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[dupe] Finland ends Basic Income trial (bbc.com)
68 points by sixhobbits on Apr 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments




Doesn't testing this on unemployed people only quite silly. I mean the answer to the question "would poor people benefit from more money?" is quite obvious. The real question is whether people who already are employed would stop working had they received "free" money. I'm so disappointed in this glaring hole in the methodology!


In Finland people receive conditional aids, sometimes amounting so much money that there is little incentive to go to work anymore, because doing so would cut your subsidies.

I guess what the government wanted to see is that given it "unconditionally," would people take up low paying jobs because now they don't lose any more aids by doing so.

I agree it was dumb to coin this as a UBI.


Yeah, another interesting aspect of UBI would be how many would quit their existing job and just subsist on UBI.

The real fear of most against UBI seems to be that the majority will quit their jobs, resulting in the government losing way more in income tax than they pay out in UBI.


> The real fear of most against UBI seems to be that the majority will quit their jobs

Often ignored in this discussion is the viewpoint that this isn't something to fear, but to celebrate.

There are a lot of dumb jobs out there that don't need anyone working them any more. What if those people can instead write poetry or paint or dance or invent? That's more the world I'm interested in. I don't give a hoot if the government can't raise enough money to drop explosives on people - at worst, that is a pleasant side effect.


You don't even need to test UBI to see that it won't work. You can tell by our existing system that UBI will promote people to take advantage of the system. If you're poor, you get free grants to go to college, food stamps, and all sorts of free programs. As soon as you start working, you lose all those things. This also contributes to why black families have only one parent, because the government gives more money to broken families than regular families.


It sounds like you're referring to welfare cliffs. Practically the entire point of UBI is that there are no cliffs.


I don't know exactly how to say this without seeming insincere, but can you try your comment again? There's no part of it that makes sense to me. I think it's potentially an interesting surface for discussion, but when broken down, I can't quite find anything about it that makes enough sense to respond meaningfully.


Let me make it more clear for you. The feed back loop of getting paid, is that you are being productive in the market place for producing goods or services that are in demand in the market place. Handing somebody "free" money takes from the productive sources that earned the money and distributes it to people randomly. What did the person receiving the money provide to the market place, rather than simply existing? Truly, if UBI was high enough, there would be no incentive to work at all, and you might be able to live quite comfortably with not working if you pair it with food stamps and all the other "free" things the government provides. What's preventing unambitious people from not working, having children and perpetuating the cycle? Over time, this would drain further and further on the system because you've created a false dynamic in the market place that rewards those that do nothing. This is the same reasoning behind wanting to get rid of non essential foods (like hot Cheetos, ect.) from EBT cards. You should not be happy receiving welfare benefits or UBI, you should be uncomfortable enough to be ambitious to find a real job in the market place to better your living condition.


I see. Yeah, I didn't understand your position from your previous comment. I still don't think I quite understand the racial angle you're playing here, because I don't think you can demonstrably separate the systemic racism (eg, drug prohibition) from the economic impact of welfare.

But I think it's reasonable to point out that this is fuzzing the price signals of the market. Generally, I don't care for government meddling in the economy for this reason - I gather that you share this view.

In order to be satisfied that the impact will be negative, though, I find myself needing to understand whether the current price signals are optimized for the most important values.

Currently, in the crony capitalist system, the scenario you describe is rampant: "Handing somebody 'free' money takes from the productive sources that earned the money and distributes it to people...". I mean, isn't this basically all defense contracting and prisons? And most finance, insurance, and real-estate?

Meanwhile, things that are unquestionable worthwhile, like art and philosophy, aren't particularly economically viable.

So how do you line up price signals with genuine value? It's a hard question. Like what I gather is your position, I am far, far more inclined to trust a free market than government. But if I'm reading your comment correctly, you seem to have a bit of a fetish for "jobs" and capitalist ambition.

I don't care whatsoever is somebody has a job. I don't think most people want jobs, and I don't think most jobs need people. The vast majority of the population can find something better to do than a menial job, and I don't think it's reasonable to suggest that they need to be "uncomfortable enough to be ambitious" as a result.

If we are able to automate many (even most) jobs out of existence, don't we want people to thrive while doing something better with their time than pumping your gas or checking you out at the store?


Those are all arguments for why UBI will work, since all of those are direct effects of the conditions of current means tested aid programs that are eliminated with unconditional basic income.


Really, if it' only for poor people it's not basic income anymore, it's welfare.


