That’s something that AI will struggle with for decades to come.

          1. Human’s are adaptable and understand context.

            Been to a college campus recently?

        2. “Does it realistically make a difference whether you have a vast variety of different types of AI that are designed to be hyperspecialized at their respective tasks or if there’s a General Artificial Intelligence that can do everything?”

          Yes, because humans can cross-fertilize across those lines, meaning that form of AI is not “I”.

          1. It still doesn’t matter if they’re technically “intelligent” or not. They can still be considered not intelligent and still displace an enormous amount of jobs.

            1. Mithrandir|6.3.17 @ 8:44PM|#
              “It still doesn’t matter if they’re technically “intelligent” or not. They can still be considered not intelligent and still displace an enormous amount of jobs.”

              So can steam-shovels, Mr. Malthus.
              So what?

      2. I do agree with this, but mostly to the extent that I just think it will take a fair bit longer than the AI cheerleaders predict.

        In the meantime, traditional automation, robotics and expert systems will continue to progress. Every year, new mechanical harvesting systems are developed for crops that were previously only manually harvested. Automated kiosks and online purchasing, which don’t require AI, eliminate retail jobs every day.

        Given the fact that all indicators predict that unskilled labor, whether in the agriculture, industrial or service sectors will be in less and less demand, then it makes little sense to continue to import workers and refugees. Labor participation rates are at all-time lows, largely because there just isn’t as much labor in which to participate.

        Additional imported competition for jobs will just depress wages and decrease labor participation rates further.

        1. Predictable, simple tasks/motions are always doomed to replacement. The human hand is about the most versatile mechanical tool we know. A wrench replaces it cheaper, better, and faster for tightening bolts.

          Labor participation rates are at all-time lows, largely because there just isn’t as much labor in which to participate.

          Hardly all-time lows, but generational lows. Recall that mid-century women were not working. That was a huge drag on labfor participation rates.

          The bigger concern is that scaling laws (Moore/Dennard are the most famous) that we’ve relied on for decades are now over. That means that new projects get very, very expensive. And because they’re so expensive there are a lot fewer of them and they must sell massive volumes to recoup their costs. That slows down innovation and leads to a vicious cycle of further consolidation. Incidentally, this is why I laugh at all the pop-sci cheerleaders of 3D printing who don’t understand just how limited it is. Meanwhile the “growth” industries are ones that don’t scale and require proportional inputs of labor (and cost) to grow, i.e. services like medicine. Basically, deflation is prosperity and automation is really the only way to deflate (crop and other yields excepted, but those aren’t much of a limiter today).

        2. Agreed, before implementing Guaranteed Income, THROW OUT THE ILLEGALS!

      3. U must have a nice job. I don’t think the engineers that figured out how to understand speech using just the computational power you have in ur hand would consider that just a “parlor trick”

        1. If your job is threatened by speech recognition, then you are the modern day equivalent of an elevator operator. The promise of AI is understanding the request embedded in that speech and not the speech itself. The input problem has been a nonproblem for as long as we’ve had keyboards, so, yes, speech recognition is a parlor trick. And as to “using just the computational power in your hand” you do know that the backend data centers are the real intelligence and your phone/appliance are just updated terminals, right?

        2. Is the speech to text actually performed on the phone? I thought the raw audio was sent to Google for processing. There have definitely been times where I lost my data connection and couldn’t use speech to text.

      4. Deep blue maybe. AI in general? Absolutely not. There are now open source libraries for AI that can be applied to general problems so we have gone from the previous state where people were building the tools to the point now where they are just starting to plug them in. If you are talking about these claims that in 10 years half of jobs will be gone to automation I agree with you that is nonsense. It won’t happen that fast but we are pretty close to plug and play AI and you are going to start seeing exponential growth in where it is used. Some of that will be for things that just couldn’t be done before because humans were too expensive relative to the economic value of certain tasks but it is going to start eating jobs at an accelerating rate in the near term. I hope what we see is different work created as that has always been the case with technology in the past.

        I will make one prediction about where the new “work” may come from. When AI is fully adopted I expect it will unleash a significant amount of free time either from people not working at all or people working less. That in turn leaves a lot of unfilled time in people’s lives and they will want to be entertained in that time. My guess is earning a living off of youtube videos and other generated content for others amusement will take a progressively larger share of what I would loosely call jobs.

        1. Minsky’s dead (and yet LISP lives on…). We can dispense with most of the hype. Remember when expert systems were going to revolutionize everything? Neural nets? There were open source libraries for those 20 years ago too. Now we call it “deep learning.” We’re back to the irrational exuberance phase just prior to the inevitable despair phase when our flying cars don’t materialize yet again.

          1. I think 1997 was the year of Deep Blue, and last year was the year of Alpha Go, with an astonishing performance. There’s nothing irrational about being impressed by these feats.

          2. I am living it and I can tell you that you are flat out wrong. This is not inevitable disappointment. We are seeing real world application across the board in everything from fraud detection to fabric inspection. The difference between expert systems from 30 years ago and ML/AI today is it has proven commercially viable and is getting vast investment resulting in successful implementation.

    2. we need to have discussions about what does happen when mass automation does arrive.

      At the turn of the century, in 1900, 80% of Americans worked on farms. Last I checked, that figure was down to about 4%. This did not result in 76% unemployment.

      Nobody in 1900 could have predicted what kind of work we’d be doing a hundred years hence. We can’t predict what kind of employment people will seek when a lot of today’s tedious jobs are done by robots, but it does not follow that we will not find other kinds of work.

      What is very clear though, is that if you pay people to do fuck-all, a lot of them will do exactly that. We have only to look at the tragic results of multi-generational dependency that we’ve already got in this country to know that putting everyone on the dole is a bloody stupid idea.


      1. At the turn of the century, in 1900, 80% of Americans worked on farms.

        Well first of all your uncited stat is wrong. According to the NBER Labor Force and Employment records, 40.2% worked on farms in 1900.

