Economics

Is a Universal Basic Income Program Worth the Costs?

There are problems with the UBI idea.

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Spain is the latest country talking about adopting a universal basic income, or UBI, program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many libertarians, including myself, have always been open to the idea of moving away from traditional welfare programs to cash payments. That said, I have never come around to endorsing the concept, which suffers from very serious flaws. Unfortunately, the proposed Spanish program would suffer from these same flaws and add a few others to the mix.

The idea of a UBI isn't new. It isn't even a particularly progressive idea. Libertarian/conservative scholar Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute gave UBI a new lease on life a few years ago when he published his book In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State. Murray argued for an unconditional $10,000 annual cash payment from the government to all adult Americans, coupled with the repeal of all other welfare transfer programs. Further, many libertarian giants such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and even Nobel laureate James Buchanan have praised one form or another of a UBI.

In a world where governments already redistribute income with all of the inefficiency that comes with overlapping bureaucracies, frequently resulting a very mediocre welfare system, the notion of direct cash payments has some appeal due to its relative simplicity and fairness. For many, it is certainly preferable to the current system.

The appeal of a UBI isn't really about shrinking the size of government. The program cost would be quite large if the monthly payment is around $1,000 and universal, even though the number of public employees required to administer a true UBI system would be smaller than the army of bureaucrats that taxpayers currently employ to administer the welfare system.

For many, an interest in UBI also comes from the perception that welfare programs are demeaning and paternalistic by design. These current programs dictate to poor people what to spend on food, housing, or health care instead of allowing them to determine those trade-offs. In other words, if you believe that all individuals have the capacity to promote their own interests and are, in fact, better able to make decisions about their own lives than anyone else (like government bureaucrats), UBI should pique your curiosity.

But a UBI program does have features that are problematic.

As George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan has noted, a system that taxes everyone in order to redistribute to everyone is nonsensical in and of itself. Then there is the fact that in places where it has actually been tried, UBI has created some disincentives to work. But that's hardly a surprise since most welfare programs, including the earned income tax credit, also have this downside. The real question is whether UBI is worse than the current system as a whole. One thing is for sure, as a two-year experiment in Finland demonstrated: We know that UBI doesn't compel people to work.

But there are additional concerns surrounding UBI, which are deal breakers for me. Without a strong guarantee that all anti-poverty measures would be terminated—and that they will not be brought back to life later—UBI is a terrible idea. Under such circumstances, UBI won't live up to one of its chief selling points, namely, to serve as a more efficient substitute for the highly inefficient welter of existing welfare programs and to do it in a simple and uniform manner. Herein lies a lot of the problem with the Spanish scheme.

For starters, it's not universal. It's means-tested, which is to say that the UBI recipients must demonstrate they lack a certain level of wealth or income. This defeats the universal and simple aspects of the system. In addition, Spain's UBI program would be added on top of existing welfare programs, so it only makes existing programs more complicated, more bureaucratic and more expensive.

A few years ago, George Mason University's Peter Boettke and Adam Martin of Kings College in London wrote, "The most robust protection against poverty comes from institutions that generate a harmony of interests rather than those that foment distributional conflicts." A guaranteed income may or may not be an improvement over the current state of affairs, but either way, a massive wealth transfer and regulatory state harms the poor.

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  1. As someone who is a least sympathetic to the idea, implementation is key otherwise there is absolutely no reason to go through the upheaval and hassle to change. Unless there are tangible improvements, why bother?

    Even traditional welfare could be moved in a more UBI direction, with increasing the amounts for EIC or reducing earmarks for welfare spending. It is less than perfect, but better than what we have now.

    And the main sticking point is cost- even Yang’s proposal would have been 20% of GDP collected through VAT. There is no conceivable way that could work.

    But at least from the small “l” libertarian perspective, streamlining welfare and reducing overhead are worthy goals, even if UBI isn’t the vehicle to do it.

    1. Why can’t the poor and worthless people pick berries like so many migrant Mexican laborers? Are poor Americans somehow too good to work in the cabbage fields?

      1. Because Trump wants to build a wall?

        1. They could work on the wall.

          1. Hopefully not. As a taxpayer, I’d like qualified people to work on that wall. Otherwise, it would be far too expensive.

      2. In fact, that’s roughly what some of the better European countries are doing: instead of welfare, government partially subsidizes jobs. It avoids the problem with employer-of-last-resort and it makes sure that the able bodied actually get in the habit of working.

        1. Any references? If government charity is going to exist, that sounds better than what we have now.

          1. Miss me Peanut? You clearly think you’re so smart, it’s funny shit to watch. What are you going to do with the references, scurry away with your tail between your legs when you’re inevitably proven wrong? Do everyone a favor. Go to your local pet store, get yourself a nice dose of Droxy, then sneak into your boyfriend’s medicine cabinet and get yourself a nice dose of Addy and then maybe, just maybe you’ll be able to keep up in conversations.

          2. Look up “marginal employment” or “mini jobs” on Wikipedia.

        2. Yup, that is German method. Also, Germans are pretty good with healthcare. So are Swiss. They don’t have either medicare or medicaid. After having invented the welfare state, Germans are now leading the way in dismantling it.

