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We Need a Basic Income Guarantee (dangerousminds.net)
268 points by tokenadult on Sept 1, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 529 comments



Can someone please explain to me why a BI wouldn't simply result in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, resulting in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, etc?

You have two mechanisms by which you can fund such a proposal:

* The government prints money and hands it out. Basically, just direct inflation; the BI becomes an arms race to keep up with inflation caused by BI.

* The people who successfully make money have a larger portion of it taken away by the government and given to people who don't make money. They recoup their losses by raising prices and re-extracting it from the people it has been given to, except now the government gets a cut of it twice. BI has to be increased to keep pace with rising prices caused by funding BI.

(There is a third proposal: Borrow it without any plan to actually repay it, which is not self-sustaining for obvious reasons)

In either case, I can't understand how a BI would lead to a more stable economy. The endgame of the first option is Zimbabwe. The endgame of the second option is Marxist communism; the point at which the system reaches stability is the point at which there is nobody left to extract extra money from to distribute.

I feel like I'm missing something critical that makes it a viable strategy. I don't think anyone at all is in favor of uncontrolled hyperinflation, so I'm left to conclude that the favored option is the second choice. We know from history that communism just doesn't work once you reach a large enough population that people are not personally accountable to each other; why would it be different here?

(I want to make it clear that if I could snap my fingers and make the world such that nobody had to live in poverty and had food, clothing, shelter, and an internet connection, I'd do it. I don't have anything against the moral goals of BI. I just don't see how it's sustainable, since the money for it has to some from somewhere.)


I think this is the classical error of false dichotomy. Useful for rhetorical purposes, but it is more just a statement of two possibilities and an assertion that they're the only two, with no backup.

I reject completely the idea that either printing money or borrowing money is a viable solution for most economies in the medium or long term. According to you, that must mean I support a Stalinist regime[1]. This is false, to say the least. Other (relative) proponents of a basic income, including such luminaries as Hayek and Milton Friedman, would likely also look at your claim with great skepticism.

A basic income is just the redistributionism practiced by current mixed market economies but implemented much more efficiently (in both the Pareto and administrative senses) than what exists now.

Price levels would be affected by a basic income, but you've got to specify what and how much. Considering supply effects, the likely first order result of a basic income is an increase in the cost of basic goods and also an overall increase in the consumption of them. Goods that are typically bought with, say, the marginal dollar at twice the basic income level will decrease in price but also be consumed less. The market would reallocate capital to more efficiently produce basic goods (defined as the goods that are typically bought with marginal dollars beneath the basic income level).

You might dislike this kind of very limited redistribution. Fair enough, and that is a great debate to have! But you've also got to be thoughtful about the full package. It's not whether you prefer no redistribution to a basic income. It's whether you prefer a basic income to a costly and heavily-administrated redistribution driven by special interest groups.

[1]Also, "Marxist communism"? I'd be curious to ask if you've got even a passing acquaintance with the structure of the Soviet economy. It's fine to criticize a basic income on inflationary grounds, but saying it's communism is so off that it qualifies as not even wrong.


> According to you, that must mean I support a Stalinist regime[1]. This is false, to say the least.

Agreed, and I apologize for the rhetorical device. I'm not sitting here twirling my mustache trying to get people to say "BI == Stalin!!" - it seems to to me to lead in that direction, though, and I'm genuinely wanting to understand why it doesn't (or if it does, why that's okay).

> Considering supply effects, the likely first order result of a basic income is an increase in the cost of basic goods and also an overall increase in the consumption of them

The increase in cost seems obvious (as the necessary contraction of available capital would invariably cause), but I guess I'm hung up on the idea that there would be an overall increase in consumption (or at least, enough of an increase to offset the costs). People are already buying basic goods, be it on government welfare or not; would BI substantially increase purchases of those goods? As I understand BI, the general idea is to provide enough money for everyone to be able to purchase a minimum level of food, clothing, and shelter, so as to attain some particular quality of life. So, my first question would be "how many people do we currently have who are not able to attain this minimum quality of life?", which seems like would be the only market for whom consumption absolutely would increase under a BI plan. As I understand BI, for those currently on welfare, it's approximately analogous - there wouldn't necessarily be much of a change in income. I feel like this is a piece I'm missing - why would consumption of basic goods significantly increase? Basic goods by definition have a price elasticity of less than 1; you don't get linear returns in demand by increasing income.

Re: [1] Woefully unfamiliar, and making an effort to fix that by reading basically all the economic philosophy I can get my hands on. I'm aware that the USSR wasn't a great implementation of Marx's ideals, but I also believe that even the best system gets screwed up by people - if we could actually implement ideal communism, it'd probably be awesome. I guess I more meant "Marx's ideal of the elimination of social classes as we've seen it (mis)implemented".


As to the point about Soviet economy,Marx didn't actually have any real plan for how socialism should work, aside from a couple pamphlets he wrote that lacked any real detail. I guess the plan was to play it by ear once the almighty revolution happened. From a business perspective, it strikes me as something close to "Let's implement a product with literally tens of millions of features in a single sprint, and if we fail millions of people will starve to death!" [1]

A good accessible book to read, if you're interested in Soviet economic planning, is Red Plenty. Yes, it's fiction, but very much targeted at people who think linear programming and algorithmic complexity aren't out of place in a fiction book.

[1] That's a bit unfair, in a perverse way, as most of the mass famines we hear about with tens of millions of deaths weren't an accidental byproduct of bad planning but a conscious decision to destroy political enemies or demographics that statistically were less likely to support the regime. From an implementation point of view, the mass economic dislocations the USSR experienced in the revolutionary period were less than I might expect.


It's true that most people do manage to consume a basket of goods costing at least as much as reasonable basic income levels. Even the homeless end up consuming many tens of thousands of dollars every year, in costs of health care and social services. (More, in fact, than the simply impoverished do.)

But that suggests a key point: the basket of goods and time that people consume while below the poverty line is not necessarily what they would choose to consume if they simply received some amount of money equivalent to what one could reasonably expect to survive on. For instance, a huge chunk of the money we ostensibly give to people goes to Medicaid, which effectively redirects aid to an expensive program that doesn't even seem to improve health outcomes. What the money would flow into instead would cause inflation in those goods, but at the same time capital would flow to the production and provision of those same goods as more people were buying more of them. The net result is increased consumption of the replacement goods coupled with an increase in price somewhere between 0% and the percentage increase of the demand going for them. The exact value depends on elasticities and how many new ways capital can find to supply those goods.

There are welfare programs that do pass out real money, but they force a different kind of consumption: of time. Instead of consuming hours as an individual knows best, we ask them to send out dozens of ineffective applications. I don't know if they even have good choices: maybe these people are just screwed. But I do know that they probably know a lot better about how to get out of their situation--within the constraints of their particular levels of knowledge and self-control--than I do.

There are also psychological aspects that are pretty important. Living in a constant state of staving off being kicked onto the street forces a focus on short-term thinking, at the expense of medium- and long-term thinking. This is more behavioral than micro economics, but it's as real a factor as any other, and definitely changes what and how people choose to consume.

It's worth noting that I've left off all discussion of people above the basic income level (which, to be clear, I'm imagining as being around $10k), who constitute a significant majority of Americans. Two points I'd like to mention:

1) A lot of people fall into a benefits trap, where if they work they'll be punished. Literally they face a greater than 100% tax rate. For people on disability, this can actually be from 1,000% to 10,000%. This is horrific from an economic point of view, and horrific from the perspective of human dignity and autonomy. A basic income is one way of totally removing those obstacles to participating in the labor force.

2) People at $40k and above theoretically shouldn't be affected much by my suggested basic income, aside from a real but manageable tax hike. In practice, though, I suspect the behavioral aspect would be significant, if they know that they can quit their jobs without having to worry about bare minimum needs (though this is clearly just a strong suspicion on my part--I have difficulty imagining a good test for it). Instead of worrying about destroying their savings, they can go out and try new, risky ideas. I think we live in an era where there's a great need for individual entrepreneurship in both monetizable and non-monetizable goods, so that's something I embrace.


Now there's an interesting argument! If I understand you correctly, your argument is that BI would effectively improve our net economic efficiency (in addition to individual quality-of-life for the poorest) by eliminating waste (in time, money, red tape, etc) from the slew of bureaucratic programs we currently have? That's an extremely interesting point, and one I hadn't considered. BI as a dollar-for-dollar alternative to current entitlement programs sounds very attractive.

I hadn't considered the >100% tax rate on the impoverished, either. I wasn't even aware that this happens - it sounds absolutely horrific, and should be abolished posthaste if it's anything like you describe. Can you point me at some reading material on that sort of thing?

As for the $40k-and-above folks, I definitely think that it could encourage exploration by people with little to lose, but I don't think it would significantly affect people with mortgages and families - quitting your job to pursue a dream that fails still means losing your house and not being able to consistently feed your kids even on $10k BI. I definitely think it would help a certain set of people, and I would love to see entrepreneurship encouraged and facilitated; my concern is that it would do so by disproportionately penalizing existing entrepreneurs, by front-loading the majority of the cost for such a system onto them, and making them bear the brunt of the penalty for it if it fails.


> I hadn't considered the >100% tax rate on the impoverished, either. I wasn't even aware that this happens - it sounds absolutely horrific, and should be abolished posthaste if it's anything like you describe.

It's a > 100% marginal tax rate. Emphasis on "marginal".

It happens every time the government decides to give something to the poor. A person that just crosses over the criteria used to determine who is poor has a >100% tax rate over that extra income. That means, if they work more they lose money - something called "poverty trap" because it effectively entraps people into poverty.

The solution to avoiding it is to simply give the money for everybody, and create a progressive tax that gets it back from the richer people. Or, in other words, basic income.


I've never understood why they don't simply structure those things to supply benefit reduced by the amount you make over the benefits maximum until the benefit no longer applies.

A person who receives $100 worth of benefit so long as they make make under $200 faces a harsh cut from $299 to only $200 should their income surpass it. Simply culling overage from the benefit, on the other hand, would mean they would reach a plateau in which they are adjusted to $300 from $200 to $300 worth of raised personal income, which while not be greatly encouraging, would have none of the damning nature of the strict cutoff approach.


It's stupid, but that's because it's very difficult to write out benefits that intelligently phase out. The reason is simple math.

Suppose you have a $5k/year benefit at $0 that phases out to $0k/year at $20k. The worst way to do that is obviously to have a cliff: at $20k, you suddenly get $5k/year less, effectively an infinite marginal rate. It's as extreme a trap as you can imagine.

But now consider the opposite, best case scenario that's the softest landing spread out over that entire income range: a benefit that phases out linearly. So at $10k/year, you get a total of $12.5k; at $15k/year, you get a total of $16.25k/year. That means you automatically get a walloping marginal tax rate.

If you wanted to limit benefit phase outs to contribute a maximum of 5% in marginal tax rates, you've got to spread it out over 20x the value of the benefit. A $5k benefit has to phase out over $100k.

Also note that that's by itself: you've also got regular taxes to pay. Worse, few of these welfare benefits have been designed so intelligently, and there are a lot of them, so you constantly hit discontinuities in marginal tax rates that make it really irrational to do any additional work or try to improve yourself.


That still leaves a 100% marginal "tax" rate. It's better than >100%, but still seems less than ideal. Trying to fix that quickly gets you into Basic Income territory.


The importance is that it turns a local maxima into a plateau and replaces a disincentive to improve your lot beyond the assistance with a mere lack of incentive as you improve beyond it. It provides assistance without a hook to keep you on it.


I should point out that the structure of the taxes to fund a basic income are a very, very important implementation detail. As a pragmatic matter, I'd want to phase out existing programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSDI, food stamps, educational grants, etc. and simply redirect their funding streams to a basic income--best to pick one battle at a time.

But my ideal taxation scheme includes an abolition of corporate, income, and sales taxes, and a replacement of them with aggressive taxation on goods that are highly inelastic and cheaply taxable. Think land taxes, except updated for contemporary times. Yeah, wish me luck with that.


Why except land taxes? Replacing property taxes with land taxes makes a lot of sense to me...


Because the real world isn't Econ 101.

Not all goods are perfectly elastic. Take a look at the research surrounding the minimum wage.

If we were to increase the minimum wage by $0.50 (~6.7%) we'd only have about a 1% increase in food prices (http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/306735/aib74703_1_.pdf). Also take a look at the study regarding fast food prices by Card and Krueger.

Increasing the minimum wage in general does not cause a net rise in unemployment (http://www.deakin.edu.au/buslaw/aef/workingpapers/papers/200...).

The people who would receive the BI are the in the lowest income brackets. The bottom three income quintiles on average spend more in a year than they earn. This mean redistributing money to the lower income quintiles effectively results in more money being put back into the economy.

You can see this by studying the economic effect of various subsidies. Food stamps have the highest return on the dollar, with $1.73 in economic activity generated for every dollar spent on food stamps. And subsidies to the higher tax brackets like the Bush tax cuts have a negative return. http://frac.org/initiatives/american-recovery-and-reinvestme...


Thank you! Lots of things for me to chew on and mull over here. One thing stuck out to me, though:

> The people who would receive the BI are the in the lowest income brackets.

As I understand BI, this is not true. BI is a payment made to every citizen and/or resident of a country, irrespective of any other consideration (including income, wealth, etc). What you seem to be describing is Guaranteed Minimum Income, which is an entirely different ball of wax. I'm now wondering how much of the discussion is people talking past each other because of conflation of these two terms.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_income


All formes of BI are paid for with a tax, if your making say ~50k the money that tax equals the amount you receive from BI. But if your making 200k you end up receiving far less from BI than you pay in taxes even if there depositing money into your account every month.

PS: Of note BI is assumed to replace social security so someone making 50-80k may effectively pay significantly less in taxes prior to retirement but receive far fewer benefits in retirement.


Of note BI is assumed to replace social security so someone making 50-80k may effectively pay significantly less in taxes prior to retirement but receive far fewer benefits in retirement.

This is why I think BI doesn't have a very good chance in the US. The AARP is a very powerful lobby and their members wouldn't go for a reduction in benefits after retirement.


Do you have voluntary contribution schemes for retirement in the US? e.g., That $80k retiree could've been pumping money into investments designed to top up their BI once they retire?


Yes, there are a number of voluntary, tax-privileged retirement savings options, some of which may only be provided by employers, but not all employers provide (e.g. 401k/403b).


>The people who would receive the BI are the in the lowest income brackets.

Everyone would receive it. Otherwise it's not BI.


Even with BI guaranteed to all, not everyone would receive it because of income tax withholdings.


This is an incoherent argument.

The people who successfully make money have a larger portion of it taken away by the government and given to people who don't make money. They recoup their losses by raising prices and re-extracting it from the people it has been given to

That doesn't happen in the real world -- raising taxes doesn't cause runaway inflation. (How could you possibly think that it does?)

BI has to be increased to keep pace with rising prices caused by funding BI [...] The endgame of the second option is Marxist communism

Even if raising taxes did cause runaway inflation, this would still be wrong. Say that each year you set aside 20% of the GDP for basic income. Then your basic income plan already automatically increases with inflation.

So the percentage of GDP used for basic income would be stable. We would never get communism.

The endgame isn't the Soviet Union, it's Denmark.


> That doesn't happen in the real world -- raising taxes doesn't cause runaway inflation. (How could you possibly think that it does?)

I agree that it doesn't cause runaway inflation (which we can see empirically), but it does cause economic contraction, which has many of the same effects as inflation. There's a good reason that one of a government's first relief measures in a recession is to ease taxes.

> Say that each year you set aside 20% of the GDP for basic income. Then your basic income plan already automatically increases with inflation.

It's important that we not conflate "inflation" with "consumer price index" here. The GDP is not fixed to the CPI - they have an inverse relationship. This means that if the GDP contracts significantly (reducing BI), the CPI could well expand outside of the bounds of what BI provides, necessitating the need for a greater BI contribution. Setting aside 20% of the GDP works until it doesn't.


