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I'm going to work full-time on free software (drewdevault.com)
403 points by ploggingdev 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 282 comments

My best argument for UBI is, “I’d love to be able to work on F/OSS full time.”

Kudos for making it a reality. It may be scratching a personal itch, but the positive externalities to society are real.

Yeah, it's the modern version of a minor landed gentleman who can pursue his interests. It's how we got science.

Sadly, the best argument against UBI is that vast, vast majority of people will not be working full time on F/OSS or quite possible anything else.

If people don't work on anything once they get UBI this isn't really a problem. Currently, there are many many people who already don't do anything. They only do a little as possible to avoid getting fired OR they do periodically get fired from every job they ever hold once their employers realize they're always going to be a drain on productivity.

Having these people on UBI would actually allow productivity to rise.

However, I'm really concerned about UBI because:

1) One way to get more money on UBI is to convince others to give you their money. Many people on UBI will stop producing positive or neutral work and start finding ways to trick their fellow citizens into giving them their money. We will still need some sort of welfare to provide food to people who are tricked into giving away all their money for worthless services or items.

2) Some people have terrible planning skills and just want to be happy now. They'll spend all of their UBI on worthless items and go hungry until the start of the next month. Worse, they'll spend their children's UBI allocation on worthless items as well (or trick their children into doing it if it turns out parents don't get direct access to their children's allocation). We will still need welfare to feed the children of these people.

3) Some people will decide that their calling in life is now to cause problems for others. The food check comes once a month, so now their full time job is dressing up as a clown and terrorizing random people. Don't have to get up for work? Be really loud until 4am. The people who actually do have to get up for work will naturally get the option to live in a gated community because we need the few that actually do produce more than ever. This very well may cause society to schism into people who work and people who don't.

4) The potential long term effects are pretty scary. If you never have to work will you worry about education, socialization, or how to function in a society? How many people will decide to never learn any skills whatsoever? Sure, we could build up a lot of automation to take care of these people, but the result is going to be a massive schism where some people only know how to take their UBI money card to the food silo. And their children are probably going to be in the same bucket.

Ultimately, I think we as a society have a responsibility to use our plenty to help those who are going without. However, I'm not convinced that UBI is the right way to make this happen.

UBI is not so attractive that most people will choose to do nothing with their lives. UBI is intended to keep people from starving, but it's not a very pleasant life, devoid of comforts and aspirations. Sure, there will be people who want that, but there will be many others who don't.

The most important tool there is a good education, which is mandatory for even the children of the laziest and most shiftless. That's where they get exposed to the possibilities of what they could do, and be engaged by. They'll be presented with role models in the form of teachers, who do get up and do work every day, and live better lives because of it.

Maybe they'll create nothing more than pointless forms of art. But even so, what would be wrong with that? Movies and video games are both pointless idleness, but they create genuine joy, and there were lots of mis-steps as people learned what forms of them would be worth doing. Similarly, a lot of the most advanced science seemed like navel-gazing until it turned into transistors and lasers and GPS.

I don't mean to be blandly utopian. There are many ways UBI can fail, and we will probably do all of them in varying experiments. But neither would I be so dystopian about people doing nothing at all with their lives. People enjoy comforts and they enjoy having purpose. Between the way our existing technology creates more than enough food and shelter at little cost, and the desire of many people to improve their lot in ways that also continue to move society forward, I think we can afford to experiment with letting some people live lives of complete (but unenviable) idleness.

I'm sorry but 1), 2) and 3) are ridiculous. What are you basing those assumptions on ? I don't see how any of these points relate to UBI. Why would we be obligated to provide welfare to people who spend their allowance on things other than food and healthcare ?

4) is a very good point. We don't actually know what keeps our civilization running. UBI assumes that people have a natural drive to be productive, but we got to where we are in a context of natural selection, survival instincts and greed. Removing those aspects from society is rightfully scary.

With respect to 1,2,3.

People make some pretty bad decisions. And people like to trick other people into making bad decision. I didn't think this was controversial.

Why is this relevant to UBI? One of the benefits of UBI is that it allows us to get rid of the welfare system. However, if people are tricked into giving away their money OR if they spend all of their money on non-food items, we now have to decide if they just go hungry or if there is a welfare for them. This is more complicated because some of the people going hungry will be children who have irresponsible parents.

To recap. One of the arguments of UBI is that it will be cheaper than it looks because we can get rid of welfare. This argument only works if we're willing to let people who misspend their UBI go hungry. I'm not willing to let people go hungry if I can help if, so I'm only interested in a UBI program if we also find a way to feed irresponsible people. OR I'm not interested in UBI being enacted.

Is this not already a problem with the current welfare system in terms of selling food stamps? In which case is there any reason to suggest that UBI would worsen the problem significantly?

As you say, there will be cases like this. Laws can provide for them to be declared incompetent and to appoint a guardian who would be responsible for distributing their UBI funds. If it’s necessary to institutionalize them, their UBI would go to that institution for the duration.

So if you make bad decisions with money you get institutionalized? That sounds monstrous and unethical.

We have procedures now to have individuals declared incompetent and have guardians appointed. I agree, we don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease or to have corrupt institutions take advantage of people. Therefore, it would be best to error on the side of non-interference, which is about what we are doing now with the homeless.

I’d further suggest that only a portion of their UBI go to the institution, while the balance would be available to assist with the later transition out.

It also seems ripe for abuse. I can already see people going around declaring people "unfit" and getting a cut of their UBI from the committing institution.

What's worse, having a guardian to help you spend money or sleeping on the streets?

"a guardian to help you spend money" is different from "institutionalized", which is what the parent and grandparent wrote. And sleeping on the streets is a real alternative to institutionalization that people can and sometimes do prefer.

Is your handle a wordplay upon Ry Cooder, or are you actually a wry coder, or both?


Why not welfare on top of that too, for the people who get tricked to waste their welfare money?

and what about those who waste their ubi money, welfare money, and backup welfare money? we need a failsafe fund for those too!

People are free to make their own decisions. It's good to help people and lessen the blow of mistakes, but at some point, a stupid person who keeps getting tricked into wasting their money, is not very helpful to anyone around.

If you're being given free money just for existing, and you can't figure out how to keep it? I think thats your problem, not society's.

None of those "tricking other people" problems you mention have anything to do with UBI, per se. They are all about human nature, both the trickers and the tricked. That is not going to change just because of UBI being enacted / implemented. The potential solutions lie deeper down the stack (of turtles).

"There's a sucker born every minute."


Barnum may not have said it, but it holds true even today ... probably every millisecond, if you take the ratio of the world's population to the number of suckers/suckees/suckincidents ...

I don't think it's hard to find societies that subsist on income that comes 'for free'. Investors, traditional aristocrats - hell, the ancient spartan citizens. These are all people who had their wealth decoupled from their productive labour.

I'm also worried about inflation. If you give everyone $X/month to spend on essentials but the supply of those essentials doesn't change, then a very likely outcome is that the price of essentials, in aggregate, will go up by $X/month.

We already see some of this with student loans. The government decided that education is important, so it created federally-backed student loans that anyone can apply for, and effectively increased the amount of money available for education by a large amount. Some of this did go into increasing the number of kids that could go to college, but much of it just went into increasing the price of education. Plus, the supply of good jobs didn't really go up by much, so all those extra kids who went to college are now fighting over the same jobs they would've gotten in the first place, just with crushing debt burdens.

+1 on this also. I'm not sure how this would play out. The prices might just normalize for the middle class, as if they ended up getting no UBI at all. But if rent and food prices go up across the board then it'll be as if it has no effect at all.

The upside is that the UBI will still support people that end up with financial shocks -- something unexpected happening in their lives. That little bit could help a lot

People keep saying that UBI will replace wages at the low end so those people won't have more money to spend. But for the middle class there will be inflation.

I'm still worried about this, and I can't get anyone to sketch a model showing this would not be the case (but see below, maybe it's way too easy to sketch a model showing anything you want).

Closest I got to seeing a counterargument is me vs. JoeAltmaier a couple of weeks ago:


Yes, this is my main concern as well, and I haven't seen a satisfying answer to it. I'm bullish on UBI anyway because it answers a lot of questions of how to handle poverty and what to do with our societal wealth, but this one unanswered and fundamental question remains.

Most people will want to do something useful to supplement their basic income because it will only be enough to pay for the basic necessities. Would you want to live like a poor student for the rest of your life, renting a bedroom and being only able to afford thrift shop clothes and ramen noodles? Most people aspire to have their own place, date other people, have friends, etc. Most people have some minimum amount of drive for status. That will ensure that they make some effort to rise above the bare minimum.

As for how to pay for this, consider that central banks have printed trillions of dollars and basically handed that money to corporations, bailing them out of their debt. We live in the world of corporate welfare. We could expand the money supply and give that money to the people instead. In some ways, this is more capitalist than the alternative. Why? Because corporations who get too far into debt should die. If you give money to the people, you at least ensure that corporations will have to sell people something that they actually need/want, instead of being able to count on a corporate bailout.

> Most people will want to do something useful to supplement their basic income

Most people will want to do something to supplement their basic income. It doesn't have to be useful. In fact it could be to scam other people out of their UBI. Additionally, if we schism society into people who work and people who don't work, then it will almost definitely be to scam other people out of their UBI because that will be the most obvious course of action to get more money having been isolated from people who do actual work.

>Sadly, the best argument against UBI is that vast, vast majority of people will not be working full time on F/OSS or quite possible anything else.

That's sad only if we have the scarcity induced morality of associating "getting to have a living" with "earning it by working".

No, it's sad in the same sense gigahours wasted in front of TVs are sad.

I get the sentiment, but "bullshit jobs" are also a waste of time (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs ); those also have the same downsides as many jobs, like stress, abusive managers, etc.

There are also many jobs which are actively harmful to society and/or the environment (e.g. cold calling), where it would be better for everyone if those workers could just watch TV instead.

I think this is one of those areas that can't be solved by deduction, since there are valid arguments pushing both ways. It needs measurements, observations and experiments to see what the relative impact of those arguments are.

Bullshit jobs problem is entirely caused by labour being too cheap in turn caused by the only now industrializing third world. Same with poor working conditions.

If the corporations had to pay the full cost of employing people without the option to subsidize it witch cheap Chinese labour, they would long had to get rid of most bullshit jobs (some inefficiency is of course unavoidable) and make work much better organized.

No. Bullshit jobs are the consequence of markets being short-sighted optimization systems, with goals only partially aligned with human values. It's quite easy to make money in ways other than delivering socially valuable things; in fact, many of the most profitable jobs and endeavours are precisely that.