        Second, that decline was largely due to better jobs available in the industrial sector and improvements in urban living conditions luring children away from the farms. It’s not like farms suddenly required fewer workers and the former farmers had to go search for new work. (If you want to do farm work in 2017, you will have no trouble finding willing employers — ask a Mexican)

        Second, there is nothing like the industrial revolution on the horizon. As the industrial expansion reversed, we saw an increase in service industry jobs. Those are fine as long as they’re still a minority of the job picture, but they can’t serve as the driver of the economy. An economy with a few massively rich “producers” employing the rest of the populace as their personal servants is a recipe for revolution.

        1. It’s not like farms suddenly required fewer workers

          What’s your next guess? Does the word “mechanization” ring any bells?


          1. Funny to see you come out swinging after I catch your false statement. You sure you’re not Epi or SF?

            Anyway, people were already leaving the farms for the city before they were significantly mechanized. Families were losing their farms because the kids wanted to work in factories live in the city, and replacement workers were too scarce and too expensive. Even in 2017 a major employer of illegal immigrants is agriculture, so yeah, no job scarcity there.

          2. Yes, farms suddenly required fewer workers. Tractors and combines and threshing machines and trucks and trains can need a lot fewer workers than horses and buggies and single-man wooden plows.

        2. This is why the Sugarman (Facebook’s Zuckerberg) is a Guaranteed income cheerleader.

      2. At the turn of the century, in 1900, 80% of Americans worked on farms. Last I checked, that figure was down to about 4%. This did not result in 76% unemployment.

        Don’t mistake “a particular event” with “a law of the universe.”

        All those low-hanging industrial jobs that the industrial revolution created are going away. There are no vast new fields of unskilled or low-skilled labor opening up to replace them.

        1. “All those low-hanging industrial jobs that the industrial revolution created are going away. There are no vast new fields of unskilled or low-skilled labor opening up to replace them.”

          They were not “low hanging” at the time; they might be considered ‘low-skilled’ today, but they required what as considered high skills at the time.
          Why do neo-Malthusians always figure ‘it’s true, this time!’?

          1. Unless you can cite me some objective mathematical or physical rule why disruptive technologies must result in many more jobs, your entire theory is based on hope, so I’m not the one that has to do the explaining.

            1. Because human wants are endless. Once the manual labor jobs are replaced by machines, new jobs that rely on personal service and human creativity will take their place.

              1. Most human wants are as easily automated as everything else.

                You can only get so many mani-pedis.

                Much valued service work and work requiring human creativity is skilled work. The guys harvesting cabbages or gutting chickens are simply not suited for most of that work.

                You’re delusional if you think our low-skilled jobs are peopled largely by people who’d be writing hit songs and best-selling screenplays if only they had the chance.

      3. What is very clear though, is that if you pay people to do fuck-all, a lot of them will do exactly that.

        The current system pays people to do fuck all.

        The UBI would just pay them, leaving them free to do something useful instead of fuck all.

        1. Useful to whom?

          1. To themselves, at least.

            They wouldn’t be incented to not work to avoid losing their check from the government.

        2. The way it is now, people are free to do something useful if they want to get paid. How would UBI be better?

          1. Their payments are taken away if they do various useful things.

    3. I have a problem with giving the idea of forcibly taking money from one group of people and giving that money to everybody else.

      How about creating money out of thin air and giving it away? That’s how government spending is mainly done these days.

      1. There is no difference. Since the overall value of said fiat currency is devalued by the aforementioned dilution, any existing funds in that currency are also devalued.

      2. So, to give everyone a UBI of 20K per year, just print an extra 6 trillion per year and tack it on the national debt? Yeah, what could go wrong with that?

    4. As a matter of ideals, I have a problem with giving the idea of forcibly taking money from one group of people and giving that money to everybody else.

      As do many.

      Strangely, they’re entirely fine with government granted monopoly on natural resources and ideas, similarly backed by force.

      Consistency is hard.

      1. And property is theft, too – no?

        1. It often is.

    5. Artificial Intelligence will soon be able to automate white collar professions like the medical field, law, and finance soon as well. According to an Oxford study, in the next 25 years, fully 47% of current occupations could be completely automated.

      When the medical field is automated, nobody will need medicaid, because it’ll cost 0. When law is automated, court will be free too. When finance is automated, even $ will be free! So what’s the problem?

    6. There is a restaurant here locally that uses telephones at each table to call in orders to the kitchen. The food is prepared and then is brought to your table by a worker. It is obvious that some sort of robotic cart could replace that worker. So you have a restaurant without wait staff, and robotic carts transporting food. One human being at the cash register. No more tipping. There’s some pretty good savings right there. A communication device at each table both for calling in the order and to resolve any problems when the food arrives. No more wait staff. There’s quite a few jobs disappearing right there.

      Supermarkets could use robots to stock shelves, even gather items, bag them for pickup. A local supermarket already has this where a hired “shopper” collects the order which is then delivered to your home. Pretty soon that “shopper” will be a robot. Order is transported in a self driving vehicle. More people replaced by robots. Robotic soldiers wouldn’t be that far fetched either. Remote controlled drones already are replacing human pilots.

  19. On the other hand, if UBI isn’t the answer, we need to have discussions about what does happen when mass automation does arrive.

    This. But I don’t expect this sort of intelligent discussion to happen at Reason.

    And it will happen. Imho, Doctors will be easily replaced. All they do is go along a decision tree that can be algorythmized.

    P.s. Proximity + Diversity = War.


    1. You beat me to it. Yes, most of what primary care physicians do can be accomplished by relatively simple apps. That profession survives only because of regulatory capture.

      1. The only solution is that on graduation for high school, everyone should receive a license to practice medicine, irrespective of any possible merit.