Denmark, who is finally recognizing that they are having problems with their welfare system.[1] You know something is broken (and unsustainable) when the people on welfare are getting more income than the people with jobs.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/world/europe/danes-rethink...


Basic income, rather than welfare, would eliminate that problem.


The endgame isn't the Soviet Union, it's Denmark.

You're assuming that Denmark is a stable endgame. Is it? On what timescale?


>Can someone please explain to me why a BI wouldn't simply result in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, resulting in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, etc?

Of course it would. But there is no reason to think that an equilibrium couldn't / wouldn't be reached.

>The endgame of the first option is Zimbabwe.

We can get Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany without BI.

> The endgame of the second option is Marxist communism; the point at which the system reaches stability is the point at which there is nobody left to extract extra money from to distribute.

For that to be necessarily true, we'd need to already be in a sort of Malthusian crisis, and/or have a resource scarcity. Sure, it might happen, but it is not a certainty.

>why would it be different here?

People still strive for wealth, why would they stop just because of all-you-can-eat-beans-and-rice buffet and health care?


> Of course it would. But there is no reason to think that an equilibrium couldn't / wouldn't be reached.

I agree equilibrium would be reached. I guess what I'm asking is "Why wouldn't the equilibrium be Marxist communism?" (and if it is, can we just admit that we're advocating for communism?)

> For that to be necessarily true, we'd need to already be in a sort of Malthusian crisis, and/or have a resource scarcity. Sure, it might happen, but it is not a certainty.

Can you elaborate on why this is necessary? This ties into my question of "Why wouldn't the equilibrium be Marxist communism?"

> People still strive for wealth, why would they stop just because of all-you-can-eat-beans-and-rice buffet and health care?

Wealth is a means to an end to achieve a certain quality of life. For most people, it is not the end itself. The caricature of the Scrooge McDuck character who collects money out of a psychopathic addiction to raw wealth so that he can swim around in it is not representative of almost anyone's actual financial goals or motivations.

People don't create wealth for the hell of it - they create it to improve their quality of life. If I am producing wealth, but it is not contributing to my quality of life, I have zero incentive or motivation to continue producing wealth.


> Why wouldn't the equilibrium be Marxist communism?

Communism is all about state ownership of the means of production at every level. Wealth and entrepreneurship are heavily discouraged, if not outright banned. Those who advocate for a BI have nothing against wealth and entrepreneurship, and would probably withdraw their support for it if they believed that it would result in the outcome that you predict. BI isn't about everyone being equal, but rather about establishing a minimum income level.

> If I am producing wealth, but it is not contributing to my quality of life, I have zero incentive or motivation to continue producing wealth.

I think that the ideas that you have about incentives and wealth don't track with reality. Just look to yourself--I would be surprised if you live your entire life as a wealth-maximizing entity. Most people are very complex in their motiviations, and many, many wealthy people continue building wealth because it is a side-effect of something that they love to do, not because they want to make even more money.

Regarding equilibrium:

What makes you think that we aren't already near the price equilibrium that would be reached under a BI system? Ostensibly, at least at first, the only people who would see a gain in income net of taxes under BI would be people who are currently receiving some sort of social welfare payment such as social security, unemployment, or AFDC/TANF, which payments would be eliminated concurrently. If no net cash is injected into the economy, how would it have any effect on prices? In fact, BI could have a stabilizing effect on prices if it reduced the deflationary pressure on consumer goods that accompanies economic downturns.


> Those who advocate for a BI have nothing against wealth and entrepreneurship, and would probably withdraw their support for it if they believed that it would result in the outcome that you predict. BI isn't about everyone being equal, but rather about establishing a minimum income level.

I get this; I just wonder about the effect that funding it would have on wealth and entrepreneurship, given that decreasing the value of a unit of work through taxation tends to retard economic growth, and heavy taxation would be necessary to provide for these kinds of programs. If we can manage to pay for them without over-disincentivizing entrepreneurship, everything is dandy. Given the scope of the proposal, that seems sketchy - we have already seen a tangible effect from things like the ACA on employment (that is employers are willing to sacrifice raw economic output in order to avoid higher effective taxes) and that's a relatively small drop in the bucket compared to what would be needed to bootstrap a BI system. I may just be mentally overinflating the issue, but it seems like the capital necessary to fund a BI system would be so gargantuan that it would have a significantly detrimental effect on low-margin businesses, kicking us into a feedback look of reduced supply and higher prices.

> many wealthy people continue building wealth because it is a side-effect of something that they love to do, not because they want to make even more money.

Definitely, and isn't that the ideal here? To get us, as a society, to the place where we can devote all our time to things that we love to do, rather than the things that we have to do? I half-joke that I love what I do so much that I'd do it even if I wasn't making money at it, and I think that's true for a lot of people, but I can also say that I think the fact of the matter is that most people do what they do because they have to, not because they want to; squeezing out the wealth incentive leaves little there for most. If we can get everyone to a point where people do what they love and society still functions smoothly, I'll be the first to sign up for that. :)

> What makes you think that we aren't already near the price equilibrium that would be reached under a BI system?

Back-of-the-napkin math suggests to me that it would require much more capital to implement BI than current entitlement programs require. If this is not the case, and it's just a matter of liquidating current entitlement programs, then there's absolutely no issue at all. My entire argument is predicated on the assumption that BI would require far more in the way of entitlement resources than we currently have available.


> can we just admit that we're advocating for communism?

Communism has gotten such a bad rap that even when people advocate for something like it, they cannot admit that it's like communism.

See the quote from Keynes in the article, even. Obviously Keynes wasn't exactly a communism advocate, but "society will be so productive that it won't be organized around work but around leisure" is almost taken straight from Marx in many ways.

I guess what I'm saying is a variant of Graeber's "Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You!" Remove the ideology behind some words and the positions that people advocate can be fascinating.


I agree, and I'm really not trying to "trick" people into admitting a communist philosophy as some sort of way to invalidate the idea. I'm just trying to get at the heart of the matter. If it's communism as Karl Marx outlined in his writings, let's call it that, because that's what it is. Communism is not an invention of Soviet Russia or China - they're certainly examples of it failing spectacularly, but my intent is to say "If we're advocating for a system like Marx described, can we admit that it's what Marx wrote about?" - I'm not trying to equate people who advocate for BI with Lenin or anything. If someone believe that communism is the right economic model, then great, argue from that position. Just be straightforward about what the position is.


> I'm really not trying to "trick" people into admitting a communist philosophy

Well, you sound sincere, but your arguments are so ahistorical that it's really tough to believe you.

First of all, you keep saying "Marxist communism" and "what Marx called 'communism'", and so on. "Communism" is not the name of something Marx proposed. It's the name of something someone else proposed, while boosting its credibility by invoking Marx.

Second of all, nothing approaching Marxism has been tried on a large scale. Again, see "communism is not marxism".

But more importantly, the essential property of both Marxism and Communism is that the means of production are owned by the state, ("by the people collectively", ha ha ha). No BI plan is proposing that. So they're fundamentally absolutely not marxist, and not communist.

I simply don't understand what you think the BI plan has in common with Marxism, or with Socialism, aside from a concern for the welfare of poor members of society (a concern which I hope you will agree is not exclusive to Marxism and Socialism).


I'll fully concede that my terminology is poorly chosen. I genuinely am sincere here, and I'm happy to wear my ignorance on my sleeve in the hopes of learning something. I'm happy to admit that I don't have it all figured out!

I'm aware that the USSR didn't implement pure Marxism, but implemented something called "communism" and invoked Marx as its deity. I think that a purely classless society as Marx envisioned is probably unachievable. I really am trying to avoid equating support BI with some ridiculous 1950s idea of Soviet communism, and I'm probably doing a pretty crappy job of it.

All that said, the whole concept seems to me to lead down a path that drives entrepreneurs out of the market by making the cost of doing business greater than the profit of it, which would necessarily lead to the nationalization of industries deemed essential. A society in which private entrepreneurs are taxed to a point of zero net revenue is effectively indistinguishable from the state's name being on the deed. I recognize that that the concept of that level of taxation is severe, but I'm also trying to figure out why it wouldn't eventually happen.

As simply as I can state it, BI seems flawed to me because the cost of living is pegged to the cost of goods, and the cost of goods in a competitive market doesn't have a lot of downwards elasticity. The funding for BI would have to come from producers, which would drive up the cost of those goods, which would drive people out of the market, which would reduce competition and increase the cost of goods, all of which increases the minimum BI necessary to achieve a consistent quality of life. That seems to be to be a feedback loop of which the end effect is the effective nationalization of business in order to control prices.

Many people obviously disagree that that's the end result. Experience would tell me that I've made an assumption that they haven't, and I'd like to figure out what that assumption is, and how viable that assumption is.


> I'm aware that the USSR didn't implement pure Marxism, but implemented something called "communism" and invoked Marx as its deity.

Uh. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, not communist republics.


...which was ruled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

My knowledge of Soviet history is incomplete, but surely you're not suggesting that the USSR didn't claim to implement communism.


I am absolutely suggesting that. It's revisionist to claim otherwise. They implemented socialism with the aim of eventually bringing about communism, in line with historical materialism and dialectical materialism. But you need a few generations of socialism (and possibly Permanent Revolution rather than Comminusm in One Country, which was the big feud between Stalin and Trotsky, for example) before you could possibly transition to communism.


Point ceded pending further self-education!


Let me know if I can help somehow!

Oh, and hey: many people do claim that the USSR wasn't actually _socialist_. You'll find two groups who do this: anarchists, and new Marxists who still have some liberal left in them. The USSR certainly claimed to be socialist, and was according to socialist principles.

The two groups will make this incorrect, revisionist claim because of two reasons. Anarchists want to bolster socialism while trashing statism, so they want to play up 'state socialism's failures. New Marxists will want to play down any perceived 'failures' of Marxism by distancing themselves from said 'failures.'


You omitted those who consider that there are different forms of socialism. Bertrand Russell covers this ground in "The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism" (which you'll find on Project Gutenberg). Since he was writing in the 1920s I don't think it can be considered too revisionist.


I'm not sure about Russell's account of socialism, but yes, utopian vs. scientific socialism is important.


Suggested reading material would be welcome. I have a reading list of economic and political philosophy I'm plowing through in roughly chronological order, but I'm only up to mid-19th century so far.


First, read http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm . It's only a few pages so it doesn't even count!

If you only want one book, that book is Capital I. I suggest David Harvey's lectures along with it, they'll help out quite a bit. If you have read Smith and Ricardo, that'll make it much easier, too. For bonus points, read the short "Wages, price, and profit" by Marx, it's a bit easier of an intro than the book's.

If you can fit in a second, I'd suggest "the State and Revolution" by Lenin.

Marx identifies a problem and a crude solution, and Lenin provides a good solution. Those two will give you the most of it. Wikipedia, especially on the historical/dialectical materialism stuff, is helpful.

A more full list is here: http://www.reddit.com/r/communism/comments/wisiw/basic_marxi...

Also, /r/communism101 is very good and there to answer questions, if you Reddit.


Absolutely, I just don't think most can be honest about it.

Also, minor procedural note, Marx wrote mostly about capitalism and analyzing it, and a tiny bit about socialism, but next to nothing on communism... Anyway.


>"Why wouldn't the equilibrium be Marxist communism?"

Why would it? I think that it might neatly solve the problem of the current system whereby low skilled people are actually dissuaded from working. I know for a fact there are people on welfare who would rather have gainful employment. It might even wind up being cheaper than the current system (from a tax perspective). Another thing that I am certain of is that technology will displace low-skill labor, and that we will have to have a society-wide solution for how we treat the displaced laborers.

>...can we just admit that we're advocating for communism?

It may well be the result. But I'd consider myself to be very far from a communist. My predictions about the future may be wrong, just as you may be in yours; but, no, I am not advocating for communism..

>Can you elaborate on why this is necessary?

If I understand your argument correctly, "...the point at which the system reaches stability is the point at which there is nobody left to extract extra money from to distribute." aren't you implying that there isn't enough productivity/resources to support the entire population currently?

>Wealth is a means to an end to...

I sacrificed precision for brevity when I used the word wealth. Maybe I should have said: I reject the hypothesis that providing BI for a person will squelch or kill his/her ambition. On the contrary, I expect some people to perform 'better' in that respect once the stress of survival is removed.

As for your assertion that the already productive will lose the incentive to produce, I don't believe that either.


> Why would it?

Consider how much the rest of your paragraph sounds like "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."


Yeah, after I read your response to the parent, I thought about that. From an argumentative perspective, it makes sense for me to try move the conversation away from labels like "Marxist Communism" which are obviously meant to be derisory. Most of us probably avoid the word communism because of our culture's negative connotation of the word, without giving the ideas honest evaluation.


I deeply apologize for coming across as derisory. I was trying to communicate "Marx's ideals of classless economics" rather than some Red Scare caricature of communism, and I did a piss-poor job of it.


No apologies are necessary. It's hard to detect sentiment over teletype, I usually assume something close to the worst case myself.

To answer you WRT "Marx's ideals of classless economics" or what my idea of that is[1], In my opinion BI falls pretty far short of "Marx's ideals of classless economics"

[1] As steveklabnik has astutely pointed out, and I will readily admit that my notions of Marx and communism are colored by my Reagan era childhood's definition of communism. I wouldn't trust my own or anyone else's definition until I've done a bit more reading.


Agree 100%, I think most people's brains shut off when they hear the c word. I have another response in this thread to this effect.


I think the existence of a market equilibrium would require the existence of a market. The existence of a market would preclude the existence of a truly Marxist economy.


Quoting myself from a comment below:

>> Can someone please explain to me why a BI wouldn't simply result in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, resulting in higher prices, resulting in the need for a higher BI, etc?

> A basic income guarantee is the same as having a basic (food/healthcare/public services/whatever) guarantee (basically, state welfare already implemented in many countries) - the difference is the government is paying in money instead of trying to provide the services themselves.


My understanding of BI is that it's a flat amount paid to every person (adult? working age adult? I'm not sure) without consideration for any other factor. From the Wikipedia article on the topic, "Basic income is entirely unconditional: the only requirement for receiving it is to be a citizen and/or resident of the country."

State welfare programs have a long list of conditions for who is and is not eligible for welfare assistance. If you're just talking about liquidating all state welfare and distributing raw cash instead with no net change, then sure, okay, no big loss there except for the elimination of thousands of government jobs. That's not what BI is, though - BI is Oprah. "You get $1000! You get $1000! Everyone gets $1000!" Unless I grossly misunderstand the concept, liquidating existing state welfare services wouldn't even begin to approach the financial needs of BI.


Most of the people commenting are probably urban or suburban residents, and as such, the minimum living wage is considered a lot higher than in a rural area. Basic Income shouldn't provide people the ability to live in an urban or suburban area comfortably, that's a luxury. It should provide sometime the ability to live in a rural community acceptably, not comfortably.

It shouldn't replace everyone's desire to work. It should have some built in compelling agent to keep people working m even if it isn't that much work.


1. Cities need places for the poor to live, that cannot go away unless you can completely automate unskilled labor, or make serious changes to transportation infrastructure.

2. Living in rural areas isn't always as cheap as you think. Gas, Food, Internet, Phone, TV, etc.


Are all of those needs or wants? And what are the costs compared to urban living?

Gas especially for my first question.


You could argue that none of the listed utilities are 'needs' if we're okay with the entire populace living in the equivalent of the dark ages, and only having a ruling noble class in the US that are the people who were rich enough to afford to keep their utilities and thus maintain access to the modern economy, while people on basic income only get 'necessities'. It would certainly solve our labor problems without needing us to fix immigration!

We'd save a lot of tax dollars if we denied them money for gasoline to drive a car to the hospital, money for natural gas/wood to run a heater in the winter, and money for funeral services when they finally die from neglect!

