Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Universal Basic Income Proposal Still Fails to Pass Libertarian Scrutiny

We don’t need UBI to enable people to tell bosses to take the job and shove it.

ANTARA FOTO/REUTERS/NewscomANTARA FOTO/REUTERS/NewscomMy son, Ben, asked for my take on Scott Santens' article "If You Think Basic Income is 'Free Money' or Socialism, Think Again," so here it is. The title previews the two issues Santens plans to take up, though in reverse order. So let's start with socialism. Santens article is in a way refreshing because he likes markets. He begins thus:

First, saying basic income is socialism is as absurd as saying money is socialism. It's money. It's all it is. What do people do with money? They use it in markets. In other words, basic income is fuel for markets.

Before we get to the socialism part, let's clear up one thing up. A basic-income policy—or universal basic income (UBI) — is not money. How can a policy be money? It's a proposal for what to do with money (or purchasing power). Saying it is just money is like saying military policy is just money. Clearly it is not.

Whether the policy constitutes socialism, as some libertarians definitely assert, is a semantical matter. What is socialism? If socialism means state ownership of the means of production, then UBI is not surely socialism. If we use an older definition (such as individualist Benjamin Tucker and others used)—an umbrella term for any answer to the "social question" regarding the fact that most people must sell their labor services to owners of capital in order to live—then as Santens presents it, it is a form of socialism, though (to show my cards here) not a very good one.

One last point about the socialism question: Santens tries to establish the nonsocialist character of UBI by citing Alaska's oil dividend:

Every year since 1982, all residents of Alaska receive an equal dividend as their share of the dividend of the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF), now worth over $61 billion. Rich or poor, adult or child, everyone has received a Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) of $1,000 per year on average for over 30 years. Is Alaska a socialist utopia? Do people move to Alaska to worship at the altar of Karl Marx? Nope. Alaska is a red state, but not that kind of red state. It's a conservative state where everyone gets what too many media outlets refer to as "free money.'…

"The dividend is not really free money, Santens argues, because "Alaska owns the land and charges oil companies for the right to drill in it…. Does that sound like socialism to you?"

Well, yes; as a matter of fact, it does (in the newer sense of the word). How can Alaska, an abstraction, own anything? In reality, some of the individuals who constitute the government of Alaska claim to own it and thus control its use. Those individuals may say they control it on behalf of the people of the state, but what's that assertion really worth? Can a regular Alaskan decide he'd rather use his putative share of the land than accept a cash substitute? Of course not.

By making this argument about Alaska, Santens seems to reveal a Georgist belief (which some past libertarians have found alluring) that the world's land by natural right belongs to everyone equally. That claim has been rebutted so I will leave it at this: how can someone far from a parcel of land have an ownership claim equal merely by birth to someone who mixes his labor with it and actualizes its hitherto only potential value?

Santens never asks whether UBI, if not socialism, is rather a welfare-state measure. It certainly seems to be. So the long-standing libertarian critique of the welfare state would seem to apply.

As I said, Santens appreciates markets:

Markets are a wonderful invention that serve to calculate via a massively distributed computer comprised of people, what goods and services should be made, using what, going where, by whom, of what quantity, etc. It's an incredible act of decentralization built upon supply and demand signaling.

I won't quibble over the word invention. (Markets emerged without being intended or designed.) I admire him for embracing the core of the Austrian critique of any proposal to abolish markets. Of course, this point would also apply to any proposal that would distort, rather than outright abolish, prices. Santens thinks he can use the calculation point in defense of UBI. He writes:

When someone has money and wants to buy something, that is a demand signal. Businesses meet this signal with supply. Basically, buying is like voting. We vote on what we want using money as our ballots, and we do this over and over and over again, every day. Now imagine someone has no money in a system built around markets. How do they vote? They can't. The market thus confuses this lack of a vote as a "no" vote. These two signals are of course very different. One is zero and one is null, but markets don't know that. They can't differentiate between them. This means markets containing people who don't have enough money to signal their demand can't function properly.

His argument is that markets would work better if people who don't have money had it. But Santens seems not to have read Bastiat's "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen." If the government transfers money or purchasing power from A to B, B can signal his demand, yes, but only because A can do so only to a lesser extent than before. What would A have done with the money if not signal his demand in the market? You might say that transferring wealth from rich to poor would have important benefits, but this misses a point. Wealthier people save and invest more of their incomes than poorer people do. In a freed market (i.e., without privilege or impediment), savings and investment help lower income people disproportionately by making goods cheaper and more abundant. Consumption spending cannot do that.

So UBI would give with one hand while taking away with the other. I don't like the "pie" metaphor in political economy, but it seems preferable to grow the pie rather than merely distribute slices of the existing pie. Thus, why say the market work would better after the transfer than before? This is an unsupported normative argument masquerading as a positive economic one. I call foul.

Santens pulls an argument from authority by noting that both Milton Friedman and F. A. Hayek "supported the idea of basic income." But Santens will have to do better than that. Yes, Friedman and Hayek had their reasons, but how good were those reasons? In my view, they are vulnerable to my counterarguments here. Friedman's case is along the lines of a second-best proposal; that is, if we are stuck with a government safety net, let's have one with the least bureaucratic intrusion and cost. So he supported the negative income tax over the welfare state. (See Henry Hazlitt's critique.)

If those were the only options, then, well, okay. The problem is that proposals for modest government activity have a way of undergoing mission creep, moving far beyond what their advocates wanted. This is just good public choice analysis. Besides, we can have a social safety net founded on voluntarism without the state. For a look at how this was once done, see David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967.

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

  • BigT||

    Hey, $30k per person is only $9 trillion. What's the big deal?

  • IceTrey||

    Only adults I believe.

  • ThomasD||

    In another hard hitting article at Reason F. Arbuth Harkleswalm argues that Chattel Slavery Still Fails to Pass Libertarian Scrutiny.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Money is only numbers printed on pieces of paper, so what if we just hand it out on the street corner. Right?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Save paper. Just text numbers to people.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    We should come up with a nifty name for that.

    Something like.....'bitcoin'

  • BadLib||

    That wouldn't work -- there's a technological cap on how much Bitcoin can be produced but there's no cap on how much free money people will demand.

  • wreckinball||

    Holy crap this really needed an article at a libertarian website?
    That UBI is a bad idea? No kidding
    Geez

  • ThomasD||

    "Whether the policy constitutes socialism, as some libertarians definitely assert, is a semantical matter."

    Which Richman then follows with a definition of communism - state ownership of the means of production. Not state control over the distribution of the fruits of production. Richman thinks that would be totally libertarian. Only he won't tell you.

    Richman is playing a shell game here . He's giving you specific reasons why the UBI will not work, but once those particular problems are resolved...

    Socialism here we come!

  • ||

    When has Richman ever said that state ownership of the means of production would be totally libertarian?

    All he has done in this article has questioned whether UBI is socialism under any of its various definitions.

    In everything I've ever seen by Richman he has denounced socialism in any form except for voluntary associations.

    In this article he even rejects Georgism, which as he says "...some past libertarians have found alluring", (in my observation there are still libertarians who find Georgism "alluring"), and which is also foundational to the beliefs of many, if not most, of those who call themselves "left-libertarians."

  • Jay Dubya||

    well put isaac

  • ThomasD||

    "When has Richman ever said that state ownership of the means of production would be totally libertarian?"

    To my knowledge? He's never made that explicit claim. Which is why I said "he won't tell you."

    Beyond that, if you think his 'semantic' discussion, which he chose to limit to one very narrow definition of socialism - that being communism, and then quickly elided to the most vague and permissive one of " any answer to the "social question" was remotely dispositive (or honest) well, then there is not much I can say that is going to change your mind either. Seeing as how you can drive a battleship between those two, I'd say Richman has left himself copious wiggle room.

    Richman could have easily and convincingly noted that the UBI is indeed socialism. That he didn't speaks volumes.

  • ||

    I seem to have read some different article, sorry.

  • ||

    Santens never asks whether UBI, if not socialism, is rather a welfare-state measure. It certainly seems to be. So the long-standing libertarian critique of the welfare state would seem to apply.


    As I have strained to make clear, not all state spending is "socialism". Most of it is the state asserting its power over the peasants.

    Not all government handouts are "socialism". Most of them are simply politicians trying to buy votes from the unwashed masses.

    The 'semantic' problem you and I seem to be butting heads over is that to me "socialism" describes a particular set of ideological beliefs in the political and economic realm.

    To you "socialism" describes any public policy you don't like.

  • ThomasD||

    No, but thanks for studiously missing the point.

    If it is government mandated redistribution it is socialism. Doesn't matter why the politicians do it.

    But I can see that you are the sort who values intention over action.

  • ||

    If you say so, though I would prefer that you left my mental processes to your mind reading act.

  • ThomasD||

    Read your mind? How about I read your own words, and draw obvious inferences from them?

    "... to me "socialism" describes a particular set of ideological beliefs in the political and economic realm."

    Socialism is a set of beliefs.

    Nothing more?

    And yet somehow the practice of taking wealth from the productive in order to distribute it among all just doesn't seem to square up with these 'beliefs' of your notion of socialism so as to qualify as actual socialism.

    Uh huh.

    Is belief in the UBI socialism?

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Do you know that there are guys who (laughably) put themselves forth as libertarians who are openly pushing this UBI shit right here at Reason, like Nick Gillespie for example?

    And if someone is pushing for BOTH a UBI and for open borders with unlimited immigration, you know beyond any shadow of a doubt that that person is a discipline of Alinsky, Cloward, Piven, and Obama who wants to destroy the America the Founding Fathers created and remake it as a Marxist state.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Puffery and nonsense. The primary attraction and justification for UBI is as a replacement for all existing government handouts. Most such people recognize that's a pipe dream, that proggies will never let the old welfare programs go away, and state bureaucrats will fight it tooth and nail too because it not only reduces the need for so many government bureaucrats, it also reduces the power of the remaining ones to control people's lives.

    Even proggies pay lip service to UBI as a replacement, but of course they don't intend to follow through.

  • Cy||

    Oh? They'll follow through. They'll push it as a replacement, implement it and then leave all of the other welfare programs in place. Did we forget so quickly the Obamacare arguments about it replacing the need for other government subsidies? Hows that working out?

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    And the con artists around here know this and are banking on it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Oh? They'll follow through.

    No, that's literally the opposite of what Scarecrow said.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I could have written it better, but it also didn't take a Supreme Court justice to figure out what I meant.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I meant they would not follow through on their stated lip service, that they would find one excuse after another to keep old programs running, and indeed enhance them.

