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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

"Universal Basic Income" Should be a Rallying-cry... of the RIGHT.

Over the past couple of years I have heard quite a lot (mostly on Facebook, blogs, and G+), and more importantly a growing number of people calling for a "universal basic income", that is the idea that the government should provide a basic salary for every citizen.  Virtually all of those I've heard calling for it have been people on the political left and the heaviest criticisms of the idea I've seen have come from the right.

The leftists who push for it are usually arguing "it will mean every citizen will be taken care of" while of course what they secretly mean is "I personally won't have to work at my shitty retail job while I 'work on' that novel I'll never actually finish".

The right-wingers who argue against it usually talk about "economic non-viability", that its impossible, that its intrusive big government etc. while of course what many of them really mean is "you fucking hippies and unwed moms shouldn't get to live for free off my hard-earned money the government steals from me".

In fact, I think they've got it totally backward.  Well, in particular, the Right have it backward.  "UBI" should be a rallying-cry of conservatives everywhere.  The ones who should potentially be afraid of it are big-government leftists who want a bloated government with lots of public offices and public jobs.

The realistic issue that right now, we don't have pure proper capitalism.  We have this ridiculously complex welfare state. The model we've build up slowly, through significant leftist intervention, over the past 80+ years, is of having dozens or hundreds of different often redundant departments, all of which cost money; of having legions and legions of social workers to govern the different cases and manage the extremely complex paperwork and bureaucracy, lots of expensive offices and infrastructure to handle all the processes for application, etc.   In other words, massive massive government bloat.

IF we could actually have the political will, I could see UBI very much as a libertarian-leaning issue.  I would say that IF we could get rid of all the separate, redundant and pointless social welfare departments governments have today, all the added red tape and byzantine bureaucracy, all the regulations, and a sizable chunk of public employees, in a massive slimdown where we just had fixed rates of a decent basic income for all adults (and a different rate for children paid to the legal parents or guardians of the same); the amount of hassle that would be spared would make it one of the greatest victories in recent history in terms of slimming down needless government waste and the culture it creates.

If we closed all those different departments (welfare, social security, disability, unemployment insurance, child subsidies, etc etc.), fired all those extra and mostly useless civil servants (that alone should make it worth the price of admission!), removed all the needless regulation and bureaucratic loops and turned it in a single office, and a single streamlined system that wasn't full of conditions and exemptions, we would be radically changing efficiency.

So yes, given that we're never going to switch to a situation where the poorest people or the weakest or most helpless people or the oldest people, etc etc. won't be supported by the government, I think that the best situation would be if there was a single, universal, unconditional basic income that was easy to administer and apportion because we wouldn't have to have a separate department for each class of recipient, or a separate social worker deciding each case.  If UBI was a REPLACEMENT for all the different bloated social programs right now, it would actually be capable of saving taxpayer money compared to what's being paid for at this time.

Of course, that would depend on the government doing it right.  The real opponents of this would probably be the left, if the right understood the point of it; because the left would be the ones realizing that this would mean you could drastically reduce the size of government, red tape, and regulations. The biggest flaw/risk in the plan is the government itself.  But that's the thing: imagine if instead of the left, it was the Right who took on this cause.  Imagine if the Right said "we're going to give EVERYONE a fair basic income, regardless of what you earn, as your dividend for being part of this government; and in so doing we're going to cut billions and billions of dollars of needless waste and red tape. It will be enough for everyone to be able to afford some basic housing and decent food and all other necessities if they don't blow it all on crack.  For the middle class, it will be extra money which can be considered a kind of automatic tax rebate.  No one will have to prove their poverty or infirmity to a social worker anymore, no one will have to be watched or monitored by a government employee who thinks they know what's best for you, everyone will just get a check every month in a single, super-efficient social welfare program... and after that no one will have any excuses except themselves for how they live."

Its a CONSERVATIVE cause, not a liberal one. And if the conservatives were the ones to push it (as expressed above) it would be the best chance of inoculating against leftists fucking it all up.


Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400 series Apple + C&D's Pirate Kake


  1. The thing about UBI is that it actually kills the right-wing position that welfare is a social evil because it means people will prefer to sit around doing nothing all day instead of working hard to earn a paycheck that doesn't necessarily come to that much more than their welfare payment.

    UBI acts as a social safety net when people are in need but at the same time doesn't provide any form of disincentive to work because you get it whether or not you're working - so in practice, you're always better off working if you possibly can, because UBI plus wages is obviously a better deal than UBI and no wages. Conversely, current welfare systems can get people stuck in a horrible situation where if they actually get a job it'll end up putting themselves and their families in financial troubles because they'd lose their unemployment benefits and their paycheque won't be big enough to meet the gap.

  2. My point is it doesn't have to. Because in the right you can recognize that there will be people who'll do that, and stay stuck in their low-income rut, and yes they probably don't deserve that money, but RIGHT NOW there's also lots of people getting government money who don't deserve it, and its costing us even more. So this would by far be the lesser of two evils. PLUS, while "welfare" has a moral implication (because it specifically says 'this particular group', whether you call it the poor or the lazy, deserve government money the rest of us don't get), UBI would by its very universality have less of a moral implication because its no special group that gets the money, its EVERYONE.

    But yes, I understand the gut-instinct reaction of the right. The reason the Right rankles at the thought of UBI is because at FIRST GLANCE, it goes against all its instincts: it says you'll be giving (your) money to absolutely everyone, whether or not they actually deserve it, without expecting or demanding that they work at all for it.

    Its similar to how Leftists instinctively feel drawn to UBI because they think now they won't have to work anymore while they work on that 'great novel' they'll never actually finish. Their first instinct is to want to live off other people's money, and so UBI seems awesome to them.

    Its just in this case, the first instinct is kind of wrong on both counts, but especially for the Right. Particularly if the Right takes hold of this issue, gets elected on landslides promising that every citizen will get a free income (and the party that proposes that will get elected in a landslide, of course) and then get to cackle with glee as they make the BIGGEST REDUCTION to the size of government in eight decades, and lick the tears of Unionized Government Civil Servants when you take their petit-dictator jobs away, all while actually giving the people what you promised them.

  3. You have to understand, the left doesn't want bigger government the same way the right wants smaller government. The right wants government to be smaller as an end in itself, but I've never heard a liberal argue for a bigger government as an end in itself. It's a conservative talking point that has no basis in reality.

  4. I think the bigger problem is that the resulting inflation would pretty much wipe out the usefulness of the UBI. Think of what pouring government money into college has done to tuition rates.

  5. Chris: Leftists don't tend to argue for bigger governments, but the co-opting of the left by the professional civil service, bureaucrats, and unions (all of which are exceedingly leftist) combined with the thinking that groups of educated 'intellectuals' are the most suited for regulating the lives of other people and know better than those people do about what's best for them all leads to a situation where the left as a whole tends to favor expansive government. There are of course particular leftists who do not, just like there's particular right-wingers who do not really believe in smaller government.

    Michael: inflation would be the single biggest potential problem connected to UBI, but some of the pilot projects and studies on the subject indicate it might not be as bad as one would think.

  6. Very interesting ideas guys.

    I'll throw in mine too :)

    I think there is an over abundance of unemployable people in most countries, and governments want to keep them complacent through pointless public jobs; but in the eyes of the productive group of people it looks bad if the state went around just giving money away to the unemployable aka parasites.

    Take it for example here in Uruguay, news yesterday is that there are 95k young people between the age of 15 and 24 that are neither studying or working, and part of them don't even want to get out of that parasite state.

    It neither left or right, and leaving aside morals and ethics and bla bla bla, and looking at it from a cold heartless industrial point of view, you get rid of parasites now to avoid a bigger problem latter.

    Supporting masses of parasites and their offspring, is just postponing their death and inevitable suffering.