If everyone got it then it would simply be called inflation.


That's not how macroeconomics works.

If everyone got it and it was funded by expanding the money supply it would be inflation plus redistribution (since the new money is distributed uniformly instead of e.g. to government bondholders). If you're funding it with taxes, it's plain redistribution.


So you don’t think there would be any inflationary impact if you gave everybody, to use an extreme example, an extra 1 million dollars a month? I guess I don’t really see how that’s possible but I’ll admit much of economics is over my head.


Depends on where that money's coming from. If you take it away from the wealthy, that reduces their a) consumption spending, and b) investment, which causes a countervailing downward pressure on prices. The total amount of money floating around, however, stays the same.

This comes with some caveats, of course:

This would probably cause a demand shock as spending shifts from the things the rich do to the things the newly-not-poor do - so there would probably be a short-term jump in the price of e.g. low-end smartphones and middle-end IKEA furniture, and a crash in the price of international travel and of certain investments, until the economy properly shifts over to the new production priorities. Which can be interpreted oh so hilariously from a Marxist perspective.

There may be an increase in money velocity when shifting income to (on average) lower income brackets; i.e. it may be the case that money changes hands more quickly in the case of (poor people consume items, and then the places they buy it from plow that money into both investment and into the taxes necessary to fund the UBI program) than in the current case of (rich people put money into their more high-brow consumption and into investments, and the Apples and Fidelities of the world put their revenue and investments to use). That is, the same amount of money gets spent more often. And that could cause inflation. But of course the determinants of velocity of money, and its effects on inflation, are an open question in economics.


But everybody gets it, it’s not taken away from any person. The wealthy get a million dollars extra just like everyone else.

Let’s also assume it’s revenue neutral, so the government doesn’t need to raise taxes. I hear that’s the claim of most ubi proponents.


The wealthy get a million dollars along with everyone else, and that money has to come from somewhere, so you need to tax the wealthy a lot more than a million dollars on average. Basically the way to think of it is: you're giving everyone a million dollars on average, so you need to tax everyone a million dollars on average, and the only way to make that work is to actually tax someone with, say, $5M/year in income $4M of that income to balance out the people who make only $20K/year and can't pay anywhere near their share. (That tax rate is probably impractical, but then we're looking at a pathological case for the sake of analysis anyway.)

If it's revenue neutral, then that means you're taking money from other programs - which by definition spend that money. Just on different things. (And probably a lot of the same things, if you're taking that money from existing welfare programs.)


The more serious proposals I’ve heard are for revenue neutral ubi. Which means taking the money from current entitlements and giving it evenly to everyone. I’d love to hear a real economist who supports the idea and is in favor of paying for ubi by raising taxes on the wealthy. I do not know of any economists that fit that description.


On the contrary. Most of the "revenue neutral" claims I've heard are Americans making a politically-motivated claim to reduce libertarian/conservative opposition. Actual concrete proposals always require taxation - see e.g. the Swiss proposal (voted down in a referendum because of the taxation requirements) and this [1] overview in the Economist of the prospects of adoption in other countries.

Generally, if I see a claim that a proposal for UBI is revenue neutral, I assume they're either a) left-wing Americans trying to sneak welfare hikes by right-wing Americans, or b) right-wing Americans trying to sneak a drop in net income transfer to the poor past left-wing Americans.

[1] https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/06/e...


> Doesn't testing this on unemployed people only quite silly.

Not necessarily: if the purpose of the test is to determine how basic income affects outcomes over a period for the unemployed, having the experimental group to whom BI is given be exclusively drawn from the set of people unemployed at the beginning of the experiment and comparing that to a similar group of unemployed people not given BI is a fairly sane experimental design.


It's important to emphasize that right now, the responsible thing is to perform extensive experiments on how UBI will affect work incentives. There are lots of unknowns, and this will give us some information to formulate later questions, once results are actually reported.


While sane, it has the drawbacks of similar experimental designs : wouldn't UBI distributed to everyone have other effects on the unemployed than UBI to 2k unemployed?


> Doesn't testing this on unemployed people only quite silly

Testing it on a series of population subsets before testing on the entire population seems reasonable.


I think testing it for two years is the silly part. I have complete confidence that, say, the United States could easily sustain basic income, at a livable wage, for 20, maybe 30 years, before it started to crack under the pressure of too many people collecting and too few people putting in. Of course, by then it would be too late to close the box...