    Henry Hazlitt said it well -- UBI has to be enough t live on, comfortably, or the proggies will find one sob story after another to show how inadequate it is. But that's unaffordable, so you have to make it graduated, so that as you earn more, you get less UBI (which means it's no longer UBI, but never mind). And if it's graduated, then the amount you get with no income still has to be enough for comfortable living or it won't be acceptable, which means the top amount is way too much, so you have to change the graduating scale, and it will never satisfy both sides. The end result is national bankruptcy.

  • Paloma||

    Progressives will fight it as a replacement for welfare services and other pet projects for the same reason they fought the idea of a simple flat tax where the bottom 50% of earners would pay nothing. They want to control with their "expertise" what they think would benefit people who are too stupid and easily led by corporations to know how to spend their own money. The idea of people having their OWN money is somewhat evil in their minds.

  • wreckinball||

    I agree its ridiculous. Is Gillespie really a libertarian?

    Maybe we should debate next whether state controlled media is a good idea or not. You know so we don't have to worry about fake news since we are too stupid t think for ourselves. I mean what could go wrong?

  • ||

    Most of the writers "pushing this UBI shit right here at Reason" are mostly discussing what others are saying about it, not advocating it.

  • ThomasD||

    When you only disagree in limited particulars it is entirely expected that people will question whether your opposition is also only limited to those particulars.

    People who say they are playing the Devil's advocate are usually not playing.

  • ||

    There mostly not even playing Devil's advocate, they are simply trying to explain what others are thinking and saying.

  • ThomasD||

    As am I brother, as am I.

  • ThomasD||

    By the time of the later Republic, and on into the Imperial era Rome had a large underclass of largely citizens and some freemen who subsisted on the grain ration - aka the dole. That, and whatever else they could scrounge up.

    They do so largely because there was no meaningful avenue for advancement or wealth creation. The higher orders, largely through government action, had taken control of the land and just about every other sort of productive endeavor. They then staffed those operations with cheap imported labor, aka slaves.

    The parallels seem to grow stronger daily.

    That the UBI is being primped (thanks Sheldon!) and pimped at a time when just about every developed nation is on course for financial ruin seems not coincidental.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    One of the more interesting stats I remember from a Roman history book was that the number of imperial employees grew from around 1000 in the early empire to 35,000 a century later, with no concomitant growth in the size of the empire. It was mainly attributable to the expansion of laws regulating daily behavior, such as requiring that sons of soldiers had to be soldiers, regulating marriage, who could live where, and so on.

    I have long held a theory that one of the primary results of increasing government regulation is increasing suffocation of society, leading to ever more agitation as people are stifled and restricted in ordinary daily life. And the result of that is that people see influencing government as the only way to change their lives, whereas it used be, decades ago, that actually changing your life, getting an education, moving, and other personal choices were how you got ahead.

    Occupational licensing not only keeps people out of occupation, it locks people in. If you had to spend a year in school to become a barber, it's a really bad idea to change careers; the sunk cost fallacy starts to become true. And just like laws against divorce lock people into bad marriages, so do occupational licensing laws.

    The result is cranky people who can't stand other people having more flexibility.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    I have a companion theory, built on the idea that people (just like organizations) follow the irresistible urge to outsource. Whether driven by notions of efficiency or just laziness, we seek to push onto others tasks that we would rather not do, or even think about.

    Thus why not support a broader scope for government? Why look beyond "brands" when making choices, including in politics? Why struggle to learn about options and make decisions about life and career?

    What you and I might see as suffocating, the compliant masses see as both security and unburdening. As for cranks, those are more likely among the minority that resists the system.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I've had similar thoughts and how they relate to getting rid of government. Just as very few people actually care how thread is made, or cloth, or clothes, more and more of life is outside the scope of easy government interference -- video games are a good example, social media, a lot of work involving computers. It's not only outside the scope in ways that polluting factories aren't, it's also a lot harder for government to track. The shadow economy is only going to get bigger and more nebulous as far as government is concerned. Museums and parks will be visited more often as VR instead of road trips. Mesh networking and encryption, especially encrypted money, will play hell with government efforts to intrude. Biohacking will work around the FDA.

    What happens if, say, in 50 years, 90% of what we do is not just uncontrollable by government, but invisible to it? Maybe government will fade into the background. All this partisan bickering will fade with it, because no one really cares that much any more.

  • SIV||

    The 1990s called, they want their distributed tech utopia back.

  • Ariki||

    People like to outsource their thinking because it is easier than having to think.

    I have a theory that relates this to basic evolution where an organism is driven to achieve the easiest existence possible for themselves and their offspring. Our ancestors gave us a life mostly free from starvation, predation and the elements. But even this easy existence doesn't eliminate the dive to make things easier.

    So this current generation are striving for a world where:
    - no one can compete against another (the meritocracy is "problematic"),
    - difficult ideas are not discussed because words are violence,
    - anyone in a position of authority is a parental figure who must protect those under them.

    Essentially; the outsourcing of work, the outsourcing of thought, the outsourcing of personal responsibility.

    All a result of a life that is too easy.

    Human beings need suffering.
    It gives us perspective.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Interesting conversation above.

    Also my take, in theory UBI seems like a great idea. Get rid of other social programs, get rid of bureaucrats, get money directly to people. Like the negative income tax proposed by Milton Friedman. In reality it would not work like that which is unfortunate.

  • Paloma||

    I don't see how any of those three things listed makes life easier. I think it makes life all the more difficult. Watching every word you say because it may offend someone is a kind of low grade suffering, for example. Not being able to compete and having to "cooperate" with people who are dull and stupid is also a kind of suffering.

    Life is neither easy or difficult. Suffering is always going to happen, but being human is using your creativity to overcome suffering and making it as short as possible. Joy is also part of life and should be embraced, not distrusted. Any moment one can feel joy should be maximized and extended as long as possible.

  • Nardz||

    "I don't see how any of those three things listed makes life easier. I think it makes life all the more difficult. Watching every word you say because it may offend someone is a kind of low grade suffering, for example. Not being able to compete and having to "cooperate" with people who are dull and stupid is also a kind of suffering."

    And here you've hit on the key conflict: progressivism vs individualism and conservatism.
    Progressivism favors the above situation because it is the weapon of inherently inferior people. It is the key to survival and growth for weaker natures. Progressives like endless, arbitrary laws and groupthink because they find it both easier and
    advantageous to follow orders, to conform. The more this is required, the more they are able to prosper at the expense of stronger, talented natures - who may be prone toward rebellion and self-determination. The whole world must be made (inter/co)dependant so that the ego/lives/emotions of the inherently inferior are free from the threat of independent actors more naturally capable than themselves.
    Civilians vs Citizens

  • JFree||

    Another way of saying this is:

    Some folks work to live (or type B). Others live to work (or Type A).

    Since the Type A's will almost always end up owning everything and being the boss; they will resent the very existence of the B's.

  • mpercy||

    No. The B's envy and resent the A's. The A's are too busy getting shit done to resent the B's, at worst, the A's disdain the laziness of the B's but not the B's as people. A's respect effort, not wealth. A's respect tradesmen working hard to make an honest, albeit low, income; A's resent lazy rich no-accounts.

  • JFree||

    Even what you describe - disdain the laziness - is resenting the B's AS PEOPLE. What the A values 'work hard and never stop' describes the A. Not the B. A's created that ethic - and made it religiously based - and try to use it in order to 'change' B's into A's.

    B's don't give a shit about A's until/unless A's are trying to mess with them or their family.

  • Nardz||

    Bull.

    It's eagles and sheep.
    And the sheep's fear of the eagle turns to hatred.

  • Nardz||

    That is NOT what I am saying.

  • Nardz||

    That is NOT what I'm saying - referring to JFree's interpretation.
    J, you misunderstand - Not everybody has equal constitutional quality.
    But, in order to save his own ego, of course the sheep hears everything as "baaaaa"

  • JFree||

    J, you misunderstand - Not everybody has equal constitutional quality.
    But, in order to save his own ego, of course the sheep hears everything as "baaaaa"

    And you are affirming EXACTLY what I wrote. It is the A who resents the B because the B just simply doesn't give a shit about the A. They don't care about 'affirming' some self-superiority that the A has about themselves. And no - they are not driven by some 'ego saving' re the A's. That is simply projection of the A personality on the B's. It is the A's who invest their self-identity in 'work'.

    B's just don't fucking care about the stuff that you apparently think they should care about. Nothing pisses off A's more than being ignored - precisely because the A's 'live to work'. So the A's respond by dicking around with the things that DO matter to the B's - to put those 'sheep' in their place. And then the B's respond to that.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    ThomasD, nice flagging that these socialist countries are coming to the point that their welfare bills are coming due soon.

  • ThomasD||

    And don't forget: The UBI is totes not socialism. It's libertarian!

    That people advocate it 'because it will replace all those other government programs' (the ones that 'are' socialism) is neither a utilitarian, nor socialist argument.

    Yep, sure. You betcha.

  • MJBinAL||

    Very astute Thomas!

    I don't believe the "open borders no matter what" zealots among self described libertarians, will be able to get their head around the concept that open borders play, and will play, a part in ushering in the socialist paradise in the USA.

    My comment above is not to minimize the rest of your points that are also dead on. As a Professional Engineer, I will tell you that the licensing process in the states has more to do with protecting the jobs of professors in colleges than anything else. It is the entrenchment of education based credentials over the reward for performance.

    They say that "history repeats itself", which of course it does not. The patterns of history most certainly do, and you put your finger on one, and applied it perfectly. I only wish more would "get it".

  • Cy||

    UBI: The New NEW Communism. It'll work this TIME!

    Take away the incentive for people to work and take away their responsibility for their own well being and you'll get the same result, EVERY god damned time.

  • Sevo||

    And the added benefit here is some REAL inflation!
    Yep, just hand out free money by the buckets without a hint of increased production, and you'll find your $1.00 candy bar at $10.00 real soon.

  • Johnimo||

    It makes one want to heave a big sigh, Cy .... do they think we're all stupid. You've stated in one, simple sentence, more wisdom that the whole article conveys in its rather lengthy entirety.

  • Echospinner||

    Milton Friedman knew something about monetary policy and free market economy.

    He proposed something similar which came to be known as a negative income tax.

    The idea would be more efficient than the social programs we have now and it worth a look.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The only ways I would be for this is to follow the Alaska model and premise that all American citizens own the resources and therefore every American receives a dividend from the resources being taken. This would mean that rich people and poor people would get the same equal amount.