I would say those are two different things, but they are generally both bullshit. One is menial jobs with no future, essentially lost potential. The other is taking a position in something rather than do something, like middle managers. I know it isn't popular to talk about, but they are both a factor of inequality. You need to have economic equality to have distinction in merit. Otherwise merit for all intents an purposes comes second to economic success or failure. Of course that isn't absolute. But still a huge factor.

I just want to say you condensed much of my thoughts about capitalism in a very short couple sentences. I'm stealing that.

Have you ever stopped to think where this 'watching TV is wasting time' belief originates from?

Mine? From exposure (to TV).

I watch a small amount of TV (about 30-60 minutes a day) and virtually all of it is useful. I use it as Japanese language training. Conversely I spend waaay too much time reading HN. Some of that time is useful, but I have to admit that most of it is not. For the average person, though, I think it's probably true that most of their time watching TV is not useful to them (and may even be detrimental). But probably some of it is useful (for stress relief if nothing else).

So my question was actually rhetorical.

The point I was hoping to bring to the discussion is the fact that nearly all of our value-preferences (here, the value of time spent on various activities) come from social conditioning[1].

In this particular scenario it could well be the case that this particular value-preference (the belief that watching TV is wasteful) comes from the work ethic (as in 'working' is useful, and 'leisure' is wasteful).

There is no autonomous thinking in all of this and yet we claim to be living in an individualistic society. Doesn't that make anyone pause?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conditioning

My point was that I don't agree with your position. I don't think that nearly all of our value-preferences come from social conditioning. That's why I countered with specific examples of values/preferences that do not come from social conditioning.

The belief that watching TV is wasteful comes from the experience of actually wasting time watching TV when one would prefer to have done something else. Why don't we do something else? That's a good question, but not the question you asked.

A better example of social conditioning is "common sense". If you ask a question and the answer is "common sense", the likelihood is that the person is simply socially conditioned to think that way. An example that I've given a talk on is that Japanese people sit down while showering. Western people stand up while showering. Explain why one is better than the other. I did this in a workshop composed of half Japanese people and half westerners. After 10 minutes I had to halt the exercise because people were close to coming to blows. It was amazing. The answer, of course, is that it doesn't matter really (apart from preference for a couple of minor details), but I was not prepared for the backlash of unthinking cultural beliefs.

Perhaps a better question to ask would be "Is it better to read a book or watch TV"? There I would agree with you that people are socially conditioned to respond with "read a book". They don't actually know why a book is better and, in fact, are unlikely to have ever thought about it in detail (and almost certainly have never looked at any studies on the matter). They just know it to be true (for various values of the word "true").

However, I think these socially conditioned preferences are not in the majority. People's preferences are actual preferences. Someone likes meat, another likes fish. You can learn to like something else and you may be pre-disposed to like something based on familiarity, but that's not social conditioning. People do think about their preferences quite a bit, even if they are influenced by others. People like pop music, not only because it is popular, but also because the genuinely like it. If you ask them what they like about a song, they can actually tell you in surprising detail. Often they like some popular songs and don't like other popular songs. That most people enjoy the same songs in a culture is not surprising -- that's familiarity working. You like what you know.

One of the reasons I responded to this message is because I think it is a big mistake to underestimate people and classify them as a kind of "sheeple". They aren't a big unthinking herd, just following the person in front of them. There is an aspect of that, yes, but it is really dangerous to imagine that this is all there is.

It's easy to convince yourself of the opposite position due to confirmation bias (there are lots of examples of social conditioning), but I recommend looking for the opposite. I think it will surprise you.

I was not talking about preferences -- if one actually "prefers" to do something over watching TV, then why not just do it (after all that's what a "preference" is) instead of doing the contrary and then lamenting about wasting time spent on that? -- rather about values instilled by social conditioning.

Maybe my 'value-preference' wording is the source of confusion. For maximum effect, here's a fuller list of words that comprehensively refers to what I was talking about: beliefs, ideas, theories, concepts, maxims, dictums, truths, factoids, philosophies, values, principles, ideals, standards, credos, doctrines, tenets, canons, morals, ethics, customs, traditions, psittacisms, superstitions, myths, legends, folklores, imaginations, divinations, visions, fantasies, chimeras, illusions, delusions, hallucinations, ...

I think I understood what you were talking about. Your question "If one actually prefers [X]... why not just do it... [rather than lament] about wasting time..." is an interesting question. I believe that people actually do this. In fact I do this. I'm doing it right now ;-)

This is not an issue of people being conditioned unthinkingly to accept that TV is a low value activity. I don't believe people believe this. I think that if you were to do a survey of people and ask the questions: "Do you believe watching TV is always a waste of time" I think overwhelmingly people would answer "no". If you ask, "Do you believe that watching TV is sometimes a waste of time" I think overwhelmingly people would answer "yes".

That's the point I was trying to make. People are making rational value judgements about their TV watching habits. Sometimes it is very valuable. Most time it is very wasteful. I think that people have very rational reasons for believing this and have actually thought it through.

As to why people do things that they believe is a waste of time? Why did you write that long list of words. Did you believe I would read it? Did you believe it would add value to the conversation? Did you believe it would add value to your life? Or did you do it without really evaluating whether or not it was a valuable thing to do?

I think these answers, if considered with introspection will answer the question you posed.

> This is not an issue of people being conditioned unthinkingly to accept that TV is a low value activity.

Yet this is exactly the issue, as evidenced by the parent commentor spouting out an automatic "gigahours wasted in front of TVs are sad", that I have been focusing on this thread.

> People are making rational value judgements about their TV watching habits

While people could be making explicit rational value judgements on top of implicit pre-existing socialized values (aka. borrowed beliefs), it is the later that I'm interested in talking about (and is relevant to this thread).

> As to why people do things that they believe is a waste of time? Why did you write that long list of words. Did you believe I would read it? Did you believe it would add value to the conversation? Did you believe it would add value to your life? Or did you do it without really evaluating whether or not it was a valuable thing to do?

I wrote it to clarify your confusion which you seemed to get at first ("I think I understood ...") yet went on to proceed on the same tangent, in the next two paragraphs, that prompted it in the first place.

From the lack of fulfillment it gives most people, and thus the regret as they spend more time on it.

>Sadly, the best argument against UBI is that vast, vast majority of people will not be working full time on F/OSS or quite possible anything else.

There's a reasonable argument to be made that those people that'll end up doing nothing are already doing nothing. They're either unemployed, mooching of someone, or working some completely useless unproductive job that needs a slot to fill, that could easily be replaced by a machine.

As for actually productive people, I think very few of them would actually be happy with sitting around watching TV all day.

>Yeah, it's the modern version of a minor landed gentleman who can pursue his interests. It's how we got science.

And some of how we got Perl. I had read some time ago that Larry Wall said that Tim O'Reilly was his patron, as in the medieval sense of the term (think Florence etc.), when the nobility or rich people used to patronize (i.e. financially sponsor and recognize) artists, craftsmen, scientists, etc.

And Tim did sponsor Larry (and others who worked on Perl, I guess), via publishing Perl books and organizing conferences, etc.

I dunno; I'm ok with that myself.

The actual best argument against UBI is that if you used the total of US government Social Security, Other, and Nondefense spending (At least portions of them seem to be UBI-replacable) on it, divided by the population of the United States (326,000,000), you end up with about $7,000 per person, per year. If you take the entire budget (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget#/...) of $4,000,000,000, you end up with $12,000 per each, per annum.


$1000/month is enough to live off in many parts of the United States. I lived off it pretty comfortably a few years ago when I was in college – although I had four roommates, we all had our own rooms.

Obviously, it's not affordable everywhere, but I think incentivizing people to live outside of expensive areas is a good thing (adjusting for cost of living would mostly just funnel the extra money towards landlords, i.e. rent-seekers).

Your denominator is too large. Children would not be receiving UBI, presumably.

Also the numerator could be increased via a wealth tax on the top 0.1% or so.

Bear in mind that an income can go much further when you can invest significant effort in seeing that it goes further.

And certainly, as Zarel says in a neighboring comment, it wouldn't be affordable everywhere to live on just the BI. It doesn't need to be.

I’m quite happy if the vast majority of people doing active harm to society by working for evil corporations just do nothing instead. Quite possibly a net improvement just that.

I also imagine that if vast amount of people suddenly had more time on their hands there would be lot less need for services now optimized to keep them employed. Day care, schools and such would perhaps change into something more participatory.

Yeah people definitely end up doing unethical things out of desperation, whether it's committing a crime or working at an ethically questionable business

> vast, vast majority of people will not be working full time on F/OSS or quite possible anything else.

I doubt this. Everyone has dreams or long-term things they enjoy working on. And UBI wouldn't be enough for most people, so they'd at least pursue some form of cash-generating work.

You must roll with some motivated crowds if everyone has long-term goals.

> 60% of the folks I meet would be pretty content watching TV all day, every day. When you talk to them, they just talk about the shows they watched.

I'm just as cynical and misanthropic as the next HN poster, but I do wonder about this.

My hunch is that many people would indeed find something other than mindless TV if they weren't having their intellectual/emotional energy used up on a daily basis by a job. Not all people, maybe not even most, but many.

What they got up to instead is a whole nother question, but I do really think that the typical human would find something active to do, given no forced use of their time.

I strongly second this. Most people tend to be pretty used up after a day at work, and after commute, errands and household chores, TV is pretty much all they have energy for.

Personally, I hang out with regular "normies" as much, if not more, as with technical people, and all the boring TV-watching "normies" I know do have dreams and hobbies, but it takes getting to know them better to discover that. And those dreams and hobbies are generally blocked by dayjobs and errands.

Most people just want to waste time watching TV would be the good outcome. I'm more concerned that it turns out that once money is no longer a concern that a large portion of people would spend their time trying to figure out how to cause problems for others.

How many people would ignore education, socialization, and general societal cohesiveness if they knew that they would never have to worry about getting along with anyone else in order to survive.

I don't agree with this. People will still have to get along in order to survive. Two things:

First, crimes usually come with financial consequences I doubt that this would change even with UBI.

Secondly, its just as likely that the opposite becomes true and people learn to appreciate a sense of community much more deeply due to the lessening of competition. For instance intramural sports teams might become even more popular than they are now which could increase the general sense of camaraderie.

edit: grammar

Why wouldn't crimes go down with UBI? people commit crimes out of desperation. The crime rate is substantially lower in socialized europe

That is what I am trying to say when I responded to OP, perhaps I phrased it poorly.