It's simply not possible to argue at this point that urban living is a 'luxury'. Non-urban living is not a realistic option for a large portion of the US population. If you dislike this reality, that is fine - I'd certainly be in favor of efforts to change it - but you can't just willfully disregard it and pretend that people who live in urban areas are greedy or spoiled or something. Living in rural areas in the modern United States comes with dozens of hidden costs, some in the form of actual money spent and others in the form of lost opportunities, impaired health, etc.


They're needs, qualified by kevingadd that rural life != dark ages.

By gas, I meant fuel for transportation. One simply cannot survive in a rural area without an automobile and the ability to use it.

Food, ironically is more expensive, and lower quality. I still haven't figured out why (other than market opportunism).

Internet, same as food, more expensive, and lower quality.

TV, I agree is not a necessity, but another example of a common expense that tends to be lower quality in rural areas when compared to urban areas.

OTOH, housing is generally cheaper.


I was fairly certain that the point of BI is that you didn't need to work unless you wanted to or had something you decided you wanted above the basic needs.

Frankly, we don't need as many people working as much as they do. (speaking about productive work)


Well, yes, you don't need to work unless you want to. But is urban living a basic need?

I can't tell if you're agreeing with me or not...


Thats pretty much what BI is. Many people I talk with use BI interchangeable with a negative income tax, which would give more money to people with less income.


Basic income is meant for purchasing goods that are essential, which means that those goods are already being purchased in the volume required. Prices are set at the margins (imagine fighting for the last loaf of bread), and if everyone is buying the same amount as before, then prices won't change. What will change however is the prices of discretionary goods as any additional income people make goes towards these.


BI isn't so much of a radically new idea because nearly all if not each and every (at least non-developing) country in the world already does provide some sort of welfare and/or unemployment benefits.

Currently this is generally done in a highly inefficient manner though dozens or hundreds of different subsidies and benefits, and it costs a lot to process everything through a thick wall of bureaucracy, and it still ends up being unfair and unmotivational to many. The canonical class of problems is that it doesn't make sense to work because your benefits received would drop in direct proportion to what you get paid. Or it's simply forbidden work even a little in order to be eligible to receive benefits.

The point of BI is to redistribute the already redistributed money in a fair and simple way: everyone gets something that may or just may not be enough to live on its own, but there are no questions asked and if you work on top of that, you scoop most of the extra money to yourself after taxes.

If you're really, really a scrooge you might just make it with the BI only if you're willing to drop your standard of living a couple of decades back. But most people want more money and they'll work for it, if it's five hours a week or 20 hours a week, and they don't lose BI if they do. For any middle-class adult, BI would simply translate into a slightly lower tax rate. They would still get $500 of BI per month or so, but because they would make $5000 per month in salary on top of that the significance of BI would be marginal.


this

>>> * The people who successfully make money have a larger portion of it taken away by the government and given to people who don't make money. They recoup their losses by raising prices and re-extracting it from the people it has been given to, except now the government gets a cut of it twice. BI has to be increased to keep pace with rising prices caused by funding BI. >>>

is rather muddled.

1) FWIW Basic income would be distributed to everyone.

2) What you are describing is the current system, people who make more money are taxed more, and that money is distributed to various things, including giving money to poor people.

3) The phrase "they recoup their losses" has nothing to do with how the market functions right now. Companies set their prices based on a variety of factors, and generally try to be as profitable as they can. The taxation rate of individuals does not directly modulate that. For example, if the CEO of Walmart or Mattel had a marginal tax rate of 99% this would not directly change the price of a Barbie doll.


I don't think you've sufficiently explained how option 2 will progress all the way to communism. It seems to me that option 2 could easily reach a stable endgame that results in a sizeable chunk of the middle class being demoted to BI, but without an unbounded taxation arms race with the rich.


That's quite fair. It may just be that I marginalized the mechanism, and there's a middle ground that's less drastic. I'm not an economist, and I don't have the numbers to show it one way or another (and if I did, I'd be doing something with them!), but it seems to me that the mechanism is basic redistribution that has a built in feedback loop. It doesn't seem logical that people would argue for such a system, so I'm trying to figure out where specifically the invalid assumptions lie.


As long as the basic income implemented is much less than per-capita GDP, there's still opportunity and incentive to work to earn more, especially if the basic income level is set at a realistic poverty level that doesn't allow for much in the way of luxuries. And if the basic income only provides a net income boost to a minority of voters, then there will be electoral pressure to keep it low, rather than to keep increasing it. It's not a slippery slope we're discussing here so much as a slippery mountain with communism on the other side but some significant uphills between here and there.

I also don't think that a basic income would have as strong an inflationary effect as you think it would on the items necessary to survive on a basic income. Since the basic income would replace minimum wage, producers would be free to pay cheap labor much closer to fair market value, so the cost of the products of unskilled labor could drop significantly (offset by an increase in the price of luxuries due to higher income taxes).


> As long as the basic income implemented is much less than per-capita GDP, there's still opportunity and incentive to work to earn more, especially if the basic income level is set at a realistic poverty level that doesn't allow for much in the way of luxuries.

I'm really trying to avoid arguments about whether BI would encourage or retard laziness, because I can't make an intelligent argument one way or the other. My concern is with the cost of funding, and the negative effects that would have on currently-productive parts of the market.

> if the basic income only provides a net income boost to a minority of voters, then there will be electoral pressure to keep it low, rather than to keep increasing it.

Can you elaborate on this point? It seems like this same argument could be used to argue that there would be electoral pressure to not implement BI in the first place, if I understand you correctly. What makes BI electorally viable at level X but not at level Y?

> Since the basic income would replace minimum wage, producers would be free to pay cheap labor much closer to fair market value, so the cost of the products of unskilled labor could drop significantly (offset by an increase in the price of luxuries due to higher income taxes).

I hadn't considered that at all. Interesting variable. This actually changes my view of the whole thing substantially, since the reduced cost of labor could be the variable that employers could tweak to keep prices approximately stable (I get less of each dollar earned, but it costs less to earn that dollar, so it's a wash). I was assuming that labor costs would remain fixed, but if BI permitted for them to be reduced, that might in fact address one of the biggest concerns.


> It seems like this same argument could be used to argue that there would be electoral pressure to not implement BI in the first place, if I understand you correctly.

I think the evidence strongly indicates that this is the case. Basic Income has not been implemented, and won't pass any referendum without the help of sympathy for the poor. (I don't think enough people will be swayed by the possible long-term benefits.)


Nice to see someone capable of independent thought.


Demand isn't the only thing that sets a price. Competition keeps prices low.


Sure, but if we posit that we have a functioning capitalist system right now, then prices are already at a natural low due to the existence of competition. In markets where competition is actually healthy, prices should have already reached an economically viable minimum. If the government shows up and says "k, we're taking an extra 15% of your income to fund this program", then suddenly your net revenues are lower than you can afford for them to be, and you have to make up the difference somewhere. That means either improving the efficiency of production (which basically means firing workers and working your existing workers harder, barring some technological leap) or raising prices.

Competition keeps prices balanced; it doesn't drive them arbitrarily low. Nobody will sell at a price that doesn't allow them to sustain their business.


Alternatively, we could find such a system by:

1. Using public pensions. While unlikely to be supported by the people making the laws (it is their pension), if they have basic income, they don't need a pension.

2. Move all funds currently in other welfare programs into the basic income program. This both moves existing funding m and gets rid of those departments, removing people working for those departments from the payroll. While my statement may be crass, it's a valid solution.

3. Take some of our military funding. Also give some of it to NASA.

None of those solutions decrease net income, except for people losing their jobs (they can find another one?) or their public pension (they're getting the basic income, and the original idea was that once someone served their term, they'd return to their previous profession, and become contributing members of society).


> They recoup their losses by raising prices

I thought BI inflation would happen due to people having more money to spend, not because losses had to be recouped for. Am I wrong?


Tax-and-distribute BI doesn't cause direct inflation, because it's not changing the amount of money in the economy. If it's taking money from wealthy people that is just sitting and doing literally nothing, then yes, it causes effective inflation since it increases the amount of currency in active circulation, but rich people tend to use their money as capital - I don't have hard stats on this, but I don't think that very much of it at all is genuinely out of circulation which could otherwise be brought into circulation through BI taxes (this is the reason that some inflation is considered a good thing; it incentivizes keeping money in circulation to avoid the inflation tax).

If people magically had more money to spend without anyone having to lose money to fund it, that would cause direct inflation (since the total amount of currency in circulation would be higher). The only way that happens is if the government starts printing a few hundred billion each month and handing it out to people.


Do you actually imagine that wealthy people are like Scrooge McDuck with a vaults full of cash in the basement, just sitting there, "doing nothing"?


Quite the opposite. I was saying that I suspect that most people keep their money in circulation, if for no other reason than to negate the effects of inflation. I was saying that if the Scrooge McDuck model were the case then increased taxes from BI would cause inflation, but I don't believe that's the case.

> I don't think that very much of it at all is genuinely out of circulation which could otherwise be brought into circulation through BI taxes


Unfortunately, I think a lot of people believe that.


The issue is what is the most efficient way to distribute income, which we already do plenty of. The problem with Basic Income is all the other ways would have to go away, and that is not realistic


I understand your concern but to answer it I think a necessity with a BI would be stricter regulation around credit. If you offer a BI and people can take the BI while simultaneously accepting predatory credit offers, the prices of things will go up, BI acceptors will get duped by banks and credit card companies and the BI money gets funneled back to those large institutions while BI-receivers pay for their financial mistakes.


This doesn't quite sit right with me, because it seems like the underlying argument is "those who benefit from BI don't know how to spend their money, so we have to protect them from spending it poorly". The end result of that line of thinking is targeted social programs, which specifically do not permit people the chance to mis-spend money. How would BI + strict regulation and oversight be substantially different from the entitlement programs we have today?


Actually we could just refuse to enforce contracts in which future BI income is leveraged for debt. That's already done with certain kinds of retirement assets.


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Okay, I can accept that. Let's run some numbers: What are we going to set BI at? There are 228 million adults in the US. If we set BI at a nice round number, say $1,000/month (equivalent to a full-time $6.00/hour job with 2 weeks paid vacation per year), we have to come up with $228 billion dollars per month to fund it. How much of that is a luxury tax going to cover?


[deleted]


If someone can present an actual spreadsheet showing where the money would come from and how to avoid impacting the prices of things that people requiring BI would be purchasing, then I would be extremely interested in it, but I am willing to flat out say that it's impossible to cough up $2.7 trillion yearly (that's 18% of the US's GDP) without moving the needle in a substantial manner.


Out of curiosity, I ran some BI numbers and arrived at a similar figure ($2.9T/yr, 17% of GDP, 81% of the entire federal budget).

I dug into some numbers to try to figure out what kind of tax rate you'd need to make that work. It's... challenging to say the least.

What I did find however was that in terms of income distribution, only 23M households were making <$20K/yr (mean household size was 2). An incredibly rough number, but you could run a Guaranteed Minimum Income program for $20K/yr for about 10x less (1.7% GDP) - you'd get that for free if you switched to single-payer nationalized health care (Canada, Germany, France, UK, Japan costs are 9-11% GDP while the US currently spends just under 18% GDP)[1]

This of course will never happen in the US because it'd make too much sense.

If you want to play w/ some numbers/sources: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgAh7-k-pFfVdG1...

[1] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS


I would expect that BI would (and should) have an impact on the cost of housing.

If the BI is constant across a geographical area that has varying housing costs then people without any other income would choose to live in cheaper areas, those living in currently expensive areas would have to pay more for basic services to allow people providing them to live nearby. I think this would help to deflate the current housing bubbles.


Social security, Medicare/Medicaid, Pensions/retirement, veterans pensions, etc. That will get you very close to $2T as a starting point.


Most BI advocates also advocate cutting entitlements entirely, that's where they money would come from.


The thing about luxury goods is that they are, well, luxuries. Nobody has to buy them.

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1993-08-16/news/9301300112_...


It depends on how broad your definition of luxury is.

The UK has a sales tax called 'VAT' that applies to almost everything, with a defined list of exceptions.

Most types of food are untaxed, as are books, children's clothes, college education, safety boots, gold investment coins, sport activities, tap water, most healthcare services, burials and cremations, museum entry fees, houseboat moorings, charter of military aeroplanes, and so on [1].

OK so the list of things that are exempt or 0% taxed is fairly long. But the vast majority of things are subject to VAT.

[1] http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/forms-rates/rates/goods-services....


I see this proposal, but like many I object to it. It reduces the marginal value of work and encourages laziness. We already have enough laziness, we don't need more.

The fact is we waste a lot of human capital. People claim to be unable to find work, yet it costs $50-80 to have your house cleaned in NYC. The unemployed are simply unwilling to clean houses for $10/hour. According to many on the left, we need more unskilled immigration since immigrants "do jobs that Americans just won't do" [1].

But I do agree that we should eliminate the current ragbag of welfare programs and replace it with a single simple one. So rather than a basic income, I propose a Basic Job Guarantee. The government will give anyone who asks a job at minimum wage. If that is insufficient to pay rent, the government can also provide cheap housing out in the boondocks [2] and buses to the location of the Basic Job.

This is the FDR plan and it worked well. Rather than paying people to watch TV we paid people to build national parks. A basic income without work makes sense after technology makes human labor obsolete, but we are nowhere near that point yet.

[1] I'm not opposed to immigration, I'm simply pointing out that people across the political spectrum agree that many Americans are unemployed by choice.

[2] I.e., move the housing projects to south jersey, don't stick them in midtown manhattan.


Actually, basic income does not encourage laziness (that's a common misconception based on our personal opinions which make sense from a certain point of view and from a confirmation bias). I'm currently researching basic income and the criticism that BI increases laziness is the most frequently repeated criticism for which I argue that it's invalid because it is based on personal opinion and not on fact.

Actual data and field experiments on basic income prove that people work more hours, that their income increases, that they visit hospitals on fewer occasions and that they spend money responsibly.

Sources: 1) http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4100 -> Dauphin Canada, 1974-1978 experiment -> only mothers with newborns and teenagers worked less.

2) http://www.usbig.net/bigblog/2013/08/important-study-finds-t... -> BI receivers worked 17% more hours and their annual income after two and a half years was 50% higher (they invested mental resources into building their own businesses or looking for better paying jobs).

Also, allow me to argue that the system would work even if most people did not actually contribute anything. How many Linux users are there, vs. how many developers contributed source to the Linux project? Only a tiny, tiniest fragment of the world developer population actually got off their butts and did something for Linux, and the rest of the world sat by and "leeched" off their work. And yet, Linux thrives. My argument is that we still don't have real data about how many people in % need to be productive for the society to be sustainable and progressive. I believe we grossly overestimate the % of people who need to be productive.


The Uganda experiment is rather different - it provided a large capital investment to individuals in a capital starved economy. Basically, it allowed people to invest in their business. The US is not a capital starved economy, so it is unlikely that the same would occur.

The actual report about Dauphin Canada would be useful here rather than some reporters interpretation of it. Among other things, the drop in work related injuries strongly suggests work did go down, as do the anecdotes of people who "could wait for something [work] that better suited them." Anyone know where to find the real report? It does sound interesting.

The example of linux contributors compared to the development world is not really indicative of the economy at large. Software is infinitely reproducible, unlike most goods and services.


It's not that capital here doesn't exist - it's just concentrated to a toxic degree. Warren Buffett is a smart investor, but he can't squeeze the most out of every dollar, not at the scale he's obligated to invest at. Scale - especially the bespoke, "too big to fail" kind - invites waste.

Capital requirements in the US are also higher. In Uganda, people can become significantly wealthier and improve their standard of living simply by having a few chickens. But in the US, individuals are taking on debt just to have enough education to get a job! And the level of spending needed to operate in most US industries is similar to the costs of college education. Like you point out, software is exceptional in this respect since it has an extremely low capex - so we can conclude that, in fact, individuals are capital starved in the US as well.