        1. Worth less than minimum wage. Back to the turnip fields with them I say!

      3. One reason I am not a rabid anti-immigrant like everyone else on the right is, is because I grew up in “berry picking country”. Well not berries, but tomatoes and fruit. I would see illegal aliens up before dawn, working their asses off in the field, then come home and provide for their families. At the same time I saw lazy welfare bums who thought it was their job to pump out babies as fast as possible, and I saw the bureaucracy that supported their way of life.

        So which side am I going to be on? The hard working family people the government disapproved of? Of the fat lazy bums who the government doted on?

        I will take twenty wetbacks over one single welfare queen, any day of the week! Tear down that wall and ship the bums down to Mexico! Replace them all with people who will work!

        To think that the right is now making the opposite choice, keeping the shiftless bums while demanding greater and greater exports of the working class, is shameful.

        1. So which side am I going to be on?

          And the white landowners were helped out of bed by their house immigrants around 10 so they could sip lemonade in the shade on the porch until lunch too, right?

          It’s pretty clear you weren’t out in the fields so how many babies have you pumped out?

          1. And I remember when the lower classes in this country did such work themselves. Without welfare and without importing a peon class unfamiliar with the cultural norms of their new country.

            It was how you earned spending money if you were young and broke. Gleaning fields after the harvest too.

        2. It’s actually probably because you have a vested interest in continuing the perverse incentives and deserve to be impaled on a spike since you won’t pay decent wages and want to impose the social and economic costs of importing the third world onto everyone else.

    2. “Even traditional welfare could be moved in a more UBI direction, with increasing the amounts for EIC or reducing earmarks for welfare spending. It is less than perfect, but better than what we have now.”

      Yep. For instance. housing vouchers could be paid in cash instead of “vouchers.” This would mean being able to severely reduce the number of county and city “housing departments.” Eliminating about 3000 government offices seems a good thing to me.

      1. For instance. housing vouchers could be paid in cash instead of “vouchers.” This would mean being able to severely reduce the number of county and city “housing departments.” Eliminating about 3000 government offices seems a good thing to me.

        Along with any other “voucher” type program, such as food stamps (essentially “food vouchers”). Convert those to a means tested direct cash program as well as perhaps making the EITC into a Milton Freidman-ish “negative income tax” and maybe that could do the trick. I’m not sure how streamlined such a system would be compared to the current mess, but it might be at least a slightly better way of helping those who are truly needy without all the fraud, waste, and abuse that the current system of ~80 overlapping and often redundant welfare programs.

        The really fun part would be watching all the progressives who claim to care so deeply about “the poor” scream and wail about “MUH PROGRAMZ!” I’d suggest going big on popcorn futures ’cause it ought to be quite the show.

        1. That’s one way. However, some would promote the exact opposite tack in an effort to save on the amount of wealth redistributed, by providing certain goods and services relating to survival at no charge and in unlimited amounts. The types of goods and services this would work with are those wherein everybody demands the same quantity, no more and no less.

          So for instance Bill Buckley proposed that food benefits be replaced by unlimited supplies of about a half dozen foods that would be boring but nutritionally sufficient, such as the surplus cheese that government price supports create all over the world. People physically can eat only so much, and there’d be no resale value since everyone would get it for $0, so there’d be no worry about the system’s being abused or over-taxed.

          The same should theoretically be true of medicine, since it goes only to heal the sick and therefore should be worthless to everyone else. This might’ve worked as late as 60 years ago, but now progress has made possible treatment for conditions that would in times past not have been considered sickness but inevitability.

          This might still work for basic clothing and housing, were it not for the problem the latter has with location, location, and location. As long as people didn’t care for their privacy, unlocked and unlockable shelter would make perfect sense for basic housing.

          The way these communist supply programs (whichever ones would work under current conditions) would save expense is on transaction costs. Nobody would need to determine eligibility and no money would change hands; there’d be no rationing either. Since those are such a large portion of current costs, anarcho-communism may beat free enterprise in certain sectors for supplying the minimum.

          1. Interesting take I had not heard before.

            However…

            Government cheese for instance. If it is given freely, beyond the subsidy to dairy producers, you would have businesses using it in place of cheese they would otherwise buy, or even some attempting side hustles of queso and the like, especially if one of the major costs is given away elsewhere.

            Never underestimate the creativity of poor people to make a business proposition out of nothing.

            Same with almost any good you can think of, so the unlimited quantity really wouldn’t work.

            Not to mention the other point you make elsewhere- price signaling.

            The other aspect of just giving cash is that it has the least market distortions. Earmarks (in products or money) tend towards inflation. UBI has them theoretically spread out against all sectors, so it should be a wash.

            1. Of course restaurants would use the cheese too. But since this is about only a limited number of foodstuffs, what difference would that make? People can eat only so much.

              1. Person I know use to take blocks of government cheese and make sculptures out of them. Shellac them and leave them out as public art.

                Just sayin’

            2. Those problems are easy to avoid:

              Food: public soup kitchens; provide food on premises to anybody who wants it.

              Health care/drugs: provide service and drugs in free clinics (we already have those, they just need to be expanded). Only essential medicines and treatments are covered (the UN has a reasonable list).

              Housing: provide lockers, communal showers, capsule hotel-like bunks, from 10pm to 7am; hose down during the day.

              Other: provide Internet access and cubicles in what used to be public libraries.

              All of these should be free to anybody: homeless, travelers, visitors, jobless, etc. The point is to provide the minimum people need, nothing more.