I think that without constant competition it is equally possible that people would have higher regard for community than less. There are many things to consider here, but I am generally not concerned about people becoming more problematic or dangerous as a result of UBI.

I believe of the people who discuss shows they watched, this is actualy used as a way to bond with their peers, whom they are stuck with 8 hours a day.

Or all the video games they played in their copious amounts of spare time.

The best argument I know for UBI is that manufacturing is propped up by overconsumption because we have been able to make more than we need for a very long time. If one worker makes enough stuff for five people what do the other four do?

They starve.

> Yeah, [UBI]'s the modern version of a minor landed gentleman who can pursue his interests

Nah, that's called rolling in it. Not UBI.

I don't think UBI would work like that. The thing is that you can essentially simulate UBI yourself if you work in tech. Go and work a high paying job, or contract, for 3-6 months. Then take the rest of the year off. The problem is of course that quality of life still costs money. So in general having time for other things is a cost issue, not an income issue.

Thats not an argument in favor of UBI, its an affirmation of what you would do if you got free money.

My best argument for UBI is I’d love to be able to work on F/OSS full time, and that seems impossible outside of a fully free, stable, smoothly-functioning and affluent society. And given current economic trends, UBI is very likely a required part of any such society, at least in any reasonably large polity-- think the average U.S. state, or even the U.S. as a whole. So, it seems we agree after all!

I used to think this too. Then I grew older, observed more of the world around me, and realized a fundamental truth. The vast majority of the population, 95%+, when given free resources, will choose to not work or do anything productive.

In fact, their initial foray into leisure generally leads into negativity and moral ineptitude.

20% producers, 80% consumers; I think it’s unlikely that most people would choose to work if given the option not to along with being given a consistent, reliable amount of money to which they’d be able to use to settle into a repetitive lifestyle of creature comforts and pleasures.

Given with how normalized 1) consistent drug usage (ie alcohol) and 2) prioritizing pleasures like watching TV or playing video games for the majority of one’s free time have become in western society, I can’t see UBI being of any productive benefit to society. A major problem is who is going to pay for it? The productive, taxing paying folk, who will be receiving UBI as a paltry percentage of their existing, work-based income? It doesn’t seem fair to penalize the most productive, those who choose to work, in order to subsidize those who don’t wish to contribute to the game we called society.

Interesting. As I've grown older and observed more of the world around me, the fundamental truth that I've learned is that the vast majority of the population has something that they would like to work on, but can't make a living wage on it.

One of the best arguments for universal health care falls into this same category: tying health care to employment greatly increases the risks of being self-employed. I know more than one person who's stayed with a job they don't like -- even a job that doesn't pay particularly well -- because of this concern. The concept of a UBI expands this freedom past just health care. The point isn't to pay someone a handsome wage so they can sit around and do nothing; the point is to cover an absolute bare minimum so choices that might not otherwise be available become open.

I don't think UBI is a good approach to this particular case.

The F/OSS developer support case seems like a perfect candidate for a microtransaction-funded model. The kind of thing cryptocurrency enables, where one can passively receive as little as fractions of cents from a pool of millions of people without any transaction costs.

We just need to integrate the solutions better.

F/OSS developers work hard and provide value to many people. If there were a way for me to automate a tiny monthly donation to the projects I most use in Debian, without involving credit cards or routing numbers or other personally identifying information, where 100% of the contribution reached the intended people, I'd already be doing it. The kernel, Xorg, vim, firefox, screen/tmux, systemd, all these things would be on my list, and I doubt I'm alone here.

The distributions should be working on this problem. Forget 'popcon', give me an integrated solution to distribute cryptocurrency from a wallet I occasionally top up somehow to the developers and package maintainers I implicitly love.

Your best argument for the country to get UBI is so people can work on OSS full time?

If I understood correctly that's their personal best argument for UBI. We each have our own intrinsic motivations!

Yes, that’s what I meant. I can’t speak to the universal value or practicability of implementing and sustaining UBI :-)

Who would be a garbage man or do construction with UBI?

I see this argument occasionally and it always blows my mind that people think there are careers that literally no one wants to do. With hundreds of millions of people suddenly free to do what they want to do, you're going to find a ton that will do every little job imaginable.

That said, UBI and working aren't mutually exclusive. It seems entirely reasonable to assume there will still be people working lower-end jobs to augment their UBI. If there aren't enough garbage workers, it seems only natural to also assume the pay for garbage workers would go up to entice more people to take the job.

I've always worked CS and CS-related jobs (but have volunteered at non-CS jobs), but I'd be very likely to take up some kind of monotonous-but-fulfilling service job like garbage collecting. Probably not full time, but I'd love to have the time to help out others more.

As a side note, there's probably also a lot of work to be done in transitioning these kinds of assumedly-low-interest jobs into a gig-based paradigm. I think more people would take up "shifts" in something new than committing to it as a career. Obviously there's a lot of logistical problems (training, accountability, insurance, etc) that need addressed, but that's part of the fun of figuring it all out. :)

Somebody suggesting nobody would want to do construction is probably more indicative of a person who has never had the privilege of ever building anything in their life, rather than any statement of reality. However, absolutely awful examples aside - I do think he is correct that there are plenty of jobs that indeed nobody would want to do. Toilets don't clean themselves, and won't reliably be doing so anytime in the foreseeable future. There's no fulfillment mopping up piss from somebody who thought it'd be fun to urinate all over something, just because it's not theirs.

Of course you're right that we'd see pay go up for these jobs as a result, but I think the thing that many don't consider is how relatively little money there is to go around. This is masked by scale. We see billions and think of just enormous amounts of money, yet that's of course less than $3 per American. That of course means the even more unimaginable trillion dollars is merely $3000 per American. We have so many people that it can be difficult to really intuitively grasp.

So one of the most important numbers here is the GDP per capita. The GDP being the total market value of absolutely everything produced within a nation over a set period of time. This is what makes GDP per capita so interesting. It tells us how much money each and every person would receive if the market value of absolutely every single good or service was split completely equally. And in the US it's shockingly less than $60,000.

With an absolutely huge motivation to overproduce everything imaginable, and a countless array of artificial demand being created and sated, our GDP is still less than $60k. That's not a particularly huge amount of money! And while we could debate to what degree, I think nobody would disagree that an UBI would depress overall production. So we're not even going to be getting to that $60k point, and probably not even particularly close to it.

And this amount of money needs to be used to provide a livable stipend to each and every person, and then also account for 100% of the market driven economic success for each and every individual. I'm sure you can see the problem. Exactly how much money is our janitor supposed to be earning? And where does this money come from? You have to keep in mind that when we talk about this < $60k GDP/capita this isn't "money" but rather real money that represents a share of access to a finite set of resources. In other words you can't just go above this number and call it debt - the resources that such "money" (as it would become at that point) would represent literally do not exist. It'd be like in a world of 100 with a total of 5 cars telling each and every person that they can have a car. It just doesn't work.

It would have to pay a good deal, with a pension. Generally don't think it would be enticing enough right now, which is why the turnover after the next phase in automation is a better opportunity.

Prices would adjust accordingly. Why do you think people do those jobs now? being a garbage man pays pretty well

Those are well paying jobs so I assume someone will want to do it.

People who didn't like being poor.

I find it weird that on HN of all places, so many posters think that all other people would enjoy being poor.

Do we really have to have a huge long thread on UBI here? Really? This is about a developer working on a cool project turning it into a living.

A "living" despite the fact that it's negative income. UBI is absolutely relevant to people who want to see this sort of thing become possible.

It's inspiring to see people work full-time on free software. I remember the shock when I found out Conversations.im creator is also working "9-5 days in Open Source." [0]

Good luck Drew!

[0]: https://twitter.com/iNPUTmice

Thank you!

It's funny seeing people from niche things you used to be into pop up in other places. When I was in my teens I did a lot of Ultima Online emulator stuff and have seen many of the server devs at places like Google in my career. I remember Drew's name from minecraft reverse engineering and development when I was in college.

I too recognise SirCmpwn from a niche place, the TI-84 scene ;)

It's a small world, most #mcdevs regulars are still very active on HN.

Funny, just yesterday I stumbled upon your blog and the post about your plan to working in Free Software full time. Your enthusiasm transpires, and your level-headedness. Now I see you've done it! I just want to say, congratulations!

Thank you!

Glad to see that! Recently I've been lucky enough to be contracted as a freelancer on GPL projects, or at least projects with LGPL core, with sending improvements to upstream projects being part of the job. It's so fulfilling and liberating that I wish it will stay this way forever :)

Did a company hire you? That's pretty cool. I'd love to do that.

It would make a lot of sense for larger software houses to donate to open source developers who develop the tools they use. This is win-win since they get the best person to maintain the software, have the developer's ear, and don't have to deal with labor laws or office space or management. They don't even need to be in the same country or time zone.

Plus, it's a cheap way to virtue signal, and goodwill is always good for business!

This works for many people, but one of my challenges has been that I mostly write end-user software - and end-users have much shallower pockets.

> to donate to open source developers who develop the tools they use

Are those people available to work extra hours for pay though?

I help maintain some open source software but if someone offered me money to work on it more then sorry but I don't have magic extra hours in the day to do that - I've got a full-time job and hobbies of my own.

I think it's better the companies step forward and put the hours in as well as the money.

When you donate to someone, there aren't strings attached. There are no expected hours. It's merely a "thank you", and an incentive for the person to keep at what he's already doing.

Of course, with enough donations going on, it would be possible to quit your fulltime job like this fellow has done, freeing up even more of his time.

With enough funding the developer can invest in a team, adhering to their standards.

I wish America had universal health care. If i do this, I can afford to pay for rent and food in a low cost of living area but not health insurance.

Anyone know of a nonprofit that pays for health insurance for ppl working on OSS?

I don't know if moving is an option for you. But there are plenty of countries that offer free healthcare.

Sweden, UK, Norway... the list goes on.

Countries with proper (ie almost everyone has it so it is reasonably affordable) paid-for healthcare exist as well, though I'm not aware of one that would be as cheap as the US could be in terms of cost of living.

Technically Sweden has very heavily subsidized health care, not free health care. There is a small cost involved with almost every healthcare visit and hospital stay in Sweden.

I can't leave USA due to Green Card constraints.

About that "free" healthcare in Sweden, etc...

If you make $60,000 here in the USA, you can expect to pay about 22% in taxes (https://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/tax-brackets.aspx) so ~$12,600.