With Linux my using it imposes a cost no different on those that develop it than not using it other than the bandwidth of the person I download it from.


The argument of "I can't find someone to clean my house for $10/hr, so everyone must be lazy" is specious at best. Occams Razor says that you're mostly likely not soliciting labor from the right people. It's likely that a broke teenager or an addict who needs a fix would be willing to work at the low end of the pay scale. You don't get to make proclamiations about the american work ethic because no one answered your flyer.

It's not productive to turn the poor into an "other" or a "them". They are obviously people just like us, with pride and dignity just like we have. The fact that they don't want to clean up other peoples' messes for $10/hr doesn't mean that they are "lazy"...it means they are normal people who don't want to do dirty jobs for low pay.

One of the things that a BI will do for us is weed out the people who don't want to work. Ideally, the people that we interact with in commercial situations will want to be there, as opposed to lazy and incompetent people taking up slots just so they can get a small paycheck. It could be a like a streamlined version of our current welfare state: jobs for those who want them, a modest living for those that don't.

There are people in our society who suffer from mental illness, addiction or have social problems that prevent them from being able to focus, show up on time or be a part of a team. We can ask them to clean our houses for a cut rate or we can get serious about solving the problems that effect so many of our fellow citizens. None of us would be on hacker news if we hadn't gotten lucky in so many ways. Instead of calling people "lazy", We should be eager to help those who weren't so fortunate.


Of course, the assumption is that people living at the basic income level will spend their money wisely; a hard assumption to make. When you work a full time job to earn your money you have less time to spend it. Spending money you sweat for is much harder than spending money you got for free, I don't care who you are. You are probably pretty tired when you get home and you just want to eat, relax in front of the tv for a while, and get some sleep so you can do it all over again the next day.

If you suddenly start receiving a basic income and no longer have to work what the heck are you going to do with your time? Sit and watch tv all day long? Or will you spend your money now that you have the free time to enjoy it? I think it's naive at best to assume that everyone will budget their BI perfectly and sit inside their houses not bothering anybody.

The likely scenario is that people will treat their BI like discretionary income and spend it as soon as they get it, most likely on entertainment or luxury items. Once it's gone, they will go back to the same menial jobs to earn whatever little they need to actually survive and the cycle will continue. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.


> A basic income without work makes sense after technology makes human labor obsolete, but we are nowhere near that point yet.

I would argue we are slowly moving to that point. The fact that there is just not enough work do to anymore to keep the entire population employed clearly points in that direction. And that is not factoring in a lot of "kinda useless" work or work where humans could be replaced by machines but have not been yet because labor is so dirty cheap.

A few decades down, we might only need a fraction of the population to effectively produce all we need, all we want, and all we neither need nor want but still produce anyway.


The fact that there is just not enough work do to anymore to keep the entire population employed clearly points in that direction.

The average American spends 1.74 hours/day doing household activities. Most of the middle and upper class would be willing to pay others to do some of those tasks, provided the price were sufficiently low.

http://www.bls.gov/tus/tables/a1_2012.pdf

There is plenty of work to be done. Unemployed Americans are just unwilling to accept those jobs at a price low enough that people are willing to pay it.

To put a technological spin on it - if you had a humanoid robot, would you be unable to find tasks for the robot to do?


> Unemployed Americans are just unwilling to accept those jobs at a price low enough that people are willing to pay it.

I don't understand what's wrong with that. Why shouldn't the price be high to get another person to clean up your detritus? What ill would befall society if everyone but the most brilliant (and ostensibly highly paid) had to clean up after themselves?

Or do you feel that only a certain type of person deserves the dignity of being paid well to clean someone else's toilet?

If there were a basic income guarantee, then the price might go up for cleaning toilets and other filth--if it already isn't high enough that a BIG wouldn't make a dent. But I think rich people would still find people to do the job if they paid enough regardless, so what's the big deal?


It's wrong that hardworking middle class/rich people are forced to support people who are unwilling to work to support themselves. If that's acceptable in your value system I won't be able to persuade you otherwise.

But I think it's important to be honest about this point.


Well, then I think your argument is entirely a moral one. It's axiomatic that BIG is wrong, because any potential free-rider problem creates an intolerable situation, correct?


This entire argument is a moral one. I'm just pointing out that if you value getting people on welfare back to work (which many proponents of Basic Income appear to, given that they argue Basic Income will do this), there are far more straightforward ways of making this happen which still provide income to the people who would be unemployed in the modern economy.


No, I think there are compelling arguments in favor of basic income that are entirely practical. For instance:

* In a capitalist, money-driven economy there are many socially beneficial activities that are not compensated (or are under-compensated), and therefore disincentivized. BIG would allow more people to partake of these activities (for instance, staying home to raise children, caring for elders, performing volunteer work, creating art, receiving an education).

* If any social welfare programs are to exist, they are most efficiently delivered through a direct cash transfer, rather than through a means-tested or other qualification-based process, reducing both waste and corruption by eliminating bureaucracy.

* If a BIG were high enough, no minimum wage would be necessary to reduce poverty, and it could therefore be eliminated. Thousands if not millions of jobs that do not exist today because of the minimum wage would come into existence.

* By ensuring a life-long minimum earnings level for individuals, a whole host of poverty-related social ills could be reduced including crime, addiction, illness and under-education.

* As more and more tasks otherwise performed by labor are automated and mechanized, existing social welfare systems, and society itself, will be strained by the needs of formerly-productive workers, as well as their families, who are affected by this transition. If such changes happen fast enough, the economy itself will not be able to adapt in creating new labor opportunities, and more worrying, in replacing their reduced purchasing power.

A BIG could make even long-term economic transitions less volatile, in large part by keeping consumption rates stable even in the face of massive and sustained unemployment. Furthermore, it should prove more adaptable to new economic and social circumstances than means-tested and qualification-based social welfare systems.


Your arguments for a BIG apply equally well to a BJG, if not more so.

If the basic jobs include socially beneficial activities, BJG provides an even greater incentive for those activities than a BIG.

A BJG is also a cash transfer, but with a single qualification process. Show up, do work, get paid. This reduces waste because you gain the product of people's work. With a BIG, Waste = transfers + admin overhead + disincentivized work. With BJG, Waste = transfers + admin overhead + disincentivized work - product of basic jobs.

Similarly, the BJG would eliminate poverty and ensure a life-long minimum earning level.

As for your hypothetical future where human labor is unnecessary, we'll switch to a BIG when we get there.

The preference for a Basic Income over a Basic Job is a moral one - most of the proponents of Basic Income believe people should be able to subsist on the fruits of other's labor if they choose not to work.


I think your assumption that government can provide guaranteed (productive) jobs to everyone at any time is dead wrong. This sounds much more like a communist nightmare then BIG does as it would almost certainly introduce a massive dysfunctional bureaucracy to manage all those jobs.


I don't expect all the jobs to be productive. Some will, some won't. The productive jobs will generate returns, while the unproductive ones (e.g., digging and refilling holes) will merely serve as a disincentive for people to use the BJG.

The disincentive is important - the goal of the BJG is that ideally, no one will use it. Unlike a BIG, laziness is no longer an option.


They don't, actually.

"socially beneficial activities that are not compensated" -- doesn't apply equally well.

"most efficiently delivered through a direct cash transfer, rather than through a means-tested or other qualification-based process" -- doesn't apply equally well.

"no minimum wage would be necessary to reduce poverty" -- doesn't apply equally well.

"ensuring a life-long minimum earnings level for individuals" -- doesn't apply equally well.

"the economy itself will not be able to adapt in creating new labor opportunities" -- doesn't apply equally well.

Amazingly, that's each and every point. Not a single one applies equally well.


Basic Job is worse because some individuals cannot get jobs simply because they are not productive enough - forcing them upon employees would be worse for the economy than giving them an income to live on


Unwilling? Unable, unwilling to see their own ability or a mix of both. It's difficult to get their confidence back and escape their own emotional/social prison that they are in. Whether it's something of a choice or an unfortunate situation is arguable, but it's a fact nonetheless.


But the "hard working" middle class should support the society that allows it to exist, no? And society is made up of every person, no?


The point of the guaranteed minimum is precisely to make this kind of jobs even more expensive, so that people are not forced into unfulfilling jobs by economic necessity.

I mean, if you don't need to clean other people's houses to survive, you sure as hell will not do it, unless it pays enough to make your life significantly better. Someone would have to pay me in the millions to work as a maid for a year.

With a minimum revenue of $2000 a month for example, the incentive would be very low to do this kind of work for less than say $100 an hour, since it would only marginally increase your standard of living.

In the long run this should work towards automatization of these tasks by producing an economic incentive. And at least the robots won't suffer from mental and physical conditions due to a bad work environment.


"Unemployed Americans are just unwilling to accept those jobs at a price low enough that people are willing to pay it."

The whole point of BIG is that people will begin accepting low-paying or even altruistic jobs once they won't lose social security over it. Everything they earn over BI is premium, why not snatch it?


Let me emphasize that I'm not arguing for the current welfare system. I'm arguing that replacing it with a Basic Job is superior to both the current system and a Basic Income.

Much like a Basic Income, a Basic Job also gives you an incentive to work. No work => no pay. People will accept a $10/hour house cleaning job because it's better than a $7.25/hour Basic Job. In contrast, with a Basic Income, the choice is $7.25/hour equivalent for watching TV, or maybe twice that for working hard. Many people will be happy to live without working.

Additionally, society gains the benefit of the public works created by people working the Basic Job. We gain cleaner parks, better infrastructure, etc. (Unless you want to claim that US infrastructure is as good as it could possibly be...)


This seems to me like a disguised return of slave work.

In my value system, forcing people to do unfulfilling work to be able to feed themselves is nowhere near a positive.

Paying people to stay at home is not ideal, but it's the least terrible, just like democracy is the least terrible form of government we've experienced yet. And, with an education system that works, it contributes to solving the problem over generations.

Plus, I don't see what the problem is with people not working, as long as society can support it. I'd rather support poor unemployed people than nearly anything else governments spend their cash on these days.


You either don't know what slavery is, or you didn't read what I wrote. No one is owned by anyone else. No one is forced to work.

I'd rather support poor unemployed people and get new public works than simply support poor unemployed people.


It may not be slavery but it sounds rather like a reinvention of the workhouse.


Basic Job isn't a terrible idea mind you, it's just much more complex and fragile.

It would require a lot of political will to constantly prune jobs that do more harm than good, jobs that are degrading and meaningless (think of painting park grass with green paint), have enough jobs so everyone technically have one, and

USSR had this Basic Job thing, everybody had a job but nothing got done because you couldn't get fired from one and not get an equal one. So best-performing workers adopted habits of worse-performing ones. Who watches the workers? Does she earn the same $7.25?

Another problem is corruption. Easier and prettier Basic Jobs would be lucrative, everybody wanting to have them, and you will have bribes and kickbacks for landing on one. If unwilling to participate in corruption, you will only have a choice of worst ones.

Everything can be fixed but it's very hard in total.


It's worth reinforcing the point that a guaranteed job requires effectively zero economic output in order to receive a paycheck. If you are guaranteed a job, and we accept that people seek to maximize their income per unit of work done, then the maximization of that function is to do as little work as possible without losing the job. If you are guaranteed a job, then it effectively means that you can't be economically penalized for doing no work, so the most efficient personal approach is to just collect your paycheck and do no work.

The threat of economic penalty for failing to work is an important incentive to actually contribute to economic output.

I'm not sure why a basic job would be any better than a basic income since it would encourage people to collect income for no work performed, except that it would do so at risk and expense to the employer (and at damage to the employer's brand and reputation) rather than at expense to the tax paying populace as a whole.


I don't understand this. Why can't you be guaranteed a job, but you don't get paid if you don't do it? I don't see how paying people who refuse to work is a necessary part of a Basic Job Guarantee.

Also, the purpose of this is for the unemployed to clean up and improve public parks, repair potholes and the like. Private employers are under no obligation to hire anyone.


A lot of unemployed are mentally ill, psychologically unstable or disabled people. How much oversight will you need to get any meaningful output from them? Yeah, they come and try to be useful, but they don't accomplish anything, you fire them, they either go to court or apply to another job they can't do.

BIG solves this but Basic Job doesn't in the slightest.


The mentally ill and disabled are simply a different problem. Handing $1200/month in free money to a schizophrenic is not a solution either.


The whole idea is to decrease a number of "different problems" as much as possible. I don't know if it would help schizophrenics, but why not? At least it can get one off street by providing means to pay rent (which can be administred by his/her legal guardian).


An unmotivated, largely unsupervised park fence painter might not achieve much in the way of output for their $7.25 per hour, but importantly they aren't being paid $7.25 per hour to enjoy their chosen form of leisure. Which means that when someone in the private sector wants to pay them $8.50 per hour to work hard creating $10 per hour worth of value, they might actually consider saying yes. Any value the "basic jobs" themselves add to society is just a bonus.

I don't see why the administration of "Basic Jobs" would be any more open to corruption than any other bureaucratic role, many of which administer things far more significant than next week's work assignment to people earning far more than $7.25 per hour. It doesn't seem unsurpassably difficult to design a set of rules to ensure that "basic jobs" are rotated and not too cushy or unpleasant; I'd actually see that as an easier task than calculating a level of "basic income" that doesn't grotesquely distort one or more of (i)low-end labour supply (ii)budget balance (iii)price inflation and (iv)rental yields on substandard property


There are two kinds of people: those who escape work or are incapable for it, and those who work fairly (but may still be poor). Former are going to build a lot of bad fences, for $7.25, but business only want latter ones. And if you have Basic Jobs, they would indeed be working for $8.50 in poverty, but if you have Basic Income, those would be working for an equivalent of $7.25 from BI and everything their fence-needing employer can conjure on top of that, which will hopefully give them something around $15/hour, which might let them get out of poverty actually.

Low-end labour supply is poor people. Low-end labour supply is people you pay not enough money for them to escape poverty.

Any effective fight with poverty would involve disrupting the "low-end labour supply" as we know it today.


The infrastructure around ensuring the Basic Jobs were available is not trivial. Finding tasks to do, providing transport, checking that job-takers were actually doing the requirements, managing staff (including things like providing uniforms) - these things are not small items on a grand scale. Basically you're talking about creating a new tier of low-paid public servants.


>> we are slowly moving to that point.

It would be better to rapidly move to that point, that way the transition period(with the suffering it will cause) will shorten.

As part of doing that, and from the understanding the lack of jobs in the future, we need to strongly work at reducing costs of basic needs. Partially, it's happening now , with solar, online education.But mostly , with regards to healthcare, housing, transportation and some parts of education(K-12) - we see lack of investment and large regulatory barriers in regards to cost reducing innovation.


If we are moving to that point then tax machines doing human job and split that and only that tax's revenue evenly among the populace. As soon as we get to that point you'll immediately get BI.

Till then, I'd rather not work to support people who had not worked a single day for generations.


I think the crux of the issue is, entrepreneurs (us!) just don't want to build companies that rely on "unscalable" low-cost human labor any more. We want to build our empires on the backs of machines. There are no new jobs being created at the margin. All the jobs we want people to do are hard, and all the unemployed people we have are unqualified to do them.

My wild-and-crazy suggestion: a Basic Training Guarantee--a law requiring companies to hire capable-but-unskilled laborers, and convert them into skilled labor. No more "15 years' Node.js experience required", or its equivalent in any industry. Work with what we've got!


There are plenty of job openings being created at the margin. I want my house cleaned for less than $80 (note: 2 hour job). Farmers want their crops harvested for minimum wage.

There are no jobs being created because the unemployed are unwilling to do these jobs.

To identify all the job openings that go unfilled, go live in India or China. Most upper class families have a maid, a cook and a driver (if they are wealthy enough to own a car). This is quite uncommon in the US - instead, we have people who are paid not to work.


Some of those jobs will be probably transitory and some are not worth doing in the u.s. even at minimum wage.