              1. And you run into the same complaints of other industries competing against UNICOR- how do you compete against slave labor (or free)?

                Take soup kitchens. After the NIMBY battles of where they are located, the most likely expanding jobs program to man it, enough locations to cover the majority of the US (or provide transportation, which could be another jobs program), new department to oversee it, maintenance, etc…

                After all that, you’ve put price pressure on the elote cart or anyone else competing at the low end of the market (possible future clients).

                Not a problem, just subsidize them…

                Or you could just send them a check and have them make do with whatever is on the value menu.

                This is the heart of the libertarian argument for UBI.

                1. Did I say anywhere that these programs can’t be provided by competitive private industries or charities? In fact, all of these are essentially existing programs that we can simply expand, while taking funding from the more generous welfare programs.

                  Or you could just send them a check and have them make do with whatever is on the value menu. This is the heart of the libertarian argument for UBI.

                  There is no libertarian argument for any such government programs; the libertarian answer is: if you don’t work and don’t have insurance, you need to rely on voluntary, private charities, period. That’s still the best solution, but it’s not politically feasible.

                  That leaves welfare, UBI, and similar programs, and when we embrace such progressive programs, we need to look at what works. US Welfare and UBI don’t work because they create long term dependency. You either need a welfare system that intrudes strongly into individual liberties (as in Europe), or you need a support system that is so bare bones that people will want to get off it themselves, which is what I suggested.

      2. As much as I hate to say it, that has been tried and failed.

        Many people who are in these situations get there and stay there through addiction. Alcohol, drugs, and gambling. While you can buy drugs with anything tradable (most notably, food stamps), alcohol and especially gambling requires cash. Giving cash to a gambling addict is a sure way to burn money, no matter how desperately they need that money to survive.

        1. ‘You can’t make poor people wealthy by only giving them money.’

          I’m at the ‘get rid of it all’ point. Keep temporary, brief limited payments to those thrown out of work by government’s heavy hand with COVID restrictions, but get rid of the rest of it. What are the generational poor going to do? Riot?

    3. Benjamin Tucker’s critique of Herbert Spencer in 1884 applies to most all of Reason’s articles on economics.

      It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people’s welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. You must not protect the weak against the strong, he seems to say, but freely supply all the weapons needed by the strong to oppress the weak. He is greatly shocked that the rich should be directly taxed to support the poor, but that the poor should be indirectly taxed and bled to make the rich richer does not outrage his delicate sensibilities in the least. Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight.

      The intellectual hole at Reason is the failure to account for the endless violations of free market principles that favor those who own over those who labor.

      It’s almost as if, like when feminists advocate for equality for women they really only advocate for more for women, when Reason advocates for free markets they really only advocate for more for corporate power.

      #LockeanProviso

    4. Madison somehow got the impression that under the constitution he’s considered the father of the federal government has no authority or power to commit charity, and welfare, food stamps, housing, health care are charity. States can commit all the charity they wish, though that doesn’t make it a good idea, but the federal government may not.

  2. O/T – James Mattis condemns Trump as a threat to the Constitution

    From Axios

  3. The primary problem with UBI isn’t its fiscal irresponsiblity, it’s that it encourages people not to work. Society can’t function that way.

    1. All welfare does that. Nothing unique about UBI.

      1. The UBI just places it in the hands of Trump/Pelosi. Surely you trust Trump? or Pelosi? One of the two? Why burden the local county office with this stuff when Congress and POTUS can handle it in their wisdom?

      2. Point being, it’s the best solution to an oxymoron. Arguably, a solution in search of a problem.

        It’s the most efficient way to pay people not to work. Acting like we could make it efficient enough that it wouldn’t violate libertarian or capitalist precepts and principles is arranging angels on the head of a pin.

        As pointed out in the article, taxing everyone to pay everyone is absurd and inefficient. Means testing solves this issue but, apparently, MTBI isn’t as good as UBI, because reasons.

      3. No, not all welfare does that. Welfare can be withdrawn if people refuse job offers. A UBI, by definition, is universal, even if you merely voluntarily choose not to work.

        1. But withdrawing welfare from those who refuse job offers just encourages them to go on disability or otherwise become “unemployable”. What motivates people to refuse job offers is rules that would make them ineligible for benefits by having their own income.

          1. So withdrawing welfare from those who refuse job offers just encourages them to go on…

            other welfare?

            Thought hard on that one, did you?

          2. But withdrawing welfare from those who refuse job offers just encourages them to go on disability or otherwise become “unemployable”.

            You can’t just “go on disability”, you need to actually be disabled.

    2. There’s also the aspect that it’s still theft.

      1. My point is: the fact that it is theft, serious as it is, is minor compared to the deleterious effect it has on the recipients.

        It’s the same with other government spending: people falsely believe that the primary problem with government spending is that it needs to be financed through theft, when in fact the primary problem is the spending itself.

        1. My point is: the fact that it is theft, serious as it is, is minor compared to the deleterious effect it has on the recipients.

          I wasn’t arguing which was the bigger sin as much as pointing out that there are two distinguishable sins. Whether spending begets theft or theft begets spending, eliminating only one sin still leaves the other.

          1. My point was that people tend to forget the deleterious effect of government spending. That is, even if government spending is completely financed, say, by oil revenues, the spending itself is still massively harmful.

