Universal Basic Idiocy

I’m about half an hour into Joe Rogan’s podcast with Andrew Yang, an American presidential hopeful who’s main platform is a universal basic income (UBI). I find discussions of a UBI to be useful and sometimes fun in philosophical terms, but as a policy idea it suffers from fatal flaws which ought to be obvious but for some apparently aren’t. The ZMan points out one, which concerns price inflation:

Imagine the government decides to help BMW sell more cars, so they offer every citizen $5000 if they spend it on a BMW, rather than some other car. BMW is now facing a wave of people coming into American dealerships toting a $5,000 check payable to BMW. The logical thing for BMW to do is raise the price of their low end models by $5000. That way, they don’t increase production costs, but they increase the profit per car. In effect, the floor for entry level buyers was just raised by $5000 by the government.

There’s a pretty good real world example of this. The government decided to do something to help working class people get into college. Since many need remedial help, before taking on college work, the scheme was to offer a subsidy to be used for community colleges. The students would use the money to prep for college then head off to a four year university, presumably using loans and aid at that level. The result, however, was the community colleges just raised their tuition by about 65% of the subsidy.

But I don’t think even economic arguments do the most damage to the idea of a universal basic income. UBI comes from the libertarian fringe of politics and they have a habit of falling into the same trap they frequently accuse communists of: they ignore human nature. The reason welfare programs came into existence a few generations ago is people decided it was immoral for someone to be left to starve or die through illness or bad luck. The reason there are giant, all-encompassing welfare states today is people now think it immoral for anyone to suffer the consequences of their bone-headed actions. Proponents of a UBI think we’re still in some bygone era, rather than an age where couples with no job pump out seven children each and suffer no social opprobrium, even as they moan their taxpayer-funded house is too small.

The idea behind a UBI is it would partially replace other forms of welfare, but the reality is this money would disappear from the hands of the feckless quicker than #MeToo campaigners at the mention of Monica Lewinsky. They’d then be worse off than before and the same people who declared their situation intolerable and campaigned for the original welfare programs would pick right up where they left off. The idea that the society which constructed today’s welfare state would ignore the plight of some idiot who blew his UBI on crack and step over him while he starved in the gutter is ludicrous; the original payments would be restored, and the UBI a handy bonus for professional grifters who fancy a new set of alloys for their E36 M3s.

The fact this doesn’t get acknowledged by proponents of the UBI makes me wonder if they know much about the societies they claim to inhabit. The best that can be said is this makes them indistinguishable from most other politicians.

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39 thoughts on “Universal Basic Idiocy

  1. UBI comes from the libertarian fringe of politics and they have a habit of falling into the same trap they frequently accuse communists of: they ignore human nature.

    First off to say that a group of libertarians can agree on anything is silly – being on the political fringe means you’re probably not very agreeable to begin with.

    But yes, some pragmatic libertarians (and hard socialists too…) see UBI as the “least-evil” with the logic being: if we’re to have coerced welfare at least consolidate all of the various types so we can save on overhead. You’ve identified the key failure in that thinking, however. Namely, the ability of society – specifically politicians and activists – to say, “Tough shit, no more money.”

    It’s like the joke about the Weight Watcher’s plan recommending you eat only 2 potato chips. If you could stop at 2 chips you wouldn’t need Weight Watchers!

  2. First off to say that a group of libertarians can agree on anything is silly –

    I concur, but I have no idea why you’d direct this comment at me.

  3. I don’t think libertarians are universally behind a UBI. Certainly Yang was on the Fifth Column podcast too and the host Kmele Foster didn’t seem particularly convinced. I first heard of Yang listening to the Freakonomics podcast and it didn’t really sound like the sums really added up, but from later interviews I get the impression that he’s a nice enough guy for a politician and intends to take his startup background as a model for enacting his policies; i.e. start small and scale up if things work, else tweak them. I would be happy to see someone try a reasonably large scale UBI for a while if only to see what happened, especially in the US where it wouldn’t be my money 😉

    Generally speaking when it comes to UBI I think Sam above is right; it would probably work OK assuming that politicians can say “tough shit”, and that’s not an assumption that really stands up to any real scrutiny. But I’d love to be proven wrong.