Correct me if I'm wrong but the length of unemployment benefit allowed in the US is six months and the unemployment rate is 4.1%, the length of unemployment benefit in New Zealand is for life and the unemployment rate is 4.6%. So on the surface it appears as though giving free money to unemployed has no impact on unemployment rates.


The assumption by some people is that everyone else is as lazy as themselves, so getting UBI would mean living a subsistence lifestyle and avoiding work where possible.


Is that laziness? Or a prudent approach to achieving a desired type of freedom?


It's quite arrogant to outright assume Fins are so stupid as to not have thought of this.


I'm curious if "stop working" is an appropriate measure of the potential downsides. Especially in a place like HN where work on side-projects that could become real businesses are encouraged.


>I mean the answer to the question "would poor people benefit from more money?" is quite obvious.

No, because:

>The real question is whether people who already are employed would stop working had they received "free" money.

So: will unemployed people stop looking for a job if they receive free money?


> will unemployed people stop looking for a job if they receive free money?

That's not quite the question. The question is, will unemployed people look less for a job if they're guaranteed free money even once they get a job, compared to the status quo where they are guaranteed free money (for awhile) that stops once they get a job.

There's also a follow-up question, that is something like "Will people on permanent disability start getting jobs if you stop punishing them by permanently taking away disability payments if they get a job?"


There are also other questions like “will people become more mobile, seeking new jobs or quitting jobs they don’t like, if they have basic income.”

Also “will people be more likely to start their own enterprises if they have basic income?”


>free money (for awhile)

That destroys your argument.


In Finland, all unemployed are guaranteed “free money” even if they choose not to seek employment. The difference from UBI is that this final security net, so to speak, only guarantees a minimum level of income – any earned wages (or existing wealth) directly affect the welfare payments on this level.

edit: the whole system is more complicated than this, of course, but the point here is that this safety net is permanent – you can not lose it even if you are unemployed for a long time (recently, a tiny reduction of welfare payment was introduced for those who do not meet certain criteria for activity; however, you are in any case entitled to certain level of income, and government-paid rent, etc., in any case.)


Yeah, not really, since it's not even an argument but an empirical question.

Feeling like you can loudly assert things not in evidence is a sign of some pretty tall ideological blinders.


There is a big difference between "getting free money forever" and "getting free money for some time" (1-2 years or so, at least in my country). Especially, if you have a family you definitely not want to risk running out of welfare.


There is a difference, and you offer a hypothesis on how it would affect work incentives. And it'd be silly to reject that hypothesis out of hand.

But a hypothesis is just that: a hypothesis, not a fact. There's plenty of existing research on how changing unemployment benefits change work incentives (answer: not too much), but it's also true that longer time horizons might change that answer. That's why experimental tests are needed.


In most western countries unemployed people get free money in the form of social welfare. In a lot of the west unemployment is without time limits, you can be unemployed for life.


What countries and how much money a month? If you can't live off that money then it's worthless


Well NZ is the one I have the most knowledge about lots more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment_benefits

I know a few people who live in some of the most expensive areas of the country and are permanently unemployed, they live fine (although not a lifestyle that I'd want) and spend their time pursuing creative endeavors. They do have to do things like grow their own vegetables and brew their own beer to save money. You get different benefits depending on age, disabilities, if you have children (and if they're yours or if they have disabilities), partners, etc. For the general unemployment benefit you have to be going to job seeker support and looking for work, but some people are just not employable (for instance if they have drug convictions).

It's worth noting that this social welfare system was put in place under a conservative government, when we had a more liberal government we had state support for artists as well with no restrictions.

It's hard to give exact numbers as a monthly income because unemployment benefits are broken up into cash and vouchers and credits. For instance in NZ if you're unemployed or poor the government will pay your rent, give you cash, subsidise a lot of your expenses, give you vouchers to use at the supermarket, etc. The state and city councils also own housing for the poor and unemployed.


In Australia NewStart (unemployment benefits) amounts to about $250/week, or about $13,000pa in an economy where the cost of living is close to $45k. There are other support mechanisms such as rent assistance, but NewStart also obligates the recipient to search for work with a minimum number of interviews per week (up to 10) and a requirement to accept the first job that is offered (thus a person with IT project management experience could end up full time retail). Refusing a job offer means termination of benefits.

In addition the system is administered by private industry who are rewarded based on number of interviews, not placements.

I would hold up Australia’s unemployment welfare system as a prime example of what to not do.