    3. If the U in UBI be taken seriously, it will provide less discouragement to be productive than do eligibility-limited redistribution programs. Consider the people who work off the books, or pass up work, so as to remain eligible for Medicaid, etc. If you get that money regardless of what other money you make, then the only discouragement is via the declining marginal utility of wealth; that is, if the UBI were so much as to satisfy all your wants, then of course it would discourage work. So the UBI should be an amount such that most people would still want more money.

  4. One flaw I have never seen addressed is thinking there is one single universal value which is “appropriate” for all parts of the country. $1000 a month would be useless in NYC or San Francisco, but feasible as a sole income in some rural areas. And once you start adjusting it for different areas, it will just ratchet upwards as Progressives compete to offer the most.

    The only way I could see to get around that is have separate UBIs for each jurisdiction — federal, state, city, county. But you’d run into the same Progressive competition to see who could give more, and those who “won” would see so many bums migrating there that pretty soon they’d start screaming for assistance from higher up the tax ladder.

    The best thing government can do to help the poor and disabled and unlucky is just get out of the way — eliminate occupational licensing, land zoning, business permits, and everything which gets in the way of people helping themselves. I bet that if 100% of all that malarkey were to disappear, that the need for charity would drop so much that private charity could handle everybody who was unable to care for themselves. There would still be bums. There will always be bums. They’d have to be ignored. Once bums find they can suckle the taxpayer teat and get misplaced sympathy, the game is over. It’s just a pipe dream.

    1. You have a baseline at the federal level (much like minimum wage) with states and municipalities able able to supplement further from their own budgets. Certainly $1000 a month will go further in Des Moines than NYC, and you a another check to move there. If anything, UBI is likely to drive people out into the sticks.

      And without UBI, you already see the push of progressive policies driving the west coast into the ground. UBI doesn’t change that, except maybe giving people the means to flee.

    2. The IRS has already done all of this with their adjusted daily travel deduction amounts for business. They use the GSA rates.

    3. It’s the same problem with trying to impose a far higher nationwide minimum wage. A middle-class salary in parts of the midwest is evidently “below poverty” in places like San Francisco.

    4. I tend to agree but that imbalance would also create the incentive and give people the means to move out of those cities. Whether that would actual happen, I have no idea.

    5. “One flaw I have never seen addressed is thinking there is one single universal value which is “appropriate” for all parts of the country.”

      I don’t see this as a flaw. If some part of the country is too expensive for someone to live in, they can get off their lazy butts and move somewhere else. I’ve moved several times because the places I lived became too expensive relative to my salary.

      1. Personal responsibility?

        WTF, do you think you are talking to libertarians?

        UBI is kinder, gentler socialism.

    6. Your get-around has the disadvantage of eliminating one of the informational functions of trade, which is what replacing programs with cash is supposed to preserve. So keeping the UBI the same everywhere maintains an incentive to move to lower-cost areas.

      One of the reasons people live in high-cost areas is jobs. If they’re not working, they don’t need to be close to their job.

      OTOH, $1,000/mo. is not useless even in a high cost area, because, since there’s no eligibility requirement, that $1,000 is just one more bit of income you’d have. You could still be making a good living, and this would be a bonus. For most people, of course, between this bonus and the tax to pay for it, it’d be a wash.

  5. It violates the NAP and is therefore immoral and if you support it you are immoral too and no true Scotsman.

    1. Amen.

  6. Milton Friedman proposed doing this via a negative income tax. I read Murray’s work, and frankly, I thought he made a good case. Alas, this did not gain traction.

    The key is the absolute trade-off. The welfare programs go away completely in exchange for cash payment.

    1. Which will be a non-starter, like eliminating all other forms of taxation in favor of a national sales tax.

    2. Not just welfare programs (at least the traditional types) but minimum wage, social security, and possibly even Medicare- all gone if we ever do UBI.

      I’d also like to do away with the idea of a fixed dollar amount and have it expressed as a percentage of GDP. As much as possible, it should be self-regulating and away from the purview of congress once enacted.

      1. Not just welfare programs (at least the traditional types) but minimum wage, social security, and possibly even Medicare- all gone if we ever do UBI.

        I’d also like to do away with the idea of a fixed dollar amount and have it expressed as a percentage of GDP. As much as possible, it should be self-regulating and away from the purview of congress once enacted.”

        Yeppers.

      2. “social security, ”

        People get Social security based upon their contributions. Giving everybody the same amount is not going to wash with everyone that paid in a lot more.

        It would be better just to leave Social Security alone, rather than risk screwing it up.

        But I don’t believe we should have a UBI anyway, maybe a Universal Wage supplement, so you get paid extra for every hour you work. And if you don’t work, well you don’t get any money, ergo, there’s no issue of a vast underclass of non-working citizens.

    3. We already have a negative income tax (EITC). That’s on top of all the welfare programs at the state and federal level.

      1. Well, then I guess they have the distribution angle solved…

        1. In that sense, we already have a UBI, except it’s balanced by taxes on people above the EITC eligibility requirements. You know, the way every UBI has to work anyway.

    4. “The welfare programs go away completely in exchange for cash payment.”

      Like tolls go away as soon as the toll road is paid off, right?

  7. “As George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan has noted, a system that taxes everyone in order to redistribute to everyone is nonsensical in and of itself.”

    If UBIs are nonsensical on their face, then any other objection is gilding the lily.