  4. “The reason welfare programs came into existence a few generations ago is people decided it was immoral for someone to be left to starve or die through illness or bad luck”

    Not sure I agree with this. Prior to national welfare schemes, there were extensive charitable organisations, frequently local and hence responsive to local needs, that were expressions of moral concerns: indeed often Church sponsored.

    National welfare destroyed all that, and most charities are now political lobbyists or make-work feeding troughs for unemployable middle classes.

    Welfare is driven by greed and fear. Greed of all those voting, who pay no taxes, and therefore bear no cost of what they vote to spend money on, and the greed of those who leverage short-sighted political support from such, for their turn in power.

    And paid by fear, fear of the mob, and fear of being picked on next. Tax him over there, not me! History shows that is not a successful strategy.

    UBI is just the latest Dane Geld, and it will be no more effective.

  5. The whole UBI thing is just silly. Even if you assume it wouldn’t change anyone’s behavior (and it would, bigly), the numbers don’t add up. Any level of UBI that people could actually live on is completely unaffordable.

  6. Jerry,

    It is affordable, but the only way to make it zero-sum for all of those bearing the burden of welfare payments is to tax the first UBI-worth of earned income at 100%. At which point you again run into human nature, as that will make a lot of part time workers wonder why they bother, then you have to tax more than 1xUBI at 100%, have taken some amount of labour out of the economy, etc. So unless you cut the total welfare bill (which might be doable given how much the overhead eats) someone will end up worse off.

    Tying benefits to at least nominal attempts at securing employment or inability to take up employment for health reasons seems unavoidable, for all the cost and bad decisions it causes.

  7. I get the feeling that people who live in a modern society see money being exchanged for goods and assume that the money transmutes into that good, or is equivalent to that good.

    Money is an allocation scheme. Nothing more.

    Tyler Cowen has said the public is fixated on subsidizing demand, when the solution should be to expand supply.

  8. A few points:

    1) It’s not intended for UBI to cover BMWs and I’ve no idea why anyone would think that it would.
    2) People producing 7 kids aren’t stopped now by the benefit system. So no change.
    3) The money would disappear from the feckless just like it does today. So no change.

    The key thing with UBI is that you encourage the unemployed to go to work. The benefit trap acts like a tax of 60%+. Go to work instead of sitting on your arse and you earn money, but the state reduces your benefits. You keep less than 40% of what you earn. Unsurprisingly, some people look at what extra they get for going to work and decide it’s not worth the bother. Might as well stay home.

    And no-one questions UBI in other areas. Education and health are universal benefits. Not paid in cash, but still benefits. We don’t means test children’s education or healthcare and I don’t hear many calls for that to be done, but giving people cash for food is weird for some reason.

  9. It’s not intended for UBI to cover BMWs and I’ve no idea why anyone would think that it would.

    Who says it would?

    So no change.

    Except for a few hundred billion of UBI expenditure.

    The key thing with UBI is that you encourage the unemployed to go to work. The benefit trap acts like a tax of 60%+.

    Yes, that’s certainly a benefit of a UBI. Unfortunately, as benefits will still exist in parallel to a UBI, the best that can happen is the effect of a benefits trap is reduced to a degree; it’ll never be eliminated.

  10. I did a lot of reading and thinking around UBI when I dabbled in libertarian politics. I liked the theory but also concluded its not safe in politician’s hands, especially lefty politicians, because they just can’t help themselves when it comes to favouring their own groups.

    I enjoyed Yang’s JRE podcast and think he at least went some way to trying to make the numbers work and has some understanding of the problems. I wish him well.

    “The reason welfare programs came into existence a few generations ago is people decided it was immoral for someone to be left to starve or die through illness or bad luck”

    Chris Mousey (Devil’s Kitchen) did a lot of reading in to how the poor looked after each other prior to the welfare state and used to write some good stuff on the subject. IIRC he concluded that most of the poor were better off pre welfare state.

  11. Prior to national welfare schemes, there were extensive charitable organisations, frequently local and hence responsive to local needs, that were expressions of moral concerns: indeed often Church sponsored.

    You’re describing welfare programs.

  12. Chris Mousey (Devil’s Kitchen) did a lot of reading in to how the poor looked after each other prior to the welfare state and used to write some good stuff on the subject.

    Yup, hence I avoided the term “welfare state”.