Good to know. Edited. My only real experience is NZ, although I know people that have been unemployed in Germany and France.


Oh, and we have been sending debt collectors after unemployed people who got jobs, claiming that they committed fraud when it was actually the calculation of what was paid incirrectly that was wrong. Look up “robodebt”


There's literally no information in this article other than the government decided to end the trial. One reason it might have been ended is because there were anti-social effects. However, it might also have been ended at the behest of anxious rich people afraid that positive results would increase their taxes. We'll have to wait for the full report.


The headline "Finland's basic income trial falls flat" implies that the results were poor, but the actual article just says that the government decided not to fund it anymore and the OECD doesn't think it'll work without going into what the results were.


The Finland experience turns out to be a great example of how not to run a UBI experiement:

- no management support (government was divided and attention wandered)

- unemployment benefits sre privately managed so those entities lose out if UBI is successful

- not universal (no entire village/city was chosen)

- tiny sample size

- only unemployed people chosen

- no employed people, chosen from a range of income brackets

But regardless of the flaws, the experiment will be held up as an example of why UBI doesn’t work (never mind that the experiment was not UBI).


There’s a lot of unanswered questions. To bad the results weren’t released.

It’s interesting that the OECD feels “Basic Income” would increase Finland’s poverty rate while their proposal for a “Univeral Credit” (a consolidated benefits system) would lower it. But, it gives no clear reason why.


Possibly the Basic Income is seen as a disincentive to work because you only receive it if you’re unemployed (or earn less than a minimum income level). But you loose it once you’re employed (or earn more the minimum income level)


I imagine it's fear of inflation, which has been shown to happen when incomes rise for lower income people.


As the article said the results will be released next year.


>Finland's two-year pilot scheme started in January 2017, making it the first European country to test an unconditional basic income. The 2,000 participants - all unemployed - were chosen randomly.

560€ for the unemployed? We've had this in France for decades[1]. Not sure why they needed such an experiment.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenu_de_solidarit%C3%A9_acti...


The difference is that you lose the money when you get a job. That acts as a disincentive to job seeking. UBI attempts to get around that by making the grant unconditional.


I don't know how it is in France but I think the keyword here is unconditional. I'd guess most countries require you to actively look for jobs and potentially force you to accept any reasonable job you might get or you loose the "income".


Of course, missed that part. My point was more about the 560€ which is ridiculous as an incentive to anything. The RSA is regarded as poors staying poor and profiteers gaming the system to keep having it. It was pretty clear an unconditional 560€ wouldn't have changed anything.


Universal basic income makes sense if you are spending a lot of money on people already:

- crime prevention

- justice system (the state gives you a free attorney if you cannot pay for one)

- jail is more expensive than an expensive hotel

- people without shelter going to hospital emergency rooms

The idea is that by giving them money they would get back on their feet. Some people don't care though.

Personally I think it should not be universal, and that there should be certain amount of merit to apply for it.


You cannot possibly have a meaningful trial of UBI unless most if not all of the population is receiving it. Providing a basic income to all will profoundly alter the economy in some ways we can predict and in some ways we cannot.


> Providing a basic income to all will profoundly alter the economy in some ways we can predict and in some ways we cannot

If proponents can't propose sensible and limited tests to de-risk a UBI proposal, it's not a serious one. There are downside risks to raising tax levels by 30%. That has to be offset with experimental data.


I'm a strong proponent of a UBI, and I agree with you 100%.

But you make it sound like most UBI advocates are insisting it be inplemented in one fell swoop and have no idea how to test it empirically. That's not the case at all: this was one such test, and I'm eager to see the actual methodology and results.

Another is being run by YC itself.

This isn't some imaginary proposal that can never fail and can only be failed.


> you make it sound like most UBI advocates are insisting it be inplemented in one fell swoop

Pardon me, didn't mean to come across that way. The history of social programs informs us to start small and scale carefully. If a program doesn't work in a town, it's unlikely to work nationwide.


We're probably in agreement, then. Though, with a caveat: sometimes it can fail in a town but succeed on a wider scale. For instance, a city offering generous, open-access homeless benefits is almost doomed to have all its benefits swamped as it attracts homeless from around the country, but that doesn't give us much information about how the same policies would work if implemented nation-wide.

In the case of the UBI, though, those effects can be worked around by designing the experiment well.