    1. Yup. I’m not a real fan of the negative income tax (which is sort of what the EIC is). But imagine a true flat tax with a single large standard deduction. Nothing you earn under $50,000 is ever taxed, and then it’s a straight 25% on everything above that. No other deduction or credit, and no other tax. No dole from the Federal government, it’s all handled at the state and county level.

      1. Taxation violates the NAP and is immoral.

    2. If UBIs are nonsensical on their face, then any other objection is gilding the lily.

      No. No. No. It’s deckchairs on the Titanic, casting pearls before swine, or maybe dancing angels on the head of a pin. It’s nothing like gilding the lily! (No seriously, the metaphor implies that our current tax scheme is a beautiful flower.)

      1. What do you expect from Bryan Caplan?

    3. It’s not nonsensic if the taxes are progressive.

  8. “Without a strong guarantee that all anti-poverty measures would be terminated—and that they will not be brought back to life later—UBI is a terrible idea.”

    What could that guarantee possibly be? There is no way to have such a guarantee.

    1. Write it into the Constitution along with the new Constitutional amendment that requires all government employees to take an oath of office swearing to protect and defend the Constitution and that henceforth violating the Constitution or your oath of office shall be considered an act of high treason against the United States and the people of the United States, punishable by death.

      1. Great idea! Now enforce it. The constitution is already a list of things the government can’t do, but they do them anyway. There’s already supposed to be penalties for this, but they’re rarely if ever enacted. If they are it’s selectively as a political hit job. Until someone solves the problem of making rules for the top of the pyramid that are actually enforced, no amount of amendments are going to save us.

        Sorry to sound like a nihilist, but isn’t this the problem every system of government from the beginning of time? You eventually reach a level where there’s no one to hold anyone accountable and the temptation to abuse that position becomes too much for any mortal man.

    2. Outlaw Democrats?

      1. Outlaw the Republicans while you’re at it. The fiscal responsibility in Washington D.C. runs deeply along both aisles.

    3. See, many of the measures put in place during the “New Deal”, and then again in the “Great Society”. We’re still stuck with all that crap, and by many metrics most Americans are economically worse now than they were in 1970.

      They call these things “entitlements”, and sure enough, people quickly feel entitled. The state-leftists who want a welfare state always try to turn a hand up into a hand out, and a safety net into a hammock.

    4. What could that guarantee possibly be? There is no way to have such a guarantee.

      We could have an amendment that goes along the lines of “Congress shall make no law…” and then work from there. We could put it in front of the 1A so that people would understand how important it is and make sure Congress never passes a law that violates it.

    5. True, and there’s also no guarantee that a UBI won’t come in if those anti-poverty programs are terminated, either.

      Whether you have a democracy, a monarchy, or whatever, anything can be enacted or repealed independently of anything else, any time. Arguing for or against something on the basis of what else might come in or go out at some future time is a fool’s errand.

  9. I think a lot of people wouldn’t want to receive UBI. I know I’d be tempted to tear the check up. I’m not a child, I don’t need an allowance from Big Daddy and Mommy Government.

    1. I’d donate it to organizations who’s sole purpose was to abolish it and then, eventually, the problem would solve itself.

    2. I think that would be overcome by the realization that they are taxing you and forcing you to live under their regulations anyway, so why make it even harder on yourself by not accepting some of your own money back. At least I think that’s how most middle-class people would see it. Upper quintile folks might just donate theirs to charity.

    3. For people who aren’t poor, the UBI and the tax to pay for it would simply cancel. The UBI eliminates the progressivity from the benefits by having no eligibility rules; the progressivity of redistribution would come from the tax side only.

      1. “tax to pay for it would simply cancel” ….Right… Ya know just like those gangsters in Chicago who would steal back what was stolen from them and round-round it goes endlessly were model societies that everyone wanted to live in.

    4. If you’re a productive member of society, you wouldn’t be getting a check; it would already be factored into your withholding.

  10. “Without a strong guarantee that all anti-poverty measures would be terminated—and that they will not be brought back to life later—UBI is a terrible idea. ”

    I am a strong supporter of UBI as a replacement for EVERY current program, including housing, health, and social security, but that IS the big fly in the ointment.

  11. No.

    The UBI concept springs from the same basic retarded ideas that underly socialism and the welfare state.

    First, that people are magically entitled to stuff (and that stuff will magical appear, by government edict).

    Second, that nobody ever, never, ever deserves to have more stuff than anyone else.

    Compassion is nice, and if you feel motivated to help others, by all means do what you want–with your own stuff. Keep your redistributionist hands off my stuff.

  12. > Many libertarians, including myself, have always been open to the idea of moving away from traditional welfare programs to cash payments.

    Except it’s not a move away! One government program never replaces another. It’s always another layer on top. Even if a miracle occured and all the old welfare from a dozen different layers of bureaucracy were swept away with the wave of a magic wand, they would all come back piecemeal over time. Starting the instant the media reported on all those poor out of work bureaucrats.

    But that’s not the biggest problem. It’s the incentive NOT to work. We see that right now with Trump/Pelosi’s temporary unemployment benefits. Workers get paid more in the dole line than they do working a legit job. Employers are discovering this as they try to onboard their temporarily furloughed workers. The employers have to hire back their furloughed workers or pay back the Trump/Pelosi business loans. And they can’t so they file bankruptcy instead. (All praise Trump/Pelosi from where all goodness flows).