You move to Sweden and make that same $60K USD equivalent. Their tax rate is 61.85 percent (https://tradingeconomics.com/sweden/personal-income-tax-rate) so ~$37,110.

I bet you can stay here and buy some pretty great healthcare (plus a lot of other stuff) with that $24,510 difference.

There's no such thing as a free lunch (or free healthcare). Not only are your taxes covering your "free" healthcare, but they're also covering "free" healthcare for several people who aren't working while you are.

I'd just like to point out that your figures don't add up. First of all, you're not taking into account that Sweden has a progressive tax rate, like the US. The figure you quoted in your second link is for the highest marginal tax rate.

If you were to be consistent, you could use the figure for America's marginal tax rate listed in your second article, which is 37%. So apples to apples comparison would be that the US pays $22,000 in taxes at the highest marginal rate on 60k.

Keep in mind that the US also has state income tax, which can be upwards of an additional 15%.

Anyway, these figures are all kinds of wrong. You need to account for the progressive tax rate for each country, the state taxes you might be subject to, and the tax benefits / write offs that are available to you for your tax bracket.

Sweden also has a 25% VAT (sales) tax on just about everything you buy there. After they rake hard from your paycheck they rake hard again when you spend what's left.

Sure, but my point is that these sorts of comparisons are complicated, and the facts matter. Anyone can hand wave the figures and come up with favorable comparisons by including or omitting important figures. I don't think it's fair to make simplistic comparisons and say that Sweden pays 24k more in taxes on 60k income.

Every time I've sat down to do the actual math the difference between "typical HN wages in a high cost state" (call it $200k/yr) to western europe - the numbers are always within a 10% difference. Everyone likes looking at just the federal tax rate and ignores state income tax, local income tax, SS/Medicare tax (which is massive), and real estate taxes. I do ignore VAT and sales taxes typically since they are so difficult to calculate effectively.

When you add everything up, it really comes out that the US isn't very low cost comparatively. The striking thing for me is how much more progressive US taxes are than in Europe - where even the lower middle class seem to get taxed heavily.

> in Europe - where even the lower middle class seem to get taxed heavily.

This is because, at least in Sweden, the first ~25% isn't strictly taxes, but fees for public benefits. Like 10% pension and 2% parental leave.

Also, you get more from the taxes than just healthcare. Free education, eg.

Is higher education free?

There’s a ton missing from your calculations. For example, insurance is a system where some users (healthy ones) subsidize others. Since you’re against that idea, I’m assuming you want people to pay for healthcare ala carte. That adds up to a lot more than 24k a year.

Also, let’s look at what that 24k gets you in Swedish healthcare:

* Automatic paid sick leave for any duration that your physician orders you not to work.

* Capped payments on drugs per year, after which the government pays for you

* Cheap visits to generalists or specialists, capped at a low level, after which the government pays.

On top of all of that, they have lower infant mortality rates, lower rates of preventable deaths, higher average lifespans, and employ _more_ nurses and physicians per patient despite spending HALF of what we do as a percentage of GDP.

The most revealing statistic however, is that Sweden dedicates a lower percentage of government revenue to healthcare than we do. They get much more than the average American citizen while spending much less percentage wise.

Free healthcare isn’t free, but it’s sure as hell better than what we have.

Sources: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_system#International_... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Sweden

I don't live in Sweden so I can't claim to be an expert (I like in the UK), but I find it highly unlikely that your claim of a 61% tax rate in Sweden is correct. It's likely the highest tax rate possible (in the UK that's 45%).

If you look at a tax calculator you will see that for a Swedish salary equivalent to $60K, the effective tax rate is actually ~27%.

$60K USD == ~540K SEK, which is 45K SEK a month.

Plugging 45,000 into [1] and choosing the municipality of Stockholm results in a net monthly income of 32,587 SEK.

That's a tax rate of ~27%...


Well, first you have to calculate that the company pays 31.42% of your total salary in payroll taxes. This is illegal to print or show in any way or form to the employee from the employer.

Then on most goods there is a 25% tax, additional taxes other categories of goods such as gas, cars, alcohol and so forth.

So if the company pays you 60k SEK, you'll see ~45k on your payroll slip. The 61% percentage is the average total tax burden on a individual from all of these taxes.

Payroll tax is not your salary - it's tax on their employment of you, of an amount due that's proportional to your salary. It's the company's money, not yours.

(Would they pay you more if that tax wasn't due? Well, possibly, I suppose. Or they might just pay you the same, and then buy more stuff, employ more people, pay the company owners more money, that sort of thing.)

What are you smoking? Change it, it is bad for logic: any tax a company pays for you is from the money you bring in, not from the shareholders personal bank accounts. Nobody pays for the pleasure to have someone as an employee, but for the employee to deliver more than what is paid, otherwise you go under.

Reduce the payroll tax, and, what then? Same amount of money coming in, same going out on salaries, less going out on payroll tax. Now the business has options. It can buy more stuff; it can employ more people at similar salaries; it can give the owners more money.

But the argument being made appeared to be that it will give its existing employees pay rises, to each one in line with how much payroll tax it was paying for each of them previously - but this just strikes me as a bit unlikely.

> It can buy more stuff; it can employ more people at similar salaries; it can give the owners more money.

Don't they also have to compete with other employers in the labor market for labor. How can they possibly keep paying the same salaries.

In Romania by law the company contribution was included in the payroll; there was no change in salaries, but people were finally able to see the total taxes they paid and calculate the percentage correctly: it was about double vs what they thought.

The 61% number in this case came from the top marginal tax rate on income in Sweden. The fact that it's roughly the same is payroll + income tax is a coincidence.

Sweden absolutely has higher taxes on the middle and lower classes than the United States in order to fund its safety net (one old source: https://lanekenworthy.net/2008/02/10/taxes-and-inequality-le...). You are correct about that.

However, you are just presenting numbers in misleading ways that do not accurately reflect the actual taxes paid. Please stop.

You're comparing apples and oranges. 61.85% is the top marginal rate in Sweden, not the flat tax rate. On $60K USD pay you pay ~30% in taxes.

If you actually wanted to make a factual argument about high taxes in Sweden the tax you're better off looking at payroll taxes.

US spends more tax dollars per capita on health care than Sweden, and most other OECD countries, so the extra tax expense goes to other things. Ignoring of course that your tax calculation is way off.


You're also not accounting for the chance that someone would end up more dramatically ill than just the odd flu or a broken bone.

[Anecdote from the Canadian socialized healthcare system]

For instance, when my brother was 11 he was diagnosed with an advanced brain tumour the size of an average naval orange. He was admitted to one of the country's leading children's hospitals (McMaster in Hamilton) one day and was in surgery the next. He spent a week in recovery, half of that week in a private room, then shared with two others. He received follow up appointments there for the following year or two. They were able to remove the entire tumour in one session, with no remaining traces, and without the [temporary or permanent] paralysis they supposed could occur (they gave it a 50% chance he would lose all feeling and motor ability on his left side). He was in hospital, and they accomplished this all in inside of 36 hours.

The cost out-of-pocket to my family was the gas to drive there, and the parking in Hamilton over a couple of days.

Oh yeah, and we bought the doctors a Tim Hortons coffee and donuts...

edited to add: The mentioned visits included a large number of MRI and CAT scans, among other tests.

I'd like you to compare that situation with a like American anecdote: https://www.thebillfold.com/2015/06/the-cost-of-things-a-bra...

Nobody lives in a vacuum, my friend. Wouldn't that be nice if we could account for all cases as you have?

Your 61.85% seems pretty weird. If you look at the same site they point to 37% in the US instead of your 22% (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-income-t...) and that's for an individual with an income above $400K.

I strongly doubt that someone winning $60K pays 61.85% in Sweden. Your source seems strongly geared towards rich people.

In most countries in Europe there are hidden taxes that don't appear in your payroll, but the company pays for you. It is called the "company contribution" that comes from the money you earn for the company. If you do $100,000, for example, and the company does not want any profit, the company will give you 75,000 and pay 25,000 as company part, then from your 75,000 you pay 30,000 (heavily rounded), so in total the government gets 55,000 in taxes and you get 45,000 home, but you thing the taxes are lower than in reality. In Romania one year ago the taxes were united in a single set, so now you see on the payroll that you pay double the taxes than a year before, but you take the same money home. The company part is just visible in the payroll, nothing else changed.

The US has employer payroll taxes and other corporate taxes, too.

I'm pretty sure Sweden have progressive taxes!

The number is closer to 16k USD if you make 60k USD, see: https://statsskuld.se/en-sv/jobs/berakna-nettolon

> About that "free" healthcare in Sweden, etc...

This "free" in quotes is such a stale talking point. No one thinks it's literally free, it's free AT THE POINT OF USE, which is assumed anyone knows, but apparently not.

I'm not sure it's easy to find anyone willing to fund you to work on anything... But,

Mozilla is a non-profit, while I worked there I worked exclusively on free software. And the health insurance fantastic.

Much of what you work on a GitLab, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Redhat, etc. is also open source, depending on what team you join.

That's amazing, best of luck. Will the revenue info be public? Are the current subscriptions close to replacing what you were making at your fulltime job? Hopefully sustainability is not far off and I look forward to the day when you can hire other prominent contributors such as emersion.

>That's amazing, best of luck.

Thank you!

>Will the revenue info be public?

Yes, I intend to publish quarterly reports, and I'm open with the financials whenever anyone asks. I generated this report just now for you: https://sr.ht/QOml.txt. This is combined with my donation income, which is already public: https://drewdevault.com/donate/

>Hopefully sustainability is not far off

I hope so too! The way I plan with these numbers is to assume yearly payments are added to the reserves and starts burning down immediately, then I do worst-case projections based on existing monthly donations with a churn factor built-in, then other projections assuming various degrees of growth based on historical numbers. The most pessimistic projections give me ~10 months and the more optimistic ones show sustainablity coming soonish.

>Are the current subscriptions close to replacing what you were making at your fulltime job?

No, but I hope it will be soon!

>I look forward to the day when you can hire other prominent contributors such as emersion.

Me too :)

Really brave to take a gamble on negative income. I really hope it pays off. This could be a very good example of how to make free software.

Thanks, I hope it works out too!

<3 Thanks for your work on Sway, wlroots and sr.ht ! I use all three every day.

I'm glad that you like them!

Thank you too :D I used to see you all the time here but now that I use Sway I appreciate your work even more!

I would like to do the same thing Drew. Thank you for making an example.