    It still skews the market as every American is paying higher prices for American fossil fuels or whatever resource and then a tiny check to cover their dividend payment each year.

    The bureaucrats get their cut off the top and then politicians will adjust the amount to buy votes. Its all a government scam to make government bigger.

    Unemployment insurance should be private companies running any insurance offers they want to make. Retirement should be 401k and other private methods not social security.

  • Echospinner||

    Dividends are what I get in returns from investing in risk based securities. I am not entitled to any of those. Put my own money into those investments.

    As citizen of my state there is no such dividend.

    What Alaska has done is pure socialism.

    The government controls all of it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    If it replaced all welfare and such I would be for it.

    The end goal would be to slowly phase out all social spending, but I think anything to remove the bureaucracy is for the best. Plus, it does a little less to infantalize people, but simply giving them money and letting them decide how to live their lives.

  • SIV||

    anything to remove the bureaucracy is for the best

    Do we have enough lampposts?

  • Paloma||

    Would it replace ALL welfare? Social Security? Agriculture subsidies?

  • StackOfCoins||

    The only ways I would be for this is to follow the Alaska model and premise that all American citizens own the resources and therefore every American receives a dividend from the resources being taken. This would mean that rich people and poor people would get the same equal amount.

    That's not how the negative income tax works. I would assume you would be smart enough to know this. It is a progressive tax policy which taxes people earning above a certain threshold (for argument's sake, the poverty line) and provides a dividend or lump sum to people earning below that threshold. It's favorable to current welfare schemes because the government does not play favorites (the only factor in play is income), cannot use the dividend to social engineer, and does not encourage people to remain jobless (the amount provided is some fraction of the difference between income and the threshold for taxing).

    If it were to replace current welfare models, it would almost certainly pay for itself in the amount of overhead it saves by abolishing welfare administration (the IRS would administer the negative income tax as a function of it's duties.) However, it only makes sense if it replaces the entire welfare system as it exists today. That's a political nonstarter, so it's just a thought experiment for libertarians.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "However, it only makes sense if it replaces the entire welfare system as it exists today. That's a political nonstarter, so it's just a thought experiment for libertarians."

    Indeed. Interesting concept though.

  • SIV||

    Why not a wealth tax? Most rich people seem fine with that (inflation) so long as it doesn't fall on them. If we're going to have a government at all (and we shouldn't) why not impose the 2% tax granny pays on her savings account so they pay their "fair share"?

  • JFree||

    The only ways I would be for this is to follow the Alaska model

    It could also work with a blockchain based currency. The functional purpose behind the busywork calculations of Bitcoin mining is simply to ensure randomness in block creation/verification so the ledger can't be hacked. There's a ton of ways to ensure that sort of cryptographically-protected randomness - and one of the better ways is to distribute nodes universally. With that, people also aren't just 'being given money'. They are computationally doing the work of verifying money transactions.

    Course you can bet that bankers won't like that.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Black Mirror, S1E2: ride a stationary bicycle, day in and day out, for credits.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "The only ways I would be for this is to follow the Alaska model and premise that all American citizens own the resources and therefore every American receives a dividend from the resources being taken"

    That's the general model, if one is trying to right the wrong inherent when the Lockean Proviso is violated.

    Those who take from a resource and deny others the equal use of that resource should compensate the others for their taking.

  • MarkLastname||

    The problem is it wouldn't be a replacement. One must me naive to believe progressives would simply leave the UBI alone with no other entitlements.

  • mpercy||

    Friedman proposed it as a manipulation-free alternative to layers of entitlement programs, i.e., as the least-worst way to provide a minimum hedge against abject poverty and starvation. The UBI ain't that.

  • Curmudgeon44||

    What is the Earned Income Tax Credit? Sure looks like Milton's idea to me.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    A couple of comments related to assertions made regarding the State of Alaska, one by the author of this article and one by the author of the article that's the subject of this article.

    Alaska is not an "abstraction". Alaska is a legal entity. It has the capacity to enter into contracts, incur debt, sue and be sued, etc. And as a legal entity, it can own real property.

    Payments to the citizens of Alaska from the Permanent Fund are in no way related to UBI. The administrators of the legal entity that is Alaska have decided that the citizens of the state, as the "owners" of the legal entity, are entitled to a distribution from the income generated by properties owned by the legal entity.

  • David K||

    Can you walk up to Alaska and shake hands with it? No, it has no physical existence. It's just an idea in people's heads. Therefore, it is an abstraction.

  • BigT||

    Against Citizens United, are you?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Except Citizen's United was very clearly that a group of individuals do not lose their right to free speech for choosing to organize in a certain way. This is consistent with this opinion, for saying that a corporation is not a distinct entity, it is just individuals, which have rights, functioning together.

  • Griffin3||

    And how is that working out for the Alaskans, anyhow?

    The Cost of Living in Anchorage is 27 percent higher than the national average.

    Almost like you have to pay people more to get off their asses and work, when the state is handing out free money, and so everyone loses.

    [I know many cost are higher, because, Alaska, but still.]

  • markm23||

    The Permanent Fund did not create the high prices in Alaska. One of my uncles moved to Alaska about 15 years before it was established, and he was shocked at the high prices for nearly everything. Few things are made locally, and most items have to be shipped long distances - but the shipping costs per mile are high, too.

    It's possible that the permanent fund is helping to maintain a high-cost Alaskan lifestyle, but I doubt that it does that by encouraging slackers to slack off. It allows the urban and suburban wage earners to buy a little more luxury, and maybe that somehow trickles down to higher prices overall.

    It does considerably help the minority of Alaskans that choose to live a quite primitive life in the wilderness. You can't call them slackers, since they're working harder for less than the city people. They make, grow, or catch most of what they need and thence have little of the higher productivity from specialization and comparative advantage. But they do need cash for a few things, and a few thousand a year from the trust fund will supply most if not all of that.

  • GlenchristLaw||

    The best argument for UBI is the same argument in favor of Sanderscare / "Medicare for All": Never let the downright shitty be the enemy of the merely sucky.

  • DajjaI||

    The UBI would just create a very fragile and dependent class that can be easily exploited and abused and ultimately exterminated. They will have children for the purpose of companionship and thus will only repeat the cycle. Far better for people to have to work to eke out a meager existence and then decide freely not to inflict that pain on a new generation.

  • buybuydandavis||

    People are made much more fragile and dependent by having the right to use natural resources monopolized by others.

  • JFree||

    That also happens if you think of people as divided into those who live to work (Type A) v those who work to live (Type B)

    The type A's will usually end up owning everything anyway and be the boss. And will resent the very existence of the B's. Those B's lose all ambition and motivation to work once they have enough to spend time with their family. So if they can, the A's will try to figure out a way to tilt the playing field so the B's have to work harder and harder just to earn enough to live. Making sure they have to pay 40-50% of their income in rent - with rents continually rising - is a very good way of doing that.

    I used to design incentive plans. The best one - for a mostly hourly workforce which was mostly type B's - I ever did paid off in time off. Solved turnover problems and achieved huge profits. The workforce itself really was motivated to work for the extra two-three weeks vacation. The managers freaking hated it even though they earned much larger cash bonuses because of it. Because those workers actually took the vacation and enjoyed it. The mgrs never took vacation - almost competitively never took it - and turns out they really preferred to be in a position of power with the B's begging them for overtime just to pay the bills.

    Different strokes for different folks

  • ThomasD||

    "The UBI would just create a very fragile and dependent class,,,"

    Now there's an honest Marxist.

    The UBI is n't wrong because of any effect it may or may not have on any particular 'class.'

    It's wrong because it requires the confiscation of one person's shit in order to give it to someone else who didn't fucking earn it.

    It is an affront to liberty.

  • Rich||

    "Everyone should get enough money to be able to refuse to work."

    This is what makes us better than the animals.

    Oh, wait -- let's include them, too!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    I gotta go get some gerbils...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    UBI is not Socialism but its socialist welfare. Its designed to be taken from rich people and paid to other people to buy votes. Another reason is to redistribute the wealth which politicians control for political purposes.

    The money Alaska pays is a dividend off public land use by companies paid to the residents of Alaska. The residents of Alaska own the land of Alaska and get royalties from the resources taken.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    So UBI would give with one hand while taking away with the other.


    Also known as "stealing".

    People should be reminded that money represents goods and services previously created. Money isn't merely a mechanism to achieve purchasing power. Money helps each of us make trades more efficiently than through direct barter, but we're still trading our production for someone else's production. By taking the money each of us received in trade for our production, to give it go someone else, the government would be engaging in stealing from us for someone else. It's not socialism per se because you possess the rest of your property, but it is still just another form of robbery.

  • Rich||

    Sheesh, OM -- what a buzzkill!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Just to clarify the Alaska thing...

    The Permanent fund was built with money the state collected, first from lease sales on state lands (aside: not all production comes from state lands; the rest comes from federal lands and native corporation lands), and then from royalties and other taxes on production and transportation of crude oil. Tax revenues not used to pay for state spending were added to the Permanent Fund, which in turn was invested globally. Each year the investment returns are divided into a re-investment pool and into a dividend pool. The individual dividend (PFD checks that have ranged from a few hundred to almost $2000) is determined by dividing the dividend pool among all eligible residents. Current tax revenues do not fund the PFD.

    In fact Alaska is pretty fucked right now. State tax revenues declined dramatically in the last crude oil crash, and fights over royalty and tax structure have pretty much baked the golden goose. For the first time in decades people and pols are considering a state income tax. That leads to the absurdity of the state handing out money (PFD = UBI?) and then collecting taxes to run state operations.

  • Paloma||

    Suppose those global investments lose money? Do they bill each Alaskan resident?

  • buybuydandavis||

    States generally hand out money and collect money.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Well, yes; as a matter of fact, it does (in the newer sense of the word). How can Alaska, an abstraction, own anything?


    How can America, another abstraction, have "borders", which implies America "owns" my house?

    Those aren't mere abstractions, though. They're rationalizations made by thugs to justify their thuggery against peaceful people.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Social security's your biggest asset, you know.

  • Shirley Knott||

    As per the Supreme Court, you have no asset claim to Social Security.
    It is simply a tax, with the government under no duty or responsibility to treat at as a system into which you pay, for which you are owed any share at all.

  • Paloma||

    Which is maybe why when you die, your Social Security stops right then. They don't give the rest of your "Social Security assets" to your estate.