    Just end it now, shoot people now to save more latter. Just do the math like for the nukes on Japan, you end up saving lives.

    Useless politicians, left or right need the masses of non intellectuals to subsist, take away the masses and they are left powerless, that's why I think they still support them with or without UBI.

  7. Universal Basic Income should be a rallying cry for NOONE. It's socialism folks, and it has been proven, socialism doesn't work.

    Why should I work harder if I am going to get the same amount of money, whether I work harder or not?

    There needs to be reforms and cut backs on what people who don't work get. There was an article about how people on unemployment were making more then people making minimum wage. And of course, if you are going to keep getting unemployment money (at least here in the US) what is your incentive to get back to work.

    The Wikipedia article on the subject is very interesting:

    One of the major criticisms is the disincentive to work. Why work when you can just live off the government.

    And Wealth Redistribution, that's just punishing the rich for being successful. Is that what we want to tell people, that if you work harder we are going to punish you?

    Not only punish them, but give money to the lazy people who couldn't be bothered to work hard. That sounds like a very bad idea.

    We need to make cuts on policies such as unemployment and other social services because as long as those people are getting money, there is no incentive to work.

    Universal Basic Income is socialism, and it should die before it even starts

  8. Rafael: but you realize that "roaming death squads" is not now and will never be a government policy, right?
    So let's say you really feel that was the best possible solution, fine. But if you recognize it not PRACTICALLY possible, and you're left counting down the choices until you get to either a welfare state that implicitly ties public handouts to ideological agendas, or a UBI that distributes a basic living wage equally to everyone with no consideration of any questions of 'social justice', of political leanings, of 'worthiness' or 'reparations' or 'compensation' or any of that sort of thing, without any conditions either of the kind the left or the right like to put on welfare services. Which of those two options is practically better?

    1. Wait for my "RevoluciĆ³n" :P, the squads will be around, history has the nagging habit of repeating itself.

      But if I had to chose, between the two options I would chose a UBI system at a subsistence level with attendance to skills and crafts schools, so to promote that people actually look for a work to have a wealthier life.

      Now, if it were for me, I have no moral dilemmas or system of belief that would prevent me from a doing a little human lives math.

      (Resources)*(Worthy Humans - Maggots)=Progress

      Something like that, I'm sure I can work out something better in Excel :D

      Tnx for the posts, Pundit

  9. because there is also a difference in what is implied. A welfare state implies "the government must take care of you, not just by giving you money but it must take responsibility for your own errors", while a UBI implies "we will give everyone this money, for them to do with it what they will, and thus there is an equality of opportunity; after that, we wash our hands of what YOU choose to do with it". I think the latter is much, much better than the former.

  10. Truthsayer: Huh. You usually post here to say bullshit about me, and somehow I had always pegged you for a leftie. Guess I was wrong! There, you finally got me to admit I was wrong about something.

    But you're a bit wrong I think in your perspective. Because the point is that the people who don't work won't work EITHER way. The people who would just take the UBI and live on that and do nothing at all productive are the same people who are already doing that with welfare or other socialist scams. UBI wouldn't change anything in that regard. I think very very few people who are working now would go "UBI, fuck yeah! Now I'll just smoke pot all day and quit my job as a high-priced lawyer!"

    What MIGHT happen is that some people working very very shitty jobs will quit those jobs and either look for better ones (having the breathing space to do so) or even create their own jobs, in different kinds of micro-industries; stuff that wouldn't have given them enough to live on before but that will with the UBI. Those could end up being important contributions to society in some cases (in others, they'll just be time-wasters but will do little meaningful harm).

    Middle-class people already earning a decent wage might take their UBI money and invest it, generating important contributions to the economy. They might start small businesses or buy property with it. It would be a big stimulus, in a way much more useful than the current welfare-state system.

