Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another reason to consider a basic income guarantee

If you want to know why some of us think a basic income guarantee might be the best way to help the poor in the U.S., consider the above chart, which shows the more than 80 federal programs to help low-income Americans. (Source).

Consider that each program has bureaucrats  attached to it to figure out which people are "deserving" and that it's difficult for many poor people who might be reached by these programs to even know that they exist. It's pretty likely that mistakes will be made, and some people will be missed. Why not get rid of as many programs as possible and give people money, while making sure basic health coverage is included?

I read Charles Murray's book on the basic income guarantee earlier this year and can recommend it.


Chad N. said...

This is probably my favorite statist compromise even though I'm far from versed on it and how it'd work. But...

Does Murray address the opponent who'd ask "but what about the person who'd blow his check without any strings attached"? To me, that's the toughest argument to overcome. It seems we are stuck debating unpredictable and unknowable human behavior -- whether "blowing the check" would be common or uncommon.

Are the spendthrift and drug addict SOL if they waste their check, or is there some deeper safety net?

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


There would presumably be the private sector safety nets, as there are now. As I understand it, part of the point of the basic income guarantee is that it forces people to take responsibility for themselves -- if you've blown it, you've blown it.

Chad N. said...

Right. That's what I assumed. That's a really tough sell to paternalistic types (who I sense make up the overwhelming majority of America).

It feels like one of those fundamental issues we'll never persuade them on, which is incredibly frustrating since it's one of the cornerstones of what I, and I assume you, believe in as far as political philosophy goes.

It's hard to differentiate your and my brand of personal responsibility from the run o' the mill Republican's brand (and even the hard-right libertarians') since they usually fail to address any of the surrounding institutional arrangements and societal factors.

I wish Dubya and his team never used the term Compassionate Conservative. Any effort at trying to frame personal responsibility in compassionate terms, which I think many of us libertarians do attempt, fails in large part because it's confused with that awful brand.

Lorraine said...

That was a dog whistle. "Compassionate conservative" was code for "pro-life conservative." Surely you've seen those signs that say "compassion pregnancy center" and the like.

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