  • BigT||

    Another enemy of Citizens United!

  • No Longer Amused||

    It's amazing the linguistic contortions that socialists will go through when they are lying.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    He actually proffered non debt based money creation, aka printing money, aka quantitative easing? He says that and actually expects to be taken seriously by anyone that took econ 101?

    GTFO

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    And to that, it is painfully obvious how that would play out. Once everyone gets on the "debt free" UBI there is nothing stopping everyone from going to 100% yearly increases. What the downside will obviously be surely will be ignored. Then the bread lines without supply start.

  • ||

    To whom does the pronoun "He" in your statement refer?

  • Iheartskeet||

    Hmmm. Props to Friedman, but I thought Charles Murray fleshed this concept out well in "In Our Hands".

    For the record, my preference would be the elimination of Medicare/Medicaid/SS in their entirety. Just so you know my starting point.

    Murray made the case, riffing on Friedman, that we are likely stuck with these entitlements politically, and so we might as well deliver the money more efficiently. Murray viewed the UBI, as others state above, as a REPLACEMENT for various social programs, but also positioned it as a way of staving off our looming Medicare/SS crisis, which we will experience starting at about 2030 or so. We could cut defense and other discretionary spending to goddamn ZERO, and we'd still be royally fucked debt-wise in 2030 and beyond.

    So, its not crazy, and its well with the scope of libertarianism to consider. That said, I don't think its politically palatable, and in all likelihood, politicians would just mission creep all the benefits away, leaving us even worse off.

  • Qsl||

    Mike Munger also makes the case that as libertarian utopia isn't on the horizon, the adults in the room have to make the difficult choices about what is viable with maybe more forethought as to moving closer to libertarian utopia than away.

    Of course than would mean seriously considering what a libertarian-ish UBI would look like against the prostrations of the tax is theft crowd, seemingly unaware that even after decades of screaming the same thing, they are still paying taxes (And even the land value tax as a means of simplifying and reducing the number of taxes [also favored by Friedman and Hayek], but alas the peanut gallery would rather stand on the also counter-rebutted arguments of Rothbard. Joy!).

    So among all of the various proposals for UBI, you could advocate for something like pegging it to a percentage of GDP and possibly marking future deficit spending as earmarked for specific circumstances other than UBI and make it incumbent on the ending of other welfare programs.

    But instead we get libertarian stalwarts who refuse to negotiate and basically ensure that if UBI ever happens, it will be a complete disaster, completely devoid of any insight Friedman could bring, but hey; at least they can stand on principle while Rome burns.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Well put and spot on !

  • MarkLastname||

    Except you're delusional if you think any of the entitlements are going anywhere.

    The grownups in the room don't add a massive new entitlement when we're already facing a fiscal crisis. UBI supporters live in a fantasy land where they think there's any chance of meaningful benefit cuts to the existing entitlements..

    Give everyone a UBI, and they'll use it to buy unnecessary goods while demanding their necessities be financed by more Medicaid, more welfare, more SS, etc. And they'll get it. The most realistic option is to reform existing entitlements to make them more voucher based.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "The most realistic option is to reform existing entitlements to make them more voucher based."

    This is true.

  • Qsl||

    You might have noticed there were several caveats with having UBI. This is what is known as having a discussion. While I fully agree having UBI on top of existing welfare (at least at the federal level) is disastrous, that isn't the point.

    If libertarians were to support the UBI, they should at least get something from it or at least have their concerns addressed. But you can't get there without putting something more on the table than calling everyone else delusional or simply throwing your hands up in the air, shrieking it will never work.

    Voucher programs essentially mimic student loans with how they operate within the market, and we all know how well that turned out. Of course even just a facile reading of Friedman's arguments would have made this clear (specific earmarks cause inflation in sectors, which is a concern with any type of welfare with regards to markets. If we should all worship the market, you might do well not to screw with it with your fix to welfare).

    That combined with the "unnecessary goods" remark and I can't help but wonder if your governmental paternalism is more the "tough love" type. Still paternalism all the same.

    How very libertarian of you.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Mike Munger also makes the case that as libertarian utopia isn't on the horizon, the adults in the room have to make the difficult choices about what is viable with maybe more forethought as to moving closer to libertarian utopia than away."

    Buh buh buh muh principles!

  • Qsl||

    Lately, libertarians seem to be taking on the worst aspects of the SJWs with regards to how vocally dogmatic they can be. Replace "patriarchy" with "taxes", and they are virtually indistinguishable.

  • MJBinAL||

    Just like the "libertarian stalwarts" who refuse to consider the part that immigration (illegal in particular) plays in the decline into a socialist paradise and chant "open borders" and "immigrant rights".

    It is this refusal to negotiate that prevents adoption of libertarian ideas. The stalwarts demand implementation of the "end game" with no consideration to planning a path.

    I have suggested here before, that a libertarians society, will not, unfortunately, rise naturally. It will require protection from the rest of the world to become established. Without that, large actors in other countries, and even other countries themselves, will exploit the freedoms of libertarian society and the immunities they enjoy from it's natural constraints, to destroy it.

    The example of Roman decay and collapse is applicable. State actors who might use size and control of their own population to target specific industries in a libertarian nation (Free Trade no matter what!!) can use it to gain military advantage. The libertarian society can die from military conquest just like any other.

    It is a real world we need to operate in. We need not just ideals, but plans on how to progress toward them and ideas on how to protect them on the way.

  • MJBinAL||

    Just like the "libertarian stalwarts" who refuse to consider the part that immigration (illegal in particular) plays in the decline into a socialist paradise and chant "open borders" and "immigrant rights".

    It is this refusal to negotiate that prevents adoption of libertarian ideas. The stalwarts demand implementation of the "end game" with no consideration to planning a path.

    I have suggested here before, that a libertarians society, will not, unfortunately, rise naturally. It will require protection from the rest of the world to become established. Without that, large actors in other countries, and even other countries themselves, will exploit the freedoms of libertarian society and the immunities they enjoy from it's natural constraints, to destroy it.

    The example of Roman decay and collapse is applicable. State actors who might use size and control of their own population to target specific industries in a libertarian nation (Free Trade no matter what!!) can use it to gain military advantage. The libertarian society can die from military conquest just like any other.

    It is a real world we need to operate in. We need not just ideals, but plans on how to progress toward them and ideas on how to protect them on the way.

  • MJBinAL||

    Sorry, my sentence about Roman decay should have been a separate paragraph. It is confusing to read as is, but I lost my edit button! ;-)

  • MJBinAL||

    And sorry about the double post.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    UBI reminds me of Reagan's Earned Income Tax Credit - still redistribution by another name. Except EITC might be worse by creating the perverse incentive of larger dependent families filled with crumbcrunchers.

  • Brian||

    Anyone who has children for the money has never had children.

    That, or they're the most awful/stupid people ever. The worst.

  • Paloma||

    That happens too.

  • MarkLastname||

    Curious that you didn't mention Medicaid, Aid to Famikes with Dependent Children, or any of the Great Society entitlements that create similar (and greater in magnitude) perverse incentives. It's almost like you're just a partisan shill.

  • MJBinAL||

    All government actions create perverse incentives and market distortions.

    Does every comment on a government actions, proposed or real, require that it include every similar government action just to avoid being labeled a partisan shill? My goodness, Reason is going to have to increase the allowed length of comments!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "First, saying basic income is socialism is as absurd as saying money is socialism. It's money. It's all it is. What do people do with money? They use it in markets. In other words, basic income is fuel for markets."

    He made like markets but he clearly doesn't understand money.

  • wreckinball||

    Good lord its communism. Sending your dough to the government , the heads of the commune,. to hand out.

  • wreckinball||

    Good lord its communism. Sending your dough to the government , the heads of the commune,. to hand out.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Money is just a tool for representing value, making trade easier. The UBI is distributing that represented value unearned. It is no more different than the government giving away any product or commodity. Bread is not socialism, giving away bread may be socialism.

  • ThomasD||

    Forget markets, forget that it's money. UBI means that someone in government decides what everyone else deserves AND who must provide it.

  • Nicholas Conrad||

    I love your last point about government regulations locking workers in as cogs in corporations. I think the issue is we don't have a snappy name to discribe the remedy for this. I propose therefore a radical new policy called "Universal Basic Entrepreneurship" (UBE) the aim of which is to ensure everyone has the rights necessary to start any business they can get customers to pay for without onerous regulatory interference.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The right of the people to sell their goods and services shall not be infringed.

  • Longtobefree||

    "IF socialism means state ownership of the means of production - - - - "

    And IF pigs had wings, they could fly. (Assuming FAA permission of course)
    State ownership of the means of production is communism.
    State control of the means of production, determining what is produced, where it is sold, and how much is charged, is socialism. Pretend private ownership, control through laws and regulations.
    As in Germany in the last century (National Socialist German Workers' Party), as in the USA healthcare/health insurance portion of the economy (Obamacare).

    History; learn it or it will teach you.

  • dchang0||

    When does Santens talk about our ability to tell the gov't to take its taxes and shove it?

  • MoreFreedom||

    It's disappointing a libertarian publication and writer, fail to point out that providing a UBI means using force to take money from some (but not from everyone, and not equally) to provide it which makes it an immoral endeavor to start. Saying it's better than a montage of welfare programs doesn't change the immorality of the proposal. Richman does mention we did have a moral program where welfare was funded voluntarily and handled by private organizations, often with strings attached designed to help the person become self sufficient.

    Imagine a UBI where every adult pays the same tax (equal to or slightly greater than to pay for the people to redistribute the money) to support the UBI. And if you don't pay, you go to jail. Who's going to support that?

    Consider a UBI of say $60,000. Hardly anyone will producing anything or serving anyone else. And if you wanted someone to do something for you, you'll find the price to be very high and/or with the recipient demanding that you pay them cash so it doesn't reduce their UBI check.

    The question to ask isn't whether this is socialism or not. The questions to ask are first whether it is a moral endeavor to use force to take from some for the benefit of others, and second, whether it will result in a more prosperous society or not. The answers are that it's immoral, and will lead to less prosperity as history continually demonstrates.

  • ||

    Perhaps the reason the writer did not mention "that providing a UBI means using force" is that he took it for granted that this audience already understood that.

    The writers who write here are frequently writing what they believe to be good advice for those of us who get in discussions with family and friends who do not understand the non-aggression principle and need to be convinced of the impracticality of certain policies on other grounds.

