My comment on the RightWing support for UniversalBasicIncome

Quora Answer : How accurate is it to say that Universal Basic Income is a neoliberal plot to make people poorer?

Oct 30, 2017

UBI is a proposed solution to a plausible and worrying problem : what if technology out-competes human workers so well, that most people are effectively unemployable? This will screw up not only our economy, but the basis of our entire social contract.

What is interesting about UBI is captured by the old joke :

"First they came for the factory jobs, but I was not a factory worker, so I did nothing. Then they came for the white-collar service jobs, but I wasn't a para-legal or a journalist, so it didn't bother me. Finally they came for the computer programmers ... and a whole bunch of Libertarians suddenly discovered Universal Basic Income".

UBI is a "left-wing" proposal that even right-wing Libertarians can kind of see the point of. It's one of the few proposals that's aimed at making people's lives better that actually has fairly broad-based support from both left and right.

BUT ...

The devil is in the details. Support for from the right often conflates UBI with a scheme for unifying targeted benefits within a simple scheme, and asserts that it can be paid for from the efficiencies of greater simplification. In the UK, the "UniversalCredit" debacle, is demonstrating how nonsensical this is. It's a right-wing shibboleth that government systems are full of inefficient bureaucracy, and that if only they could be "fixed", this would unlock pots of extra money. This is simply a myth.

The truth is that government systems are complicated because real life is complicated.

And the corollary of that is that if you take a system of many fine-grained targeted benefits and try to "simplify" it by making fewer, more coarse-grained distinctions, you are either going to pay more to people who don't need it, or less to people who do.

As the right has already cast these projects as money saving schemes, they never choose the first option, and inevitably they become the second. A smoke-screen for a process designed to save money by sneakily removing some targeted benefits from those who need them.

So, yes, a UBI implemented by the same people who've given the UK the botched Universal Credit scheme is likely to be nothing but an excuse for further cuts to welfare spending, perhaps with the galling spectacle of a large chunk of the overall (shrunken) welfare budget transferred upwards to people who don't need it.

That doesn't make the original problem go away. Or some kind of universal salary a bad idea. But it means we need to be careful how we implement it.

I personally think we should get the money elsewhere, by combining UBI with a scheme of pollution permits, auctioned every year to industries (including agriculture) that pump more co2 into the atmosphere or more nitrates into the rivers. Permits will be limited, and auctioned to the highest bidding users. The money received should be equally distributed to all citizens as their share of the world's natural resources which are being consumed.

That isn't necessarily the best scheme for UBI, but I think it's a just scheme. Which is part of the justification for having a UBI in the first place. And I think the money will certainly help the needy, while lubricating the economy in general. While the curbs on pollution will have a positive environmental impact.

Even if this is not a scheme you particularly like the sound of, it shows that we can be much more creative in designing a UBI than just assuming it must come out of the existing welfare budget.

Related :

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Would you support a 90% income tax and a universal basic income?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to If automation replaces 99% of all jobs, where does the universal basic income get its money from?

Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to When is the UK expected to adopt the Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme?

Quora Answer : What are some right-wing arguments in favour of universal basic income?

Sep 1

Government is inefficient. It might be right for it to provide for people who can't support themselves, but it shouldn't be done through government bureaucracy or government provision of services because these are inefficient and overly expensive ways to do it.

UBI is the form of state support for the population with the minimal of state involvement. Basically the state does nothing but pass out a small amount of money each month and citizens then use that money to provide for themselves in the free market. Under UBI government doesn't even bother to try to evaluate whether someone really deserves an income or not. (Why would expect the state make such an evaluation in a cheap or accurate way anyway?)

So, UBI is the minarchist way for the state to fulfil its responsibilities to avoid its citizens actually starving. Everything else is left to the citizens and the private market and individual initiative.

Just to be clear, I am NOT a right-winger. And I don't agree with the reasoning behind the above argument. Nor do I favour a version of UBI that is intended to eliminate other kinds of state support for those who need it. Nevertheless, I believe that the above is a valid argument for UBI for those who hold those views.

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