The case for a guaranteed income

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-paying-peoples-way-out-of-poverty-can-help-us-all/article2011940/

It's always easy to be suspicious of a Guaranteed Income.  Paying money to people without them working?  What would happen to work ethic?  What would happen to our economy?

Well, let me make a case for it and then I'll talk about some of the downsides.

If there's one thing we know, it is that we don't live in a free market society.  The government spends money all the time.  It goes into debt.  It prints money.  It spends money on unproductive uses all the time.

So if the government can spend billions on a war on drugs just to employ 100k lawyers, police officers, prison guards... and that this war on drugs produces nothing of value to society, why not spend 1/10th of the money on a guaranteed income.  For the price of 1 police officer involved in the drug war, we could support 10 people on a guaranteed income scheme (assuming they each took 10 000 per year).

Indeed, the idea of a guaranteed income is probably among the least harmful redistribution schemes.  It is probably why many great economics like Milton Friedman and Frederik Hayek support it.  The cost are direct; easy to calculate; easy to administer; treat people fairly...

Consider the alternative where the state hire very well paid people to 'help' the poor.  These people employed by the state then have a very large self-interest in maintaining their position of privilege in government work.

Indeed as I've said before with that increased use of automation and computing in our society, real productive jobs are going to be harder and harder to come by.  It seems to me far more dangerous to create a divided society with those extorting government privilege to create work that is often completely unproductive than to simply give people a guaranteed income.

Now the danger is quite simple.  We do not live in utopia yet.  There is still lots of productive work that needs to be done.  Farmers are needed to harvest food.  Industrial workers are needed to provide our energy.  Factory workers are needed to make our widgets.  Indeed, that is why we need money.  So we can purchase these goods.

So who is going to do these productive jobs when they can sit at home at collect the guaranteed income from the government?

Note the jobs I chose above.  Those are all jobs people would rather not do.  It is easy for an academic to support the guaranteed income without reservation as they would likely still be doing their job regardless.  It's interesting fulfilling work.  As would many engineers, teachers, doctors...

Yet, find me the person who would rather go work on oil rig in the middle of the Atlantic?

I don't know... but we as a society clearly don't care about money and equality in law.  It's completely immoral that the government gives money to certain groups of privilege in the public, legal, or corporate sector when 80% of what they do is non-productive and then can't spare a relatively small amount as a minimum income.

Do you see Western Society adopting free market and independent living anytime soon?  Nope.  So we might as well have a guaranteed income.

Of course I'm a much bigger fan of work sharing and deflation.
But hey,  a guaranteed income and inflation is okay too.

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