        1. Thus completing your proggy plan to destroy the US healthcare system.

      2. For those who have done some study and have access to the Internet, without prescription laws people would be able to take care of their health without seeing a doctor to a far greater degree than today. As a matter of fact, I find that on most things I’m more knowledgable than my doctor is. This was driven by the fact that two different doctors managed to waste a lot of time (and money) chasing down every possible disease when the cause of the problem was a known side effect of the medication that both had prescribed to me. My current “quack” believes that Vitamin C can cure a low red cell count (caused by the medication I’ve been taking for the past decade, the same one that both of my now former doctors wasted a whole lot of money and time on. To raise a low red cell count, the solution is iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12. I’ve been taking this for years now and while it is effective to some degree, as long as I’m taking the medication for my ulcerative colitis, my red count will always be low. I had a radiologist who read my MRI and concluded that I had a fractured knee. I saw the MRI and knew that was nonsense. As did my wife who worked all her life in hospitals. So did the bone specialist who is the best at his trade of anyone. All of us knew that it was arthritis. Which is pretty common in those 78 years old. Turmeric helps, but can’t cure it either.

    2. I think physicians will still have a place simply to stop some scheming druggie from figuring out how to get the Mechanical Turk doc to prescribe him Oxycontin.

      1. Why? Before our drug laws, addicts managed to live OK lives. Mainly because their addiction didn’t cost that much. As for driving cars and such, drunks are a bigger problem. Self driving cars will be commonplace in another decade, which will fix that problem.

    3. Medical care is cheap.
      Government enabled rent seeking mafias are very expensive.

  20. Not much discussion of the moral arguments from Paine or George, and absolutely no mention of the Lockean Proviso.

    The moral argument is what counts, because it’s the last obstacle.

    Everybody can do the basic evaluation that this would cure the evil dependence trap of the current welfare system, where the effective tax marginal rate the poor pay often exceeds 100%. That’s an evil system, designed to beat you as you try to better your life and keep you permanently unproductive.

    But “you’re stealing Peter to pay Paul”! Well, not really. Because Peter has the government pointing guns at Paul, saying “the planet is mine, hands off!”

    Reason doesn’t like to talk about that part. Doesn’t like to talk about why the Owners get to point guns at the Peasants and tell them to stop touching “their” planet.

    Paine and George want to know by what right the Owners claim control of the planet. It’s a fair question.

    Locke had an answer for the just acquisition of natural resources, but it came with the Lockean Proviso – you can take unowned property, as long as “there was still enough and as good left, and more than the yet unprovided could use”.

    But the Lockean Proviso simply no longer holds *at all*. The world is fenced and deeded. Some are Owners, and the rest are not, without justification beyond guns. If the Owners hold it by guns and not justice, they’re not in a position to complain if people take them it back by guns. They are the original thieves.

    1. Uh, you can buy from an owner and become an owner.

      1. Not if the current owners use their government to prevent you from earning and holding the wealth to buy from an owner.

        1. Why would someone want to prevent you from earning enough money to buy something from them at a price where they would be willing to sell?

          1. Because they want to accumulate all the wealth for themselves. Why they do that, I don’t know. I don’t understand that mind set.

          2. Why would someone want to prevent you from earning enough money to buy something from them at a price where they would be willing to sell?

            Oh, they don’t want to do that. They want to prevent us from earning money the way they do. Funeral home directors, for example, are perfectly delighted to have us earn money in an other career so that we can buy something from them at a price where they would be willing to sell.

            Doing their job? No. They don’t want people doing that. They get together with the guns to keep us from doing that by any means they can.

            Get enough of that going around, and we get… well, our economy. Can’t bury dead people without permission, can’t cut pretty flowers and tie them together with ribbon without a license, can’t cut hair, sell cookies, mow lawns, give advice, babysit, can’t butcher wild game in the same place as domestic livestock, etc etc etc ad fucking nauseam.

            In this country, work may only be performed if the Owners say so, with a cut of our profits and adherence to all rituals the Owners deem reasonable. Pray they don’t alter the deal further.

            1. Very well stated.

            2. Government is the problem. One solution is to change the way we create our representatives. The way we do it now means that in order to run for public office, you either have to be rich (like Trump) or have enough people donating money to you to pay for the costs of running for office. Trouble here is that the major donors are going to be those who “want you to do something for them” if you are elected. This includes the organized professions, the organized workers (most public today) and those who have occupational licenses. All of these people will want you to do “favors” for them. If you don’t agree, then they will give their money to your opponent. There’s the problem right there in a nutshell.

              The Greeks of Classical Athens did it differently. Representatives were selected by a lottery to serve (much like jurors are today). No costs of campaigning. A true cross section of the citizenry represented the rest of the people. Of course the actual citizens were only a minority of the people. Most of the people living in Athens were not citizens and had no say in affairs. Women and slaves didn’t have any say in things, nor did the serfs who did most of the work. But by the standards of the time it was a revolutionary idea. Whether or not our founding father knew of it is doubtful. In any case their interests were more those of the upper class, which was protection of wealth and property.

          3. A lifetime of collecting rent. Easy money.

            There is absolutely no obligation to sell land, however you do have an obligation to pay for a place to stand.

            1. Qsl|6.3.17 @ 11:35PM|#
              “A lifetime of collecting rent. Easy money.
              There is absolutely no obligation to sell land, however you do have an obligation to pay for a place to stand.”

              No, there is no “obligation” to sell anything. Are you hoping the government comes along and forces someone to sell you something?
              Man, we are fully staffed with whiny victims this evening.
              Fuck off, slaver.

              1. Little dense, ain’t ‘cha? The point being there is absolutely no wealth, no work, no nothing without land.

                But I’d be more than happy to move you out of an airlock and prove me wrong.

                1. Bullshit! There are plenty of wealthy people who own no land at all. You sound like one of my damned shanty Irish ancestors.

                  1. Do tell, how did the obtain their wealth that was completely removed from anything to do with earth? Were they space truckers perhaps, dealing in illegal goods from Regulus IV. Living in floating cities over the moon?

                    You seem to have the reading skills of your damn shanty Irish ancestors. This isn’t written in Gaelic son. Go over it syllable by syllable and realize the adults at the table are speaking of “rent” and “land” in the economic sense.

                    You can then trumpet you findings to every. single. economic school who holds land to be a separate aspect of production and claim your Nobel Prize for your astounding insights into economics. I’m sure they will be blindsided by your amazing revelations.