  13. I thought that this had been tested – and failed – in Finland.

    Now, UBI is just a wheeze for middle class lefties to get more income without having to work. And it would, in the end, be on top of existing benefits, as cutting existing benefits to pay for it just won’t happen.

    I was at the IFS post Spring Statement briefing where they were examining the – rather horrid – choices facing politicians. At the end of 2019 – 9 years into Austerity – UK taxation as a % of GDP is, short of war, as high as it has ever been. Not as high as Scandinavian, but pretty high by UK standards. So not much scope for increases in tax. But I was much struck by the benefits chart. Despite savage cuts in benefit, the benefits bill over the last few years has not fallen. At all. The ability of benefits activists to extract more money from the system is stunning. So, UBI would be on top of, not instead of the current benefits system. Under a Corbyn government I expect the benefits budget to explode, without actually helping anybody.
    I’d rather the effort spent on UBI was spent on finding a better benefits system than the one we’ve got.

  14. I’d rather the effort spent on UBI was spent on finding a better benefits system than the one we’ve got.

    Before tackling the benefits system I’d prefer to see them take on the much easier task of dismantling the middle-class welfare system, i.e. the fake charities, NGOs, health food fascists, arts councils, diversity programs, and the rest of the industry which exists to provide the dim middle classes with jobs. If money is tight, there’s the place to cut right there.

  15. the fake charities, NGOs, health food fascists, arts councils, diversity programs

    …higher education, mortgage insurance tax exemptions, green credit schemes, Tesla subsidies, sport stadium subsidies, mandatory paid maternal leave, B-Corps…

  16. I’ve said all along its impossible to get from a means tested welfare system to a UBI, even if it was affordable. Its just the way things develop. Societies who gain enough wealth to start considering ‘poor relief’ are not rich societies to start with, so whatever wealth they wish to put aside for that purpose has to be targeted at the most needy. Better that the elderly have a bit of a pension to keep the wolf from the door than everyone in society gets an extra tuppence, that sort of thing. And once you start down the means and needs tested route you’re stuck. There’s never a point where society is now so wealthy it can afford to give everyone X when it hasn’t already given 2 or 3X to a specific few. Welfare payments grow with the economy, taking up at least a static percentage, often a growing one, so the leap from ‘some’ to ‘everyone’ is impossible.

    Plus the point about existing system and the politicians not being able to leave things alone, and hard cases being thrust in everyone’s faces is utterly on the mark as well. For example we currently have a parallel disability welfare system which presumably would run alongside any UBI, thus meaning the incentive to ‘get on the sick’ is as great under UBI as it is today. The number on disability payments dwarfs the unemployed incidentally. They would be untouched by UBI, and continue to grow.

    The current system is such a complex system of interlocking payments etc that its impossible that some people under UBI would not lose out, and as you rightly say, the first person found starving in a gutter because they’d spent their entire monthly UBI in two days on crack would result in massive screams of ‘Murderers’ etc, as we have today from some sections of politics. No system could withstand such pressure to act – the pressure to ‘do something’ is irresistible in politics.

    There are many ideas in politics (and economics I’m beginning to think) that are fine in theory, but do not take into account enough of human nature, or require such specific prior conditions to work correctly that introducing them into non-perfect scenarios can result in worse outcomes than the status quo. Socialism is the obvious one, UBIs are another, and (controversial this one, I’ve had a massive argument at TWs about it) free trade is another concept that I consider has massive detriments when introduced into non-perfect situations that its proponents ignore, mainly because they’re not the ones experiencing them.

  17. You’re describing welfare programs
    Nope. I was describing charity. Charity that provided welfare. The essence being that people donated voluntarily, their time and their money, for moral, neighbourly and religious reasons.

    National Welfare programs, the Welfare State, are armed robbery. You will pay or we smash your head until you do. Quite different.

    The first is a help, with a strong encouragement to minimise one’s dependence. The second is an entitlement. No need to work, no need to contribute, I vote the thugs to make you pay me.

    The first encourages everyone to contribute to mutual wellbeing as best they can, the second encourages parasitism and violence.
    I think I prefer the first, especially as described by another commenter, it worked better than now.

  18. Nope. I was describing charity. Charity that provided welfare.

    Yes, so was I.