    So step one of a UBI is to make sure the guaranteed payments aren’t more than one can get by working. But that’s a non-starter, because you know damned well that if $600 a week is a “living wage” for an unskilled employee, then the same $600 is still “living benefits” for UBI. The minimum wage will be the floor for the UBI.

    It would need to be substantially lower than the minimum wage, with a diminishing curve for those who work part time and stuff. So as to not discourage employment itself. That’s a tricky business, but even if you can balance it, you STILL get those people who refuse to work even with a lower UBI.

    I’ve met these people. They are fortunately rare but they do exist. And in some subcultures they even more common. They invariably have children, because you always get more from the government if you have children. And it’s just not fair that the government treats children this way, so the UBI is pushed up.

    So the dole is inevitable in this culture. I don’t see a way around it without a massive culture war. But placing it all in the hands of Trump/Pelosi seems like the wrong hands. At least with the piecemeal county system it remains a local problem.

    1. But that’s because their unemployment benefits. If you got them equally whether you were employed or not, you wouldn’t be passing up either to get the other.

      Similarly, getting more from government if you have children is a policy choice. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      1. “they’re”. I find with age my touch-typing fingers are becoming suckers for homophones.

  13. Welfare reform is nowhere near as important an issue with UBI as monetary reform. As long as we persist in thinking that money = only a thing that one group of people can create out of thin air while everyone else is required to work for it – well of course UBI makes no sense even with welfare reform.

    And monetary reform ain’t even remotely on any agenda.

    1. Ding ding! Without fixing the money, it doesn’t matter what you do.

  14. ” if you believe that all individuals have the capacity to promote their own interests and are, in fact, better able to make decisions about their own lives than anyone else”

    so the exact opposite of what the progressives believe?

    1. Progressive or conservative or not, no one believes that. There’s a whole demographic under the age of 18 that don’t fit that description and, again by both sides precepts, nothing exactly magical about the number 18.

  15. While I don’t think UBI would work for the poorest, I think it could be a great help to the working poor. It would provide a buffer that could allow their work to lift them out of poverty. You could also eliminate some social programs directed at this group, like SNAP and rent support. I do think the UBI would have to be coupled with help care to be truly effective.

    1. Yes, because government ‘help and care’ has been so effective at lifting people out of poverty.

  16. UBI is flawed and dumb.

    If you are going down that road, make it a Universal Wage supplement. So every worker gets some bump in pay for every hour worked. Also, remove minimum wage, but require every employer to pay at least as much as the Wage supplement.

    The supplement is only paid for hours actually worked. So, no supplement for royalties, dividends, gifts, etc. Fund it with a FICA tax on hours worked and the amount it pays is strictly based upon the amount raised in taxes.

    Of course how do you know if someone actually worked the hours they claim? Well that’s a big issue. but this is still better than a UBI, where no one has to work.

  17. UBI would be great, and moral, but it will never happen. Not because it is impossible to implement but because giving people cash is giving people options. It takes power AWAY from government and gives it TO people, and the government won’t allow that. People may begin to exercise their freedom.

    Democrats especially cannot stomach the idea of poor people moving away from the economic traps they have made; to keep poor people poor and voting for the gibs is the name of the game and god damn it, those voter rolls are not gonna fill themselves.

      1. Maybe moral is the wrong word. Ethical? Surely it is preferable to the current system, where large sums are doled out by connected players who define the rules by which you get aid and can dispense of it. When has government ever effectively centrally planned for anything? The current system is perverse by nature.

        I suppose it’s not “moral” in the sense that it is still redistributionist. But then every government expenditure is essentially immoral, even if that expenditure were to produce a positive moral outcome, since it’s all paid for with stolen treasure. I don’t think “taxation is theft” is just a meme. Taxation really is theft. It is outrageous theft, considering how the money is used.

        Of all the way government spends my money, I would have the least objection to universal cash payments to people. Like I said above I don’t think it will ever happen. But I do think it would produce positive outcomes. All this assuming UBI is the replacement to current welfare.

        1. Taxation is actually robbery because of the threat of violence.

      2. It is as moral as paying for a stadium to help a sport team make billions. It is as moral of farm support payments for crops we don’t need. It is as moral as paying for weapon system we don’t need so people have jobs.

        1. ^^^Funny arguments which basically state, “We shot the dog already so just as well rape the wife too.”

        2. So, not moral at all. Glad to see we’re agreed. Now we can get rid of both welfare *and* stadiums and farm subsidies.

  18. Is a Universal Basic Income Program Worth the Costs?

    Why do we not ask the people who will be forced, under threat of death, to pay for it?

    1. Because the core tenant of libertarianism is top men deciding how much you will give to everyone else, but mostly to them.

  19. I think that if you nationalized some sort of natural resource, such as Norway has done with oil and natural gas – and Alaska does something similar – you could make a UBI type of program work by structuring the payments as ‘dividends’ from the profit on that resource or industry.

    But I wouldn’t exactly call the idea libertarian.

    1. nationalized some sort of natural resource
      That presumes that:
      1. Government can manage production of said natural resource to actually produce a profit. See Venezuela’s management of oil.
      2. Government can fairly distribute the “dividends” in a way that will encourage productivity of other products. See U.S. management of Native American reservations.

