The Universal Basic Income – An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Creigh Gordon 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #2836

    mary guercio

    We’ve explored the UBI concept in prior posts and yet the people who most need to consider it are still down in the weeds talking about welfare and entitlements.

    Every now and then, this idea resurfaces as it did today. For your contemplation.

  • #2905


    1974 – Resolved: That the federal government should guarantee a minimum annual income to each family unit

    I was on the debate team when this was the resolution to be debated.

    The most common affirmative plan was to change the tax table to include negative tax (IRS pays instead of collects). That would save administrative costs by using an existing government agency.

    The arguments against fell into two categories “not needed” of “not good enough”.

    I would be curious to hear what others here think about implementing a negative income tax solution today?

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  dfcord.
    • #2917

      mary guercio

      Chris has written several posts on this subject. Go to his archives on the right side of his home page and look there.

  • #2907

    Daniel Farina

    I think experiments are the way to go. There are some aspects about UBI that I like, which are:

    • It can blunt the cost of forms of civic labor that often go uncompensated…like raising children, doing community service, and adult continuing education.
    • It de-mystifies to a working person how much they have to live on in hard times, hopefully reducing anxieties.
    • It’s less authoritarian and stigmatizing.
    • It might appeal to a notion of fairness to more Americans, many of whom resent the poor.

    But there are some deep technical defects:

    • It’s expensive, and means-tested programs can stretch a dollar further. Professor Furman, Obama’s chair of economic advisers, objected on the grounds that the taxation required to give UBI parity to the current means-tested programs would be immense.
    • It will probably de-equalize areas with good and bad infrastructure and opportunities. Some of those inequalities are buoyed by sinister motives.
    • It probably will discourage work, much of it good for the laborer. (But far from all, as Ladd pointed out in a column a while ago:

    Personally, I’d like to see experiments with workdays being reduced in length, but still encouraging people to work. The structure and social interaction seems good for people, but it takes away from time in the community and one’s family unit. The eight hour workday, put into law one hundred years ago with railroad workers in mind, is antiquated and worth another look.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by  Daniel Farina.
  • #2924


    Most of the time when I see this idea promoted, it is claimed to be necessary because of imminent loss of a massive amount of jobs due to automation.

    The imminent rise of AI and massive loss of jobs are not certain to happen. Maybe they will happen, or maybe this round of automation will be like all the rest – disruptive, but not a game changer. There is currently low unemployment after a century of rapid advancement in automation.

    If this time it really is different, instituting a basic income is something we can do when it is needed, when we get massive unemployment. We already tax businesses and individuals, and we already send payments out to about every household in the country at least once a year. Tweaking the numbers on either side would be trivial to execute once you have the votes to do it.

  • #2927



    I agree with most of what you have said. However, I think automation (or lack thereof) is a side issue.

    A core issue is whether or not we, as a society, can tolerate supporting citizens who choose not to be productive.

    Do we deprive basic food and healthcare in order to force the lower class citizens to do manual labor?

    We like to pretend we are a classless society but it is getting hard to maintain that illusion when many are forced to choose between servitude to the well-off or death.

    • #2935


      We currently have food stamps, WIC, EITC, TANF, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, and more I can’t think off the top of my head, in addition to private charity. The poor have plenty of opportunities to have their needs met. We are not a “servitude or death” society.

      Expanding social welfare benefits to everyone would perhaps reduce the stigma attached, at the cost of making such benefits either far weaker for those who actually need them, and/or making the US social welfare spending vastly more expensive.

    • #2937



      The alphabet soup of government programs is the symptom of the fundamental problem I am talking about, not the solution. It is extremely inefficient and wasted expense in order to make sure only the “deserving” get help.

      I realize it is much more complication than I am making it out to be, If healthy men and women can survive without working, who is going to pick up our trash? Serve us food? Do our laundry? And, what about the children?

      I enjoy my job. I am getting to the point where I could retire if I wanted to but I don’t want to.

      There is no question I have enjoyed the benefits of being a privileged white male. My dad was well paid because he was a member of a practically all-white construction union which provided me a scholarship to become an engineer. This allowed me to quickly advance through promotion after promotion, Meanwhile work paid for me to get an MBA which, in turn, provided the confidence to start my own successful business when the plant where I worked shut down.

      Yes, I am a bleeding-heart liberal, but I simply can not avoid seeing an obvious truth that we are forcing people to work to sustain the basics of life. You might be able to convince me this is unavoidable. However, what I see is definitely not a classless society when people die, are jailed and sometimes get killed for the simple sin of refusing the do the menial jobs the privileged class demands.

    • #2938

      mary guercio

      That depends upon what a nation’s priorities are, don’t you think? How much money should our nation spend for defense? Here’s what the IMF is suggesting:

    • #2944

      Creigh Gordon

      “A core issue is whether or not we, as a society, can tolerate supporting citizens who choose not to be productive.

      Do we deprive basic food and healthcare in order to force the lower class citizens to do manual labor?”

      Here’s an idea: if “manual labor” (environmental remediation in all its aspects, for example) needs to be done why not pay what the market demands for that labor? The idea that any work that needs to be done is demeaning, and is less worthy of respect and decent pay, offends me.

  • #2928


    It’s been pointed out that by making financial benefits universal, we also prevent them from becoming socially reviled as “something for poor people.” Many people in the UK and US will refuse to accept aid that they’re entitled to and desperately need, because they’ve been taught that their pride is more important than their childrens’ well-being. Making it universal avoids that.

    • #2939

      mary guercio

      This system works quite well in Alaska, but the distribution is to all….

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