  19. The attraction of UBI (coupled with a flat tax on income) is that it makes any amount of work worthwhile – no withdrawal of benefits, no massively high marginal tax rates, simple to administer. It’s not the numbers that make it unrealistic (I’ve done the calculations for NZ, and it’s quite feasible, leaving no-one working worse off) – it is (as you say) the politics.

    The difficulty is the low level of income for those genuinely unable to work at all, like the severely disabled. And once you contaminate the UBI with any special payments, you open up the temptation for more and more of the same. Expecting politicians not to try buying votes with people’s own money (or more usually OPM), and sufficient voters not to agree, is more than a tad optimistic.

  20. Expecting politicians not to try buying votes with people’s own money (or more usually OPM), and sufficient voters not to agree, is more than a tad optimistic.

    Yes. This is what I take from Breitbart’s “politics is downstream from culture”. Or, in Milton Friedman’s words, “The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.”

    Just how we do this is the difficult question. Personally I say start with education – more choice and more involvement from sane people – and work your way from there.

  21. @Bloke on M4 on March 18, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    +1

    IDS tried to end benefit-trap – Osborn and Hammond said no.

    In many cases effective tax-rate was over 100% as council tax benefit and others all reduced/stopped too.

    iirc effective tax-rate is still 70-80% before travel costs.

  22. Once again, we need to look back at history for examples of how this worked in the past. One of the UBI schemes I know about is the Roman Republic and Empire.

    The Roman Republic was a slave based economy – their conquest of the rest of Europe provided a surplus of slaves and they were cheap in relative terms. If you were a Roman stonemason, carpenter or other tradesman, then anyone owning enough slaves could undercut you on price every time. The Roman State introduced top up payments so that the tradesmen could sell their goods and labour at the same rate as the slave owning business. In effect a UBI. However, the tradesman took the sensible decision to reduce his standard of living in return for not working. This, naturally had the effect of reinforcing the cycle – slaves did more and more of the work, the citizens less and less BUT they still had the vote. And guess what they voted for (when they did not sell their votes to the highest bidder). Answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address …

    Ultimately it decoupled voting and participation in civic life (including service in the Army) from work and the whole system collapsed from within as they relied more and more on slaves and mercenaries for their daily bread and protection.

    If you really are interested in exploring welfare and charity before the Welfare State, CIVITAS (http://civitas.org.uk/research/) has a number of free papers written to address such things as the provision of medial care before the NHS and how doctors of all descriptions did treat for free those who were genuinely too poor to afford to pay and it lead to the formation of BUPA (the British United Provident Association). This was a result of two things:

    1) Many insurance companies operated a not for profit medical scheme where poor people paid a nominal insurance premium weekly (called Penny Policies) that they could claim against for doctors bills. As the fund was a non profit system, following 5 July 1948 (the start of the welfare system introduced by Aneurin Bevan) then it could not be used for other purposes. The newly formed NHS confiscated all hospitals and all doctors working in them automatically became NHS employees. BUPA was set up as a continuation of the privately financed insurance and became heir to the accumulated fund. They built from new their own hospitals and clinics and paid for their own doctors.

    2) Because the hospital consultants, along with GP’s had previously given a portion of their time pro bono, the NHS allowed them to use this time in the same way but as “The Government will pay for treatment” they did not see the need to work essentially for free so used the free time to play golf, go fishing or whatever they wanted to do with their newly found leisure time. In essence, this approximately halved the number of consultants available to the NHS if you look at the number of hours worked by the consultants.

    The Victorian concept of “The Deserving Poor” was an established principle and examples such as a new widow and her children, through no fault of their own falling into poverty, would be given charity by their community at a basic level and the children given a basic education. The lazy, feckless and wasters would not be given any help and as it was the local community contributing and controlling the funds, then the possibility of playing the system would only work for a very short while.

    Now we have an “entitlements” mentality and no politician will vote to address the problem – just like ancient Rome.

    However, it is no good criticising the system without offering a solution. So her is my suggestion to increase all benefits and welfare payments by 10. Simply write a zero after the value on any bank note (so a 5 pound note becomes a 50 pound note) and carry on. Hey presto! Everyone is 10 times better off, no? And simply pumping ersatz money (which UBI is) into the economy will have a similar effect. Prices of goods and services will rise to absorb the new money and like all “benefits” the ratchet only goes one way, so more of the same will be needed. Simply add another zero to the banknote … rinse and repeat until we have a Zimbabwe level of currency with a face value of 100,000,000,000,000 local currency units.