                    1. In the first place: I am not your son; unlike some here – probably including you – I happen to know who my father was, and so does my mother. In fact, I’m probably old enough to be your father – possibly even old enough to be your grandfather. As for pushing people out of airlocks, I probably read Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress back even before the best part of you was running down your mamma’s legs; I’ve certainly been reading Reason from its inception about fifty years ago. So don’t bother running your hip science fiction cant on me, lefty – I’m not impressed.

                      I said that lots of wealthy people do not own any land at all; I never said or implied that they created or acquired it independently of the Earth or its resources – anymore than I said or would say that it was done without use of their minds. Apparently it is your reading comprehension or logic skills that should be called into question.

                      True. Nothing can be done or created without a place to stand or space to be, and obviously material wealth can not be created without materials of some kind; (I would have thought that to go without saying.) But one doesn’t have to fucking own it or even steal it in order to make use of it.

                      Btw, many of my ancestors were Scandanavian and southern European. They probably spent much of their time raping, pillaging and taxing the Irish ones.

                    2. Time and energy, or thought and life are the most basic wealth; without them all the land and materials in the universe are useless. You crybaby leftists could stand in a vast wilderness and yet starve or freeze to death without some thoughtful, creative, resourceful person from which to steal. Fucking cockroaches.

                    3. Whom – from whom to steal.

        2. “Not if the current owners use their government to prevent you from earning and holding the wealth to buy from an owner.”

          Fuck, Vernon, it must be tough to be a victim. You are a victim, right? And I’m sure you propose a coercive solution to the problem of YOU being a victim, Vernon.
          Fuck off, slaver.

      2. Uh, you can buy from an owner and become an owner.

        Certainly if you obey those with guns, and do what they ask, they may transfer some bit of their right to point guns at the peasants to you. But that doesn’t address the point.

        By what right are they pointing guns at me in the first place, claiming that the earth is “their property”?

        It’s sad, and telling, that this conversation rarely occurs at Reason.

        1. By what right are they pointing guns at me in the first place, claiming that the earth is “their property”?

          Um…they were there first and did something more with it than just claim it?

          What – it’s all taken and none is left for you or your descendants? Next you’ll be crying that all or most of the mineral wealth has been taken and there is none left for you! Dude, perhaps your parents shouldn’t have had you and you should consider not breeding yourself. Whatever gave you the idea that the necessities of life would be forever abundant and free to everyone?

          1. Um…they were there first and did something more with it than just claim it?

            So what? How does that establish a perpetual claim to property?

            I don’t grant that to the descendants of the native Americans. Not their continent just because they had some ancestors here first.

            1. So what? How does that establish a perpetual claim to property?

              If you have any rightful claim to the property at all, then you have the right to pass it on to whomever when you die or are otherwise done with it. Ownership is best defined as the right and ability to use and or dispose of something – one kind of liberty, if you will.

              Obviously you can’t take it with you when you die, so if it is rightfully yours, why shouldn’t you get to decide what is done with it? Or to put it another way: why should anyone else get to decide? If the idea of individual ownership or property rights is invalid, then so is the idea of “group” rights. Groups are just collections of individuals and have no inherent rights other than those possessed by their individual members as individuals.

              Not their continent just because they had some ancestors here first.

              Especially if those ancestors did not accept that land could be owned.

              1. If you have any rightful claim to the property at all, then you have the right to pass it on to whomever when you die or are otherwise done with it.


                Rights can come in time slices. This is not particularly complicated, or rare.

          2. That sounds like a perfectly sound rationale to sell your children into slavery.

            1. Most people’s children ( and grandchildren) have already been sold into slavery via the national debt.

  21. Great article on the history of UBI.

    However, just about every time the word “libertarians” is used in the article, it should have been modified with the word “many” or “some”.

    UBI cannot be accomplished without some combination of coercive taxation and state ownership of the means of production. I suppose that the GiveDirectly model could conceivably do UBI for the entire USA on a voluntary basis, but the UBI proponents advocate various state-run schemes that are either funded by taxes or funds derived from the exploitation of natural resources and financial system.

    Many libertarians oppose such schemes. Murray Rothbard was very critical in For a New Liberty.

    1. Ultimately, doesn’t matter.

      The taxation is theft mindshare has accomplished absolutely squat to reduce the power of the state or even modestly reduce taxes. Per:…..ocid=ientp

      people are paying more taxes than ever before. It’s a nice hope with absolutely no roadmap of how to get there sort of happy thoughts.

      UBI proponents at least have the potential to dramatically reduce the influence of the state, and possibly cut down on welfare programs. It at least has a better shot than current ideas.

      The state already owns the means of production via land, so that ship sailed eons ago. One of the arguments for the land value tax is that it is mostly voluntary.

      1. “The state already owns the means of production via land”

        Yeah boy, they sure held that Zuckerberg feller down.

    2. UBI cannot be accomplished without some combination of coercive taxation and state ownership of the means of production.

      Property in natural resources is accomplished through state violation of the NAP.
      “These people own the earth. You don’t. No touchy or we’ll shoot you.”

  22. A feature of the current system is that welfare programs compete for money. It is difficult for the constituencies to band together.

    Once we have UBI, what prevents those dependent on it from voting themselves a raise?

    1. The ability of the oligarchs to keep the poor divided against each other is a “feature”?

      1. Who are these oligarchs? Every landowner in the country? Do you know what an oligarchy is?

        1. “Who are these oligarchs?”

          The tiny minority of people who own or control almost all of the privately held wealth, and therefore control the government and other powerful institutions.

          “Every landowner in the country?”


          “Do you know what an oligarchy is?”


          1. “Who are these oligarchs?”

            The tiny minority of people who own or control almost all of the privately held wealth, and therefore control the government and other powerful institutions.

            Questions: Do you own any stock? Have a 401k or other savings/pension plan? Do they own stocks?
            Answer: YOU are one of the oligarchs; except “they” are us, not a tiny minority.

          2. Vernon Depner|6.3.17 @ 3:57PM|#
            “Who are these oligarchs?”
            “The tiny minority of people who own or control almost all of the privately held wealth, and therefore control the government and other powerful institutions.”