There's a lot of automation going on in agriculture[1].

Regarding maids: Roomba's and alike might be starting to become popular in india[2].

Regarding a driver: The average wage for a taxi driver in the u.s. is $12. Not that far from minimum wage[3].

Regarding a cook: I suspect that , a least at current wages cooks make(and even at minimum wages), it's more economically and varied to order food than to have a cook.

[1]last paragraph , http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21567202-...

[2]http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-22/peopl...

[3]http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533041.htm


> I want my house cleaned for less than $80.

A consideration: can someone who earns less than $80 for a day's work afford to live within driving distance of your house? In India, definitely; in a US metropolitan center, definitely not. (This reduces the problem to the much-better-studied, "people really don't like relocating thousands of miles away for a job, even if their life currently sucks.")


It's $80 for 2 hours. You can survive within commuting distance of Manhattan on $15/hour. You might need to commute from NJ and suffer the indignity of having roommates and black neighbors, but it's quite doable.

I lived within commuting distance of Manhattan during grad school on a stipend roughly equivalent to a $10/hour x 40 hours/week. Prices have gone up a bit since then, but only enough to push me 15-20 minutes further out.


You realize that most of the time, when you're hiring someone to clean houses, that most of the money is going to an agency that has overhead, right? Who is answering the calls to set up the appointments? Who is paying for the cleaning materials?

That cleaner is likely making close to 15-20 an hour.


Okay, admittedly, earning $40/hr at any job is well above "marginally-employed", so we're both being a bit silly here. It's more those who expect people earning minimum wage to somehow survive in a city that I was aiming for.


Just because you're billing $40/hr doesn't mean you're well above marginally employed.

We're talking about a 2 hour gig here. There's likely to be at least 2 unbillable hours involved in a 2 hour gig gig, so your rate is already cut in half to $20/hr.

Once you start taking into account all of the unbillable hours (including time spent finding gigs) and all of the downtime between gigs, a $40/hr rate could very well mean you are below the poverty line.


> It's $80 for 2 hours. You can survive within commuting distance of Manhattan on $15/hour

Not if you only get two hours of work! That $80 for 2 hours has thousands of dollars in opportunity costs.


> I want my house cleaned for less than $80 (note: 2 hour job).

First of all, I doubt there's anywhere in the USA you couldn't get responses to a craigslist ad offering $40/hr for house cleaning.

Second, a 2hr/month gig is not going to pull in anywhere near the responses that a 40hr/week would at the same rate. It's just not the same thing. Try living off freelancing for a while; then you'll know what "2 hour gig" really means.


What about unskilled workers who are not capable of learning/understanding programming or other technical endeavors?


In a society that runs out of physical labor to do, you might just as well call them "disabled", and pay them a cheque out of that pool. But Basic Income (or a negative income tax) is cleaner in its economic predictability than special-casing things like that.


This issue comes up from time to time here on Hacker News, which is why I submitted the current story. The policy proposal of a basic income guarantee is interesting because

a) no country has ever tried it, really, so there isn't a real-world experience case to look at yet,

and

b) a remarkable variety of people from otherwise differing points of view have proposed it over the years.

Charles Murray's book In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State,

http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/0844742236

goes into detail about how much a program of guaranteed income for everyone would cost in the United States, and suggests some probable effects that would have on everyone's everyday behavior. I read the book a year or two after it was published.

Murray's own summary of his argument

http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/focus/pdfs/foc242a.pdf

and reviews of his book

http://www.aei.org/article/society-and-culture/poverty/in-ou...

http://www.conallboyle.com/BasicIncomeNewEcon/MurrayReview.p...

http://www.richmondfed.org/publications/research/region_focu...

http://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=296

may inform the discussion here. Big public policy proposals are not easy to discuss, but the big public policy proposal of a guaranteed basic income for all is a response to existing policy of supposedly targeted social welfare programs that are just about equally expensive in the benefits they provide, but much more costly to administer.

As a matter of personal opinion, I am still thinking about whether or not a basic income guarantee is a good idea, but I definitely want to figure out if spending no more in total for social welfare by directly transferring cash to all citizens would simplify administration of welfare programs and allow more individual choice about how to use the money.


One thing I like about this policy is it removes all kinds of perverse incentives which currently exist.

Some (true) personal examples: a friend of mine is moderately disabled and lives with his elderly parents. He wants (and they desperately want for him) to be able to live independently in a small apartment so that he can develop coping skills which will serve him when they are no longer around. His parents have the means to help him buy an apartment, but doing so would disqualify him from receiving any disability pension (including free health care).

A colleague of mine once employed a young woman as a secretary/admin assistant. One day her family advised him that they had arranged a marriage for her and as she was no longer living with them she and her new husband would both qualify for unemployment benefits. If my colleague refused to pay her the equivalent of two unemployment benefits (after tax) she would resign. The next week she did.

I used to know a guy who was what I would term chronically unemployable. He had no obvious disability but was seemingly unable to accomplish anything without having his hand held (it was a severe issue, not a joke). As an example, I actually couldn't trust him to fetch a plate from the kitchen. He was unsuited for either technical or menial work because he needed to be instructed down to the barest minutiae. Nice chap otherwise.

He naturally ended up on unemployment benefits and attended fortnightly reporting sessions. He was required to apply for 5 jobs each fortnight which he would be duly rejected from, then report back on his results. I'm convinced that the sheer brutal pointlessness of the process crushed him to the point where he took his own life.

Perhaps a basic income would create other perverse incentives, but it is clear to me that the current system is beyond broken.


A colleague of mine once employed a young woman as a secretary/admin assistant. One day her family advised him that they had arranged a marriage for her and as she was no longer living with them she and her new husband would both qualify for unemployment benefits. If my colleague refused to pay her the equivalent of two unemployment benefits (after tax) she would resign. The next week she did.

Perhaps we should think of unemployment benefits and minimum wage laws as a subsidy for technological progress, in particular automation and artificial intelligence.

Low-wage workers are competition for automation, at least in the early stages when a new technology is just getting off the ground. Remove them, and there is likely to be more demand for technological solutions to do what they used to do. In the long run, everybody wins by giving private enterprise an incentive for more automation.


It does not remove "perverse" incentives. Human nature dictates our desires. If we could have everything we ever wanted then there would be no "perverse" incentives. I could have my own amusement park where there would be no lines and I could ride any ride I wanted at any time - not to mention someone would carry me from ride to ride.

People will always want more, to achieve more. The "perverse" incentives exist simply because of that fact. If you cannot accept that, you should go live in the woods far away from people and be happy.

Life isn't fair, you do what you can to help those less fortunate around you. But, if you think for a second that some sort of "equal" pay will solve our worlds problems you are either ignorant or in denial of our human nature.


Your post contains no arguments, just a straw man with some accompanying unsubstantiated statements. No one is suggesting that any single measure will solve all the world's problems. But might we not solve one, or two?


First of all, nobody's opinions are substantiated. I believe that human nature has not and will not change. By human nature, I'm talking about what drives us to do the things we do.

I understand the logic behind BIG. My problem with the _idea_, as it is, is that the idea ignores human nature. If you want to bring an idea to the table, at least be honest about it.


I think you fundamentally misunderstood my point.

The examples I gave were situations where people did something against their own interests because the current system of welfare provision is broken. Maybe that is inevitable; maybe the system we have is better than any alternative.

But ask yourself if a BIG were implemented:

Would my friend still live with his elderly parents? Would my colleague's secretary have quit? Would my acquaintance have been forced into a degrading simulation of a job search he would never succeed at?


The secretary might still have quit anyway - it probably depends on the level of BIG. Ending the pointless simulation of a job search for your acquaintance doesn't require a BIG, and a BIG alone probably doesn't represent the optimum solution either.

Those points don't mean that a BIG is bad, but since people tend to only see one side of an issue after they've made up their mind on it (whether rationally or emotionally), I thought I should bring it up.


"The secretary might still have quit anyway - it probably depends on the level of BIG."

She'd either get BIG and her salary, or just BIG. Compared to the previous scenario of salary vs welfare. The motivation to stay employed would be greater with BIG, surely. The husband would receive BIG regardless of her salaried situation.


I do understand your point. And you gave perfect examples of situations where BIG would be beneficial. My problem with the idea is that proponents ignore the negatives or severely downplay them. My biggest argument against that type of idea is that it kills human drive and ambition and progress.


Sorry, you are confusing "perverse incentive" (as in the incentive itself is perverted) and "incentives to things that are perverse" (as in having incentives to do things that are socially considered to be perverse).

It is a simple innocent ignorance of the term. Look up what perverse incentive means and you'll understand.


I read an adjective describing a noun, not a combined two word, self-defined phrase?

Perverse: inexplicably irrational: contrary to what is regarded as normal or reasonable, often for reasons that seem unaccountable or self-defeating

Incentive: something that encourages somebody to action: something that encourages or motivates somebody to do something.

Please, all knowledgeable one, tell me where you learned of this definition of "perverse incentive" (one word?).


I can see you're defensive about this subject, but a simple google search of the term comes up with a wikipedia article explaining what is commonly meant by "perverse incentive".

I agree that BIG creates incentives... that is the point of all social policy in the history of ever. But the contrast here is that current policy can make positive actions (working, investing, personal development) a net loss to a family or individual who attempts them. THAT is the definition of a perverse incentive.


And my point is that BIG policy makes it so that negative actions (not working _hard_, not investing, no personal development beyond what is required) are not a net loss to the family or individual. Thus, it promotes doing the bare minimum to get by, especially when the result is a very comfy, stress free lifestyle.


You might want to Google the term yourself. According to Wikipedia, "A perverse incentive is an incentive that has an unintended and undesirable result which is contrary to the interests of the incentive makers". That is exactly westicle's usage here, unless you are implying that the outcomes he described were actually intended.


I don't see what your point is.

Maybe you aren't aware of the meaning of the term "perverse incentive." A "perverse incentive" is when you are incentivized to do something that doesn't make sense. It's not the same thing as "incentive."


Arguments like this assume you can change one thing and society won't change around it. With a basic guarantee many people who are marginally employed would stop working. You'd have two classes of citizens: the workers and those who are effectively parasites off of the workers. I don't like people being poor but society is just not wealthy for poverty to disappear. The said a person living in poverty is probably better off than all the but the richest people at any time in human history. Part of the issue is that we lack an understanding of poverty and what actually causes people to not be in poverty. Considering that in human history poverty has always been the norm it makes sense to look at what causes poverty to not be the norm first before moving onto just "fixing" it.


>With a basic guarantee many people who are marginally employed would stop working.

I believe with basic guarantee many people who are unemployed would start working. Social security in many countries mean that it's rational to either work many hours per week or work zero hours per week. Basic income means that every hour worked or dollar earned increases your standard of living, thus creating a higher incentive to work.

>You'd have two classes of citizens: the workers and those who are effectively parasites off of the workers. I don't like people being poor but society is just not wealthy for poverty to disappear.

There are countries like Finland with a social security guarantee. You can pretty much refuse to work and get $1000/month as a social security (though there are details and sanctions which make this more complex in reality). Anyway, the point is this: in Finland you can already be a "parasite" and some people do that.

Finland doesn't have a basic income guarantee. We also have a system where living on basic social security (toimeentulotuki) working 5 hours per week doesn't really make sense. The effective tax rate for working only a little is 90-100%. If you make 100 euros per week, the social security is decreased by 100 euros. With basic income the effective tax rate would be 20-30%, so working would make sense.

In Finland you pretty much have either full-time/part-time workers (20+ hours) or people who are completely unemployed.

Why should a citizen living on basic income would want to work? To get paid more.

An unemployed person living on $1000/month basic income can increase his or her standard of living substantially by getting paid $200/month more. If someone is working full time and getting paid $3000/month, a $200 increase per month has a lesser increase in standard of living.

The current social security system has an incentive to be completely unemployed. Basic income means that it makes sense to work 1 hours, 2 hours, 5 hours, 10hours, 20 hours or 40 hours per week. All different kinds of working situations are naturally covered under basic income guarantee.


>I believe with basic guarantee many people who are unemployed would start working. Social security in many countries mean that it's rational to either work many hours per week or work zero hours per week. Basic income means that every hour worked or dollar earned increases your standard of living, thus creating a higher incentive to work.

I am what in the US you would consider a "strong libertarian" - and I would say, I would be in favor of instituting a basic income if we got rid of the minimum wage.


A basic income would hardly be libertarian. Although I also tend to libertarian, I do see a role for government in addressing cases of market failure, or where the market fails to meet certain moral standards. An example would be if somebody working in the best job they can find doesn't earn enough to pay for basic accommodation and food. The government would provide the safety net in this case. However there must still be some incentive for people in this situation to try and find better work (or perhaps move to a better location). Otherwise, you have people simply taking whatever job they find the most enjoyable, living off the government subsidy, and leaving other less desirable jobs unfilled(paying slightly better, so according to the market more important, but leaving the employee no better off due to the government subsidy.)

It's particularly silly with the current system that you can legally work for nothing, be a volunteer or an unpaid intern, but you can't work for $1 per hour. If you make low paid work illegal, you make the low paid unemployed.

Perhaps some day all of this "scarcity economics" will be moot, if we could invent the star-trek style replicator, I suspect "work" would move to a volunteer model.


> Otherwise, you have people simply taking whatever job they find the most enjoyable, living off the government subsidy, and leaving other less desirable jobs unfilled

What's wrong with this, honestly? If less desirable jobs go unfilled, I'd expect that people would find ways to mitigate the need for human beings in those jobs. Let's let the market figure out what those jobs are and if we can do such mitigation. That seems preferable to the current situation, where people such as yourself say that we need people to be placed into explicitly undesirable positions.

Let's actually see this problem before we anticipate it.


> Let's actually see this problem before we anticipate it.

The problem has always existed. It's the reason that people need to be paid for most jobs, since they won't do them just for fun. If people know that they'll be paid a decent amount for doing any job at all, then there will be a lot of recreational activities which are thinly disguised to look like jobs.


That's why it's an income guarantee - so you don't have to invent an activity that looks like work in order to receive money.

So in your case under a BIG, they would get some money and pursue leisurly activities. This in contrast to someone doing a task that needs to be done (say dispose of garbage), who would get some money from the BIG and a substantially bigger sum in actual wage. The service (getting your garbage disposed) would have to be priced accordingly.

Some activities (such as musicians) would be a gray area, but it's not a problem - people can make music and if someone buys it the musicians get extra income.

If there are services needed which are very unappealing, they will be priced high. Also, the incentive to automate them (and thus reduce human suffering) will be high as well.


right - it would have to go without saying that EVERYONE gets the BIG, including millionaires and paul allen.


These sort of pensions are already available to some people, in some countries (typically the elderly and the disabled). However governments are struggling to pay for them, and the eligibility criteria tend to get tightened (in my country, the old-age pension age will increase to 67). I don't see how they could be expanded to the entire population without destroying the governments' budget, and if they tried to raise such massive sums through taxation, destroying the economy too (and causing massive flight of the wealthy to lower-taxing countries.)


The availability of BIG to people who don't actually need it is about the principle of BIG: that it doesn't care who you are. I'd find it interesting to consider how we might let people decline their BIG stipend in return for... something.


> I'd find it interesting to consider how we might let people decline their BIG stipend in return for... something.

Why would we do that? We could instead just sell the "something", which has the same effect, without defeating the point of BIG by complicating the BIG administration.


> It's the reason that people need to be paid for most jobs, since they won't do them just for fun.

There's a huge difference between (a) not being interested in doing a job, but doing it because you're getting money for it and (b) not being interested in working and doing it because you're getting money for it.

You're arguing (a), but I'm arguing (b).


A basic income is libertarian in that it allows individuals to actually participate in the free market as rational actors, and puts control over use into the hands of many individuals instead of in the hands of the government.