    One way you COULD reduce the tax bill would be to simplify the system. For example, when I worked briefly for the DHSS in the UK, I noticed that you had an army of civil servants recording social security contributions, then another army of civil servants calculating and paying pensions and if you did not have a full contribution record, you got a reduced pension. When I worked there, the State Pension was JUST below the official poverty line so you had yet another army of civil servants administering and paying out supplementary benefit (as it was called at the time) to those pensioners who could not live on their pensions. I thought at the time that if the salaries of the administration were put towards a flat rate pension, then it would be a lot higher than the current pension payment.

    But there again, the expansion of the civil service was intended to mop up all those unemployed ex-soldiers following the end of WW2, not to benefit the working man paying social security payments … hence the very low level of unemployment recorded. It was, like all government schemes an artificially ow figure but hey! just like Soviet Russia, everyone had a job.

  23. To Z-man’s BMW example, yes if you subsidize something you will drive up the demand for it. If supply remains the same, the cost goes up. I think it would have been more interesting if Z-man had said $5000 subsidy for high-end sedans or such that there would be some reason for BMW to not raise its price exactly $5000 because say Mercedes or Lexus would only go up $4500 to compete. The supply and demand curves would likely move a little bit. But the principle is the same. Which is generally what has happened with college educations. Subsidies have increased demand, thus more teachers and administrators are needed. The supply curve for people who can teach and/or do the other related work is certainly not infinitely elastic, thus costs go up and quality goes down in whatever proportion necessary to conform to the elasticity of the supply curve.

  24. But to the specific subject of UBI, I think Milton Friedman unfortunately endorsed such at some point. But the idea, as stated by yourself and others here, is that all the administrative bother and such would be eliminated, thus some significant savings. This is the only real appeal to UBI. And like you and others, I doubt the politicos would eliminate the other programs. There’d be whining about different cities having different costs of living, yadda-yadda-yadda. The only real solution to these problems is to teach people that they can take care of themselves. The real problem is that these leftist clowns constantly drone on about how unfair life is, how people can’t make it, how they need government to help them. THERE is the real problem.

  25. @Phil B

    And guess what they voted for

    I think the economic description is not complete without the political one. The voting system in the Roman Comitia Centuriata did not allow large masses of poor to influence elections, because all their votes were grouped into the last Centuriate, and counted as much as the votes of the higher Centuriates, even if those only consisted of a few dozen very rich patricians.

    The way the poor of Rome affected politics was by signing up to the army after the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC. It was these reforms which created large armies loyal only to their commanders, which tore the Republic apart in the civil wars of 88 BC, 81, and later between 49 and 31.

    Re: UBI

    I can’t understand how anyone could possibly consider this seriously. Every social program starts off with a huge promise of solving some problem, and winds up costing ten times its initial estimate. Either the UBI will be sufficient to live off of, in which case people will stop working, or it will not, in which case there will be infinite pressure to increase it, and the resulting taxation will have ruinous consequences. I can’t understand all this talk of our societies now being rich enough that no-one needs to work. Every country in which this argument is put forward has a public debt of about 100% of the yearly GDP, and the only reason it’s not three times that is because of accounting legerdemain which puts student debt or unfunded pensions in different categories. Why are we all in debt if we’re so rich we don’t need to work? The only reason we’re still solvent is that we’re borrowing from the future, in the same way that the Roman Republic kept afloat as long as it did only by wringing wealth from the provinces.

    I’ll stick with Kipling on this question.

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

  26. The UK has a long history of ‘poor relief’ or ‘outdoor relief’. However, it was inconsistent and not really fit for purpose once we hit the industrial revolution, workhouses probably being the bottom of the barell. But the concept of ‘deserving poor’ didn’t start with the Victorians, it was established well before then, by Tudor time at least, and the local nature of ‘relief’ meant it came from neighbours who would judge fecklessness and indolence harshly.