    It also would be a much more fair kind of 'wealth redistribution' than what we see now, because it is not money taken from the rich and given to the non-working; its money taken from taxes (potentially costing the same or only very slightly more than the current bloated and inept welfare state) and giving EVERYONE the same amount. If UBI is, say, $25K a year, then EVERYONE gets that, whether you earn zero, or earn $50K a year already (now you'll have $75K) or earn millions a year. So its actually giving a kind of tax rebate to taxpayers who get no such benefit now.

    1. @TheRPGPundit: First off, what I said about you isn't bullshit, it's simply calling bullshit when I see it. That, however is not what this topic is about.

      Back on topic:

      What you missed in my perspective is I talked about cutting back/cutting people off on welfare and other socialist policies. There are jobs (at least here in the US) that companies keep talking about how they cannot fill these jobs because Americans think they are beneath them. If you cut back/cut people off in the social programs, they wont have the option to work or not work and live on the system, it will be the shove they need to get them to go back to work (Or live on the new fangled No Food Diet).

      People don't need UBI to find better jobs or start their own businesses. it's done every day without UBI. There are plenty of online resources (and libraries for people without computers) out there for people to find jobs. They are either too lazy and want people like myself and other US taxpayers to pay for them to live or they think the jobs area beneath them. Pulling the rug from under them helps push them in the right direction not giving them a choice.

      As for starting a new business, as I said people do it all the time. But the UBI cushion will help? No risk, no reward. You take the risk and either succeed or fail. Knowing you have to work hard to do well and live is a great motivator, if they have a cushion they wont work as hard.

      Our taxes are a problem and need to be reformed. The best way to do it is a flat tax. The Eskin Bowles flat tax is the best I have seen so far. That way everyone pays their fair share and we don't have things like GE not only not paying taxes but getting a $1 Billion refund. That kind of thing needs to stop.

      Wealth distribution is not the way to go, and higher taxes is not the way to go as it is. A flat tax/fixing the tax policy will help with the tax side of things and getting the lazy people to stop feeling they are above doing a job and get them working is the other.

    2. No the lefty be me. *Waves his hand.*

      Though seriously I am 100% agree with you in the UBI because with social security their are special rules applied with it to those that receive it. Mainly a cap and no investing into assets that can provide ROIs. You think the government would actually want you to get out of social security?

      As for the government workers and others that would be fired? Sorry, but oh well. With UBI I don't feel guilty to see them since I know they would be fine anyway. As for the lefties that want big government and dumbass regulations (notice I didn't say all regulations)? Well those lefties I don't even like because I don't go around telling people what to do.

      Now on the moral scale of it. Again nothing to complain about UBI. I seen way to many people who should had retired years ago working at fast food joints because they had no choice. They need a retirement instead of working till the day they die. So if UBI helps them out I am fine with that.

  11. Truthsayer: the idea that "if you kick people off welfare they'll just get jobs" is not really accurate; this isn't because (as some on the left say) capitalism is some kind of evil system or there aren't opportunities out there; its simply because most people on social welfare either can't work (too old, too ill, disabled, etc.) or will not work under any circumstances.

    So first, you seemed to miss my point: our society simply will refuse to accept the notion of "you don't work, you die". Whether you think that's a laudable goal or a bad one, it doesn't matter, because society won't take that position. Its not going to happen. So if you presume that the idea of "get rid of welfare and make the bums work or starve" is a "good" idea, you still have a situation of "the perfect is the enemy of the good" here. It doesn't matter how good your idea is, if it simply isn't going to happen, then your best bet is to choose the best choice out of which ideas CAN happen. And in that context UBI is a much better idea than the current bloated and inept welfare state.

    Second, even if you could somehow impose this idea of just getting rid of welfare and replacing it with nothing, what you'd have (again, after discounting the elderly, the disabled, etc. who simply can't work even if they wanted to) is a group of people who would turn to begging, crime, prostitution, drug dealing, or any means other than honest living they could because they refuse to work under any circumstance.