Thanks! I hope more people can follow this path, too.

Please think twice before spending your life savings, especially if you have no solid plan for getting donations to pay for your living expenses. It’s much less risky to increase donations before quitting your job.

Just be careful if this is your life savings.

This guy got me into Bitcoin in 2013, on freenode. I helped him diagnose a bug using git-bisect, and he paid me in btc. Had to create a coinbase account to receive the bounty.

Best of luck Drew, and thank you.


Anyone working on Alpine and Musl wins my more or less automatic upvote. And then full-time, with no immediate reimbursement and no long-term guarantee. Refreshing. Thank you, sir.

For anyone who'd like to try their hand at paid open source work, an organisation I write code for is hiring an Android dev to lead development on their Wikimedia-funded open source app... https://kiwix.org/android-dev/

I have been doing this for a year. Check my Twitter for how it’s going, same handle.

You're the guy who got into a debate about chat protocols on my project, mstream. Man it's a small world.

Good luck with everything. And thanks for checking out my project.

I saw your website last year and thought your projects were intriguing. Congrats on being able to do it full time!

Congratulations! It is a great devotion of you, I would like to support too!

Thank you!

Congrats Drew. I've been rooting for you since your original post.

Thank you!

Will you be planning to contribute on the osu!lazer project again?

I still pull it down every now and again, but probably not going to contribute in any meaningful way. Once it's closer to being complete I'll probably go in and do a big Linux support patch.

Odds are good for TrueCraft, though!

Welcome to the club!

Wishing you all the best!

Looking forward to sr.ht being a success :)

Thank you!

Drew, thank you.

Here's my best argument for why UBI can't work in the USA. Let me know where i went wrong:

My TV told me a "living wage" is at least $15 (but probably higher in liberal controlled areas like NYC / most CA cities / etc due to high cost of living & taxation), but we'll start with $15 to make it easy.

$15/hr at 40hr/week = $31,200 per year.

$31,200 * 328,300,000 population of USA = $10,242,960,000,000

Written out (for emphasis) that's TEN TRILLION TWO HUNDERD FOURTY THREE MILLION DOLLARS. That's just the handouts, not counting in any overhead / administrative costs to give out the handouts. It'll likely be more than that if you adjust it higher than $15 for people living in NYC, etc.

Meanwhile, the entire GDP of the USA is less than 20 Trillion. That's the current GDP where people are incentivized to work, so it would likely go down (perhaps drastically) when people are paid to do nothing under UBI.

Let me know how that adds up.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18921194 and marked it off-topic.

That thread was "my best argument for UBI" and my best argument against UBI is off topic? Seems fishy.

I think you could get away with a UBI which is substantially less than that. $12,000/person/year seems like it should be easily sufficient - since I live on that much excepting tuition in downtown Toronto (not cheap), in CAD (so really a lot less), just fine.

Keep in mind that when you are counting per person that means you are allocating that much for people not in the workforce like children too. A 4 person household is getting $50,000/year with the above number.

Expecting people who are just living on a UBI to move somewhere with a low cost of living also seems reasonable to me, I suspect you could substantially slash even the $12,000/person/year number and still have it be sufficient.

I also think that a partial UBI (e.g. $3000/year) would likely be nearly as beneficial as a full one, but it does increase overhead costs because then you can't get rid of the rest of the social services.

(Other people have addressed the fact that a comparison to GDP isn't valid because of taxes).

> not counting in any overhead / administrative costs to give out the handouts.

These costs are negative, in the sense that it allows us to remove the other low income services with much greater overhead.

That's a good point, the US population of people 18 years or old is ~252 million, so if you only gave people 18+ a UBI handout, you'd cut your costs to 7.862 Trillion dollars per year.

Also one could remove the UBI part already covered by pensions -- e.g. the millions of government employees getting X pension money, can get (X - UBI) + UBI (so the same as they already get).

That's not a UBI, then, because it's not unconditional.

Also, I suspect the formula you intend is X + max(UBI - X, 0)—or, more simply max(UBI, X). Consider what your formula does for pension < UBI.

That's going in the right direction, but keep in mind that the entire federal budget is about $4 trillion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget#/...)

A UBI that pays a portion of a living wage might be a very good idea, but it's not going to allow the majority of Americans to lay on their butts all day watching TV and eating cheesy poofs.

Exactly this. And once you get into the 7.862 Trillion range you find that it's much more reasonable.

> because then you can't get rid of the rest of the social services.

Some you can get rid of, others you shouldn't. Even if you have UBI, some medical procedure might cost an individual more than they are getting in 10 years. So a proper healthcare system is still important.

That was sloppy wording on my part but the idea stands. "The rest of the social services" should be interpreted as only the social services that serve a similar purpose.

I'm a Canadian and basically think you all need to fix your healthcare system anyways, but for simplicities sake I'll just declare that to not be part of what I meant by the rest.

Agreed. Even the most zealous socialists aren't suggesting UBI handouts could replace healthcare insurance.

Opponents of UBI, at least in the US, will never accept it on moral and definitely not on socialist grounds - only possibly as a means of cutting Federal expenditure and reducing or deprecating existing social programs, which they disagree with on principle.

If Americans want UBI, they'll either get it with the repeal of the minimum wage, medicare, medicaid, federal student loans and the complete privatization of healthcare - basically the dismantling of the entire social safety net with the exception of programs to aid the military and agriculture - or else opponents will sabotage what futile efforts are made the way they did the ACA, and then work to repeal it as soon as possible.

Except your suggestions here ignore that the surplus given by UBI will be amortized into rent and staples costs. It's all well and good until you get into the weeds and realize that a lot of price fixing or pseudo price fixing needs to happen before UBI becomes realistic. If the argument is getting rid of legislative and bureaucratic bloat, it's definitely not quite so easy or quite so effective, choose one.

Why would you expect inflation to occur?

As long as UBI is payed for via taxes and not deficit spending than the money supply isn't changing. And as economists say, inflation is a monetary phenomenon.

Supply & demand aren't radically changing either. America's poor eat too much, not too little. And while there are homeless people in America, most sleep in shelters.

If anything, you might expect the price of the cheapest staples and crappiest housing to go down as UBI enables the poor to upgrade their food and housing.

>And while there are homeless people in America, most sleep in shelters.

You'd be surprised.


Money supply isn't the issue here.

If everyone has another x+12,000 dollars, the amount of money available for low income housing has strictly increased. Landlords are then in a position to raise prices proportionally.

The "America's poor eat too much" line is also not strong. You might argue that they eat the wrong things; this is the food desert/education argument that's commonly made. Regardless there is already artificial price fixing of many staple foods like milk and bread, which is a much better argument.

> If everyone has another x+12,000 dollars, the amount of money available for low income housing has strictly increased. Landlords are then in a position to raise prices proportionally.

Not really.

First, if landlords go to charge more they are increasing the attractiveness of using housing more efficiently. If everyone is getting an extra $1k/mo and landlords are charging an extra $1k/mo, then I'm saving an extra $500/mo when a friend and I decide to room together. For some people this will make the difference in their decision making, and this will increase the number of available units and put downward pressure on prices. From this dynamic alone, we should still expect prices to rise, but less (and likely much less) than the full amount.

Second, we're not really constrained on "supply of housing" at a national scale. We're constrained on supply of "housing where someone wants to live". "Where someone wants to live" comprises a lot of factors, many differing by the individual, but "sufficiently close to ability to make sufficient income" is usually a big part of it. A UBI directly increases our supply of "housing sufficiently close to ability to make sufficient income" which would now be competing against existing stock.

> Money supply isn't the issue here. > If everyone has another x+12,000 dollars, the amount of money available for low income housing has strictly increased. Landlords are then in a position to raise prices proportionally.

You're contradicting yourself through sloppy thinking. If everyone has another x+12,000 dollars, the money supply has increased. That's the definition of money supply.

It's also a total strawman and not what UBI proposes to do. For example, my wife and I make about $150,000 combined. UBI would basically do nothing for us because of the taxes we'd pay to support it. If anything we'd have less money, not $12,000 more.

The only people who'd have $12,000 more are the totally unemployed and homeless.

The point of UBI isn't that everyone gets more money, it's that everyone is guaranteed to have the means not to starve or be homeless at a minimum.

People who support UBI (including myself) do so not because they would have more money (as stated, I personally would almost certainly lose money), but because they would have less RISK. That's what UBI really does. It lowers the risk of life choices and gives people the freedom to make choices that otherwise they could not have made.

If I'm one of the lucky (which so far, I have been), UBI does nothing for me. But if tomorrow I'm crippled in a car accident and can no longer work, UBI guarantees a certain minimum standard of living.

You are correct; the money supply isn't an issue. However, inflation within a localized area of the economy is a thing (e.g. housing prices, health care).

UBI is a transfer of money from the wealthy, who would have used it to buy filet mignon or something, to the poor, who would likely use it to buy food and shelter. One should expect the prices of food and shelter to rise, relative to other products.

And? That's not an argument against UBI. These things have equilibria and rising prices push up supply. The fact that prices may (I emphasize may, because there are other factors at play here that you conveniently ignore) rise doesn't change the utility of raising the floor on standard of living.

I already live a better, more comfortable life than any Roman emperor ever did. We have the means to ensure that no one in our society suffers in destitution, by a vast margin, and that margin increases continuously as automation of menial work proceeds over time.

Not doing so because it might not be "optimally efficient" according to some arbitrary metric is inhuman.

"If everyone has another x+12,000 dollars"

then you have a money supply issue.

"If anything, you might expect the price of the cheapest staples and crappiest housing to go down as UBI enables the poor to upgrade their food and housing."

You do realize that is self-contradictory, right? More people buying X means the price of X goes up, not down. (Modulo a bunch of factors that probably don't apply to housing and staples.)

People who are too poor to afford popular current housing also having more stable income reducing the risk of renting to them might well make serving that market with units that are less expensive than the minimum on the market profitable, reducing the floor price in private housing markets.

> Expecting people who are just living on a UBI to move somewhere with a low cost of living also seems reasonable to me

Not unless you are providing means-tested relocation assistance (which is against the spirit of UBI), and ignoring that UBI and the associated taxes to fund it will:

(1) reduce CoL in high CoL areas and,

(2) raise CoL in low CoL areas.

And assisted relocation actually magnifies this effect.

No. The cost of relocation is the cost of a bus ticket, suitcase, and a few phone calls, something that $12,000 already easily supports.

The rest of the money people spend is to bring their existing wealth with them, something that society doesn't need to assist with.