            Poor Vernon. Poor, poor Vernon. Poor, poor, poor Vernon.
            Fuck off, slaver.

            1. Does your mommy know you’re playing with her phone?

    2. “what prevents those dependent on it from voting themselves a raise?”

      Rigged elections.

      1. True. The amount of election rigging by democrats is staggering

            1. A different celebrity.

      2. Eventually the parasite kills the host if it sucks too much blood.

        1. Parasites are not noted for having long time horizons.

    3. Absolutely nothing at the federal level, where they print money.
      At the state level, not much, as the creative writers will quit and become bookkeepers. (And apply for federal grants)

    4. The periodic rise of a xenophobic demagogue that feeds into the lumpenproletariat’s natural instinct to work for his piece of the economic pie, and to restrict that pie to his own tribe, could prevent what you are saying …

    5. Don’t worry, they can’t vote. Sterilization, sub-par medical care, and no access to cash also await the useless. Check out the Expanse series of books for a view of what “Basic” looks like in a few hundred years.

  23. Sorry, not willing to pay for life’s losers to continue being a drain. They can take it out of your taxes, not mine.

    1. They will kill you rather than volunteer to starve. We now have centuries of experience with how “losers” react to being told “let them eat cake”.

      1. Vernon Depner|6.3.17 @ 8:40PM|#
        “They will kill you rather than volunteer to starve. We now have centuries of experience with how “losers” react to being told “let them eat cake”.”

        The experience is, they always fail.
        The idiots can’t hold a job. You think they can out-gun me and the rest of the folks who know how to make a living?

        1. I think internet tough guys pee their pants when confronted with actual violence.

        2. You think they can out-gun me and the rest of the folks who know how to make a living?

          Probably not. But they can vote.

      2. They will kill you rather than volunteer to starve. We now have centuries of experience with how “losers” react to being told “let them eat cake”.

        Or perhaps someone will kill them. We have centuries of experience to show that they usually end up dead or enslaved by some authoritarian government.

  24. PART 1

    This is a good essay. I think Milton Friedman & Charles Murray have hit the nail on the head – make the redistribution as general as possible at the beginning, and then let the Invisible Hand do its magic – AND CLEAN THE SWAMP OF THE MICROMANAGING BUREAUCRACIES!

    The most bare level of Guaranteed Income will have to be SNAP (i.e., “food stamps”) & Medicare-For-All (or whatever); that takes care of half of the 4 basic needs of man (I add health care to the canonical list), and folks can wear whatever they have in their closet for a long time, and almost everyone has a friend or family member that lend a couch to someone out on their luck (with the homeless shelter as the last resort), so the other half is not as important.

    1. PART 2

      Of course, most conservatives’ objections to Guaranteed Income is that it allows folks to be indolent in their hammocks, and that with a robust enough program, there will nobody that will want to work. To that I say that there will always be some labor-market wage that will motivate a worker to take a job, and jobs will just have to adjust upwards to fill it. Of course, what this means is that the cr@p jobs with cr@p pay & cr@p hours will suddenly have no one wanting to take it, but I don’t see that as a problem as it will motivate the owners to automate, and in any case, if it was that bad of a job to being with, it really wasn’t that important to society. That said, there will need to be a Federal Income Board akin to the Federal Reserve Board that will have to figure out what is the best level of support to ensure the best overall result in society.

      1. PART 3

        Another issue will be how to distribute the fewer & fewer jobs that are available. One could see something akin to a wartime rationing system, but of course a top-down system like that would be ridiculous. However, some form of an income threshhold high-taxation system would probably be the best – i.e., someone gets a certain amount of tax-free (or low tax) income, after which he starts to pay through the nose, which would motivate him to retire and let someone else have the opportunity to work – and such a system would need to have a liberal availability of income averaging. Without this implicit rationing, folks who don’t hired at good jobs from the outset would be forever locked out, and a such a society that has a such a nasty & brutish competition would start to look like a modern-day Roman gladiator tournament.

        1. swampwiz|6.3.17 @ 10:02PM|#
          “Another issue will be how to distribute the fewer & fewer jobs that are available.”

          You just made the claim that it’ll be harder to get people to work, so now you claim there will be a lack of jobs?
          You really should back up and try again.

          1. You were way too kind to Comrade Swampwiz.
            On the other hand it’s possible he was being satirical.

      2. “To that I say that there will always be some labor-market wage that will motivate a worker to take a job, and jobs will just have to adjust upwards to fill it.”

        It’s a shame you didn’t think before posting.
        Yes, there will always be a wage that will get people off their asses. And with a guaranteed income, it will be higher and higher as the GI increases to match the inflation caused by the GI, thereby increasing inflation requiring a higher GI, etc.

      3. Just empower the right Top Men, amirite?

  25. By itself, Universal Basic Income is Dead on Arrival as a political reality. However, it can be enacted as a transition tool if Congress will pass a Second Income Act.

    See SECOND INCOMES under MORE at Second Incomes would provide much more than a Basic Income. Almost everyone would qualify.

    The Second Income Plan was proposed by Louis Kelso as a solution to automation. Kelso earlier invented the Employee Stock Ownership Plan – ESOP – utilized by 11,000 companies. Congress passed the necessary legislation on a bipartisan basis. Second Incomes would begin to unite our divided nation.

    UBI would be an important immediate transition tool to impact poverty and provide purchasing power. As Second Incomes grow they would displace it. There would be no net cost to the Federal treasury.

    Since UBI by itself will never be approved by Congress, it can emerge as a needed component of a Second Income Act.

    Anyone interested should study the situation and organize a dynamic Social Movement such as has done. This can help change the political landscape in the 2018 elections if done swiftly and wisely.

    Second Incomes can open paths to a truly free and informed society. Imagine the implications!

    1. “Your plan that few have ever heard of can ever get the votes.
      My plan that no one has ever heard of will get the votes.”

    2. is a cult….fuck off slaver

    3. A second chicken in every pot makes so much more sense…

  26. Everybody get ready to derive all your sustenance (in the form of worthless federal reserve notes) from the US government. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to afford the latest video games so that you’ll be unemployed but happy. I’m sure, like with the left, the intentions of this wunnerful scheme are honorable and good. Sure thing. But then we’re depending on the government to implement it.

