Andrew Yang continues to clear the low bar of being the Democratic presidential candidate most skeptical of government power, if not government spending.
In response to a question about whether he would support a federal jobs guarantee at tonight's Democratic debate, the former entrepreneur argued that the feds were not going to be very good at providing people with meaningful work.
"I am for the spirit of a federal jobs guarantee, but you have to look at how it would materialize in practice. What are the jobs? Who manages you? What if you don't like your job? What if you're not good at your job?" said Yang, distinguishing himself from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) who had reiterated his support for the idea of a jobs guarantee tonight.
"Most Americans don't want to work for the federal government," Yang bluntly put it, saying a jobs guarantee would replicate the results of failed government retraining programs and produce "jobs that no one wants."
Instead, the presidential candidate made the pitch for his Freedom Dividend, his universal basic income proposal that would provide every American with $1,000 a month.
This, said Yang, would benefit people like his wife—currently at home raising two children, one of whom is autistic—who are unable to work, and therefore would not benefit from a jobs guarantee.
A universal basic income would "put the money into our hands so we can build a trickle up economy" and "enable us to do the kind of work that we want to do," said Yang.
Some libertarian thinkers have argued for some form of UBI as a more efficient, less paternalistic form of the current welfare state. Yang interestingly makes the pitch for his Freedom Dividend in individualistic, if not necessarily libertarian, terms: A universal basic income allows you to decide how to spend your money, and do what you want with your life.
The math for Yang's Freedom Dividend doesn't quite work out. Skeptical free marketers will note that it has the potential to disincentivize work, and will always rely on coercive taxation.
Nevertheless, in a debate that's mostly been candidates arguing they would be the best philosopher king (or queen), it's nice to hear at least someone on stage to express a little faith in the ability of individuals to run their own lives (even if taxpayers are still paying the bills).