A limited test is hard. In my view UBI needs to be a life-long guarantee. Otherwise you would be crazy to leave the workplace only to find out that your UBI has been cut 10 years later and you have to scramble to find a job again.


> In my view UBI needs to be a life-long guarantee

Even a nation-wide UBI scheme would be vulnerable to political risk. This sounds like a No True Scotsman risk. If a UBI scheme fails, you want to be able to learn from it. Not discard the attempt as not having been ambitious enough.


Why can't we use countries and states that already pay citizens as examples to study the effects of UBI?

In Alaska and Saudi Arabia citizens receive a portion of the income generated from oil sales, and have for decades.

Can't we just look at what the effect has been on those economies? Did it incentivize smarter decision making and long term planning. Did it result in decreased productivity in the bad way (laziness)?


I've never really understood basic income. Why give everyone free money? Why not just give the people who need things the things they need?

Is this really an economic problem or a cultural one? Just decide on what everyone should have and how much and then find those who lack those things and give it to them.

EDIT: the responses below are interesting but unconvincing. Why wouldn't giving everyone X amount raise all prices by X?

In a world with targeted advertising and unprecedented advertising I'm confident basic income would be counter productive.

If giving everyone X works, why not 2X? 3X? Lastly, where is the money for this scheme coming from and why would anyone who doesn't need it agree to this?


Because knowing what people need requires an expensive and error-prone system. Most people know what they need and will go buy it given the money to do so - the joy of fungible assets!


> knowing what people need requires an expensive and error-prone system

Unemployment provisioning in the United States is relatively inexpensive. I wonder if the administrative savings are being overstated, having been estimated before governments digitized such things.


> Unemployment provisioning in the United States is relatively inexpensive.

UI isn't about identifying very specific needs, it's about identifying a particular easy to assess monetary need and meeting some of it: people whose lifestyle is adapted to the income provided by their job, without it, need an income roughly comparable to the take-home income from their job.

That's pretty much the easiest need assessment in public safety net programs.


That happens to be a case where it's easy to get an eligibility list (I think there are a lot of such cases). But the way in which aid is distributed is still just plain cash.


I don't know, knowing what people need actually seems easier than knowing how much (variable value) money they'll need to buy it. A person's required caloric intake hasn't changed since 1970. Incomes have.


That's a relatively simple case, that a developed country's welfare system does indeed handle well. But what about transportation, housing, education, entertainment? The list is long.


Is it that error prone? Could people not just submit what their own opinion and then you aggregate it systematically?


Because then when people go from being people who need things enough that we give them those things to being people who need things slightly less, we stop giving them things. To take a simplified example, if someone needs to be unemployed to qualify for welfare, then while they're unemployed they get support from the state. But let's say they find a job. Now they lose their support from the state. If they job that they get only lets them get the things they need, then they've gone from getting all the things they need and having a bunch of free time, to getting all the things they need and having to work full-time. Who would choose to do that? Giving people who need things the things they need just tells them to not look for employment.

Another problem is how we're supposed to decide what people need. Why not just give people money and let them decide what they need. You'll need some system to handle those who fail to satisfy their basic needs due to problems of mental health (including addiction), but most people are better at deciding what they need for themselves than a bureaucrat is.


> Another problem is how we're supposed to decide what people need. Why not just give people money and let them decide what they need. You'll need some system to handle those who fail to satisfy their basic needs due to problems of mental health (including addiction), but most people are better at deciding what they need for themselves than a bureaucrat is.

Sure. However there are concerns to where this money would come from and how much should be given.


> Why not just give the people who need things the things they need?

We already have this. It turns out that you wind up with lots of overlapping bureaucracies that waste far more of the money than any fraudulent usages that you actually catch.

It's like drug testing people on assistance, it turns out that poor people use drugs less than the population at large. Funny that.

> Is this really an economic problem or a cultural one?

Yes to both.

The cultural problem, at least in the US, is that the politics of the Southern Strategy (ie. racial politics in the South) have made this into "How dare those undeserving so-and-sos get free money?" instead of "How many genuinely needy people did we help with the limited resources we have and can we help more?"

One other thing that a basic income affects is that you may find people willing to relocate to very low cost of living area with high unemployment since they know that they can survive even if they don't have a job. That can kickstart bringing the unemployment rate down because you wind up with a critical mass of people and those people need services.

There are lots of good possibilities. I'm hoping more experiments like this get tried out as some form of UBI is going to be required in the very near future when automation has replaced most manual labor jobs.