    I assume that no one here who claims to be a libertarian needs to hear arguments stemming from the non-aggression principle and that those who do not claim to be libertarian are mostly deaf to them.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Gotta disagree on that. Even when discussing with non-libertarians, it makes a difference when UBI is framed as "taking money from one person and giving it to another" vs the usual leftist framing as "free money from the govt".

    And of course, Reason is never shy about pointing to the NAP when it aligns with leftist causes like open borders and MJ legalization.

  • Shirley Knott||

    It's worse than that. It's taking money from one person, paying yourself out of that money and then paying someone else, also out of the amount taken, to give what's left to some other person.
    Even if one were to grant that somehow person X deserves money that can only come from person Y, the other parties involved are free riders. Their income is indefensible.

  • Nardz||

    Truth.
    An apt description of the welfare state

  • ThomasD||

    I wouldn't call them 'free' riders. They are doing the very hard work of deciding just how much of your stuff you get to keep.

  • Pooua||

    I would dispute that $60k amounts to a BASIC income, but leaving that aside, not everybody works just for money. Some people work for gratification or excitement or adventure or just to keep themselves busy. I've had professors who said they were retired and didn't need the money, but their wife was tired of them being around the house all the time.

    The federal government already holds possession of enough lands that currently are idle that could be used to provide a UBI to all US citizens without any additional taxes.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    we could pay for an awful lot if we just fully harvested the organs of all the progressives for fun and profit. We could even profit further by keeping overhead down and not bothering with anesthetic.

  • Ariki||

    And who would work this land?

  • Paloma||

    But someone working for gratification or excitement or just to keep themselves busy can easily produce something that nobody really wants. Like my trust fund ex sister in law who thought she could design clothes. And pillows. That nobody wanted to buy. And then got into making magic wands of all things.

  • JoeBlow123||

    "The questions to ask are first whether it is a moral endeavor to use force to take from some for the benefit of others, and second, whether it will result in a more prosperous society or not. The answers are that it's immoral, and will lead to less prosperity as history continually demonstrates."

    Welfare and social programs are going to stick around, the question to ask is whether UBI or a negative income tax are more efficient ways to distribute money than medicare, medicaid, or SS. Sticking to a morally absolutist position will not get you very far.

  • Sam Grove||

    "The dividend is not really free money, Santens argues, because "Alaska owns the land and charges oil companies for the right to drill in it…. Does that sound like socialism to you?"

    Actually, that sounds a bit fascist.

  • Sam Grove||

    Production is private, but distribution is socialized.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Who produced Alaska?

  • ||

    It also sounds somewhat monarchical or feudal. Just dripping with images of the largesse of a generous and beneficent sovereign.

    Not all government giveaways can be characterized as socialistic in nature.

  • Pooua||

    In a diverse population, some people produce more than they need to survive, while others don't produce enough. Every society in history has had to deal with this problem; most of them have a means for the able to support the needy. Also, whatever form of government exists, from primitive tribes to massive empires, government usually has a direct role in providing aid to the needy.

    Zoltan Istvan's article, "Leasing out federal land could provide free money for all Americans," (2017) says that the federal government holds about $150 Trillion in land assets, most of which is not being used for anything. Istvan says that every US citizen could receive $1700 a month forever, without taking any money beyond the lease payments charged to whoever wished to access the land. This would open up huge new reserves of currently unused and undeveloped resources that are easily accessible to us.

    I see some problems in providing all citizens with enough money for a modest lifestyle. The biggest is that many humans are motivated above all else to seek sensual pleasure in various forms. If they had money they could afford to throw away, they might spend it on self-damaging recreation, such as recreational drug use.

    Change is coming in the way we earn money, potentially the most disruptive in human history. We need to find a way of dealing with these changes and caring for those whose livelihoods are disrupted.

  • SIV||

    Recreational drugs are cheap if you do away with prohibition.

  • Paloma||

    That many humans are motivated to seek their own pleasure and spend their own money on self damaging recreation is one of the Progressives favorite rescue fantasies. Needing to make sure others don't make the wrong decisions about their lives and that falls on the shoulders of wise, benevolent, experts.

    This is diametrically opposed to libertarianism.

  • ||

    Change is coming in the way we earn money, potentially the most disruptive in human history.



    That change is always coming. Like Cold Fusion and Warp Drive it's just a few decades in the future. And will be in just a few more decades.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Right, because there hasn't been any change in the modes of employment in the last few decades. Most guys are still making a living turning a bolt for 40 hours a week in the same factory for 45 years before retiring with a pension. And there's been even less change in the last few years, with cabbies and brick and mortar retailers still comfortable in their niches.

  • ||

    Fair enough, but the Jean-Luc Picard (actually Gene Roddenberry) era of from each according to his ability, to each according to his need economy of limitless resources is somewhere in the future and will be for some time to come.

    The age of "guys...making a living turning a bolt for 40 hours a week in the same factory for 45 years before retiring with a pension" actually only lasted for about two decades post WWII and was only sustainable through massive government distortions of the economy.

  • Sevo||

    "The age of "guys...making a living turning a bolt for 40 hours a week in the same factory for 45 years before retiring with a pension" actually only lasted for about two decades post WWII and was only sustainable through massive government distortions of the economy."

    There were other causes, notably the loss of plant in Japan and Germany as a result of WWII which meant they were not capable of competing in the auto industry, for example.
    Krugman assumes the "Treaty of Detroit" allowed unskilled US assembly line workers to make money equivalent to small-business owners; those who assumed the risk to get that reward. Yes, it did, until those foreign plants got rebuilt.
    Once Europe and Japan had done so, the US workers ended up competing for jobs with those in other countries, and it was quickly obvious that working a production line is not a highly productive effort; the high production was due to the capital invested, not the guy swinging the wrench.
    GM's leadership assumed the same, and gave in to the UAW demands, so the owners and the workers suffered when it became obvious that you WILL have competition.
    Krugman assumes a national economy totally protected from foreign competition; that says something about Krugman's views.

  • Sevo||

    Put another way:
    Labor is cheap; there are no risk-costs associated with it. Show up, do your job with the provided tools, get your paycheck
    Capital is expensive; it takes someone risking the loss of many years' efforts to provide the plant where labor might work.
    Let's try the "Risk Value Theory" and see if some very clever lefty can shoot it down (no, Tony, not you; 'clever').

  • ||

    Krugman assumes a national economy totally protected from foreign competition; that says something about Krugman's views.


    Indeed. I can't think of anything else to say to expand on that. :)

  • ||

    But I do partially withdraw my "only sustainable through massive government distortions of the economy". If I were writing it again I would steal your stuff about the war wrecked economies of Asia and Europe and incorporate it into a more rigorous commentary rather than th oversimplification that I presented. :)

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    That's kind of a strawman, as the comment you were responding to wasn't forecasting limitless resources, it was referring to jobs lost to automation.

  • ||

    Yes, but in my observation, people talking about jobs lost to automation almost invariably start talking about how the "bosses" that installed the robots now owe a living to the displaced workers. And their justification is the increased productivity of the robots, as though it came without a cost.

    After all, in the Star Trek economy "limitless resources" is shorthand for resources that are so cheap since labor has somehow been eliminated so everyone is now some kind of philosopher king who can pursue his or her own muse whether it be captaining a starship or running a gourmet restaurant in New Orleans. Again, this miracle has been produced because the Federation Fathers have somehow eliminated the need for capital to pay for industrial development.

  • ||

    " to pay for industrial development" was redundant to my final sentence. Read it as though I had deleted it. :)

    As to whether the Star Trek economy is "socialist, I think it is worth noting that no all "anti-capitalism comes from socialists. The first modern social welfare state was introduced not by the German Social Democrats but by the Monarchist Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck who, in an effort to win the workers over, introduced "accident and old-age insurance as well as a form of socialized medicine."

    Now, Bismarck and the Kaiser were hardly socialists but in addition to fighting socialism, they constantly railed against capitalism. They had no problem with there aristocratic cronies controlling the huge banking, coal, steel, shipbuilding and weapons manufacturing concerns and they tolerated the middle class shopkeepers as long as everyone realized that everything had to be done for the good of the German State (and the Kaiser pretty much followed the model of Louis XIV, "L'etat, c'est moi"). One of Kaiser Wilhelm II's reasons for fighting the British and the French (and the Americans who were the worst capitalists of all) was his anti-capitalist sentiment. But he certainly did not have the wellbeing of the German working class in mind when he railed about capitalism.

  • Nardz||

    Right - aka progressivism

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    If you're going to have UBI you have to make it unpleasant to be a recipient. Such as forcing UBI recipients to spend their days walking around in a circle in a large abandoned warehouse.

  • ||

    Isn't part of the point of UBI that you get it on top of any wages, salaries or other income you get?

  • ||

    Actually, correction, rather than "on top of any wages, salaries or other income", I should say, "on the bottom of any wages, salaries or other income".

    The idea as it is proposed in most other countries is that everyone regardless of income gets a UBI payment (weekly, monthly, whatever). Bill Gates gets it just the same as the woman who cleans my mother's apartment at the ALF. Or, for that matter the same as the homeless guy on the streets of downtown Orlando.

    The (dirty little) secret is that then this income must be declared as income (the way that the cash value of all benefits that people in countries with generous welfare states is). That way the state can then begin "clawing back" some of this money using the progressive tax code.

    The (not so) secret plan is that the taxing authorities wil structure the tax code such that Bill Gates not only "pays back" all of his UBI payments but pays enough in income tax to pay the UBI payments of a couple of hundred no tax-paying or income producing recipients.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Working out bitcoin hash candidates by hand?

  • gphx||

    UBI? Oh shit, I must've walked into HuffPo by mistake.

  • ||

    No, you have walked into a place where issues that are being discussed in the wider society are discussed and critiqued on their merits.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The leftards know that people on the dole are far more likely to vote for more government, and that is the whole purpose of their scheme to get everyone on the dole.

    Fuck everything about this.

    -jcr

  • Ariki||

    "Everyone should get enough money to be able to refuse to work."

    This statement shows a complete misunderstanding of human nature.
    Incentive is the driving force of progress. In general people who don't have to work wont. This could be seen as a biological trait where evolution drives an organism to achieve the most stress free life possible (free of starvation, predation, and the elements) rewarding those who can achieve this with an easier life to enjoy.

    So in a world where everyone can refuse to work, what incentive is there for someone to find their purpose? to strive? to create a better world?
    The only thing left is self-motivation, but where does one learn self-motivation? From having desires that one must work to achieve. Couple this with the vast majority of people having next to no marketable creative talents and you begin to see the problem.