I think eliminating the minimum wage is reasonable combined with a guaranteed stipend. However, I think you will find that "undesirable" jobs are (rightfully) paid quite well. Possibly even better than now since this system would better balance the power between employers and employees.

http://bit.ly/16o33Bp


Ah, but it's not libertarian in the sense of total sovereignty for owners. The workers would start to backtalk!


I'm a Groucho-Marxist, so I refuse to be a member of any club that will have me, however it is nice to find something I agree with you on :)


Speaking of Groucho-Marxism: http://sniggle.net/Manifesti/groucho.php.


I am what most would call a conservative and if what was being offered was a complete elimination of all social services, entitlements, and government largess, then count me in.

I would much rather a BI than having this menacingly powerful centralized vote buying machine.


Under-the-table arrangements are like the majority of BitTorrent traffic, economies that occur despite rules because there is net utility. People still pay taxes and still license (not own) retail movies.


Seconded. I'm also a believer in basic income as an otherwise staunch libertarian, purely based on how much sense it makes.


In reality I think you'd see people moving from collecting social security/SSDI/etc. and getting paid in cash under the table to collecting BI and working in licit jobs and paying some taxes/having some employment protections.

You might also lose some people who "can't work" for economic reasons of UI/SSDI/etc. and volunteer instead to the paid workforce.


> Why should a citizen living on basic income would want to work? To get paid more.

What in the case that the person doesn't want to get paid more? They can live comfortably enough on what is given to them and value the free time more than the extra money.

What would be the way to deal with this?


Essentially, by keeping the basic income guarantee sufficiently low that most people don't want to do that. Note that having everyone want to work is not necessary or even necessarily desirable, you just need to be able to maintain a low enough dependency ratio that the working people don't have to sacrifice much more than what they gain from such system.

I personally think that the employment market for next few decades will continue to be characterized by endemic structural unemployment. We will continue to destroy jobs faster than they are created, through automation and efficiency improvements. What's going away especially quickly are the "middle-difficulty" kind of jobs -- between highly trained specialists and burger flippers. For a simple example, self-driving cars will soon revolutionize long-distance trucking. They won't eliminate the jobs completely, but they will significantly reduce their number. There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA. How do you retrain a 55-year old truck driver to be a software engineer? If you can't, should he go work at Burger King for a much lower wage instead? Maybe as a society we could just allow people like him the possibility of not working at that point?


> Essentially, by keeping the basic income guarantee sufficiently low that most people don't want to do that.

Which, it should be noted, it is pretty much economically impossible not to do except in the very short term, barring vast increases in productivity (or decreases in people's expectations of acceptable living standards.)

> There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA. How do you retrain a 55-year old truck driver to be a software engineer? If you can't, should he go work at Burger King for a much lower wage instead?

And, even if you can, how do you do it when he still needs to work full-time to pay his existing bills?


Right now the people who don't want to work cost us a lot of money, a large fraction of which doesn't even go to them.

To a certain degree, I see it like the war on drugs. Yes, ending the war on drugs will increase drug usage, but not as much as many people think, and the costs of dealing with that will be less than the costs we spend on prohibition.


Having some of that happen is a non-problem. It's a post-unskilled-jobs world. There are only a few workable solutions: A shorter work week, mincome, or some combination.

Some people get offended by mincome because it means someone with lower qualifications for work gets to enjoy leisure. They should get over it.


Speaking as one who could live comfortably off a Basic Income of $1,000/month (Which would be 2,000/month for my family- wife and myself and our 1 year old): If this plan were implemented, I would likely do a few things with my new found free time:

1) Develop more open source software 2) Work on my small 4.5 acre farm, growing produce to sell to locals for extra cash. 3) Spend more time helping other people with their needs and wants. 4) Do more substitute teaching, perhaps volunteering to teach a programming class or similar.

While most of the time I would not be earning any significatn income from these activities, I think the societal benefits would far outweigh the cost of providing the Basic Income.


Let the few people who are content with being modestly poor be.


Why is it a problem? Someone wants to live modestly, trading consumer power for free time. Why do we need to stop them?


> What in the case that the person doesn't want to get paid more? They can live comfortably enough on what is given to them and value the free time more than the extra money.

And...so, what's the problem with this?

> What would be the way to deal with this?

Why would you want to deal with this? That's a feature, not a bug.


You're assuming that the goal of a social safety net is to avoid or eliminate parasitic behaviour. I would suggest that reducing parasitism to zero is not possible. In fact the nature of any wealth transfer system is that some people will be drawing more out of it than they contribute.

One political problem with welfare schemes is getting over the psychological hurdle that hard-working people are funding welfare abusers. I, for one, do not care if there are a few egregious abusers if the overall system is cost-effective.

Focusing on eliminating parasitism leads to wasting even more money on administration, e.g. drug testing for welfare recipients.


A similar analogy that occurs to me is the justice system. Yes, there will be guilty criminals who walk free of a innocent-until-proven-guilty, trial-by-jury-of-your-peers justice system. The alternative is convincingly worse enough that we accept the false negatives and outliers of the system that protects us.

In this case, letting millions suffer in poverty with real effects of poor healthcare (instead of investing in preventative care), restricted access to better opportunities for themselves and their children seems thoroughly worse than accepting the outlier "parasites."

I am of the belief that given the foundations of Maslow's hierarchy and a real education, many of those "parasites" with limited opportunities can be changed into people who feel they have a chance and pursue "self actualization." Poverty is a vicious cycle; it's hard to be ambitious in a "i want to change the world" way when you have no choice but to take whatever you can to support your family on minimum wage.

I agree completely that instead of throwing money at administrative peripheral problems like eliminating any parasitism, we should address the root problem.

Overall, people living in poverty do not have the same opportunities as the wealthy. Given the same opportunities there is no reason that they would not pursue the same "worthier" career aspirations. The assumption that poor people are parasites is the most colossal example of Fundamental Attribution Error[1] I can think of.

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


> Overall, people living in poverty do not have the same opportunities as the wealthy.

This is the basic issue every argument against any social program needs to address.

The last time basic income came up I saw a poster strawmanning it by claiming that the "producers" would be financing everyone else to have daily parties. Actually nobody is suggesting that we give enough money for people to throw parties every day. The suggestion is to give people enough money to survive in a way that eliminates government waste on the program. Then we will see what sort of jobs or tasks they create for themselves. The majority will not be content to watch TV all day.


I wonder how many of the people who argue against a basic income because of parasitic behavior also argue against paying people for work for the same reason. Paid labor has unbelievable amounts of abuse, yet we go on.

Edit: man, typos galore. How embarrassing.


You are obviously right, but it doesn't contribute to a solution of the political problem.

Today, means-tested aid receives a huge amount of criticism about supposed "leechers", even though abuse is basically a rounding error, and the vast majority of recipients are not at fault for their situation.

Imagine how much worse the criticism could get when there really are leechers because leeching is officially approved.

So no matter how nice a BIG is, I often wish that at least part of the massive amount of political energy spent on promoting it would instead be targeted towards poverty-reducing and power-shifting policies that have a higher chance of being implemented and remaining implemented.


Here's the problem with your analysis: Just because someone doesn't have a job, doesn't make them a parasite. Here's an example, a granddaughter who lives with and helps take care of her poor grandmother who has Alzheimer's. In her spare time she does sonogram analysis to determine the sex of babies for newly pregnant mothers (Yes, this does exist.) But there is no money in any of this, even though she provides a service to society. Give it some thought and you can realize there are many variations on this. The problem with capital-driven society is that it only values a narrow range of activities that have high rates of money exchange. But there are many things in life worth doing, indeed that need to be done, that do not.


The "parasite" in your story is actually the grandmother. Realizing that the system having "parasites" is not avoidable and is not a moral failing is huge.


Ignoring for the moment the argument that the grandmother may well have paid a load of taxes before getting alzheimers, one thing that would seem fundamental is that the grandmother gave birth to a parent of the carer, without which the carer would not have existed at all, so how can the grandmother be considered a parasite?


"Parasite" is kind of a charged word. Trying to reinvent it as something OK is walking blithely into doublespeak territory. If you feel you need to redeem it, then okay, but I'm not seeing your reasons for wanting to.


Isn't the granddaughter getting paid for the sonogram analysis? If not, why not?


Except your granddaughter isn't providing services to society. She's providing one service to her grandmother, as a family member (which could almost be seen as repaying a debt). The other service she's providing is the equivalent of a hobby: if it was valuable enough to other people to be considered a "service to society," then she could be getting paid for it.


> Except your granddaughter isn't providing services to society.

I think it's arguable that she does. By doing what she does she relieves the system from taking care of her grandmother, and thereby making whatever small amount of taxpayer money usable for something else meanwhile taking that economic burden on herself.

(Edit: It can of course be seen that whatever wellfare money she gets is the equivalent of her service to grandmother/society, but in that case it's still at worst a zero sum scenario.)


It's a service to society if the grandmother would otherwise be taken care of by the government (at enormous expense probably)

I can imagine other fulfilling activities like helping less fortunate people get back on their feet, which could provide a giant boost to the economy but aren't really directly profitable (as the poor have no money)


Forget society, she's doing a service to ME. Why? Because if all else failed and her grandmother were dying in the street in front of me, I would feel a moral, ethical, and emotional obligation to assume her care. I would rather pay in to BI, if that worked to remove this scenario from possible things that might happen. That's my personal felling about it, without parsing all the possible socioeconomic ramifications.


But why should your personal moral dilemma define legislation for all citizens across the country? I have an issue with "it makes ME feel bad, therefore make it law." You can use the same basic argument against gay marriage.

Regardless, the grandma won't be doing in the street without BI, just like she isn't now. I'm not arguing against providing care for the elderly. I'm just saying that if a single individual chooses to spend her life caring for another single individual, maybe that person isn't performing a service to society. Maybe she's performing a service to her grandma, and nobody else.


> Forget society, she's doing a service to ME.

And hence "society". Social costs and benefits (also known as "externalities") are simply costs and benefits to anyone outside of the decision to engage in a excahnge.


Look HN, I understand that people disagree. That's the point of this site, right? If you don't like what I said, let's talk about it. Down voting opinions you don't agree with seems childish at best.


> if it was valuable enough to other people to be considered a "service to society," then she could be getting paid for it.

Why do you assume she couldn't be getting paid for it? Maybe she's just not charging.


If she's doing something she could be getting paid for bit she's not charging, then society definitely should not have to pick up the bill. That's just unfair.


Generally it works so that you get paid to do things for rich people, but if you do those things for poor people you don't get paid.


The U.S. doesn't have much real poverty, at least as long as you leave out people with mental illness or veterans with psychological issues.

Bottom decile personal income in U.S. is above $5,000 which puts people in that bracket above the median person in Mexico and not terrible far below the median person in Poland: http://super-economy.blogspot.com/2010/04/median-earnings-hi... (note the chart is in PPP-adjusted dollars).

Poverty in the U.S. means subsidized housing, terrible schools, food stamps, etc. But survival is guaranteed.

So the issue with basic income is not eliminating poverty. It's about changing the mechanism by which we have eliminated poverty.


moving, goalposts,etc.

Just because many people are in extreme poverty doesn't mean that the US doesn't have "real" poverty.

Also poverty is more or less defined in the society in which it happens. And the "standards" for not being poor in the US is not met in a lot of cases.


But if you define poverty as "the bottom decile of the population", how exactly will you get rid of it?


Your question is like saying "if you define green as the colour of grass, how can you make grass yellow?"

If you take a sensible real-world definition of the poverty threshold, such as "earning less than 60% of the median full-time wage", then you can do so by pegging the BIG to 60% of the median full-time wage.


There are many definitions of poverty.

The use of a quick percentage is used for policy as it is easy to put figures to, however it is being used as a measurable indicator for a deeper definition.

If you do not have people living hand to mouth in your society, then you have got rid of poverty, until then it helps to have some quick and dirty economics to work out where to direct your efforts.


This --^

The definition of "poverty" is influenced to buy votes for politicians.

You can have A/C, Cable TV, full meals, and still be considered in poverty.


The USA poverty line is some 20x world median income.

If you're making more than twenty times what the top of half the people on the planet are, you're not poor. That other people in your vicinity make more than you does not make you poor.


> The USA poverty line is some 20x world median income.

Check: median --the middle of the range. Not the average value.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median

Quote: "The median of a finite list of numbers can be found by arranging all the observations from lowest value to highest value and picking the middle one"

Therefore the USA poverty line is not 20x the world median income, because the world median income is roughly half of Bill Gates' income. (Technically it's (H-L)/2 + L, where H = highest income, L = lowest income.)

> If you're making more than twenty times what the top of half the people on the planet are ...

Wait, that's not the median, that's the average (or mean). They're not the same. In a symmetrical distribution, the mean and median are the same, but most distributions aren't symmetrical. Personal incomes are most certainly not symmetrical, anywhere in the world.

So when specifying median or average, be sure you know the difference.


The median is not found by (H-L)/2+L. Read that Wikipedia entry again.

Disproof: 1, 1, 2, 10, 101. The median of this list is 2, not 51.


> The median is not found by (H-L)/2+L. Read that Wikipedia entry again.

I really did read it, but I managed to take it to mean the midpoint of the range, all evidence to the contrary. It seems I tripped on the words "middle value", which is ambiguous.


Yeah! Modes of centrality can mean lots of things. It's why it can be so frustrating when media folks casually toss out "average" for long-tailed things that require way more specificity.


I know the difference. That's why I said "median".

Median world income is $2/day. USA poverty line is $46/day. That's a 23x difference, 20x if you round in the direction of common qualifiers.


> Median world income is $2/day.

I think you should be using average or mean, in particular because you're comparing a median to a mean (the U.S. poverty level). What's the point of choosing the middle value in a billion income figures when the average produces a more meaningful result? Just look for the point on the distribution that has a first derivative of zero.

Also:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17512040

Quote: "so the average income is heading towards $10,000 (£6,273) per person per year."

That's an average of $27.37 per person per day. Which means the US poverty line of $46/day (an average value) is 1.7x the world average income level.

Also:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-median-income-worldwide....

Quote: "The median income worldwide — the amount that is dead middle between the least and the highest amounts — is $850 US Dollars (USD)."

Which works out to $2.32/day.

Also:

http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/news/economy/world_richest/i...

Quote: "In fact, people at the world's true middle -- as defined by median income -- live on just $1,225 a year."

Which works out to $3.35/day.

I'm not sure the median is what you're after.


I'm not sure you want to get my point. I'm sure I do want the median: if half the people on the planet are doing much worse than you, then the term poor doesn't apply ... yet the term "poor" keeps getting revised upwards into historical levels of luxury.

If you're at the USA "poverty line", you are doing better than 87% of people on the planet. That. Is. Not. Poor.


All valid points, but you were comparing a world median with a U.S. average. Surely comparing two medians (or two averages) would be more appropriate. For example, one could establish a median "poverty level" representing the point below which 25% of Americans fall (or another percentage on which people agree). That might be more enlightening.

It would be interesting to know how many Americans fall above and below the average represented by the poverty threshold, i.e. using a straightforward count -- more in keeping with using a median measure.

> yet the term "poor" keeps getting revised upwards into historical levels of luxury.

I agree with that point, entirely. I also think it's bizarre that so many people end up being defined by absence of an arbitrary property -- homeless person, childless couple, unemployed worker -- which to me seems an underhanded way to enforce social conformity.


"you were comparing a world median with a U.S. average."

No, I was comparing to the official legal definition of "poverty line".

My gripe is that in all this talk about "poverty", either nobody defines it or they define it upwards to rediculous. If someone earns more than 87% of everyone on the planet and is still deemed "poor" then the definition of "poor" is absurd.


Interestingly, your other argument does apply here.

It's inappropriate to use the mean for world average income because it's inflated by very high earners. Very high earners (outliers) have a disproportionate effect on the mean that makes it unrepresentative.

Imagine if salaries were ${1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1000000} Then the mean average would be $200000 - but you could not claim this represents most people. The median is $1, which is more fairly representative.