Deciding who needs things has huge overhead, both in terms of administration and politics. It can also have unintended consequences, for example the various poverty traps in the US system where you can end up poorer when you get a raise or a better job, because you lose more benefits than the money you gain. Just giving to everyone is much simpler. The bet is that this simplicity overcomes the higher cost.


The Mormons do this. A [EDIT: anyone, not just a member] ~church member~ will go to the bishop (a volunteer-filled calling) and tell them their situation. Then the bishop will provide what they need. This may be rent money or it may be a shopping list for the Bishops Storehouse (https://providentliving.lds.org/bishops-storehouse?lang=eng).

I'm pretty sure the assistance is not conditional, but the bishop will exercise discretion and help guide the recipient towards self-reliance.


Isn't that at risk of becoming the worst of a planned economy? We've already seen plenty scope for fraud with benefit systems with voucher schemes, fraudulent claims, multiple claims, problems getting back into work, etc. Governments can use it as an easy target to save money (those in need don't have large lobby groups), so will disproportionately bear the brunt of cuts.

Basic income is given to everyone. All you need do is prove citizenship so it's orders of magnitude cheaper to manage, and should be far less vulnerable to fraud. No weeks waiting on a claim when circumstance changes, no prosecutions because you didnt report being back at work correctly or fast enough. If govt cuts basic income they will also be cutting income of veterans and those in work - more noticeable, and with a little time, less politically expedient.

It has the bonus of minimising govt involvement and punishments for those who had the misfortune to get ill or be unable to work etc.

OK, so we just give people the things they need. Who decides? e.g.

People need food - give them "approved" food, regardless of whether it's things they like or dislike intensely. Every week they get things they will not use because govt says they "need" it.

Giving people food is expensive - give them seconds and rejects from retail. Why not out of date? Give the nationwide contract to the cheapest bidder. Those in need eventually get to live off the modern day equivalent of gruel. (See prison and school catering contracts)

Why not just put them in the workhouse and be done with it?


> All you need do is prove citizenship

Isn't this ripe for fraud as well?

Your rebuttals are implementation details. The questions remains, as an abstract idea, is it better to give everyone money or give those who need things the things they need?


> The questions remains, as an abstract idea, is it better to give everyone money or give those who need things the things they need?

That depends on the level of abstraction; if you get abstract enough to ignore all the real world problems with central planning, sure, the latter seems abstractly better. Giving everyone money isn't an abstract alternative to giving people who need things what they need, it's a solution to get closer to that abstract goal given the concrete implementation problems with centralized need determination approaches.


Several reasons, in descending order of importance:

1. Cliff effects. If you receive $1000/month while unemployed, and you have the opportunity to take a job that pays $1250/month, the actual delta is now only $250, which may not exceed your threshold. A basic income doesn't go away when you get a job.

2. Administrative costs. Figuring out who needs what costs money, can be gamed, and creates bad political incentives (pandering either to the group that wants more welfare, or the group that's upset about paying for peoples welfare).

3. Fairness. Some people feel that it is unfair that the poor receive monetary benefits from the government just because they are poor. If everyone gets the same benefit, unconditionally, that may be more palatable to this group of people.


Thanks for the reply:

1. This is an implementation problem. Hardly inherent to the idea.

2. Sure there are administrative costs. There also costs to giving everyone X amount of money, especially when a large percentage of them don't need it to begin with.

3. Indeed there is fairness. However since everyone receives it everyone's relative position is unchanged. So the question is, if giving everyone money somehow helps everyone, why not give everyone more? To what point does this end?


> 1. This is an implementation problem. Hardly inherent to the idea.

I wouldn't call it an implementation problem per se. How would you fix this with regards to current welfare, without implementing a UBI-equivalent, for instance?

> 2. Sure there are administrative costs. There also costs to giving everyone X amount of money, especially when a large percentage of them don't need it to begin with.

This is a bit of an empirical question, of course. But I think the argument would be that money spent on administrative costs is pure waste, but money distributed to citizens is not.

> 3. Indeed there is fairness. However since everyone receives it everyone's relative position is unchanged. So the question is, if giving everyone money somehow helps everyone, why not give everyone more? To what point does this end?

Indeed their relative positions are unchanged, but the distribution is squished. Giving a poor person $1000 might increase their wealth 100%. Giving $100 to a rich person might only increase it 0.001%.


Who determines what is a need vs. not a need? Giving money gives them the choice to determine their own needs and their own priorities.


