Andrew Yang promised he would do something unprecedented at tonight's Democratic debate and he delivered: the former entrepreneur and long shot presidential candidate made a roughly libertarian pitch to voters.
During his opening remarks, Yang told debate watchers that they too could win a $1,000 a month "Freedom Dividend"—the candidate's catchy name for his signature universal basic income (UBI) proposal—by visiting his campaign website and entering their name, email, and ZIP code.
It's an inventive but self-interested ploy to harvest more campaign contacts. The most curious thing about Yang's electoral sweepstakes is the way he pitched it.
"When you donate money to a presidential campaign, what happens? The politician spends the money on TV ads and consultants and you hope it works out," said Yang. "It's time to trust ourselves more than our politicians."
Andrew Yang announces his campaign will give $1,000 a month for an entire year to ten American families pic.twitter.com/E7yRb5j0SH
— Axios (@axios) September 13, 2019
"We have to see ourselves as owners and shareholders of this democracy rather than inputs into a giant machine," said Yang.
The praise of individual voters' wisdom over that of politicians or government bureaucrats was refreshing. It's something one could only expect from the single candidate in the Democratic primary who gave a shout-out to libertarians on the debate stage.
Indeed, Yang's UBI proposal is a cousin of welfare reform proposals advanced by libertarian-leaning figures like Milton Friedman and Charles Murray.
It's true that the fiscal math Yang employs to justify his UBI doesn't quite work out; it still relies on coercive taxation and redistribution that many libertarians find unpalatable.
It's nevertheless nice to hear at least one candidate argue that individuals, not large bureaucracies, can make the best decisions about how to live their lives and spend their money.