    For the same reason, as I already stated, the vast majority of people who currently work, should they receive UBI, would continue to work (though what KIND of work they did might change). The simple fact is that while many people don't realize this even about themselves, working or not working is not in fact a choice based on the need to earn a living (though sometimes choosing specific kinds of work is); its a choice based on WORK ETHIC. You either have it or you don't; if you have it, you'll do some kind of work even if you don't really need to; if you don't have it, you won't work even to save your life.

  12. @RPGPundit: You misread what I said. I didn't say kick people off, I said to modify it and make changes, Sure, welfare makes sense to the people who are ill, old, disabled who cannot. But for the lazy who won't work, we need to force them to work and make it difficult for them not to. I understand that's difficult here in the US. We have become a weak country and aren't willing to make the tough decisions, but that has to change.

    There are jobs out there, but people feel they are too good to do those jobs and we need to get these lazy people off the system and back to work. It will be better for them and the economy, not to mention we will be able to spend less money on welfare programs.

    I am going to skip over the getting rid of welfare and placing it with nothing section, because I never said nor implied getting rid of it, just fixing it.

    As for people who are lazy and don't have work ethic, we shouldn't just keep giving these people money and supporting them, it won't change their behavior. We need to do things that will change their behavior (what we need to do can be discussed)

    UBI is a horrible idea and will only lead to higher taxes and more socialism. Socialism is very bad and it just doesn't work. If there are people who want to live in a socialist environment there are probably plenty of countries that would accept them with open arms. As far as I am concerned I don't want UBI/Socialism in this country. Capitalism works and is good. And I will do whatever I can to fight to prevent UBI from being realized in the US

  13. I think what you mean is to remove a lot of the bureaucracy from the government. Another way to achieve this to give tax cuts to the poor instead of giving them extra compensation. I am from the Netherlands* and I my country the lower classes get a lot of extra benefits, like rent subsidies for example. That all has to be administrated and checked upon in case of fraude. Most government work is like that, it is usually very time consuming and cumbersome and that's where most of the money goes. Which leads to extra taxation, or more traffic fines (60% increase in the past 3 years) or flashcamera's (gatsometers).

    RPGPundit, your opinion is very common aming businessmen, entepeneurs, high placed managers, directors and CEO's in the Netherlands. It is definitely a right wing opinion, because it would cut all the bureaucracy. It's mostly the 70's generation, the babyboomers, the left wing intelligentia who are against it. Because they only believe in setting legislative frameworks, which means more laws and regulations. It makes them feel useful, I guess.

    *We are one of the most wealthy countries in the world and the people are also one of the happiest in the world. Same goes for Scandinavia btw. I don't like big government and bureaucracy, but I don't like the American system either. They have a wealthfare spread of a third world country. Demographically speaking.

  14. This whole thing of saying "lets have a plethora of special benefits from the poor" in no way addresses or matches up to the benefits of UBI. UBI would benefit not only the poor but the MIDDLE CLASS. That's an important difference.
    Also, all these things like rent subsidies end up being contingent, and create things like waiting lists, applications, limited choices, etc. Why not just cut out the middlemen of the civil service, give everyone enough money to live on, and then let them be responsible for what they do or fail to do with it??

  15. No, my point was there are already benefits for the poor. The amount of compensation is almost as much as the amount of taxation people get when they make €20.000 per year or less. So for the poor it doesn't matter. But for the country as a whole it means less bureaucracy, so less government, so less taxation.

    UBI is best use as a way of compensation for income difference delevelling. Thinking about these sort of things, trying to make it all work with a smaller government without making the gaps between the lower and higher incomes too big, all come from the same train of thought.

    But maybe you mean something different ...

  16. I mean UBI is best use in combination with a flat tax. Forgot to mention that.

  17. It does matter for some of the poor as well, however. They get access to money and then freedom to do what they want with it; they're not part of some progressive's "social engineering" project, they don't have to jump through hoops, they don't have to be afraid of applying for a job because UBI won't go away if they're employed.

  18. They have the freedom to invest it or use it to get some education. I think we mean the same. Microcredit usually gets invested in a good way.