    Dream on, potheads.

  27. NEWS FLASH! ALASKANS HAVE LOST PART OF THEIR DIVIDEND AND MAY GET A SALES TAX AND PROPERTY TAX! The State giveth and the State taketh away. But hey, we have a 92 million dollar crime lab, second only in size to Quantico (2400 sq. ft. per employee), and a 72 million dollar rocket launch complex that cost 6 million a year to operate3-4000 FUNDED but UNFILLED State positions at around 300 milliondollars etc.etc…..

    1. income not property tax


      Reason ran several articles on how the Democratic Socialism of Scandinavia that Sanders-Socialists love to point to is/was effectively subsidized by oil wealth and that, once the wealth dried up, their best economic decisions were those that allow(ed) them to abandon socialism the quickest. Venezuela has, similarly, been a practical paragon of how to fritter away the prosperity wrung from natural resources. Ron Bailey (among others) frequently writes about policy prescriptions in the ‘post-scarcity economy’.

      Like you reach some critical mass of money where there’s no point in reasoning and even socialism sounds like a good idea;
      We better hurry up and adopt socialism before everyone drowns in all the prosperity! Quick induce some scarcity so that people don’t get used to all of the abundance!

      What’s that?!? I can’t hear you over the rustling of cash in all my various pockets! Did you say ‘shark fins’ or ‘socialism’? Actually, I don’t care what you said, here’s a wad of cash to go away.

  28. History has shown that socialism, war, and totalitarianism are also indestructable ideas. Your point?

    1. Sanjuro Tsubaki|6.3.17 @ 11:36PM|#
      “History has shown that socialism, war, and totalitarianism are also indestructable ideas. Your point?”

      Your point?

      1. His point: It’s a bad idea, just as socialism, war, and totalitarianism are bad ideas.

  29. Man, this is amazing! The imbecile trueman shows up, along with every neo-Malthusian ever to populate the site.
    Oh, well, I guess we need new idiots since the old ones get stale.

  30. Basic income is feudalism. Depressing that now Reason is peddling this crap.

    1. Kinder gentler statism!

      It’s the new libertarianism.

  31. Let’s say that a basic income would cost $100 per person per day. With 320 million Americans, the plan would cost $32 billion per day. I have a better idea: the government could give JUST ME a basic income of $1 billion per day, and save $31 billion each and every day. That $31 billion could go to pay down the national debt, and the entire $20 trillion debt could be completely paid off in under two years. Who’s with me on this? Call or write your Congressman today!!!!!

  32. Does anybody reading this believe the problem w tech in the near future is going to be any different from how it always was? If labor-saving devices have never previously led to a world where vast numbers are broke because there’s nothing they can do that’s worth anything to others, what makes people think it’ll come to that in the future? Eventually we get productivity so high that scarcity ceases to exist, & then nobody needs income because everything costs 0, so what’s the problem?

  33. Back of envelope. Eliminate all entitlements including social security save appx 2.7T. Eliminate all tax deductions and credits add another. 1.3T to to line for a total of 4T. Pay everyone 18 and over Federal minimum wage costs appx 3.7T which leaves about .3T to reduce current budget deficit (would have to make up rest with military cuts or tax increases). Of course taxes have to increase to cover current social security and Medicare payments. This also doesn’t account for new incentives and disincentives created by these changes of which there would be many. Of course taking all entitlements aways and giving people 15K a year for all expenses including buying health insurance is never going to pass. You might make $15 an hour which means now you have to come up with another 3.7T somewhere. You would have to double Federal revenues somehow. Not feasable.

  34. What on god’s green earth is this commie drivel doing on Reason? Fuck you and your statist thieving BS.

    1. n00bdragon, they’ve all gone stark – raving – mad!

    2. This article should have been titled The Indestructible Idea of Living Free at the Expense of Others.

      1. It’s Christian Charity without all that icky Godbothering.

  35. A universal basic income for all? Odd, but I had always read that the reason we put up with a government in the first place was to protect those with wealth and property from being robbed by the thieves. Now you tell me it’s instituted to do the thieves’ stealing for them? Tsk, tsk.

    1. Only if buy into the propaganda.

      Like all “Bread and Circuses” endeavors, keeping folks fat and happy is the means, but it isn’t the purpose. Keep that in mind and it fits in just fine with your view of government.

  36. Dear Reason,

    Fuck you, cut spending.


  37. Still theft.

    A wise man once said, “Thou Shalt not Steal.” Too bad modern people never listen to this.

  38. How about universal income in exchange for sterilization?

    If you need the income, we don’t need your spawn polluting the gene pool.

    1. These are the types of solutions that make the most sense but could never be discussed.

      If you contribute nothing, you should not be allowed to vote, not be allowed to have children, not be allowed to acquire debt, and you should be subject to the whims of the non-parasites.

      In fact, it is the only argument for abortion. There is a live human being in there and that seems like a violation of a human’s rights to kill it. On the other hand, what to do with throngs of unwanted, likely useless humans as their parents likely are in most cases?

  39. RE: The Indestructible Idea of the Basic Income

    I’ve lost all confidence in Reason’s advertisement that it is a libertarian website after this article.
    The redistribution of wealth by government officials is nothing more than theft and advocating a socialist welfare state.
    However, if Matt Welch, Brian Doughtery, Jesse Walker, et al want to redistribute their wealth to this country’s “poor and oppressed,” then do so.
    Until then, STFU.

    1. I’ve lost all confidence in Reason’s advertisement that it is a libertarian website after this article.

      Funny, I’ve gained a little.

  40. Agree to sterilisation and be child free and we can talk turkey.

  41. SECOND INCOMES are a better idea and a UBI can be included as a transition source of income. See SECOND INCOMES at

    This combination can get through Congress. UBI by itself has the chance of a snowball in hell.

  42. Normally we assume production creates its own demand, a bit like Henry Ford’s statement that his workers would be able to purchase the automobiles they built. With automation that seems untrue. Robots have maintenance and upgrade needs, however.

