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Quora Answer : Is the pandemic finally the moment for a universal basic income?

Jul 24, 2020

I think it would be a sensible move, yes.

Right now, we seem to have a stupid argument between "protecting lives" vs. "protecting the economy"

It's stupid because if lots of people are sick and die, the economy gets fucked anyway.

But also because COVID is a serious and long-term threat.

The best way to protect the economy is to adapt it to fit a world with COVID and the risks that COVID brings.

And it seems the economy is completely fragile in the face of disruptions to everyone going out and doing what they always do.

But that's exactly what we need people to stop doing for a while.

So the ideal would be to have a way to put much of the economy into a kind of suspended animation / induced coma where companies remain frozen on a database. They haven't gone bust; they still maintain all the contracts, employment relationships etc. But for a period, they don't have to either pay out any money, or deliver any goods / services / work.

If we had a mechanism like this. We could put most inessential businesses to sleep for 6 months, or 12 months, or whatever it takes to get the epidemic under control through having everyone stay home. And then quickly defrost it again once particular regions look safe to open up.

As it is, we have a stupid situation where businesses either try to keep working as normal (putting their employees and customers at risk) or they immediately go bust.

But of course, even if businesses are in suspended animation, people still need to eat. So a UBI would allow us to keep the people ticking over during the outage.

There are other good arguments for a UBI. But it seems it's a particularly simple mechanism and compatible with doing what we can to save the economy.

NB : In general, I do take on board criticisms of UBI that just paying for it out of increased income tax is going to create a pointless inflationary spiral between salaries and prices. I don't think this is the way to fund it. Instead I believe UBI needs to be financed from land and other natural resource taxes.

Quora Answer : How do progressives and liberals propose to pay for both UBI (Universal Basic Income) and UHC (Universal Health Care) at the same time, simultaneously and sustainably?

Aug 31

I propose that UBI is paid for exclusively out of taxes on natural resources.

Nature belongs to everyone, equally, and shouldn't be the private property of individuals.

One step in the right direction would be to tax land (and other mineral, oil rights, and similar "gifts of nature") and have that as the basis of UBI.

Also, we need to restrict carbon emissions anyway, so have a trade-able CO2 permit system, and have the money earned from auctioning CO2 emission permits, also go into the UBI kitty. (To make sure that this doesn't just force production offshore, you'd obviously charge import duties equivalent to the cost of the CO2 used in the production abroad, so it would be neutral in terms of incentives to offshore)

If you look at the US, universal health care would be cheaper than the US currently pays for its health system, so it doesn't have to be "paid for" at all. You just need to remove the parasitic insurance companies who are taking a huge slice of the money in "healthcare". But that might need some initial investment to kick the process off, which would, indeed, come taxes / borrowing as usual. But once established, a US "NHS" would be cheaper than the US currently pays and would save money in the longer run.

Quora Answer : How should the U.S. and Europe incentivize developing countries to reduce their air pollution?

Sep 28, 2016

A restriction on pollution in the US (assuming I was US president) based on permits. Local industries would need to buy permits, either auctioned by the government, or later on a secondary market, for all the pollution they produce.

I'd then require importers to buy equivalent permits for the goods they bring in from other countries so that there's a level playing field where foreign manufacturers don't have an unfair advantage over local manufacturers.

What would I do with all the lovely money that I get from auctioning off the pollution permits? I'd distribute it as a universal basic income to all citizens as their dividend for giving up their share of unspoiled nature.

Citizens could choose to receive the pollution permit themselves (and simply sit on it if they prefer to contribute to the environment), or to sell it themselves (if they think they can get a better deal), or to receive a share of the money that the government makes auctioning the permits in bulk.

There's a certain amount of bureaucracy behind this. But given we now live in the age of Facebook and Google sized data-centres, blockchains and other big data tools, I believe that the bureaucracy is manageable. In fact, as the government, I'd probably just specify some standard protocols, give a contract to a private bank to run the market and hand out the permits (on a blockchain) for the first two years and then let anyone else (app. writers, banks, open-source projects etc.) create their own clients, wallets, brokerages etc. etc.

Related :

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 Would you support a 90% income tax and a universal basic income?