    Besides this, who wants to do the hard but necessary work?
    Who wants to grow food for the world when they could be at the bar drinking?
    Who wants to build a bar when they could be at the beach?
    But how can you get to the beach if no one builds a car?

    The level of technology required to make this work as still 1000 years away in some Star Trek future.
    It is not now.

  • Ariki||

    A couple of predictions for a global UBI:

    a) It will begin with fun times, but within 10 years societal stagnation will be evident, nihilism will skyrocket leading to massive increases in suicides and random violence as people struggle to find purpose. They just want to "feel" something more than their purposeless existence and will trend towards the extremes. A free life has no value.

    b) The creative few who can find a purpose will strive to create things that other people appreciate and desire. But because no one wants to work these goods will be prohibitively expensive to produce. The desire for these goods will create the incentive to work in others up to the point where those on the UBI are considered poor and we arrive back at the beginning.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's much easier to just say he's a retard.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    Leaving aside the socio-political consequences, wouldn't an obvious consequence of UBI be to (hyper)inflate the currency until the value of the UBI is negated? Conceptually if everyone has more money, we should expect prices to increase to absorb that available cash. The effective value of the UBI diminishes until it has to be increased, continuing the spiral. The effect is very similar to imposing negative interest rates on savings.

    Or is this a feature rather than a bug? The advocates of this are the same as those for negative interest rates -- "We encourage consumption and cause the economy to boom, while making the poor and retirees ever more dependent on government! It's a win-win!" The same mindset that views inflation as somehow driving prosperity rather than as a by-product of it.

  • Sevo||

    "Leaving aside the socio-political consequences, wouldn't an obvious consequence of UBI be to (hyper)inflate the currency until the value of the UBI is negated? "

    Yes, mentioned above. And increase in supply of money, absent an increase in production means more money chasing the same number of products until some equilibrium is reached.

  • ace_m82||

    "Thou Shalt not steal" seems like a much shorter argument.

    Slightly longer argument: Say's Law, one cannot consume until one has produced. If you consume without producing (or without going into debt), then you have stolen.

    Or the Scriptural version: "If a man doesn't work, he shall not eat."

  • Curly4||

    The problem to many of these person do produce but the production is not a saleable product but more mouths to feed which adds to the overpopulation of earth and adds to global warming.

  • sandhu||

  • Curly4||

    But where does the money for that UBI come from? Is it voluntarily given by the people that make it? Or is it that the federal government takes the money using the threat of law to force the people to given it to government? If it comes from government than is is socialism. But if UBI is such good idea then the business people would be using their own money to that end. But none are so it is not such a good idea.
    I would say that if anyone is receiving income from the government that they did not earn formally called welfare if they are not working as they receive that welfare payment that person receiving the money would be required to check at a designated place by 8:00 AM and put their butts in a chair for the 8 hours for that day. They would get a fifteen minute break in the morning, a 30 minute lunch bread and another break at mid-afternoon. They would be given time off with pay to apply for a job with proof of the application. Time missed from their work of sitting on their butts would result in the appropriate reduction in welfare received. If the job that is available is below a standard they would continue to receive the full or partial welfare payment depending on the wage the job pays. The person would receive this same welfare payment if they are enrolled in an approved job training program.

  • Paloma||

    Why? They wouldn't be producing anything and there would also be costs to maintaining the building, lights, water, restroom facilities, parking and security. You'd also have to employ people to make sure they sign in and out, that they sit in their chairs, sexually harass anyone, etc. Work is not a value, only productive work is a value.

  • JeremyR||

    It comes from the money we already spend on "entitlements" and firing the bureaucrats in charge of them. Some estimates show it actually saves the government money.

  • JFree||

    But where does the money for that UBI come from?

    Ultimately there is a presumption here with the UBI - that the cash/industrial economy ITSELF is the only possible form of economy or measure of value.

    Homesteading of land WAS also a form of UBI.

  • ThomasD||

    No.

    Homesteading was a reliable and inexpensive way of populating a wilderness. And there were no guarantees that you would succeed.

  • Tony||

    Whether it's socialism is the preoccupation of idiots. Are they afraid it will work? The idea is appealing because it's straightforward wealth transfer without going through the silly exercise of pretending that how wealth is distributed is based on individual virtue.

    You guys don't give a fuuuuck how anyone with a lot of money made it. You only care about the moral habits of the lower classes. So how about we just take that fairy tale nonsense out of the equation?

  • Sevo||

    I see our fucking lefty idiot read nothing above his bullshit.
    Way to go, Tony! Keep proving how stupid you have to be to prefer lefty politics; a 5YO understanding of the world is all you need.
    MOMMMMY!!!!!!

  • Tony||

    My favorite part of this farce is when poor libertarians make excuses for what should be a simple case of a lack of moral uprightness.

    If only they could make the leap to understanding that the moral depravity they actually have is telling the children of poor parents that they're just fucked because life isn't fair. And then you expect others not to come up with a better idea.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Libertarians are forever morally outrageous, in their lack of consideration about how rich people get that way (whatever it is, it must be unfair).

    And that's all you need to know for UBI.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Not only does it do away with the fake inherent virtue of wealth creation, but it validates the inherent value of arch and every human being, who deserves to be taken care of and protected by everyone else, because... people.

    And you know not pretending, because of how I consistently talk with respect, love, and generous dignity to every single person I speak to.

  • MarkLastname||

    Income has no relationship with productivity? Are you going on record claiming that?

    Because if so, Jesus Christ, one couldn't make up a better straw man of a retarded leftist. Really, if that's what you believe, why arent you a full blown communist? Why didn't the Great Leap Forward work? Bad luck?

  • Vernon Depner||

    Productivity is one way to gain wealth. It most certainly is not the only way. The mere presence of money in someone's account is not proof that they produced anything in order to earn it. As has been mentioned, libertarians and conservatives see that as a problem only when it's a poor person who has unearned money.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    That's why we need 100% estate tax: because no one should have all their basic needs met by someone who loved them.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Loved them? If giving someone enough money to subsist destroys their will to be productive, why would any loving parent ruin their child's life by crushing their spirit with an inheritance?

  • Paloma||

    Nobody's mentioned Say's Law yet. The idea that "money is fuel for markets" is fantasy thinking. It would be closer to say "markets are fuel for money". As OM mentioned above, money is a symbol for something that has been produce Production precedes consumption.

  • Sevo||

    Mentioned above, but I'll let you look for the relevant comment.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Not really. Money is just something that is often inherently useless but widely believed to be useful for buying other things. Money is money because people believe it is money. The Treasury prints dollars but doesn't produce shit.

    The fallacy of the UBI proponent treated in this article is in equating money with wealth, and ignoring the fact that issuing more money reduces the trade value of existing money.

  • Vernon Depner||

    ...issuing more money reduces the trade value of existing money.

    Only if the amount of wealth produced stays the same. Freed from the fear of destitution if new productive ventures or changes in occupation should fail, people could become far more productive. Think of all the workers who won't consider trying a new job or trying to start a business because they don't dare lose their family's medical insurance; or all the workers who can't risk relocating because they can't do without their spouse's income. If a survival-level guaranteed income were combined with major deregulation of self-employment and small business, we could see an explosion of wealth creation.

  • BYODB||

    More magical thinking. IF you pay people not to work, you have just by definition reduced production. Pretending otherwise is to pretend that Stalin's major mistake was not killing enough wreckers.

  • Vernon Depner||

    No one has suggested paying people not to work.

  • ||

    Technically, no they have not. But in the real world something like the UBI does tend to reduce incentives to seek productive employment.

  • Vernon Depner||

    It could also create an incentive to try productive employment that might not pay a living wage, or encourage entrepreneurship by mitigating the risk. It would also eliminate the disincentive to work suffered by recipients of public assistance who face losing their benefits if they accept employment or try self-employment. It could increase wealth production, especially if combined with reductions in regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. Since it's never been tried, assuming it would reduce incentive to be productive is just a guess.

  • JeremyR||

    I'd go with Milton Friedman over Sheldon Richman, especially considering he's one of the most loathed writers at Reason who has to hide his articles (on the main blog at least) as "Reason Staff"

  • ||

    Sheldon Richman is only one of the most loathed writers at Reason because he criticizes the Military and America's relationship with Israel.

    Neither of these has anything* to do with economic policy.

    *except possibly the toxic affect that military spending has on the economy.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Santens seems to reveal a Georgist belief (which some past libertarians have found alluring) that the world's land by natural right belongs to everyone equally. That claim has been rebutted"

    Rothbard's linked "rebuttal" is a litany against the claims and schemes of Georgists, not to the Lockean Proviso. Nor does Rothbard refer to Locke once in the linked essay.

    " so I will leave it at this: how can someone far from a parcel of land have an ownership claim equal merely by birth to someone who mixes his labor with it and actualizes its hitherto only potential value?"

    If you're going to get your "rebuttals" from the Von Mises institute, you need to start with value being subjective.

    It's *not* up to proponents of the Lockean Proviso to prove that their subjective preferences matter; it's up to those who claim to be libertarians and would claim the right *use force* against others to justify that use of force.

    The Lockean Proviso leaves that justification lacking when the proviso fails to hold:
    at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

    And that simply no longer holds, and hasn't, for a long time.

  • RaoulK||

    "how can someone far from a parcel of land have an ownership claim equal merely by birth to someone who mixes his labor with it and actualizes its hitherto only potential value?"

    Probably has to do with moral sentiments of opportunity and/or the classical liberal legitimation of homesteading. We all could labour mix to obtain that land if it were unowned, so when claiming ownership, at least seeking to uphold the lockean proviso ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockean_proviso ) appears to be sensible. This is technically impossible in the sense that all land has scarce features to its location and total surface area. Deliberation in good faith appears likely to be required, instead.

    Also without respect for the lockean proviso, contracts are tendencially forced, as opportunities can be leveraged for unearned advantages. If a UBI can increase occurance of voluntary contracts over forced contracts, it might as well be worthwhile to consider regardless of ideological differences in approach.

  • RaoulK||

    "Wealthier people save and invest more of their incomes than poorer people do. In a freed market (i.e., without privilege or impediment), savings and investment help lower income people disproportionately by making goods cheaper and more abundant. Consumption spending cannot do that."

    I like to refer to this as the fallacy of the broken window fallacy.