As with any skewed distribution, the standard way to measure average income is by using the median. There is broad agreement in official figures to use the median.

The BBC article is wrong to use the mean: the journalist appears to be confused in comparing the mean (which she calculates) to the median (standard published figure) and then claiming the difference results from patchy stats.


You can have A/C, cable TV, meals, and still have a totally unstable housing situation, unable to maintain personal property over the long-term... Sorry but just because TV is cheap doesn't mean poverty is eliminated. Keep an eye on the rent checks.


Relative poverty is still poverty. If you can't improve your lot in life because you don't have the resources, you're impoverished even if you're objectively better-off than someone rotting on the streets of Somalia.


Such poverty isn't necessarily a problem though. I live in relative poverty compared to most people in my city. Basically all I spend money on is rent (of a cheap apartment), food, electricity, and Internet. Yet I find this lifestyle quite acceptable, and a good trade-off as I can avoid the need to work. What do I care if my neighbours are wasting a fortune on cars, boats and overseas travel?


Yes, but can you advance or are you hamstrung by living hand-to-mouth?

If you felt you had to get an advanced degree to get a better job, is that an option or would you be economically devastated by working fewer hours to fit schoolwork in?

If you had to move to a different city, is that an option for you? Would you be homeless when you got there?

If you got seriously ill, is that it for you? Could you recover economically?

In short: Relative poverty the way I used the term involves running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. Advancement is impossible. Any major disaster sinks you.


You are still talking about absolute poverty, not relative poverty. If somebody got seriously ill and could no longer afford food, for example, then that's not just relative poverty, they actually have a serious problem.

As for "running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place", well that depends. Why would I need to advance? I already have everything I need. I don't work at all, and disasters aren't likely to be much of a problem since I don't have a lot of expensive assets to lose. If I ever need healthcare I can use a government scheme (I don't live in the USA btw). So in this regard, you could say my lifestyle is partly subsidised by the government.


> Relative poverty is still poverty.

Given that the experience disutility of poverty seems to be driven more by relative deprivation than absolute deprivation, its arguably that relative poverty is actually the more important kind to address, from a utilitarian perspective.


The problem is that this is comparing apples to oranges.

Things also cost more in the US than in many places with lower incomes, so it's not fair to say "But people in country x make lots less money, so our poor people aren't /real/ poor people."

Beyond this most social programs people mention are harder the be eligible for than one might think. The only thing that pretty much any US citizen will be consistently eligible for if they have a low enough income is food stamps. Most other programs require having kids or a disability to be eligible for.

And to be poor enough to get much out of food stamps, you're likely to be in a situation where you're struggling to afford a place to live and associated costs, even with food stamps factored in.


You know, you call them 'parasites' but it could be argued, firstly, that spending their 'free' cash is the service rendered (think utility functions: do you trust "average joe" or bureaucrats to be more effecient spenders of tax dollars?). Also, by giving these people basic income, you allow these families to build their own lineage and estate: over generations, families will be less likely to fall through the cracks, and thus can start producing "useful" members of society.

Parasites you might call them, but they can be producing something even in this state.


>do you trust "average joe" or bureaucrats to be more effecient spenders of tax dollars?

This is an excellent point. Even when one points to the dregs of society, those people are likely to spend their 'free' money in a way that is beneficial to me, by spending at local businesses.


It's not unlike how you get to use Facebook "for free", but in reality you're feeding them information.

Guaranteed Minimum Income could be seen as a way to ensuring everyone is able to express their purchasing desires with less distortion from necessity, and that you're paying them for that "social service".

Idk.


I think it'd be an interesting philosophical exercise to posit that we sell Facebook data traces about ourselves in return for easy access to data traces about others. What would that really mean, and what moral or economic consequences can be concluded from that?

I personally have no idea.


Thank you. People live in poverty because they don't know how to not live in poverty. We think we can buy our way out of the problem by providing housing, foodstamps, welfare (or, as proposed, scrapping all those things and providing a "basic income") but all this really does is make poverty a bit more comfortable without actually teaching those in poverty that everything they know about how to live is wrong and counterproductive and contrasting that with what works.

From the article: A Basic Income Guarantee would establish economic security as a universal right. It gives each of us the assurance that, no matter what happens, we won’t go hungry.

I don't see that it provides that guarantee at all. It doesn't mandate that the money be spent on food, housing, or anything sensible. One of the things that people in living in long-term (generational) poverty tend to do is to immediately spend any money they get on "escaping" the drudgery of their survival, e.g. on alcohol or drugs, flashy jewelry or clothing, gambling or other entertainment. It simply doesn't occur to them that money can be managed, invested, or saved. If you don't break this way of looking at life, then the money will be gone in a week or two (or less) and they'll struggle for the rest of the month until the next payday comes, and repeat the cycle again.

[Edit: Cite for my last paragraph: A Framework For Understanding Poverty, Ruby K. Payne]


When you work for 7.75 an hour to support a family, you don't have enough money to "manage," much less gamble or buy jewelry. That's what it means to be working poor. I don't think you could hack that.


Funny how demographically, lower income citizens in the US are the backbone of almost every state lottery...


The main value one receives from buying a lottery ticket is not the statistical expected value of return on investment, but the sense of hope for a better life that you get when you but the ticket. This hope is much more valuable for someone struggling with poverty than for someone who's relatively well off. Therefore, it's perfectly rational for poor people to put a higher dollar value on a lottery ticket.


In other words, it's gambling.

Most gamblers don't weigh the EV on each bet. Most are just riding the high, or hoping to hit 21...

There's a reason Vegas has all those fancy hotels, and it's not because gamblers are mastering EV.


Do you really think it's funny? I don't.


His point wasn't that it was funny, it was that the parent was making a poor argument. And he's right. If you spend any time at all around people working low/minimum wage jobs, you'll see that many of them spend money on non-essential things: alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, drugs, expensive cell phones, renting stereos and TVs, etc.

My mom spent many years working with low-income families as a social worker. She told me repeatedly that many of these families just lack the basic skills of managing money. If they had $40 a week left after paying all their bills, they see nothing wrong with spending $30 of that on cigarettes and beer.


Yeah, if they took that $40 / week and invested it in an index fund with a 7% after-expenses return, then after 47 years of working from age 18 through age 65, they'd have an inflation-adjusted $185,000. Combined with Social Security, that would provide them almost $20,000 / year to retire on.


But humans aren't just satisfied with being alive. They all have hopes and dreams; they have needs, sure, but also wants. We need food but we also need some pride. It may not make sense to you, it may not seem logical, but it's human. Lottery tickets are a way to have hope: that it's going to be ok one day, better than ok. A smart phone says, I may be cleaning toilets but that's not who I am.

If you spent a year or more working a minimum wage job and living off of it, you too would start to do some of this. It's just human nature.


This, so much this.

The problem with poverty is often not that you have no excess income, but that you have so little (or should have none, but sacrifice some food to have some) that you're exhausted and can't help but want what little luxury you can afford.

It's easy to say that if someone was better disciplined they could save what little extra they have and make something of it in the long run, but it's very different to actually be in that situation and have the resolve to do that.

You can be smart enough to know you're being irresponsible and keep doing it, which just makes it that much more painful, but many aren't even smart enough to be aware of this.

This does not mean that giving people in this situation additional means would always be a total waste; often, people just want/need a certain baseline, and beyond that will use additional means to lift themselves up.


Sure, these are common values. But damaging values. When people learn to defer things for future gains, they get the chance to improve their lot in life, or the lot of their children. But blowing it all on lotto tickets with a pack of cigs and a forty isn't doing anyone any good.


Funny as in odd or contradictory to the parent argument.


One idea I've casually pondered is if things would be better if you had a card that got a daily, or even hourly top up, instead of the status quo of a monthly top up. Bills would have to be similarly broken up into continuous payment, or some people might not be able to save up enough continuous income to pay them.

I think it at least sounds possible that it could shift people to a more even expenditure rate instead of the rich for a week, starve for three, some people lead.


Here's an article summarizing some experimental evidence to the contrary: http://mondediplo.com/2013/05/04income


You talk about poor people as if they are a different kind of human being from "normal" people.

In fact, 80% of USA citizens are poor at _some_ point in their life. _Most_ people experience poverty. It's not necessarily because they "don't know how" to be anything but poor. (Often it's a result of becoming too old to work.)


Agree with first paragraph a hundred percent. How can we teach those in poverty that the way they live their lives is counter productive? The politics have to get out of the damn way or it will never happen.


You've got the first step down pat: become an authoritarian paternalist. Now you need the second step: understand how the world works.


It's likely that job-sharing would increase. Instead of one unemployed person and one 'full-time' waiter, you'd have two part-time waiters. Waiting being a menial job that's not awesome, but is easy to pick up and easy to manage when it's only a couple of shifts per week. The focus would have shifted from "I must do all this to survive" to "a bit of extra money on top"


> Considering that in human history poverty has always been the norm it makes sense to look at what causes poverty to not be the norm first before moving onto just "fixing" it.

"When I give the poor bread, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."


> With a basic guarantee many people who are marginally employed would stop working. You'd have two classes of citizens: the workers and those who are effectively parasites off of the workers.

We already have this, it's just horribly mislabeled. http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/


> With a basic guarantee many people who are marginally employed would stop working.

So what?

> You'd have two classes of citizens: the workers and those who are effectively parasites off of the workers.

We already have that; the latter class is called "capitalists". With a BIG, the public commons become an equally-owned, dividend-paying asset, which in effect makes everyone at least a very-small-scale capitalist.

> I don't like people being poor but society is just not wealthy for poverty to disappear.

Reducing the necessity of continuous wage labor for those without large personal fortunes increases labor market mobility, opportunities to explore higher-risk, higher-potential return activities, and opportunities for job retraining for better fit to changing markets.

Yes, a cost of that is that some people will opt-out of work without engaging in even potentially socially-useful activities, but this is to an extent self-limiting (the more people do it, no matter the nominal level of the BIG, the less goods and services the BIG will suffice to purchase, so that the more people that opt out, the less attractive opting-out becomes.)

> Part of the issue is that we lack an understanding of poverty and what actually causes people to not be in poverty.

We actually understand poverty quite well, and understand very well that the combination of limited goods and inequality in the distribution of goods cause people to be in poverty. What we don't have is a mechanism that works with human nature to encourage enough production and equal-enough distribution of goods to eliminate poverty, and BIG isn't, itself, intended to be a solution to that. Its mostly a self-regulating partial solution on the distribution side, since, as productivity increases, the sustainable minimum level under the BIG increases as well.


With a basic guarantee many people who are marginally employed would stop working.

Why do the rich work?

a person living in poverty is probably better off than all the but the richest people at any time in human history

I'd imagine that hunger feels much the same now as it did a thousand years ago.


A proposal in this direction has been pushed in Switzerland that will be subject to a referendum.

The idea : hand out 2500CHF a month (about $2700) to each citizen without anything in return or any condition. Plus around $1100 a month for each child you have to support.

Now this has not been confirmed yed (the referendum is to be held in 2015). The goal is to put an end to the degrading controls forced upon people depending on welfare, and to balance the relationship between employers and employees - if you don't HAVE to work, you don't have to put up with abusive employers, low-paying slavery and the like


I'm intrigued by the costing of this proposal.

2500CHF per adult is an enormous proportion of national income to redistribute: even taking into account Switzerland's unusual prosperity we're talking about an income subsidy that's nearly 40% of per capita GDP. That's a huge sum of money that's going to have to be found via the tax system, and it's far too big to find from merely taxing the top end (especially when you're as full of millionaires and as prosperous from foreign capital flows attracted in part by your low tax regime).

It sounds likely to be a huge boon to certain categories of "idle rich" dabbling in low end residential property speculation (CHF 2500 per month average Zurich apartments aren't going to stay that way when even unemployed couples earn double that) and ironically probably penalise precisely those employees most readily exploited by employers: those without the raw ability to earn above the median wage but with the work ethic and drive to get close.


You could do it, you'd just need the world's steepest tax rates- and not marginal tax like the USA, either, where the top marginal bracket is 40% but the effective tax will be much lower. We're probably talking you take home one dollar for every three you earn.

ironically probably penalise...

This actually brings a really interesting point to mind. When everyone gets 2500CHF, the people who are currently working for 1250CHF have in a sense had their incomes slashed. They go from being infinitely richer than the unemployed, to only 50% richer (on a monthly income basis). So instead of lifting themselves high above the jobless, the same amount of work now lifts them only a little bit. I am unsure at the moment whether this can be described as decreasing the marginal utility of the income they currently earn.


On the other hand, now their wages are entirely disposable income, right?


> Now this has not been confirmed yed (the referendum is to be held in 2015). The goal is to put an end to the degrading controls forced upon people depending on welfare, and to balance the relationship between employers and employees - if you don't HAVE to work, you don't have to put up with abusive employers, low-paying slavery and the like

That's quite radical, but smart at the same time. It has the potential to weed out bad companies from the economy, which in the long run is beneficial. It shifts a lot of power to the employee though, so there's a risk in the long run it can create a bad workforce instead.


There is no such thing as a "bad company."

Either a company is providing a good or service that people want enough to pay for, or it's not and it goes out of business. That's the market.


So... if a restaurant owner gets his rocks off by forcing the waitresses to blow him, that's fine as long as the place is profitable?


Wow, I didn't think 2500CHF/month is anywhere near possible for a country like Switzerland. I think that balancing relationship (or negotiating position) is the argument for basic income. That being said going from 0 to 2500CHF/month looks very bold.


SPECULATION: I'd guess that they already have some kind of social security system that costs them a lot plus they would use progressive taxation to get most of the money back.


Citation? I really like the idea of basic income but $2700/month per person seems absurdly high. I don't know why any political faction would try for so much.


Is there a detailed explanation of the plan available online?


> a) no country has ever tried it, really, so there isn't a real-world experience case to look at yet,

Brazil is trying, it's called "Bolsa Família". It's an attempt to assure a minimum base income, stop child labor and develop the economy on places far away from the big centers. It works by putting money directly into the hands of poor families and letting they decide how to use it, as opposed to more specific welfare programs.

I guess that's as close as you can get to socialism, and there's a lot of controversy surrounding it, since brazilian government is provenly corrupt.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsa_Fam%C3%ADlia


Thanks for pointing out Brazil. And as for the OP, I would also point out History! I mean what is this bullshit - basic income guarantee has been in practice for 50 years in almost every communist state around Russia, my Poland included. It wasn't called that way, but the policy was that everyone has to have a job and receive a specified wage. And everyone did. You know what happened? Money was useless because there was no supply. Everybody had money, nobody was poor, the problem was - you can't eat paper.

You know what would happen in the US, where there is supply? It would drive spending nuts, demand would grow, prices would grow, therefore inflation would grow and the dollar would lose its value, effectively diminishing the basic income benefits.

Because life ain't fair, it never will be unless we live in utopia where everyone is good and there is no evil. So why not try it? Because there was a guy who wrote it all down. His name was Marks. And you know who used his theories in practice? Lenin. And you know what happened next? The Red Revolution.

Seriously, such ideas for the US… "Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."


"basic income guarantee has been in practice for 50 years in almost every communist state around Russia, my Poland included"

This type of statement betrays a total lack of understanding of what a basic income guarantee even is. Plenty of deeply anti-communist thinkers--including probably the most effective one in history--have supported a basic income.

Why did your native Poland fall far short of its productive potential? As you yourself say, it wasn't for lack of money: it was because the things people wanted to consume were not being produced.

The root cause of that was broken capital markets: special interests (or foreign special interests, in the case of Poland) captured political control of the economic resources of Poland and used non-market decision making to allocate capital. If people who completely deprioritize popular standard of living control capital, then, yes, unsurprisingly other things--military, party functionaries, foreign invaders--will end up getting their demand met.

Also: "Because life ain't fair, it never will be unless we live in utopia where everyone is good and there is no evil. So why not try it? Because there was a guy who wrote it all down. His name was Marks. And you know who used his theories in practice? Lenin. And you know what happened next? The Red Revolution."