    2. I like the idea of taking this tax money and putting it into a widely diversified, low-risk, fund – only expecting to make a market rate of return, nothing magical – and taking the resulting dividend to fund government with any excess paid back as a Citizen’s Basic Dividend.

      With this, new citizens need to pony up some money to buy in.

      But that would assume setting up some investment vehicle that couldn’t be tweaked by cronies to support connected businesses. It would not be a mechanism to *invest in new technologies* or any bullshit like that. Not as a ‘venture capital’ thing where you’re trying to get amazingly rich overnight by picking the right companies.

      Just a portfolio that does moderately better than inflation and requires minimal oversight.

  20. “In a world where governments already redistribute income…”

    This makes me crazy every time I read it. Income is earned. You can’t redistribute that which was not distributed in the first place.

  21. Just curious what all of you in favor of UBI have to say about this.

    So you give “mom” (or “dad”… doesn’t matter) $1000 on July 1st. She/he spends it all on a wide screen television and by the 6th of July, the money is gone.

    Are you willing to let her/him starve to death now? Because, if not, you’ve got to cough up for another form of welfare anyway.

    CB

    1. That’s one story. What do you have to say about the couple working two minimum wage jobs. The $1000/month give them a buffer. Allow them to get through the month without food stamps. Put a little money aside to replace their car when it get too old. Maybe a little extra spent for a used computer to help their children learn more. Because for some your story will be true and for others this story will be true.

      1. As long as it helps one person eh?

        This is why the welfare state is so insidious. It holds up the people in the most dire circumstances as the reason we need more welfare and then simultaneously holds up the most unquestionably good uses of welfare as justifications for the welfare already being spent. “We can’t cut anything because Jack is using that money to buy food for his kids. We need more money because Jill still can’t afford to feed hers.” Lost in the discussion is whether Jack could afford to feed his kids without welfare by cutting back elsewhere or whether Jill will ever feed hers regardless of how much money you give her.

      2. Allow them to get through the month without food stamps

        All you’ve done in this scenario is replace ‘food stamps’ with ‘UBI’. Nothing has changed in their circumstances. Its still government assistance. Just because one month its called ‘food stamps’ and the other month called ‘UBI’ doesn’t change the fact that its still ‘welfare’.

        Maybe a little extra spent for a used computer to help their children learn more.

        Two people on minimum wage are earning a total of $24/hr in Arizona. That’s $850/wk take home pay. $3,400/mo.

        $400/mo for food.
        $1,000/mo for a 2-bedroom apartment
        $300/mo utilities (electricity, water, internet)

        That’s $1,700, leaving $1,700 left over for everything else. In one month you can buy a computer for the kid – and that’s without housing assistance, food stamps, or anything.

        The only people for who your story would be true are those people who insist on staying in ridiculously priced cities. And they insist on staying in those cities because they already get food stamps and housing subsidies.

        1. First you are right it is still government assistance. But the upside is its much simpler to administer. No determining eligibility, no compliance. Give people the money and expect them to use it as wisely as they can. Also no politicians trying to make points with work requirement, drug testing, or prescribing menus.
          As to your second point, budgeting can be much more complicated than a simple paper exercise. What I am shooting for here is to help the working poor by giving them a buffer that allow then to advance in the capitalist system. Where they are currently,at the end of the month there is little left and where an unexpected bill means you are in debt. If you have that buffer you can make it through and even advance.

          1. What I am shooting for here is to help the working poor by giving them a buffer that allow then to advance in the capitalist system.

            1. What is stopping you? Is it that you don’t want to do this yourself but would rather steal money from other people barely further up the ladder?

            2. We don’t have a ‘capitalist’ system. We have a free market – massively distorted by government intervention in every aspect of the market. How about instead of pushing for more government intervention to fix issues caused by government intervention we get rid of that government intervention?

    2. You just misunderstood your mom’s plan.

      That wide screen was an investment to charge for screenings of private movies in the basement. I heard you were involved.

      This is a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. One of the most pernicious aspects of welfare is the persistent nanny state-ism.

      She bought a wide screen. Live with the consequences.*

      *but at least you’ll get a cool wide screen from the estate, so win!

  22. “even though the number of public employees required to administer a true UBI system would be smaller than the army of bureaucrats that taxpayers currently employ to administer the welfare system.”
    Gee, if only we had an existing department capable of providing monthly direct deposits to gazillions of recipients.
    I might be willing to pay the cost just to get rid of HHS and HUD.
    Speaking of costs; $1,000.00/month? Surely not a living wage, so this only works if everyone works. Feature or bug? Or absolute guarantee the amount would increase rapidly?
    That works out to $5.77/hour on an annual basis. Probably enough for food, or utilities, or flophouse rent away from democrat strongholds. But not any two of those.

  23. The only UBI I would support is a Georgist citizen’s dividend where economic rent from the unimproved value of land by way of a land value tax, in addition to Pigouvian taxes on pollution and severance taxes on natural resource depletion. Fund the expentures of a minimal government from the revenue pool and distribute the rest equally to all residents as a guaranteed basic income. This all but eliminates the welfare bureaucracy, provides a just (because it is based fundamentally on a natural right to the natural commons), equitable, and non-distortionary way to fund the program, and incentivizes voters to keep spending as low as possible. Drawing an impactful amount to redistribute from another source will see much of the money will just end up back in the coffers of wealthy landlords, since the poorest rent their homes, and rent prices will simply rise to meet the greater ability to pay.