    Instead of distributing cash, why not distribute the means of production? Remove all governance beyond the most local level.

    Each community or group would own its own robots, as a commons. The stakeholders would decide what, if anything, the robots would provide. Elinor Ostrom’s studies of the commons may be suggestive.

    1. Instead of distributing cash, why not distribute the means of production? Remove all governance beyond the most local level.

      See?!?! This is why the UBI is a terrible idea! You get people like Free Oregon who magically think it’s a good idea to reinvent The Great Leap Forward (and the subsequent Great Chinese Famine).

      Fuck lot of good busted mining robots will do on W. Virginia and a Fuck lot of good working mining bots will do in Silicon Valley. If only a way existed to transfer working bots to W. Virginia and non-working bots to Silicon Valley for repair. If the transfer technology were based on a fluid means of value exchange at every stop along the way we’d have this whole wealth redistribution regionalization/localization problem licked.

  43. The poverty threshold, poverty limit or poverty line is the minimum level of income deemed adequate to cover total cost of all the essential resources that an average human adult consumes in one year. In the US, this is presented as an income level based on household size (number of dependents). For a single person household, the poverty line is $12,060 (2017).

    Perhaps worth noting is that a single person household working a full-time minimum-wage job exceeds the poverty line (50 weeks time 40 hours times $7.25 is $14,500), so by definition a full-time minimum wage worker is not living in poverty. But if that same person has a child, then both are living in poverty, as the poverty line for a two-person household is $16,240. In a very real albeit statistical sense, children cause poverty.

    An assumption of a UBI is that it provides sufficient income to survive on, so let’s use the poverty line as the basis for the UBI. That is, a single person household would receive a UBI of $12,060; A two-person household would receive a UBI of $16,240; and so on. Note that even this basic assumption leads to perverse outcomes (e.g. two adults living separately would get $12,060 each, but if they live together they “lose” $7,880 in UBI), so at least some will avoid getting married, or even living together (or lie about living together, thereby defrauding the system) just to maximize their free money.

  44. Using census data, there are 124.5 million households. The average household size is 2.54 people. Let’s interpolate the poverty table to get an average expected UBI of about $18,497. Multiplying that out we can get the tab for providing UBI based on these assumptions, a total of about $2.303 trillion.

    Coincidentally, that is almost exactly the amount of money we currently spend on all social welfare benefits programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, foodstamps, etc. A reasonable idea–indeed, this was put forward in a WSJ essay by Charles Murray–would be to eliminate all those programs in favor of the UBI. Of course, this ignores the howls that would arise from a populace deprived of their SS checks and foodstamps.

    Exploring the notion of replacing the most basic welfare programs, e.g. foodstamps, section 8 housing, while not disrupting the SS and Medicare that the elderly view as an earned right. After all, the UBI based on poverty level should by definition cover those sorts of expenses. There will still be screams from people concerned about drug addicts not buying food for their kids and that sort of thing. So it seems unlikely that the overhead of those programs, let alone the programs, would be completely done away with.

  45. So it seems almost a certainty that a UBI would be adjacent to at least SS/Medicare. Those totaled about $1.473T of the welfare expenditures, so add the $2.303 to the SS/Medicare $1.473T for a total cost of $3.776T. Perhaps the UBI reduces SS income dollar-for-dollar in an either-or situation reduces this a bit.

    A worst-case cost would be adding UBI on top of all the existing programs, for a total cost of about $5T. Or perhaps the UBI in lieu of all other programs can actually be rammed through so that the cost remains a minimum of $2.303T.

    Total federal revenues collected from all sources (taxes, royalties, etc.) in 2014 (last year available) was $3.27 trillion. So UBI would consume somewhere north of 70% of all federal revenues. And the math here assumes that no one receive UBI drops out of the workforce or reduces their taxable income at all–i.e., that revenues stay constant.

    1. Implementation matters. Unless there is some benefit from whatever version of UBI against other programs, there is no reason to support it. People are right to call it another tax in this case. And if it doesn’t include some concessions to the right (ending the minimum wage, SS, etc.), then there is no reason to support it from their end either. The odd bedfellows each want different things for consensus.

      It is also of concern that UBI be based upon what the economy can supply, not some arbitrary line called poverty. The notion of going into debit to pay for UBI is begging for economic collapse. You can justify small levels of debit for the occasional overrun, but not for a national program. And ideally you’d want some controls built in, i.e.- if there are too many people on the dole/the economy contracts, the amount of UBI is lessened. In boom times, it may actual work as a stimulus or there may be a push to end it altogether.

      Paying for UBI on top of SS when SS is about to bankrupt the country is madness. If anything, UBI should be phased in gradually, eliminating chunks of the current welfare system/SS while gradual increasing the amount of BI.

      I’d also posit that UBI won’t be applicable in 100% of cases. There will be outliers who have medical needs, etc. that greatly exceed the amount of UBI. However, to design the program with these circumstances in mind is a recipe for disaster (the cost exceeds the benefit).. Even with UBI, there will still be a need for charity.

  46. I LIKE IT. Perhaps some universities should create special R&D scholarships to get some feasibility studies into how to make it work while we still have a middle class and no military conscription.

  47. The 232 comments to this article suggest that there are an awful lot of people who didn’t recognize that this is an article that was submitted for this April 1 issue which arrived after deadline and was then published in a later issue.

  48. This idea will fall to pieces as soon as you start trying to figure out what is included in a Universal Basic Income. No matter what you base it on, the people who want this and will depend upon it because they don’t want to work, will always want more, more and more. Shouldn’t a universal basic income include a new iPhone every two years so the recipients are embarrassed by their old phones? How about a new car every few years? It’s not fair that only the rich get swimming pools, or eat file mignon…got to add that too. New autographed basketball sneakers…of course. Will it include an allowance for marijuna (medical, or how about recreational too while you’re at it)? Pets! What about pets? Doesn’t grandma need “fancy cat” for her pussy cat? What about my Russian Wolfhound? There is no way you can get to a reasonable rate of payout without a knock-down, insulting and vicious political battle between those skinflint Republicans and those Feed-The-Bums Democrats.