    SJW’s may moan about people being judgemental of ‘welfare dependency’ as a lifestyle choice, especially those who choose to have large famililes in the expectation others will subsidise this, but there really is no long established culture of supporting this type of behaviour in the UK. State education, healthcare and welfare exist to maintain the sucessful continuation of our society, and to prevent people from falling below a threshold of poverty, they were not intened so some people could have lots of kids or not work. My 90 year old Grandmother is the last survivor of 10 siblings, she grew up in poverty, but such things as child benefit, housing benefit, and even the NHS didn’t exist when she was a child. Nobody subsidised that large family and it’s notable that neither she nor her siblings had anything like that number of children, resulting in her standard of living now (age related illness aside) being exponentially better than it was in the 1930s.

    However, I’m not convinced by your criticism of UBI. It’s not that you’re wrong, it’s just that someone ‘spaffing’ their UBI is no different to same people ‘spaffing’ their UC or JSA, or spending the rent on booze and expecting another handout. The problem with UBI is that to pay for it means making redundant a huge chunk of the state apparatus, which will fight tooth and nail to be redeployed on to some other economically valueless activity. It will also rob politicians of the human bargaining chips over which they can appear to be ‘tough’ or ‘humane’ depending on their particular schtick (see for example the current punative ‘sanctions’ approach to UC/JSA infractions, which is utterly pointless and counter productive because its overwhelmingly penalises a tiny minority of claimants who might charitably be called the residual unemployed). With UBI you’ve given people their agency, so there’s no longer an excuse for paternalism.

  27. With UBI you’ve given people their agency, so there’s no longer an excuse for paternalism.

    With UBI you vastly expand the number of people who are tempted to scrounge off the system.

    With UBI, you create a giant patronage system, just begging to be seized by the first unscrupulous politician who comes along. This problem is already bad enough with the existing system. But what will happen when any third-rate demagogue can bribe half the voters by offering to increase the UBI from $10K to $11K? Will any politician be able to resist the temptation? Will the public? Today there are a dozen smaller patronage systems, all limited and flawed (e.g. welfare, disability, student loans) and even these are milked by the public and the politicians. If you institute UBI, within a generation you’ll have either bankruptcy, hyperinflation, or civil war.

  28. “Yes, that’s certainly a benefit of a UBI. Unfortunately, as benefits will still exist in parallel to a UBI, the best that can happen is the effect of a benefits trap is reduced to a degree; it’ll never be eliminated.”

    The point of a good UBI system would be to remove all means-tested benefits. We’d still have assessed benefits (e.g. for disability) but everyone who qualified as disabled would get them.

    “Before tackling the benefits system I’d prefer to see them take on the much easier task of dismantling the middle-class welfare system, i.e. the fake charities, NGOs, health food fascists, arts councils, diversity programs, and the rest of the industry which exists to provide the dim middle classes with jobs. If money is tight, there’s the place to cut right there.”

    I tried to get through to Conservatives (when I was involved in the party) that they’re mad to keep throwing money at these people. They don’t really produce anything useful, the sort of people likely to vote Conservative don’t want them, and none of the people working for them vote Conservative. And if you take the money and give it back to the voters, they’re more likely to vote for you.

    That said, the biggest single benefit I’d deal with is housing benefit, which dwarfs unemployment benefit and has deleterious economic effects. Subsidising people to live in the richest part of the UK is simply nuts. “but if you don’t have HB, where will companies in London get cleaners?” Well, those companies will have to raise the pay of cleaners to get cleaners. Maybe they’ll decide that actually, it would make more sense to move to a cheaper part of the country. But the most likely effect is that landlords would have to lower the rent to keep tenants. If a tenant can’t pay £1000/month rent but can only pay £400/month rent, either the landlord has to get another tenant, or he has to lower his rent.

  29. The point of a good UBI system would be to remove all means-tested benefits.

    I know, but the entire point of my post is that entirely ignores the society in which you’d attempt to put this system. There is no way, ever, a modern society used to contemporary welfare programs will accept a system which does not discriminate between rich and poor.

    That said, the biggest single benefit I’d deal with is housing benefit, which dwarfs unemployment benefit and has deleterious economic effects.

    Agreed.

  30. UBI is basically a symptom of arrested development, deriving as it inevitably does from two standard-issue teenage attitudes:

    1. I didn’t ask to be here, so the world owes me a living

    2. It’s Mum and Dad’s job to worry about paying the mortgage and food bills so that I can try to start a band with my mates.

    Far from giving people agency, UBI — by reducing the entire population to perpetual adolesents living on handouts from the state in place of their parents — is the most infantilising scheme ever devised.