And eliminates a costly bureaucracy layer making these purchasing decisions for people with not-their-money


Something to consider (trying not to color the argument with my own opinion): if you conceive of UBI as a replacement for the social net, what's to be done with people whose income is not enough to cover their expenses? This has to consider both people that blow their income and people that have special needs due to a medical condition (wheelchair and other mobility tools, accessible housing, costly medicine, live-in nurse, etc.). If you say cover the latter with special supplementary income/resources, what do you do with the former? Leave them become homeless (and potentially end up in the second group, as they get sick)?


That’s a really good question and it shows how little has really been fleshed out at this point (at least in my mind). I think the state still has a role to play making purchasing decisions for some; for example, incapacitated people should probably be purchasing healthcare that revives them in most cases, and the state should make the decision there that hospitals should just do so. Where you draw the line where the person isn’t capable of make the decision? I would favor very far into the personal responsibility myself, but I bet there are really good humanitarian and efficiency arguments for a different line that has the state interviene at an earlier point.


> In a world with targeted advertising and unprecedented advertising I'm confident basic income would be counter productive for those who actually need it.

Forgive me if this wasn't your intention, but it seems like you're asserting that poorer people are uniquely unable to determine their needs?

> If giving everyone X works, why not 2X? 3X?

The amount you give people relative to their income in aggregate affects the economy, right? If you gave everyone $12,000 a year, the consequences would be vastly different than if you gave everyone $12,000,000,000,000 a year.


> Forgive me if this wasn't your intention, but it seems like you're asserting that poorer people are uniquely unable to determine their needs?

I'm asserting people in general are unable to determine their needs. Every year worldwide consumer debt just keeps going up and up. This would imply either an inability to save or insufficient wages, right? UBI would increase the wages, but it's not clear to me why things wouldn't become more expensive.

> The amount you give people relative to their income in aggregate affects the economy, right? If you gave everyone $12,000 a year, the consequences would be vastly different than if you gave everyone $12,000,000,000,000 a year.

Sure, but regardless of the amount. Why not give them twice as much? Ultimately UBI is fiscally absurd.


No means testing. No huge bureaucracy. And a definite cut in sore feelings towards welfare claimants, because everyone gets the same.


It is expensive to figure out the difference between who needs things and who is just good with paperwork ("means testing").

Also, people who need help with basic survival have the least ability to jump through paperwork hoops.


The quick dirty answers:

1) Because determining eligibility has administrative costs.

2) Because if you have a job that pays you well enough, you're basically just getting your money back.


actually on 2, in reality your tax goes up (to pay for UBI) so you either are in the same position or worse off the higher your income is.


In addition to the problem of figuring out who is or isn't needy, is the fact that your system disincentivizes work.


Nothing about what I said inherently disincentivizes work.


in fact the article implies that Finland is more interested in a targeted model instead of the UBI.

I think UBI has a philosophical appeal, but the practicalities and economic viability I think still favors a targeted model


I think the best thing to try is universal basic income for those making less than X and then slowly getting phased out once you hit middle to upper class is best. People want to work but if the end up not getting enough to live while looking for work and not much more when the work you have a recipe for trouble.

Getting everyone onboard with taxing the rich to pay for it would be tough in US with its penchant for doing the exact opposite, cutting welfare and giving wealthy tax breaks... how trials like this go will be very interesting. I look forward toy the results even if it’s just targeting unemployed persons.


Then it is not "universal" or "basic" anymore, how is that different to just more benefits.


It depends on how you look at it. A phase out of UBI could also be viewed as an additional tax.

In fact, you could consider the current system of benefits only if you are not working a form of UBI, if you just treat the UBI not received by the working as a tax against the benefits they would have received.

All in all, UBI isn't much of a departure to what we already have, except that people are expecting the benefits given would be much moar.


What you're describing is more like a negative income tax. As long as the tax brackets are narrow enough (or better yet: tax rate is a continuous increasing function of income!) so that at no point does increasing youre before-benefit income reduce your total after-benefit income. With negative income tax, you have the problem of people cheating on their taxes to get free money, so it's often assumed that implementing it would require the abolition of cash.


"US venture capitalist Sam Altman, who runs start-up funder Y Combinator, is organising a basic income experiment."

Interesting.

Also: Those uber-rich guys who like the idea should pony up some cash, maybe spreading it around the poor community of San Francisco. It'd be a great way to study the concept.




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