  49. I discuss this in my new science fiction novel, Wayward World (on Amazon). It would go like this. Machines would displace humans in the workplace. All humans. Humans would get a basic income, but it would have to be paid for by taxing the machines, for which it would be a cost of doing business. The still-competitive machines would then compete to reduce those costs to zero, by making the money worthless. Humans would have to leave the cities, to a subsistence life in the wilderness. (19th century technology.) Most would die off, leaving a machine civilization and a small remnant human population.

    But you can read my book.

    Establishment of a basic income would result in instant hyperinflation, which would render money worthless by itself.

    1. Interesting concept.

      I think the biggest problem with doing that in real life would be the endless haggling and lawsuits (as well as lobbing) as to what constitutes “a robot”.

      You’ll end up with weird edge case scenarios like: Paul is a barber, who cuts hair the old fashioned way with nothing but scissors. Peter is another barber, who has a startup and owns robots that cut people’s hair, which pays a little bit of a tax on that. Both Peter and Paul are about equally competitive once you factor in taxes, and customers who prevent their hair cuts the old fashioned way.

      Enter Robert, a 3rd barber. Robert cuts hair with scissors and clippers; managing to convince the local government (possibly by campaign contribution) that clippers aren’t robots. He puts both Peter and Paul of out business.

      Did the local government do the right thing?

      Who gets to decide that clippers aren’t robots, but robots that cut people’s hair are. And how come scissors are not considered robots. Its a tool, ain’t it?

  50. GB Shaw has his character Alfred P. Doolittle sum it up this way:

    It means he’s up against middle-class morality for all the time. …
    I ain’t pretending to be deserving… no… I’m undeserving, and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it, and that’s the truth. — Alfred P. Doolittle, My Fair Lady.

    For many people poverty is a lifestyle choice, not the result of oppression.

  51. I agree with those that are calling for a little bit of perspective and caution before turning our economy on its head for a problem that, as of yet, is only theoretical.

    Peak oil, the “population bomb”, depleted resources are all theories that make a lot of sense and were never even close to materializing. We have more oil now than we know what to do with. Conspiracy theories propagate when they compliment your basic understanding of the world, which all of these do. Of course it makes sense that automation will destroy jobs. But just as one industry becomes unsustainable, another industry is born.

    There is the complication of more downtime, or more jobs revolving around entertainment and not directly tied to survival, but even that is speculative and, as of this writing, not problematic enough to reinvent society.

  52. Probably the biggest selling point of the UBI is that it gets rid of the “fell through the crack” problem.

    For example, say you make $13,999 a year, and $14,000 is the threshold where you make too much to get welfare (or at least drop a notch). Lets say that getting that extra $1 raise a year will put you on the next bracket, causing you to miss out on a $1,000 a year worth of public assistance. So basically, any amount that you earn between $14,000 and $14,998, you would actually be worse off than just earning $13,999.

    We see a similar thing happen with scholarship offers that require you to (or more accurately, your parents) make under a certain amount. Or pretty much any benefit (public or private) that requires you to not be too rich to qualify.

    The UBI would eliminate (or at minimum mitigate) the effect.

  53. I am a hard core libertarian and I fully support basic income and the nanny state under these three conditions:
    1) closed borders
    For the recipients:
    2) castration
    3) stripping of the voting rights
    There are many people who are just like kids. They should not suffer. Neither should they vote or procreate.

  54. I just don’t see this as a way to make our country more productive but just the opposite. Instead of paying their section 8 rent I can see more people under a bridge after they just spend their money on drugs and alcohol. Yeah giving more money directly to the do nothings will do wonders.

  55. Providing everyone a basic income whether they work or not is a good idea if you totally ignore human nature.

  56. At present, while human labor is the driving economic force, Basic Income is nothing more than a welfare state production/innovation killer.

    But, as AI and robotics begin to significantly supplant human labor, a new economic paradigm would likely have to include a Basic Income.

  57. I would support it if every other welfare program was abolished but we all know that isn’t happening, government grows and infringes that is it’s nature, the “guaranteed income” would become another hand out, taking from one group and giving to another. It isn’t realistic.

  58. The indestructible idea of collectivist bullshit. You try to take more of the fruits of our labor and we will work to destroy you: first–politically, second–socially, third–physically.

    Fuck you and support yourself you cunt.

  59. We don’t need a basic income anymore than we we’ve already got, and we’ve already gone too far in what we have. The automation of jobs is an era change just like those in the past – agriculture, to mfr, to service, etc…
    At each one, some thrive, some don’t. But it’s up to each to make the transition.
    Some help for some to get re-trained could be useful at times for some. But really I think many just need to go back to some of the basics – learn the old trades – woodworking, metalworking, etc… – and do things that can’t be automated – making custom products, or do services that can’t be automated.
    I’ll make it either way – programmer for 25+ years, and about ready to semi-retire. But in doing that, I’m not looking to get back to those basics, and do my own thing making custom products that are interesting and unique.
    The people that just want to receive a basic income without work, but who are able to work, let them leave and go somewhere else where that is the way things are done. Or they can stay here and learn the new ways to do things, or the old ways, either way they’ll be able to earn their income and live the life they want to – not the life somebody else lets them live.

  60. Thanks for this detailes and very informative article. Needless to say that a recession was a very tough time for all the Americans. Fortunately, now the economic situation is much better and we can see the economic growth and prosperity. However, I think that the tax system still needs some improvements. It’s necessary to make the system fair. In some occasions individuals with low income have to pay high taxes but how people using payday loans Saskatchewan can do that? Thus, it’s important to make tax system for flexible so everybody will pay a fair share. The government must take more care of people and show the progress in their job that people can see and feel.

  61. Yes, You can do the crowdfunding for basic income.
    You can check here more useful information about crowdfunding:

    Fundraiser is a bundled crowdfunding software that enables you to get started with your own online kickstarter website. The script can easily be used for other business verticals such as fundraising, reward based crowdfunding etc.

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