    Anyway, I think you are from Uruguay and in South America governments tend to hop from either fascist dictatorships to socialist/Marxist governments and back. We have a consencus political system. It's just a lot of dealmaking all the time, so it's different.

    1. What can we say, we like our "Revoluciones" and "Juntas" :P

      BTW, there hasn't been one since 1990ish.

      I tend to think that dealmaking gives power to organized minorities with special interests, which hardly benefit the needs of the most.

      The need of the many outweigh the need of the few.

  19. I'm originally Canadian, and have lived all over North America, South America, and Europe.

  20. While granting that any large organization, whether business, government or religious organization, suffers from problems related to promoting policies which benefit the survival of the institution, repeating the right wing talking point that leftists just want a bunch of pointy hatted intellectuals to tell everyone else what to do does not make it true.

    Once again you use the word "regulation" disparagingly without actually giving an ounce of thought to the purpose of "regulation" and what actual regulations your big idea would require (hint, it would require a lot). Libertarians, I think, tend to have this utopian view of how if only! people could just do what they want without those damn burdensome regulations how everyone would just be peachy. The reality is that, in areas where civil government retreats, it is not individual freedom that prevails but less accountable corporate interests that take over the role of imposing "rules" and "regulations" People never have and never will act as independent self-interest rational beings, they act in emotional, prejudicial groups, without a balancing force (i.e. a civil society/government/framework of laws in which groups can be held accountable), the larger groups will simply destroy the smaller, the larger factions/organizations will simply write the rules and impose their will on the smaller.

    Is it difficult to create this type of government and balance those forces? Yes! Is it difficult to write rules and regulations that balance freedom and civil society! Yes and yes! But as one who has direct experience both working within the government and outside the government in business, the people (at least at the federal level) right now who are most active in developing better (not more) regulations and streamlining government are your so-called leftists. This is why your contention that leftists would hate your idea because it reduced/streamlined government is wrong. Simply put, most leftists, even the ones in civil service/unions/etc., want the government to work better for the governed...they might disagree how they get there, but they would be the one supporting your idea if it worked, not the right-wing/republican party as it exists in the U.S. in this day and time, which is most interested in labeling things evil (government, regulations, unions, etc.) and shouting their disgust for those things on Fox news.

  21. P.S. I don't actually think your idea is a necessarily a bad one, just that it is easier to just shout "Universal Basic Income" than to actually do the work to put the many intricate mechanics, rules and yes regulations in place that would make such an idea reality.

  22. There would be about a thousand less regulations needed on universal unconditional basic income than on the plethora of different welfare state benefits today. The difficulty in implementation would come from: a) misconceptions on the part of the public and people in the right wing that fail to take this fact into account, and b) huge resistance from the public employee/union sectors once they realized they'd all lose their jobs (and their leftist allies, who however much they say they're not for government-for-government's-sake still seem fatally unable to ever criticize the union's protections of redundant or corrupt public employees).

    1. Democrats and unions made their bed so long ago that it became a religion. That is the first down fall. The second down fall is money in any democrat worth his/her salt has to have money in order to by tv ads. It doesn't matter how useless the union is to its own members, or how corrupt it is. If a democrat wants to win, then sadly they have to take a blind eye to their supposed "allies".

      Same can be said for republicans when dealing the christian fundies and other people that I am sure you pretty much hate. Hell most low level members of the NRA pretty much said, "Hey lets do basic gun background checks," while their top leaders were freaking over that.

      Both parties are too far gone for me just say which one is better. They might never be able to climb out of their graves that they dug up for themselves.

    2. Also here is my belief about what American politics is in the USA. It is not how right you are that matters. It is not how popular you are that matters. It is simply how much money you have that matters.

      I fucking hate it, but that is the truth right there. Democrats and republicans only obey who pay them to win. Those groups who give them special lobby jobs once the politician retires get even more political whores. The two parties don't care about the people that they are suppose to represent. Which is the reason why both parties are hated.