What will happen with the people who can't manage their money and blow their UBI other things?

The same thing that happens now when people who can't manage their money blow their salary on other things, except that it's marginally clearer what the problem is.

Right now those people get food stamps and welfare

Wow, talk about living in a bubble. Do you really think that a person who runs out of money can just go and get more from the government?

My sister gets food stamps. Food stamps are for food (generally) where as money is for anything. UBI is often held up by proponents as a replacement for all other support. Given them $1k a month cash instead of whatever they get now. But what they get now is trying to solve a problem not solved by UBI, namely that they can't be responsible for themselves (for whatever reason, physically unable, mentally unable, kids, etc...) UBI doesn't fix that problem so the existing programs will still need to exist.

Anyone unable to be responsible can receive their UBI via a cashless welfare card (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashless_Welfare_Card) which quarantines where the money can be spent. It deals with issues like problem gamblers and people with substance abuse problems.

hahahah what? Those are directly based on salary, not on "salary after you spend most of it". How would you even implement a system like that?

You'd dole out UBI biweekly or whatever to solve the same problems that food stamps solve? I agree it's a good question though.

One proposal I've heard for this is spreading it over the year, have the government deposit money in a back account once per week (this requires a system where everyone has bank accounts to get UBI, but that shouldn't be too costly).

There are already benefit programs that distribute money by putting it on a debit card, eliminating the need for a bank account.

Doesn't a debit card require a bank account, at least behind the scenes?

It doesn't require the person who gets the card to have, or be eligible for, a bank account. You don't need a bank account to use a pre-paid gift card either.

I suppose they would have an account number within the organization that is distributing the money, but that's not quite the same thing, and surely has less overhead.

There was a study somewhere concluding that as little as $500/year could have huge impact.

Your biases are showing, and that's affecting the quality of your argument.

"liberal controlled areas" is an indicator. People vote for policies that make sense to them. Most people like living in cities, and they like living in places where government provides services that aren't well-distributed by market mechanisms.

Let's go with your $10T number. Then, let's apply a standard progressive income tax, of the kind that has been operating your entire life. Numbers are chosen for convenience and being not too far off from realistic.

At 0 income, you now make $31.2K. No income tax due.

At $7.5K income, such as a $15/hour job you work at for 10 hours a week for 50 weeks, you take in $39K and pay $750 -- a 10% tax bracket.

At $15K income, working that job for 20 hours/week, you take in $46K and pay $1875 in income tax. 7.5K * 0.10 + 7.5K * 0.15

At $30K income, working full-time at minimum wage, you take in $60K and pay 7.5K * 0.10 + 7.5K * 0.15 + 15K * 0.20 = $4875.

At $45K income you take home 75K and pay $4875 + 15K * 0.25 = $6100.

At $60K income you take home 90K and pay $6100 + 15K * 0.33 = $11K.

At $75K income you take home 105K and pay $11K + 25K * 0.5 = $26K, and so you are a net contributor to taxes.

You can set the balance point where you wish: below it, people gain money; above it, people pay more in taxes than they take in from UBI.

While that's going on, you can have smaller government: you no longer need most pensions, most welfare programs, and lots of bureaucracy devoted to finding out whether people should get assistance.

And one more simple change: make income tax calculated by the IRS and you file changes against their preparation, rather than you sitting down and trying to figure everything out each April. Cuts down on frustration and tax avoidance.

> And one more simple change: make income tax calculated by the IRS and you file changes against their preparation, rather than you sitting down and trying to figure everything out each April. Cuts down on frustration and tax avoidance.

Yes please. It drives me crazy that I have to waste time copying numbers between forms for my taxes.

Intuit (and others, I assume) lobbies strongly against this, and spends a lot of money to prevent this happening.

I can't believe there aren't more responses to you saying this, but obviously you need to increase taxes. UBI advocates need to admit that that is what they are advocating. I certainly am.

...but this increase of taxes would not harm average people, because they would basically receive the same back in UBI as the increase.

Overhead would be lower than administering current welfare payments, since it's universal so they wouldn't need to do any eligibility checks - just making sure you're a real person so that you can't get it twice under multiple names or something.

Other than that it would be break-even for the government, and for the average person. It's just income redistribution. You're taking the money from the wealthy, and giving it to everyone. The average person will receive as much as they pay and will be in the same position as before. The wealthy will pay more in taxes and have less money after tax. The poor will pay less than them and will have more money in the end.

It's not that complicated, and it's not magic. UBI advocates are advocating redistribution large enough to support basic needs. Yes, that means taking money away from the wealthier people in society, but UBI advocates think we can afford this as a society.


1) People will realize they can work less and still get paid the same. This results in less work than we require getting done.

2) We will still need welfare because some people will spend all of their UBI on non-food items. They will also spend their children's allocation OR trick their children into spending their allocation on non-food items. The option will be to either let children go hungry or create a welfare system that provides only food.

3) It turns out that some people will get bored without jobs and decide that the meaning to their lives is to cause trouble for society at large. Without the need to get up for work they can now stay up until 4am every day finding ways to make life miserable for people who actually do the work that the rest of us rely on. At this point society gets schismed into those who do work and those that don't.

4) In the long term people decide that they don't need education, the ability to socialize with anyone, or the need to participate on any level in a positive fashion towards civilization. We'll have generations of people who only know how to go to the food silos.

5) Maybe there's some problems with actually paying for everything.

But people aren't paid to do nothing under UBI. They don't lose the pay if they do things. Most people probably won't do nothing because that's boring.

And Counting money is a bit harder than that. When I tip waitstaff, that income for them was my income before that and my employer's income before that and hospitals' income before that and, just maybe, that same waiter's income before that. But if instead it was medicare's money, it got an excellent ROI in terms of GDP output per tax dollar spent.

> Most people probably won't do nothing because that's boring.

I think you underestimate the amount of people that are content with not doing anything.

yes, I am surprised this is overlooked. It may be that tech workers who like the idea of UBI imagine working on open source projects. I picture a large percentage of the population choosing to use drugs, drink, play video games, pick up a hobby that doesn't pay, watch TV, or even just do nothing. Then as a result of squandering their time, these people could become permanently unemployable or unskilled and would have to remain on welfare indefinitely.

Why would it be bad to pick up a hobby that doesn't pay? I'd love for an explosion of art and philosophy to occur out of UBI.

There is already more art and philosophy than there is a demand for and there is not even a UBI. Increasing the supply of art and philosophy won't change that (to say nothing of the other activities people can choose). I don't want to create an incentive for people to drop out of jobs to spend their time in a worthless activity. By worthless I mean, they have created nothing valuable. It will create a loss of productivity and a decline in skills. Of course, if you do this on your own time and money, have fun.

With UBI, people can pursue what makes them happy and enriched in life, not what makes them the most productive. Is that so bad?

With UBI people will stop using drugs because there will be no drug dealers to provide: the drug dealers will enjoy UBI and leave a risky business /s

The thing is, though, that the people who really do nothing are already doing nothing. They provide zero or negative productivity at work and only do the minimal required to not get fired. Or they bounce from job to job eating up everyone's time.

I'm more concerned with people who decide that they want to do something destructive. Staying up til 4am is possible when the food check comes no matter what. Deciding that you want to ruin someone's life by not letting them sleep ever seems like it could easily become a pastime.

Except if there is UBI there wouldn't be (or be a need for welfare).

In places where an UBI has been tried economic activity has gone up.

Do you have examples? The only trials I'm aware of (Canada and Finland) were not truly universal, and were done on a very small scale on a short time period, so it's hard to really gleam anything from them. I'm hoping Chicago ends up going through with their trial[0], because that will be a much more useful study.

[0]: https://www.businessinsider.com/chicago-considering-trial-fo...

There’s one in Kenya https://basicincome.org/news/2017/03/us-kenya-new-study-publ...

Also concluded ones in Namibia and in India i think

>Most people probably won't do nothing because that's boring.

I'm really not worried about the people who decide to do nothing (at least not in the first generation of UBI). I'm worried about the people who realize that now they can dress up as clowns and terrorize random people as a full time job because the food is coming regardless of what they do.

A few points occur to me. It doesn't need to add up that way, as the money goes round in circles. Most people are receiving money and living based upon it in the USA already, so perhaps it's more to with changing how it flows around rather than anything else. It could be phased in slowly.

I think some people like it because it could act as a replacement for so many other government "aid" schemes. Disability allowances, Housing allowances, Health spending could all be cut to zero, as we would know everyone had money to spend on what they liked. Personal responsibility all the way.

Other people like the idea of money for nothing, and well, if we manage to automate everything then we might need money for nothing to keep the wheels turning.

In Germany we already have an UBI-like system where people without a job are being paid social security. It's far away from those $30k you mention, and they need to live very frugally, but you are fed, clothed, and won't freeze in winter as you have a place to live.

There are two main differences of this system from true UBI: First, it's only paid to people who don't have any money at all (beyond a couple thousand euros). Any car, flat, house, expensive TV, etc. that you own is subject to that rule and if you possess those, you are required to first sell them.

Second, it's not additional. Once you do make money, your income will only rise if you make more than what you'd have gotten from the social services. This locks in quite many people into this system because even if they would seek employment, maybe what they get in the end is only €100 more than without the social services, but they gotta get up every day at 6 am.

Right; that's an example of doing it wrong. Sure it helps people who would be suffering and that's good. But it disincentivises them. It doesn't allow them to save.

Its not about disincentivizing them, its about not providing them with applicable skills that would make their production worth more than basic hand outs. It can be demoralizing when you realize that flipping burger is worth $100 a week more than doing absolutely nothing, but we don't live in a world where a burger is worth $40 that would allow them to be paid more. Younger people tend to not have a real concept of money and what it really takes to make it.

What needs to be added along with being paid for existing, is training and potential job opportunities to be setup to get them off of the system. I think that most people in these programs would have no issue being given the ability to work. The major issue with be with people who will object to getting jobs they are "too good for." Hopefully those people are few and far between.

Maybe. In a world of increasing automation (explosive in the last 15 years) there's not much value in training for anything less than medicine or engineering. And US has 30 million flipping burgers. When that's automated too, there's not many that could retrain to be engineers. And we don't need 30M more engineers anyway.

That's why UBI is a hot topic. Its a way out of a collapse.

> In a world of increasing automation (explosive in the last 15 years) there's not much value in training for anything less than medicine or engineering.

Yes and no. I think a lot of of this automation will mean we will be going back to the world of trade schools where repair becomes a lot more important. Same goes with installation of these automated systems. The US loves to push "shovel ready" construction jobs but we should be focusing more on training for installation and repair of automation.

