Monday, November 18, 2013

Basic Income

If anyone actually wanted to "eliminate poverty," all we need is Basic Income.  Or negative income tax, or whatever you want to call it.  Are you dead?  "Not yet!"  Here you go.

I have written about this.

It would have to work something like this, though:  no strings, no disincentives to work (except the income effect, of course).

And it is being tried, in effect, in Alaska.

Why doesn't the left support Basic Income?  Two reasons:

1.  It would actually put the money, and therefore the power, in the hands of poor people.  And then there would be no poor people.  The political left does NOT trust poor people, and in fact considers them to be idiots.  Thank GOODNESS there are rich white people to tell the poor what to do!  If we give the poor actual cash, instead of vouchers (food stamps are vouchers, folks), then the poor will spend it wrong.  They must be controlled, at least in the life-arranger mind of the left.

2.  The Basic Income program would cost less, actually substantially less, than the alphabet salad of programs "designed" to "help" "the poor" (note triple scare quotes!  Actually, NOT designed that way at all, no one cares about the poor, and the programs don't help the poor anyway).  Why would it cost less?  Because it is not difficult to send out checks, if you stop pestering folks with moralistic rules and humiliating requirements.  Thousands and thousands of paper-shufflers would be fired, and be forced to find real jobs.  Or, with Basic Income, they could just be "not poor."


  1. I'm perplexed by the claim that "the left" doesn't support Basic Income. What support there is for it certainly does not seem to be coming for the right (see: Atrios). To the extent that "the left" has not fielded a "Basic Income" proposal, I assume it's largely tactical. When corporate-friendly policies like Obamacare and the bailout get described as SOCIALISM SOCIALISM SOCIALISM, that's evidence that the political discourse has been pushed too far to the RIGHT for anything like BI to be proposed--much less enacted.

    I will give you, though, that the left is unwilling to begin a push for BI by accepting the elimination of the current safety-net programs. Given the fundamentally untrustworthy nature of the right--see the Social Security bait and switch maneuver--anything that would involve cutting current programs before basic income programs are locked into place and working would be a non-starter.

    The problem is that an awful lot of the American right believes that the poor deserve to be poor, and that having a BI program that alleviates this deserved suffering would be morally wrong.

  2. (I will point out that the Slate article to which you link says "liberals have long dreamed of a guaranteed basic income". I do not think the lack of such a program can be blamed on opposition from the left.)

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  4. Or perhaps you saying that the left doesn't like the UBI is strategic. If you pretend the left hates the idea, then maybe that will get the right-wingers who read your blog and elsewhere to be attracted to the idea, just to spite the left. If that is the plan, then I'm all for it. I'll even help pretend that the left is anti-UBI.

  5. I agree with Dirty Davey. I think the left would support a UBI or NIT and push for it if they didn't think the right would shit their pants at the idea. People barely talk about it, at least in this country, mostly because the right would cry about giving people free money and entitlement mentality. I think a UBI would be great, and then we could eliminate the minimum wage, welfare traps, and other harmful interferences.

    I'm curious, exactly who on the left are you talking about that is against the UBI?


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?