  31. But robots. Nobody here mentioned the robots. The robots will save us. Ask any millennial and many x-ers. See, when we have robots everyone will get thrown out of work because the robots will be doing everything and thus we need UBI. It’s the 21st century dude. Robots. Answer to damn near every question. Well that and AI.

  32. “I know, but the entire point of my post is that entirely ignores the society in which you’d attempt to put this system. There is no way, ever, a modern society used to contemporary welfare programs will accept a system which does not discriminate between rich and poor.”

    I’ll concede that. I’m talking systemically – if we agree to it, this would be better.

    Re: your arts institutions/fake charities, this is part of it. Scrapping them isn’t just about saving money, they’re also cheerleaders for more government (and specifically, more government jobs rather than more benefits paid directly to the poor). The first job of any right-wing government is scrapping the BBC license fee and making it optional.

  33. Scrapping them isn’t just about saving money, they’re also cheerleaders for more government

    Oh sure, the money is largely an irrelevance when weighed beside the damage they do.

  34. UBI is interesting, but the 5k for a BMW analogy can be proven- Norway’s sovereign wealth dividend to citizens means its £4.00 for a packet of basic biscuits. It’s eyewateringly expensive over there.

    There’s also the moral hazard: money for nothing is hardly the thing to get folks out there making the most of the only life they’ll ever have.

    Most of all, though, it’s the way that such a payment will make it feel like the government are our employers and must be treated with respect and deference. Which is completely the wrong way round. If the government are going to start handing out cash, please do it by reducing tax, and most importantly *doing less*.

  35. Most of all, though, it’s the way that such a payment will make it feel like the government are our employers and must be treated with respect and deference

    Worse than that: what we get from our employers is a fair exchange, labour for money. It’s an adult transaction which brings benefit to both parties. It is the essential buildig block of the fundamental thing which defines an adult, the ability to provide for oneself (at least, and one’s family if applicable).

    UBI makes government into our parents and makes us into permanent children.

  36. UBI is not a libertarian invention per se although I acknowledge that many libertarians support it. The fundamental idea behind Communism is that your needs are provided which is why so many on the left think it’s a great idea.

    I read a book by Sean Gabb (a Libertarian) who supported UBI and I’ll try to explain his thinking (it’s years since I read it and I’m not at home)
    —-
    His idea is that modern society has a large class of people who benefit from the existence of redistribution efforts. They are middle class by and large. They may administer those efforts (eg. DWP) or they may campaign to increase those efforts (eg. The Labour Party, lobbyists, most Charities, media).

    In order to radically change society there needs to be a massive halt of money from government supporting this class. This cannot be accomplished slowly because to remove only a portion of this class results in the rest protesting and employing their allies in the media to muster support. Consequently the incoming Libertarian government needs to shut the lot down in one fell swoop in days. Without income and much of their existing power structure they will be focused more day to day survival than protesting.

    Meanwhile the supposed motivation of this class is the poor/vulnerable, and they do rely on welfare. If this is removed suddenly they will revolt. So UBI is the replacement, which demonstrates that this is not an attack on the weak. Because this is a benefit to which every citizen is entitled it would not require an army of bureaucrats to administer and so only a fraction of the existing class would need to be retained. And several studies have shown that, set at modest levels, it would be cheaper than current benefits without harming the poor. The admin class would see a massive reduction in living standards or else find a productive career.

    Poverty trap arguments follow which I won’t repeat.
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    I agree with the analysis in as much as the problem is not the poor – it s the existence of a class that benefits from the problem of poverty. There are something like 200+ benefits. All have to be administered. Get elected to parliament and win kudos for doing something about “fuel poverty”. How can you be fuel poor but not poor in other things – why not raise basic benefit rather than add a new benefit?

    I think the flaw in this is that it relies on the disorientation of this class when the rug is suddenly pulled from under their feet. In practise you won’t be able to do this without them getting to know your plans and being prepared. And since they will get the UBI too, they can organise without starving. They will be poor but not destitute. So there’s a contradiction in the plan.

    On the other hand if you had asked me 10 years ago if there was any chance of a Labour Party led an open Communist, being near power, I would have laughed. If he gets elected his group will apply sudden shock. They won’t be like Wilson/Callaghan/Blair.

    The best chance of fundamental reform is in the wake of a Corbyn/Labour disaster.

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