  24. VALUE = WEALTH
    POWER = JUSTICE

    When power is used to create wealth POWER = WEALTH; then there is NO justice and NO value thus will always result in “valueless” wealth (i.e. money).

    Seems the politicians are in a rat-race to see who can bring on hyperinflation the fastest. The very value in the USD is the *earning* required to get it. Without *earning* it; it is a worthless printed on piece of paper everyone would burn in an incinerator.

  25. UBI is the theory that if you pay people who don’t make stuff a high enough living wage, they’ll be able to afford all the stuff that isn’t being made.

    1. The stuff still is being made; it’s just that it’s either being done elsewhere due to offshoring and outsourcing, or that it’s being made by automated systems or more efficiently with fewer people needed. Thanks for the empty platitude soundbyte, though.

  26. These riots were exactly what the Democrat platform did not need.
    Turns out when you have more people with nothing to do, no school, no job, they find something to do on the streets. And, many of these inner city communities do not have the best family and educational structure, that keeps these kids out of trouble.

    Turns out, if you use UBI or gov’t funding to help people do nothing (due to automation or whatever it may be), they have no control over the destruction the deploy onto the city.

    The movements which they support and refuse to denounce definitely is proving against their whole platform. And, I’m someone who thinks UBI could work. But, then again, we are decades away from ever needing it, cause automation takeover of the economy is further away than we think.

    1. Probably the wrong analysis.

      At least a portion of those riots is to get more state services or whatever.

      The state service with the most likely outcome is prison. And a halt to any other service once received.

      Bad idea to film yourself openly committing felonies on unsecured networks, but what I gather from the rhetoric, this isn’t exactly the dawning of the new Enlightenment either.

  27. Ctrl-F: No mention of outsourcing, offshoring and immigration and the effects on things like wages or the availability of work. Libertarians have this blinkered worldview like communists where people need to ignore their incentives in certain situations for their ideology to work.

    1. You’re of course right about the basic absurdity of this discussion. It is, after all, US government regulations combined with low tariffs that raise labor costs to the point where low skilled US workers are priced out of competitive international markets entirely and need welfare. And then the remaining higher skilled workers get taxed to provide demeaning welfare payments. And on top of that, we still have a large class of illegal, low skilled workers for certain politically favored industries.

      And then Libertarians come in and say: “hey, why not just give everybody a UBI”!

      UBI, like open borders and free trade, should be on the agenda only after government regulations and taxes have been reduced to near zero.

      1. No it’s quite the opposite, they’re not priced out of anything. They just pocket the difference from utilizing foreign virtual slave labor in places like China and then claim they couldn’t possibly hire local workers to make product that used to be made in places like America even though productivity is higher now than ever and you used to be able to do it just fine. Our countries never would have become wealthy in the first place if they simply couldn’t pay local labor a decent wage.

        The point is if you outsource, offshore and import foreign scabs you are perforce going to have a lot of unemployed people as well as crushed down wages. The incentives of people negatively affected by this becomes to clamor for something like UBI or to pick up rocks and start caving in the skulls of those who create and enforce these policies.

        As some honest people like Hans-Hermann Hoppe will point out though, that the government choosing to not do anything in these cases is still the government doing something since they ultimately have the power to prevent these kinds out of outcomes, yet they don’t.

        1. Foreign labor promotes trade. Trade increases wealth which most farmers understand.

          1. Not always when you’re trading at a deficit. It’s not “good for the economy” when your country’s living standards and quality of life metrics dip into the toilet and you have enormous and growing debt. You aren’t as smart as you think you are.

            1. ‘Trading at a deficit’ means they’re giving you goods and services and you’re giving them little pieces of paper that they then store in vaults instead of buying goods and services back.

              1. A trade deficit means that you’re exporting more goods and services than you’re importing. That’s it.

                No one is trading on debt. The foreign businesses American businesses are trading with are not just giving us shit with the promise of payment later.

                And if they were that would be even better. Right now that have vaults full of little green pieces of paper. If they were issuing credit we wouldn’t even have to give them the paper.

                1. So now we’re going full Keynesian economics gibberish where we pretend that this stuff doesn’t matter and in the end we’re all dead anyway since we’re homosexuals with no children and thus no investment in the future, like Keynes.

  28. as a total replacement for all other welfare programs, i could probably accept UBI as a better alternative….. but never so much that i could actually support it. but if it did not include the complete elimination of all other welfare, i would fight it tooth and nail.

    the main reason i could never actually support it, is the permanence. i support phasing welfare programs out responsibly, but my end goal would be to see everyone enjoying the opportunities of a truly free market. this scheme does not just phase it out, it replaces it with something even more permanent and pervasive to the market. how much would this screw up the labor market, when existing welfare programs already work to depress low wage income growth?

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  30. I’m sorry to bust anybody’s bubble, but a fairly large percentage of people dependent on government welfare programs, when given cash instead of food/housing/medical care, will just buy more beer. And then we’ll still have the problem of children who aren’t being taken care of. We are already encouraging too many people to allow the government to take over the role of parents. Anyone too sorry to know better than to keep having babies they can’t take care of, is too sorry to budget their own money.

  31. Without a strong guarantee that all anti-poverty measures would be terminated—and that they will not be brought back to life later—UBI is a terrible idea ventura electrician

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