    Wealthier people actually require greater customer spending to invest 'productively', else they grow claims they have towards scarce assets to charge more rent. If spending growth isn't matching GDP growth, tendencially more rent will be sought (that's one reason for patents/IP having protection on this scale), bubbles will be started, or owned assets will be withheld from the market if the trouble of renting em out isn't worth the credibly promissable return.

    Consider this: Maybe abolishing patents would be much easier given compelling ways to invest productively? Customers spending money at a rate that grows alongside GDP would help facilitate that kind of opportunity.

  • RaoulK||

    "Abolishing all government privilege and impediments would achieve this."

    Without getting serious about the greatest government provided privilege, property in the land, ideas, trademarks, that's a rather empty sounding proposition to me. But maybe that's just me?

    Now if we were to at least fundamentally reduce idea/trademark rights as the article suggests, that'd be something, however that would be a rather marked break from the past 50 years of political development. And it doesn't addess locations like URLs or physical land coming with immense potential to charge rent, based on natural desirability of the location (physical land) or limited mental bandwidth of people and cultural memes in place to manage that scarcity (URLs; 'google it'; network effects creating value by/through a large userbase.).

  • RaoulK||

    "Not only that, it distorts prices, which Santens ought to oppose."

    Inflation only distorts prices to de-emphasize money that changed hands based on prior circumstances. If information changes enough over time as we grow our knowledge of the world and each, such a tax might be valuable as relations of the past lose some of their ability to be morally binding and pragmatically relevant. Direct taxes on the opportunities themselves, where they arise, be it via Land value taxes and pigouvian taxes work too. Still it might be hard to figure out all land/opportunity people enjoy locally, so a general tax over time can make sense. Taxes along those lines improve fairness and efficiency, which seems interesting for contractual freedom and lockean homesteading, wouldn't you say?

    Beyond that, an initial distribution of disposable income that is not equal has a problem with legitimation, since I don't have a recollection of owing in particular, someone who picked up a lot of gold or physical land in the past. My labour is not something to change hands based on who got most lucky. I would rather exchange it for a currency that has a drag towards egalitarian distribution, while also being ensured to exchange for access to land/opportunity to subsist and participate on my own terms, as some people of the present and past were afforded to.

    Hope there's some food for thought in there at least and thanks to everyone for being part of the conversation!

  • Art Gecko||

    UBI is an absurd concept. It would grow to hundreds of billions, or even trillions (as it would inevitably be increased) per year. A better idea is to give JUST ME one billion every year. Think of all the money that would be saved.

  • Harry Heiny||

    We already a (semi-) UBI. About 15% of the US population gets it in the form of Social Security payments. Average payout is $1100/month. About 60% of retirees rely on this for the majority of their monthly income.
    Another about 5% of the US population get more than 50% of their monthly income from gov't assistance 'welfare' programs. Average payout is $400/month(?). This does not include Medicaid.

  • buybuydandavis||

    UBI is welfare without the perverse incentives against work.

  • BYODB||

    It seems that there's no faster way to ensure the destruction of a society than providing free income to everyone in it, but keep smoking crack Libertarians. I'm sure eventually the UBI will somehow gather it's funds from somewhere other than the pocket book of those few who remain working after such a policy is passed. Maybe tarfiffs, that Reason loves so much? /sarc


    Is the UBI socialist? Maybe, or maybe not, but one thing is certain it will be funded off the backs of the workers and funneled to those who do not. If Taxation is Theft, you'll find it pretty difficult to pretend UBI is anything more than theft on a grander scale than we have even today.

  • Vernon Depner||

    And telling people to fuck off and starve when their labor is no longer required would not "ensure the destruction of a society"? People "working for a living" for most of their lives is becoming obsolete. We need to come up with other ways of distributing wealth.

  • BYODB||

    So, in your view all those illegal immigrants who are coming up from the South aren't getting jobs in the U.S. but are instead doing...?

    No offense, but take a gander at the labor force participation rate. If you're torpedoing your labor already, using the damage those torpedo's have done as a reason why you need to launch more torpedo's isn't a very compelling argument unless your end goal is destruction.

    It's a simple fact that until you manage to beat scarcity a UBI's primary effect will be to utterly destroy your society. I suppose you could also genetically engineer humans to become something else, perhaps a New Soviet Man eh comrade?

    Pretending that human labor is 'obsolete' is simply false, but it's a view held by many in the urban centers of America I've found. Automation is 'cheaper' precisely because of the overengineering by our political class of the labor markets themselves, so for those same political class leaders to say we now need to pay people not to work means that it's yet another government solution to a government created problem.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Yes, look at the labor participation rate. We're getting along fine with only 62% of the "workforce" employed. No one is starving. In any previous time that would have been impossible. Yes, we are becoming something else. It's called "evolution". Try it.

  • BYODB||

    Well, at least you've made it abundantly clear that you have absolutely no issue living off of labor that has none of the labor protections that you're in favor for. I find that to be pretty common, so it's not like you're an outlier in your mistaken beliefs.

    It couldn't be more amusing though. The idea that we're all going to be living off robot labor and welfare checks isn't new, but it's always bullshit.

    Hiring a bunch of day laborers from Mexico to dig those ditches is what's going on, though. They aren't robots, they're just another serf-class of unprotected labor.

    Also, for what's it's worth, those redistributionist programs that are 'keeping people from starving' are imploding, so what you're basically doing here is using an example of a house that's burning down and saying if we only added more fuel, or a different grade of fuel, the fire that's taking the house down will be more sustainable.

    Nope, that requires an exceptionally high level of economic illiteracy. Pray tell, who's magic wand did you borrow to do away with scarcity? Did someone invent the replicator from Star Trek when I wasn't paying attention?

  • EscherEnigma||

    [...] how can someone far from a parcel of land have an ownership claim equal merely by birth to someone who mixes his labor with it and actualizes its hitherto only potential value?


    Is Richman seriously suggesting we invalidate property ownership just because someone leases out the use of their property instead of using it themselves?

    Not being able to legally lease your property without fear that your tenants are going to try and seize it would be far more damaging to our economy then UBI.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Maybe reviving the concept of "squatter's rights" wouldn't be a bad idea. It's an old and honored concept with logic behind it. Our current concept of rights to real estate was not handed down from God on flaming tablets.

  • BYODB||

    Being in favor of squatters rights is more or less being against the very notion of private property, but you do you.

    If I bought land, not doing anything with it is well within my rights. We pay for the 'privilege' of owning that land through land taxes as it is, so unless those squatters are paying my tax bill they can fuck right off. I don't give a fuck if they 'improved' the property or not, it belongs to me and if they want it they can offer a fair price and I can agree or decline that offer based on my own proclivities.

  • ||

    Adverse Possession* actually requires the payment of property taxes as one of the conditions to obtain title to property which has been abandoned or neglected by its owner. All the owner of a piece of property has to do to avoid adverse possession is to assert his right to ownership.

    Squatters rights in American law applies to unowned land. It is different from Squatters rights in England which is a completely different legal animal.

  • ||

    Correction:

    All the owner of a piece of property has to do to avoid adverse possession is to assert his right to ownership [within the statutory period].

    Also, for what it's worth the number of adverse possession cases in the USA today is vanishingly small. Most state judges who hear such cases are somewhat hostile to the claimants and set the burden of proof of the validity of such claims quite high.

  • BYODB||

    Fair point, and I appreciate the clarification. It was my understanding that if you don't pay your taxes on a given parcel of land that generally the bank or government will repossess it from you but I've never been in a situation where I owned land that wasn't being used and/or has property taxes that are going unpaid.

  • ||

    Most places do have provisions for the local taxing authority to take possession of land with unpaid taxes and auction it off to collect those taxes. Those laws have been somewhat reformed to, for the most part, protect the elderly and others from losing their property because of neglecting to pay their taxes. But, they still exist but they are not adverse possession or squatters rights, they are basically eminent domain (the sovereign, as primary grantor of land titles, asserts his right to land for which he has found a higher purpose - either to build a road over it or sell it to someone who will pay the proper tribute.)

    Adverse possession, OTOH, is invoked by a party who has occupied a piece of land in a way that is actual, open and notorious, exclusive, adverse, and continuous for the statutory period. Sometimes the words, "hostile to the interests of the owner" appear to describe such actions.

    In essence, it says, "If you don't care enough about your interest in this piece of property to defend your rights in it, you deserve to lose it." Or "tough shit."

    As I noted above, all and owner has to do to avoid adverse possession is to assert his ownership rights within the statutory period.

  • ||

    Oh, I forgot the SLD.

    The above comment is intended to describe conditions in the law as it now exists not how it should be.

    That said, I have no problem with the principle of adverse possession. It is a legal principle that developed over several centuries of English common law and that's good enough for me. :)

  • BYODB||

    I'm not in favor of any legal situation where someone can, simply by virtue of trespassing long enough and making wild claims, have a legal right to said piece of property.

  • ||

    To the best of my knowledge, no adverse possession claim has been validated on the basis of "wild claims".

    It is up to you to assert your property rights. If you don't, the law considers that you don't care.

    There are several centuries of common-law precedent backing this up.

  • ||

    To state it more plainly, it is not trespassing if someone is using your property, openly and notoriously and you take no notice, and by the way pay the taxes on said property for a period of several years.

    If you see them on your property and you make no effort to evict them, collect rent or any one of several other legal procedures that you can invoke, it is well your tough luck.

    Sort of like leaving a ten dollar bill on the ground and then coming back later and wondering why it is gone.

  • ||

    But, as I said above, title by adverse possession cases are exceedingly rare.

    For example, to the best of my knowledge there has not been a successful one in Florida in over a hundred years.

  • ||

    For one thing, Local taxing authorities, cities, counties, school districts, water boards etc are exceedingly reluctant to set you up as the taxpayer on a parcel for which you cannot show that you have title, say, with a deed.

  • ||

    But if you want real security in your title to your land, I suggest you move to Australia. There, the Torrens title system guarantees you against not just any claims of adverse possession but any claim against your title, for example from some descendant of some heir to the property who was left out of the settlement when the property was sold ten or more title transfers before you bought the property.

  • ||

  • ||

    To enlarge upon the point that raised about the sovereign's right to eminent domain, it is of course true that in the good old USofA the sovereign is "we the people" bit the fact is that as the law has developed it's not all that much different from when the sovereign was fat German George.

  • ||

    That is not remotely what Richman said.

  • jm15xy||

    Basic Incomeis definitely not for free -- it will cost the deadweight loss of the astronomical level of taxes that will be needed to finance it. What Baisc Income advocates fail to see is that their program wastes a lot of resources helping people who don't need help in the name of cutting the high marginal tax rates recipients of means-tested programs face.