I've found it kind of odd that we've lost a lot of the trade skills being taught in high school. I'm in my mid 30's and I'm the only person my age I know who took classes in Small Gas Engines, Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing, etc. From that point a lot of kids went right on to get Journeymen certs and many now own their own businesses. If they would bring those classes back and also teach these types of skills to those underemployed I think you could easily transition into any type of related field.

Automation has not been explosive in the last 15 years, I'm not sure why you think this. Productivity growth (the measure of increasing automation) has been the lowest its been in decades, see here: https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user330...

As for whether we need 30 million engineers, thats entirely up to what we want to be as a society. If you don't think we can come up with engineering work for 30 million people I beg to differ.

Not a good measure, because so many are reduced to service industries. Factory automation has been a headlong rush to automation for decades.

We're down 5M factory jobs since 2000, to something like 13M. And the rest are slated to go as automation becomes cheaper. When factories 'come back' from overseas, its only because now automation is even cheaper than foreign labor.

This video about how an electric motor is made has almost solely machines doing the work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zttC2x9nMEw

A magnitude lower- its 3 actually:


Less than I would of thought- considering it used to be a rite of passage for many teenagers.

That's just fast-food. How about stocker, register operator, shoe store salespeople etc.

Yup, that's (part of) why I think that UBI is needed.

I'm not aware of a system that just blanket gives each person ~$30k a year.

In Ontario (before the new government killed it before the study could be completed), the system was going to include a progressive taxation system— essentially, the more you earn, the less you receive in UBI payments, until you are actively paying into the system. The system would have also included the end of our current welfare and disability payment systems— putting less pressure on the bureaucracy and on the people who are in need of assistance. Many people taking part in the study were using the additional help (it was actually around $23k CAD here) to start businesses and go back to school.

It's a little disingenuous to just shout about totals when I don't think anybody [serious, or to be taken seriously] has proposed such a plan.

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is proposing $1000 (regardless of what you earn) for every American over 18. https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-ubi/

Almost all of the Democrat 2020 field (that we know of so far) have come out with some kind of handouts-in-exchange-for-votes platform for their campaign https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/democrats-eye...

It's still early, but I'd expect to see them solidify over some of these types of income redistribution strategies as we near Nov 2020.

That doesn't line up with your former figures or reasoning. It's not a good example.

The existing Social Security program costs nearly $1 trillion dollars per year already (okay $900 billion ish) [1].

Sure, Social Security is not like a perfect, shining example, but it can be fixed/improved, and scaling it up by 10x (which is a gross overestimate, as other commenters have pointed out), is nothing to sneeze at. But at the same time, it's not really as ridiculous as your comments wants to paint it (i.e. "omg this is clearly patently absurd, why even entertain this nonsense?").

You've completely glossed over the fact that people generally don't hoard money, especially not those living on $15/hr. People will spend that money, and it could even grow the economy (by GDP). Your little mind experiment is not nearly rigorous enough nor realistic to justify dismissing UBI out of hand.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_(United_States...

Under a viable UBI scheme, a typical middle class worker will see income go up by $15/hr and taxes go up by $15/hr. So the vast bulk of that $10T isn't significant.

> $31,200 * 328,300,000 population of USA = $10,242,960,000,000

To start with, 24% of the population are minors, so that knocks a few trillion off that figure.

Secondly, a UBI isn't a living wage, so $15 in today to dollars is not a starting figure, because that is a wage in exchange for work.

UBI is meant to cover the very basics, like a food and varying amounts of housing (depending on the local housing market). For some, it operates as a dividend that helps make ends meet on top of their regular work, especially in high cost areas.

In low cost areas it could function as a living wage, and even cover a significant portion of housing.

> UBI is meant to cover the very basics, like a food and varying amounts of housing (depending on the local housing market). For some, it operates as a dividend that helps make ends meet on top of their regular work, especially in high cost areas.

This merely will keep wages low (what currently is happening) by subsidizing poor pay. Many cities have subsidized housing (and/or rent control). The net effect is these people can 'afford' to live in areas while making lower pay. Without subsidized housing, employers would literally have to pay more or rents would have to go down; there wouldn't be anyone able to sustain the rents.

The big difference is, with subsidized housing, society has created a captive poverty tier.

> Many cities have subsidized housing (and/or rent control). The net effect is these people can 'afford' to live in areas while making lower pay.

Many wealthy people who live in rent-controlled or property-tax capped housing benefited handsomely from the huge tax break passed by the previous Congress. Some of them have normal income but large inherited wealthbheld in securities like stocks, which also appreciated due to the corporate cuts. They can afford to live in places their income couldn't otherwise support. Your logic applies equally to that situation. You will always find people who you can argue unfairly benefit from a redistribution scheme.

At least with subsidized housing the program is government administered so it can be accounted for when considering UBI.

UBI doesn't erase the reality that some people got a better deal in housing, or life, but for a huge number of people who are scraping by, it helps put a floor under them.

Anyone that is a net payer of taxes benefits from a tax cut.

> You will always find people who you can argue unfairly benefit from a redistribution scheme.

A redistribution scheme is inherently unfair.

> At least with subsidized housing the program is government administered so it can be accounted for when considering UBI.

Subsidized housing creates artificial housing demand, raising rents. Without subsidized housing, wages would need to raise in order for people to live in a given location or rents would need to fail. Failing rents make rental units less profitable, thus more people would be able to purchase homes and get out off the rent treadmill entirely.

Solving the affordable housing problem cannot be achieved by subsidizing low wages and high rents.

>> You will always find people who you can argue unfairly benefit from a redistribution scheme.

> A redistribution scheme is inherently unfair.

I would love to see what a strong defense of this looks like, that doesn't wind up having all kinds of weird and probably unintended implications. I can't think of one. Best I can do is to define terms such that it becomes tautological.

> A redistribution scheme is inherently unfair.

All systems of tax, benefits, and even property rights are redistribution schemes, including the recent tax cut, which was a redistribution upwards in the income/wealth scale. Redistribution is always relative to the previous state of societal wealth and resource distribution. There is no set point of "fairness".

> Subsidized housing creates artificial housing demand

What exactly is "artificial housing demand"? The need for primary housing for poorer people (as fulfilled by subsidized housing) is anything but artificial. You can't fake needing a roof over your head. The only place you can see anything like "artificial" housing demand is at the high end in demand for second homes, investment real estate, and vacation properties.

> Solving the affordable housing problem cannot be achieved by subsidizing low wages and high rents.

Agreed. It can only be solved by building more housing. But the purpose of UBI isn't to solve the affordable housing problem. Society can walk and chew gum at the same time by also building more housing where people want to live, which seems like an equally high a political and economic hurdle as UBI.

UBI could in some cases, however, give some people the means to move away from high housing cost areas to areas where UBI goes a longer way towards providing housing for them. Many people are stuck in high-housing cost areas because that's the only place that job opportunities exist. This is not just true for professional workers, but also for blue collar and lower income workers who are even less able to afford housing in expensive metropolises.

> including the recent tax cut, which was a redistribution upwards in the income/wealth scale.

The net result of a tax cut, even if applied unevenly, would be less redistribution, by definition, not more.

> What exactly is "artificial housing demand"?

Supply and demand. Everyone obviously can't afford to pay $1 million in rent per month, thus market rents are substantially lower. Government intervention is creating artificial demand at a higher price point than would otherwise be sustainable.

> Agreed. It can only be solved by building more housing.

Why would a city build more housing when the wealthy control the poor with subsidized housing. They always have a steady stream of income thanks to welfare.

> UBI could in some cases, however, give some people the means to move away from high housing cost areas to areas where UBI goes a longer way towards providing housing for them.

The market has an answer for this. It's just going to raise prices in those more desirable areas.

> The net result of a tax cut, even if applied unevenly, would be less redistribution, by definition, not more.

You are leaving out what follows tax cuts, which is the cutting of government services to the poor. That's where the upward redistribution would in the near term. That might have happened if the political winds were blowing in a different direction this past November.

For now, those disproportionate tax cuts for the wealthy are being paid for with record national debt, which will be borne by the non wealthy of a future generation.

Yours is the same logic that lauded the tax cut for giving a secretary a $1.50/week after tax pay increase, a boast which was then retracted in apparent shame:


> The market has an answer for this. It's just going to raise prices in those more desirable areas.

As will tax cuts.

> To start with, 24% of the population are minors, so that knocks a few trillion off that figure.

How does that work? Is the UBI of both parents (or, worse, the single parent) supposed to cover the costs of raising their children for those primarily dependent on UBI?

Why should it? Currently UBI is $0. Is this supposed to cover these costs too?

That's the total population of the entire US, not the population of people who would be eligible for the full wage. There are a number of demographic groups who would not be eligible for various reasons, eg children (~74M as of 2010 census). That reduction alone is $3 Trillion.

Beyond that, it looks like wages being roughly half of the GDP matches our current setup fairly well: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=2Xa

I'd assume that we would eventually make that distribution as efficient as possible with automation. I'd further assume that any money you make gets channeled through this system so that you have to earn past $30K to see any more money in your account.

nit: ten trillion two hundred forty two billion nine hundred sixty million and no thousands ;-)

How about "over $10.2 trillion"?

The issue with your suggestion is that it dis-incentivises work which is one of the problems UBI tries to solve about welfare systems. Currently the issue is "why would I work more than X amount if that means that I make less than if I worked less than that (welfare + work)?" but with your system it becomes "If I am relatively unskilled, why would I try to work at all if that means that I will receive almost no compensation beyond what the government already gives me?".

UBI is supposed to support people so that they can do the work that they believe is most valuable and to prevent people from being dis-incentivised from pursuing work. It has other goals as well such as eliminating other welfare services, removing minimum wage, and incentivising moving away from cities but those first two are the primary reasons.

That's fine. It just makes the distribution system that much more efficient - the same amount for everyone. Then we could afford a flat tax rate for everyone simplifying taxation as well.

two hundred forty TWO billion to be correct :P

fixed - I was going to correct his interpretation, but then decided to spell it all out ... I'm lame

Good call mate!

My best counterargument: Who cares about numbers? What everyone needs is food and housing. There is plenty of that for everyone to live comfortable and full-filling lives. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can work on what really matters which is SAVING THE PLANET for future generations.