    Another solution for the problem of high marginal tax rates is to eliminate means tested and non-means tested welfare altogether.

  • jm15xy||

    Basic Incomeis definitely not for free -- it will cost the deadweight loss of the astronomical level of taxes that will be needed to finance it. What Baisc Income advocates fail to see is that their program wastes a lot of resources helping people who don't need help in the name of cutting the high marginal tax rates recipients of means-tested programs face.

    Another solution for the problem of high marginal tax rates is to eliminate means tested and non-means tested welfare altogether.

  • jm15xy||

    Basic Incomeis definitely not for free -- it will cost the deadweight loss of the astronomical level of taxes that will be needed to finance it. What Baisc Income advocates fail to see is that their program wastes a lot of resources helping people who don't need help in the name of cutting the high marginal tax rates recipients of means-tested programs face.

    Another solution for the problem of high marginal tax rates is to eliminate means tested and non-means tested welfare altogether.

  • jm15xy||

    Basic Incomeis definitely not for free -- it will cost the deadweight loss of the astronomical level of taxes that will be needed to finance it. What Baisc Income advocates fail to see is that their program wastes a lot of resources helping people who don't need help in the name of cutting the high marginal tax rates recipients of means-tested programs face.

    Another solution for the problem of high marginal tax rates is to eliminate means tested and non-means tested welfare altogether.

  • Vernon Depner||

    But we are already suffering that loss—the 38% of the so-called work force who are currently not participating, and all those subsisting on current public assistance programs, are already eating, wearing clothing, living indoors, and, for the most part, receiving medical care, and one way or another, we are paying for that. If we actually enforced the "don't work? don't eat" rule that some here would advocate, and all those who are either not employed or employed below subsistence level were allowed to starve naked in the streets, then the price of beginning to support them would be a new "deadweight loss".

  • Vernon Depner||

    From reading these comments, it occurs to me that if we want to know the effect of a guaranteed basic income on the behavior of the recipients, we already have a population to study that has been receiving a UBI for generations: people with rich parents who inherited enough money to live on without needing to work. What becomes of these trust fund babies? Does their inherited UBI destroy their will to improve themselves and be productive, as several commenters above have declared it must? Do these heirs end up living indolent lives, without creating or contributing anything? Studying this would shed light on what effects we could expect by offering a UBI to everyone. Perhaps such studies have already been done.

  • vek||

    One thing to consider is that wealth is highly correlated with IQ. Also being raised by high IQ successful parents will change the way the child behaves a lot. The outcomes would be TOTALLY different for low IQ people and their poorly raised kids.

    There are plenty of useless trust fund kids, but the stereotype always says that's the 3rd generation. 1st that made the money raises their kids right, and their kids do well, but don't entirely "get" the struggle. Their kids they try to raise okay, but often screw up and they end up being spoiled brats. Either way they're still coming from higher IQ and more stable homes than if you just gave random people in the trailer park 30K a year to spend as they please.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Well, that's just naked bigotry. Thanks for your candor.

  • vek||

    Bigoted? Perhaps. Also factually correct? Without a doubt.

    But I prefer discriminating as a term. Being discriminating is not necessarily wrong when you are correct in your facts.

    It is a FACT that IQ is the best predictor of life success in almost all areas. Everything from wealth to divorce rates to crime rates correlate directly to IQ more than childhood socioeconomic status. Being smart is more important than anything else. AND IQ is also undeniably inherited from your parents, with 50-80% correlation rates between parents and children depending on the study. Mainstream science does not dispute this. I bet if you could trace family IQ back another generation or two to grandparents or great grandparents the genetic correlation would go up even higher as generational throw back genes are a known phenomena.

    Wealthy people tend to have higher IQs, and their children tend to have higher IQs, this is a matter of known statistics. So it's simply a fact that different groups will get different results. A blow it case with a high IQ will still do far better than a blow it case with a low IQ. A high IQ underachiever may still end up being a mediocre accountant, versus a low IQ blow it case ending up being a fast food worker, or worse yet a car thief or other type of criminal. So sayeth statistics.

  • vek||

    Also, keep in mind I'm not some snob from a snooty family. My family was mostly working class/lower middle class a couple generations ago. Now we're mostly middle-middle class to the lower rungs of the upper middle class. This being pretty typical for American families during this time period as more intelligence based jobs came to exist and fewer manual labor jobs. So basically run of the mill. I've lived around lots of working class people in my life, and they often deserve to be exactly where they are based on effort and the actions they take. The more successful people in my family won the genetic lottery and are the ones with IQs higher than the average in my family, which is pretty middle of the road to maybe a tad above average overall. My father, myself, 2 of my uncles, and a particular cousin come to mind. That's just the randomness of life.

    IQ isn't 100% determinate of success of course, it's just the best indicator we have on average. Some of my less bright friends from high school have done better financially AND morally than smarter friends... But on average the smarter ones have got into less trouble and make more money. Statistics are statistics man, whether you like them or not.

  • vek||

    UBI is an awful idea, and I really hope automation never gets to the point where it almost becomes required... But I can concede that it MAY be a real possibility in a few decades. But we should surely wait until it is ACTUALLY a problem before even considering something that would so utterly destroy the incentive to work.

    People think some people are slackers now... Just wait until the entire lower class can pay the rent, cable bill, AND afford beer money without lifting a finger! People like that won't do a damn thing if they don't have to. They put forth minimal effort as is, and are clearly contented with such a low income or they would learn a more valuable job skill that made more money. If 30K a year got doled out to every adult there'd be 10s of millions who would probably drop out of the work force day one never to return... Until the economy collapsed and the UBI was scrapped of course.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Well, that's just naked bigotry. Thanks for your candor.

    BTW, where are people getting this $30,000 number? Who said anything about the cable bill and beer money? The proposals I've seen just aim at providing a subsistence level guaranteed income. And why would that "destroy the incentive to work"? People keep saying that without putting any facts or reasoning behind it. It's easy for me to imagine the safety of such a floor incentivizing people to be more productive and creative, and less averse to risks that might pay off. I think some of you are commenting in ignorance of what the lives of working poor people are really like.

  • vek||

    See my above post on the bigotry thing.

    But also, as I said, I have lived around a lot of working class people. I have plenty of friends who still fit into that category. The truth is they're all either slackers OR they're just not all that bright. Doesn't make them bad people, they're my friends still after all, but it does have implications.

    The slackers would slack, because it's how they roll. ALL people have this inclination to varying degrees, including the successful. I'd love to get wasted on a beach all day every day! I think it's foolish to deny it. People say it disinclines people to work because welfare always does this, because all people are like this. Labor force participation rates tend to go down along side availability of welfare. It's human nature, some just overcome it to a degree that's enough to be productive members of society.

    The less smart ones who aren't total slackers will get a UBI check and then either decide to work a little less at similarly low end jobs to what they work now AKA have more leisure time, OR maybe they'll work about as much and have a little extra cash. It would probably depend on circumstances. Somebody with a kid may choose to still work more, while a childless person might be happy to work less because of the extra money.

    On the whole almost NOBODY will be MORE inclined to work than before though.

  • vek||

    Being creative or excelling more than they do now? Probably not too much of that going to happen, but I'll concede it will happen once in a blue moon.

    To think that some 85 IQ McDonalds worker is going to get a UBI and then go on to become a nuclear physicist in their spare time is ridiculous. They won't because they can't. MAYBE they will spend more time playing in a crappy band because they like music... And MAYBE it will be a good band instead of crappy! So there's your upside once in a blue moon.

    But it's an awfully high priced way to encourage a small handful of people to be more artistic or WTF ever. On the whole it will discourage productive work, cost everybody who does still work a TON in tax money, and we won't get shit positive out of it other than the freeloaders having more free time to do whatever they choose to do with it.

    As for the 30K number, that is one of many possibilities. That's just what some people rolled with in this thread. Some propose a bare minimum amount that might barely cover food and a single rooms rent as the UBI figure, others propose amounts more like 20-30K USD which is enough to truly replace the need to work. I think a 8K UBI would be a LOT less destructive because it obviously isn't really enough to live on, so everybody would still have to work part time at least. So it just depends on what "kind" of UBI one is talking about. Obviously at different dollar amounts the results would vary a ton.

  • Vernon Depner||

  • vek||

    Except these aren't incorrect or unverifiable arguments. They're facts. If you actually want to know the truth look up the stats! Read up on IQ and wealth distribution, IQ and crime, IQ and education level, and so on. ALL FACTS. I don't like them any more than you do. I wish everybody really had the same potential, but everybody instinctively knows that's total bullshit. Everybody can figure out before the end of elementary school that they have friends that are smart, and ones that aren't.

    Again it doesn't make them inherently bad people, but less intelligent people are limited in their potential in certain ways. They can never become physicists, or doctors, or lawyers, etc... And if someone with a lot of work ethic managed to get through college for one of those degrees passing with all C- grades they'd be not that great at those jobs in the real world most likely.

    You're literally trying to deny that the concept of intelligence exists if you are denying that there are no differences... Because the differences definitely exist, and have implications. Life is unfair. Some are born short, some tall. I'm kinda short myself, it sucks! Some are also born skinny or fat, ugly or pretty, smart or dumb. That's just life. Deal with it.

  • vek||

    As for some people being natural born slackers, that's something in all people. Almost nobody LIKES working ALL THE TIME. Maybe some on things they're passionate about... But even people who like their work usually like being on vacation more.

    This trait varies in people too. Try and tell me you don't know a single person who has always put in the minimal possible effort to skate by in life! TRY! It's a lie. Everybody knows people like that. They may be nice people, or cool people, and even smart people can be slackers... But they're still naturally inclined to slack. UBI would encourage this in people with such inclinations, obviously.

  • Foldvary||

    "Libertarian" scrutiny presumes only one version of libertarianism, whereas there are concepts in which there is no libertarian conception. Sheldon Richman dismisses the geolibertarian or Georgist position by referring to a flawed argument. He says that past libertarians have found it alluring, but in fact, there are present-day libertarians who also consider its economic and moral arguments sound. If the natural rent of land properly belongs to the people in equal shares, then it could be distributed to the people in cash as a universal basic income. This policy would promote the smaller government sought by libertarians, because rent would be the single source of government revenue as well as UBI, and so every dollar spent by government would be a dollar not distributed to UBI, and the political pressure would be to limit government spending.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

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