May I suggest that you alter or drop the "who cares" part? That kind of dismissive rhetorical question will make anyone listening more willing to dismiss what follows out-of-hand as well. I very much agree with the core idea of what you said, but I felt my hackles rise as soon as I read the first sentence and I imagine anyone who actually disagrees won't even bother considering your side after seeing that you seem to not even care to consider their side.

I'm not sure what your actual position is, but this feels like a better attitude. Let's not worry about making UBI work, but instead let's worry about making sure that everyone has food and shelter. I think using money as a middle man to solve those problems will ultimately be problematic, but I'm not opposed to finding ways to provide what people actually require.

It’s more challenging that allocate food and housing fairly than money, though.

I'm not sure if the OP is advocating to abolish money. The supply of money is in some broad sense irrelevant unless there is not enough bills to pass around or we have to carry suitcases of money to purchase toothpicks. What matters is whether there is sufficient goods and services to support the population. Of course, you have to account for changes in behavior in consumption because of inflation and deflation.

Okay, you've calculated the cost. But people aren't just going to sit on that money. They're going to spend it. Even if they keep their existing jobs, a large population having more disposable income stimulates growth in that area, does it not?

UBI shouldn't be connected with "making a living in NYC" or whether. It should be enough to cover basic needs, even if it means having to move to a cheaper state.

In that light, something like $10-$12,000 is more like it -- should cover rent, basic food, electricity, and so on. It's to not have homeless, destitute, left behind people, not to cover nice living expenses.

For a family, $10 will be of course $20, and so on. A few friends could pool and stay in the same house with $1000 rent and get $40K between them, etc.

Moving is expensive as well. When you hear about families being unable to buy diapers in bulk because they can't save the $50 needed for that and instead buy smaller quantities at twice the cost per diaper you realize that some people simply can't afford to move somewhere cheaper as crazy as that sounds.

Yeah but with UBI everyone would suddenly have a great source of credit. Who wouldn't loan someone $10k to move at a low interest rate when you know that person by being a US Citizen is receiving $10k/yr.

We could print more money. The inflation will hit people who have a lot of money saved up more than it will hit the people getting UBI.

I'm not sure it's the right option, but it's something to consider. If you have someone below the poverty line and you tell them "I'll give you 30k, but due to inflation each dollar will only be able to buy half of what it can now." I think they'll take that deal.

Tax the rich to provide a safety net = Europe

Print money to fund government programs = Venezuela

Historically, was there ever a time that hyperinflation didn't end badly?

There are plenty of times where printing money didn't produce hyperinflation. For example, the US pursued a policy called quantitative easing over the last decade which involved dumping trillions of dollars into the coffers of banks; inflation is still sluggish. This is because there are four terms in the equation of exchange: MV=PQ. If you increase M (money), P (price) will only go up if V (the velocity of money) and Q (demand) remain constant. In the US, V was very low and there was a lot of slack in our productive capacity (mostly because construction had overbuilt during the bubble years). The result was no hyperinflation or inflation of any kind.

I never quite understood why many central banks expand the money supply by purchasing financial assets instead of just handing out money to everyone.

Really? Seems pretty obvious - purchasing assets helps their friends in Goldman and Citibank. Handing out money helps the poors. If you were a fat cat banker, what would you do? This, despite the fact that the utility of money is greater for the poors and the stimulatory effect of giving it to them is greater. But if we do that, we are told, we create "moral hazard" because people will think they don't have to pay their debts. Meanwhile we bail out TBTF banks like there is no tomorrow, moral hazard be damned.

I had vaguely thought that was the reason but I can't seem to find any articles that express that outrage so I thought maybe there was a better reason. Do you know of any? On the other hand, I've found plenty of articles expressing anger at bailing out banks.

There were a ton of editorials in the NYT and WaPo to that effect a decade ago. I'm sure they're still online, but you'd have to dig through all the editorials from 2008-2010 to find them.

Presumably the UBI would be untaxed, so you can reduce the liveable wage amount by around 30%, right?

Couple things:

Most UBI proposals don't cover a living wage. They're usually something like $10k/year for all adults, which would come out to $2.5 trillion. Most proposals both cut benefits and raise taxes, so this is very doable.

Second, your example is kind of a socialism strawman, but let's take it to its logical conclusion. The current total income of the US is about $16.4 trillion (after Social Security, etc.). If we were to redistribute that across everyone in the US, that's close to $50k/yr. Considering that the average wage for men is $33k/yr and the average income for women is $19k/yr, that's a huge raise, 52% and 163% respectively.

But that's giving everyone $50k/yr -- from toddlers to the mega rich. If we just include adults, it's closer to $66k/yr. That's a 200% raise for men and 247% raise for women.

Of course, if you have an above average income you're losing money. And there are real questions about what such an egalitarian society and economy looks like. But you would eradicate poverty in the US and solve countless social problems.

Fundamentally, UBI policies are about _redistribution_ of wealth, not additional expenditures as you suggest. Any serious UBI policy proposal takes into account budget and administrative overhead. For example, this [1] proposal from AEI, a conservative think tank.

[1]: https://www.aei.org/publication/a-budget-neutral-universal-b...

UBI has not been implemented on a large scale anywhere yet, so I give you that, but the USA is hostile even to the most basic social programs, like single payer, because of the 'unfettered capitalism' ideology of many in Washington, which is heavily skewed to the right and does not represent the opinion of the population as a whole, (single payer has majority backing).

Tell me where am wrong on this, because you can't start talking about UBI in the USA, while the political class in the country is super hostile even to the concept of universal healthcare, a policy that is uncontroversial in much of the developed, (even developing!) world.

What about paid sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave etc.? Here the USA does even worse, since not only does practically every developed and developing country have these, but in fact almost every country has some form of these. If USA is hostile to implementing social policies common in much of the rest of the world, you can't start talking about UBI in any serious manner anyway.

UBI not tried yet... Alaska? Social Security? Pensions? The idle rich?

The Alaska Permanent Fund is the only one of those that even hits both of the U and I points of UBI (the rest are just I); it doesn't even target the B, though.

Of course they are basic. Many people live on social security, pensions.

And they're a segment of the population. To study the result of a population receiving a BI, there's plenty of data.

> Of course they are basic.

Which of them completely displaces means-tested welfare to provide the support floor for all who are in the eligible population. Social Security doesn't. Pensions don't. Being idly rich might, I suppose, in that that is just “living of capital” but ignoring all the people who don't have a lot to live on.

> And they're a segment of the population. To study the result of a population receiving a BI, there's plenty of data.

Not relevant to UBI there isn't. Some segment of the population receiving income varying a Ross indiciduals based on their past work and investments isn't even loosely similar to the whole population of a community receiving equal unconditional UBI, and there is little reason to expect the former to provide much insight on the latter.

and yet folks are studying UBI already by supplying individuals with a basic income and measuring their behavior. Including YC.

You can't of course study the impact on the economy, but you can surely understand how people change with the UBI.

> because of the 'unfettered capitalism' ideology of many in Washington, which is heavily skewed to the right

I'm going to assume you're not in the USA. Washington DC is over 70% Democrat (which is our left wing party) https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/housing-complex/blo...

Washington DC hasn't elected a Republican (our right wing party, about 6% of the population there) since the 1870s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_strength_in_Wa....

It's probably a figure of speech, not to be taken literally. See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metonymy#Places_and_institutio...

Correct. That's how I meant it.

> I'm going to assume you're not in the USA.

Am not, but follow the politics there closely.

> Washington DC is over 70% Democrat

Am not talking about the actual place "Washington DC", am talking about it as a seat of power, the seat of government. The politicians in the House and Senate and their leanings.

> which is our left wing party

The Democratic Party is nowhere near "left-wing" by what most of the developed world understands that to mean. The Democratic Party has policies equivalent to the Conservative Party in Britain, (The Conservative Party is a right-wing party).

It is precisely because of the extremely right-wing ideology of most lawmakers in Washington that you have moved to such a position where the center-right, (Democrats), are called "left-wing" and the far-right, (Republicans), are refereed to as "center-right". Only in the USA. You don't have a viable left-wing party over there.

There's people like Bernie Sanders and AOC that are what I'd call center-left, but because how far right the acceptable debate in the USA has shifted, they're "socialists".

AOC literally refers to herself as a socialist https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/01/democratic-sociali...

AOC is not part of the dominant faction of the Democratic Party; both major US parties are basically broad coalition, the Republicans basically Right to Far Right (with he latter being currently dominant) while the Democrats are basically Center-Right (dominant) to Center Left. (The “Democratic Socialists” within and aligned with the Democratic Party are more Social Democrats by any non-US standard than actual Socialists.)

There is effectively no real representation of the left, beyond the center-left, in US electoral politics.

You misunderstood, again.

Yes she does, because she's working within the American context. What I am saying is that she would not be refereed to as"socialist" in much of the rest of the developed world. She is only a "socialist" because of how right-wing the USA political context is.

An easy way you can tell, even as an American, is that she's not advocating for abolishing capitalism and seizing the means of production, which are the central pillars of socialism. She's advocating for some social policies that have been common elsewhere for decades.

I'm no student of politics, so I could well be way off base, but isn't 'abolishing capitalism and seizing the means of production' central pillars of communism, not socialism?

> isn't 'abolishing capitalism and seizing the means of production' central pillars of communism, not socialism?

Depends. Socialism has a wide variety of forms. Some are closer to communism than others. Whether we talk about socialism, or communism, more "worker-control" over resources is usually a central pillar of both. It's just that the closer one gets to communism within socialism, the more "means of production" they support turning over to the worker.

It's worth noting that even the USSR did not refer to itself as communist, it was simply 'on a path there', if you will.

From all I know, in the US they think of this when they think "socialist". There's little difference in their mind. I simply wanted to dispel the notion that somebody like AOC is anywhere near "socialist" in the Soviet sense. What she's advocating for is just to import some social policies as per the Nordic model, but not to fundamentally change the existing system to be closer to USSR, which is what many on the right seem to imagine.

> I'm going to assume you're not in the USA. Washington DC is over 70% Democrat (which is our left wing party)

In American English, in political contexts, “Washington” is a frequently used idiom for “decision-makers in the US Federal Government”. (This applies mutatis mutandis, to the names of political capitals generally, which stand in for the leadership of the government seared their; in the context of discussions of a particular corporation or other organization, this also applies to the names of cities wherein regional or central HQs are related).

Anyone who misses this has really no place commenting that other people must not be American because of ignorance free of the partisan alignment of the electorate in the capital district.

> electorate in the capital district

You know they don't have any real federal representation, right? Calling them an electorate when referring to anything other than local DC politics is probably not appropriate.

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