It's abundantly clear that, for all his faults, you don't even have a passing acquaintance with Marx. He's wrong on virtually everything, but you're not even wrong.


I can't comment on your reply because it lacks any argument against my post. Tell me where I'm wrong. But what I can tell you is that if you give $1,000 per month to every adult in US without any requirement, then: 1) you might as well not give any money to anybody, because relatively no ones wealth will change 2) at first everybody will be able to buy the essential stuff, food etc. but then 3) you will end up with inflation, because free money will create more demand, which in turn will result in smaller supply (relatively to demand) and higher prices, and cheaper dollar - in the end these $1,000 after a couple of months will buy you only $500 worth of goods (end game is that these $1,000 will be worthless after some period) 4) you will be spending $3bn per month on this, out of thin air, effectively pumping cash into the system, decreasing dollar value even more

To some extent this already has been tried in the US in the form of cheap mortgage credit to the poor. Thousands of dollars were given to people who defaulted and never paid back. Look where it got us…


Your points are inconsistent with each other: first you claim that no one's pattern of consumption will be affected, but then you move to claiming that the prices of basic goods will change. Those two things cannot both be true: which would you like me to address?

Overall, your main flaw is that you're considering the economy an entirely static thing. But as the demand for basic goods increases, it creates new business opportunities for both incumbents and potential entrants into the market. Capital seeks out profits, and relatively more capital would flow into the provision of basic goods. That's what prevents the basic income from dissipating into worthlessness.


Not at all, not static. I'm just saying you cannot give people free money and not take that money from somewhere else. FED has been doing this, the quantitative easing, for some time now, but it's not feasible in the long run. Wealth is created, not given.


"I'm just saying you cannot give people free money and not take that money from somewhere else"

No-one is saying that you should. A theoretical BIG would be funded by the money that is currently spent on inefficient and mismanaged state welfare. It's money that is already being spent, used in a different way.


1) you might as well not give any money to anybody, because relatively no ones wealth will change

Blatantly untrue -- under basic income poor people will see their relative purchasing power increase, and rich people will see theirs decrease.

3) you will end up with inflation, because free money will create more demand, which in turn will result in smaller supply (relatively to demand) and higher prices

Or maybe supply will go up? You know we have an unemployment problem, right? More demand is exactly what America wants right now. It creates business and employment opportunities.

in the end these $1,000 after a couple of months will buy you only $500 worth of goods (end game is that these $1,000 will be worthless after some period)

Obviously basic income would be pegged to GDP, hence pegged to inflation. This is a non-argument.


1) If I have $0 and you have $100 and we both get $1000, you are still $100 richer than me. Also, if you say that purchasing power of the rich decreases, you are admitting to inflation. If I have $10,000 and can buy 20 laptops, but after the $0 guy gets $1000 he of course feels better, he can now buy 1 laptop - however I can only buy 10 laptops now. The value of the dollar dropped by half :/ that's what you are saying?

And about pegging, if you say you increase the payout according to increasing inflation, then wow, you now have a hyperinflation (that's when prices go up 100% in a matter of days, each week).


Think of it like USA Inc. with every citizen a shareholder entitled to dividends from GDP. It is not free money.

Also, your economics is pants. Giving $1000 to everyone is going to make a lot more difference to someone eating out of dumpsters than it is to Bill Gates. And it isn't about rescuing people by giving them a lump sum and expecting that things will be fine, it is just about giving people enough time for reflection that more of them have a chance to sort their shit out. Life is hard and people are disorganised bastards, if we try and make it a bit easier for people we might get more done.


It will make a lot more difference to those who are wealthy as well. But not in a good way.

USA Inc. with every citizen as shareholder would work like this: I earn $100K/y, my neighbour just $0/y. I pay $20K in taxes, he pays none. We both get $12K/y from BIG. For me it's a dividend. For my neighbour it's free money. So what's my incentive to work? Screw this, I quit. Now, USA Inc. get's $0/y from both of us. For 4 months we still get the cash, from the surplus. But that runs out, and now we both get $0 and are jobless.

BIG will only work if there are more people who work than those who don't work. Making things easier for people never actually helped them. Those who succeeded had to go through hard work.


"So what's my incentive to work? Screw this, I quit"

Your incentive to work is that you earn $100k instead of $12k. I certainly wouldn't quit my job if it means that much of an income hit. This is actually a real situation for me - I could quit my job tomorrow and get more than $12k in benefits, but I won't.


Good point. But what if you earned $20k? The problem here is, you would have to go straight from $0 to at least $24k to have incentive to work. Anything less is just not worth the hassle, if you get $12k for nothing. And that creates a problem - how people are going to go up the career ladder, if at the starting point they want so much?


Interns? Work for nothing/benefits/nonmonetary compensation/experience?

(I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with the premise, just brainstorming)


Even a minimum wage job would double your income. That is plenty of incentive to work.


Making things easier for people never actually helped them.

You'd lose a lot of people as a lifeguard.


I'd rather teach them how to swim when they are young.


Then, in addition to my previous comment, especially at a pool for the elderly.


> It wasn't called that way, but the policy was that everyone has to have a job and receive a specified wage.

That is not a basic income guarantee. With a basic income guarantee, you receive the basic income regardless of whether you have a job or not. You do not have to have a job. If you choose to have a job, you earn a wage in addition to your basic income. The system you're describing is a completely, fundamentally different thing from a basic income guarantee.


Let me explain: in a communist country, people had various jobs. Each job had a different salary. But everyone had a job, everybody had income. So, if you asked anyone "Do you earn at least $100?" - all would say "Yes". But some could earn more if they were in better jobs. Obviously that meant you didn't actually have to work to receive salary - that's why productivity sucked. Not so different now, huh?


Yes, still very, very different. Having a job where you don't actually accomplish any work is completely different from not having a job at all. Having a non-productive job wastes your time and saps your energy. I've had them before, and they're soul-crushing. Not having a job at all, on the other hand, frees you to do real work. Creative work, work in line with your passion. That's what we really need people to be spending their time on, not raking all the leaves from one end of Central Park to the other and back.

When J.K. Rowling was on benefits from the UK government, she wrote the first in a series of novels that would go on to become the best-selling novel series of all time and earn her hundreds of millions of pounds, a good portion of which went back to the UK government in tax revenue. If instead she had been forced to do a menial, unproductive job, none of that would have happened. Her words on the subject: “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. … And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Buckminster Fuller hit the nail on the head with this quote: “We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”


I understand your point and you are quite right that if an exceptional individual has given space to pursue his passion without the worries of "making a living", it's awesome and they can blossom. But for general population, this doesn't work. Otherwise Poland would be filled with success in all fields instead of 2M jobless receiving unemployment pension.


> I mean what is this bullshit - basic income guarantee has been in practice for 50 years in almost every communist state around Russia, my Poland included. It wasn't called that way, but the policy was that everyone has to have a job and receive a specified wage.

But is it really the same thing?

A basic income guarantee is the same as having a basic (food/healthcare/public services/whatever) guarantee (basically, state welfare already implemented in many countries) - the difference is the government is paying in money instead of trying to provide the services themselves.

The way I see it, it's quite different than everybody getting the same income. It has the potential to improve public service efficiency and foster the economy away from big production centers (decreasing city population density, which causes a lot of problems on it's own, like homelessness or poor housing conditions, traffic, health and environmental issues, all of which are problems the government has to waste money on already).


> Because life ain't fair, it never will be unless we live in utopia where everyone is good and there is no evil. So why not try it? Because there was a guy who wrote it all down. His name was Marks. And you know who used his theories in practice? Lenin. And you know what happened next? The Red Revolution.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6311812


> Because there was a guy who wrote it all down. His name was Marks [sic]. And you know who used his theories in practice? Lenin.

Marks, really? If you want to pose as a scholar, at least learn to spell the names of important historical figures. And this isn't a trivial correction -- because you think his name is Karl Marks, your post will not show up in Web searches of the topic you think you're writing about.


I don't pose for anything, I'm just saying what is logical. 2+2 != 5. And sorry for this heresy I committed by not writing Karl's surname properly - force of habit, this is how we write his surname in Poland. Now does it change the discussion in any way? I don't think so...


A big difference between the BIG scenario and what you describe is "everyone has to have a job". The inefficiencies of/resistance to state-mandated production quotas make the two systems significantly different.


Bolsa Familia is not a basic income. It fails to fix the fundamental problem with current welfare: that it is a disincentive to reemployment.

A proper basic income is fucking trivial to implement. Give every member of society X amount of money per T time period.

This has nothing to do with socialism. The means of production do NOT change ownership.


> A proper basic income is fucking trivial to implement. Give every member of society X amount of money per T time period.

Just like that, huh? Pray tell, where does the money come from? Magic money pixies just conjure up limitless amounts of money and sprinkle it everywhere, and the only effect that has is that now everyone has money!

> This has nothing to do with socialism. The means of production do NOT change ownership.

Oh, a Marxist.


>> This has nothing to do with socialism. The means of production do NOT change ownership.

> Oh, a Marxist.

Not necessarily a Marxist, just someone who actually knows the meaning of the word socialism. Depressingly uncommon, that.


From what I have read basic income is often suggested to be combined with a single land value tax. This means the only direct taxes are on the unimproved value of land, which is fairly easy to administer in a country like the United Kingdom, for example. That tax is then passed on to people who consume the output of the land, be that actual produce, like vegetables, or more intangible things, like crossing the land in a train.

The land value tax can be scaled to match the requirements of the basic income, plus additional government costs (e.g. defence). I suppose in a libertarian interpretation of that system the additional government costs would be minimal. Personally I would favour more social spending, but I could imagine less being necessary than under systems where basic provision is lower, or has more strings attached.


The money could come from a number if sources, like all existing welfare programs, or public pensions, which are already incredibly high, and could be substantially lowered. Or we could cut our ridiculous military budget by a tiny fraction.


Have you looked at some numbers?

Here's a start: 300 million people * $1500/month = $5.4T per year.

It seems the total US tax revenues are around $2.9T in 2013. So with these numbers, all they'd need is to.. roughly double their revenues. In other words, the US would need to forcefully confiscate almost twice as much money as they do now.

This is why statements like "A proper basic income is fucking trivial to implement. Give every member of society X amount of money per T time period" are somewhat annoying, and we haven't even gone into the consequences of raising taxes by even half.


Try using some real numbers if you're going to actually try dismissing an argument with an appeal to numbers. Are we talking about guaranteeing that every child has $1,500/mo, too? I don't think so.

Based on Census data, there are about 240 million adults ... so $4.3T, using your $1500/mo figure.

Basing this off existing tax revenues is somewhat foolhardy as that system is gamed like crazy. Forcefully confiscate? No. The US would have to alter tax code to increase revenue by closing all the loopholes used by those who exploit them to avoid taxation of their incomes and assets.

Beyond that, this would not be a simple program to implement--which, I think, is actually your point. For starters, BGI would have to adjust based on where a person lives--someone in NYC or LA has a higher basic income need than someone in the smaller, cheaper Southern and Midwestern towns. This makes a bit more difficult equation for determining exactly how much this would cost, but there's enough Census data available that we could roughly estimate it with a bit of effort. The tax system would have to be modified, making appeals to current tax revenues a rather moot point.

So, you're right that it's not a trivial proposal, and it's unfortunate the other commenter suggested such a trivial solution. However, we do just give every member of society X amount of money per T time period in the form of various tax breaks and write-offs, etc. So, the other commenter is not too far off that it can be as trivial as agreeing and deciding to just do it--and then get on with the hard work of figuring out how to implement it.


I didn't mean my numbers to be accurate. That's why I referred to them as a start.

Yes, there would be considerations such as the differences between rental prices in NYC vs Idaho, or whatever.

But more importantly, what happens if there's a hefty increase in taxes? -A lot of businesses will shut down or get the fuck out, and then the tax burden is just that much heavier on everyone who's left, and then they're even more motivated to shut down or get out. It's a feedback loop of higher taxes.


A voice of reason in the wilderness. These people (or is it all one person with multiple accounts?) disinter tired, old socialist notions that have no basis in reality. Indeed, let's just close all the tax "loopholes" and redistribute $2T to the least productive people and see what happens. What a great idea!

Excuse me, but I have to get back to the real world, now. Enjoy eating the goose, but don't complain tomorrow when you run out of golden eggs!


Yep. They have no clue. I've come to the conclusion that trying to get people to see reason is futile, but old habits die hard.


> to the least productive people

BIG goes to everyone. It replaces (among other things) programs which go to the "least productive people". So your criticism seems misplaced.


> But more importantly, what happens if there's a hefty increase in taxes?

Depends. I mean, if you do a big shift from payroll taxes (which business pay for workers independently of whether they are making a profit) to income taxes (which business pay, essentially, on profits), even if the overall level of taxation is higher, you can make it much easier to start a business and make it sustainable, causing businesses to flourish.

Also, you can tie BIG to a revenue base such that increases/decreases in the revenue base over time also lead to increases/decreases in the guarantee.


> I didn't mean my numbers to be accurate. That's why I referred to them as a start.

Typically, when discussing a start, I'd expect people to not be starting with a number that is over $1T higher than what we would actually be discussing right now. $1T is a lot of overage for a start, even considering that you apparently did not care to be accurate when trying to so definitively dismiss the attainability of a better economic platform for everyone.

> But more importantly, what happens if there's a hefty increase in taxes? -A lot of businesses will shut down or get the fuck out, and then the tax burden is just that much heavier on everyone who's left, and then they're even more motivated to shut down or get out. It's a feedback loop of higher taxes.

You're purely speculating here.

Running a business ought not make anyone some kind of special entity more valued than all the workers they depend on. There is a seriously systemic social problem in America where too many people look at businesses as something that ought not be obligated to the same expectations of social responsibility as normal citizens and the state itself.

Don't want to pay taxes? Fuck off Business Person, we don't need you. If what you're doing is really that valuable and the market wants it, someone else will find a way. And if nobody else does, we still don't fucking need you.

Establishing a fair, just, and reasonably equitable society is far more important than counting the number of businesses we have. When the system is stacked in favor of those who want to evade taxes, or threaten they will shut down or get the fuck out, and constantly caters to this bullshit, we can't improve our institutions meaningfully. Moreover, the cult of endless economic growth that so dominates our cultural narrative is working against us and reality itself. It's unsustainable. We keeping moving toward more bullshit jobs and less meaning for people, as if job titles and salaries are the only measure of human worth and the only means to happiness.

Everybody treats the economy and the complex systems that transact within it as if it's some kind of set of laws built into the universe itself, instead of something we fashion ourselves and have the ability to direct.


> Don't want to pay taxes? Fuck off Business Person, we don't need you. If what you're doing is really that valuable and the market wants it, someone else will find a way. And if nobody else does, we still don't fucking need you.

We all need goods and services. Who's going to give you food, fix your car, build your house, sell you a computer? You might make a few of these yourself (grow your own food if you live on a farm, for example), but not all of them. Eventually, it all comes back to a system where people make stuff and trade with others.

> Everybody treats the economy and the complex systems that transact within it as if it's some kind of set of laws built into the universe itself, instead of something we fashion ourselves and have the ability to direct.

A lot of these systems and designs are fashioned by human nature. We can't truly direct human nature; people in all societies are self-interested, looking to survive and improve their place in society. This is balanced with cooperation, since in some situations you're better off collaborating than being selfish.

Whichever way you re-design society, it's going to shape itself after human nature. Not even the communist master planners managed to break its basic laws, quite the opposite. For example, in Communist countries (or Romania at least), there was a black market for all kinds of stuff you couldn't find in the open (like Western magazines, literature, or rare stuff like meat).

TLDR version: I don't think you can engineer society.


Oh stop it, you Silly Marxist Goose.


Isn't $10k/yr the generally the suggested figure, maybe $1k/mo for simplicity? $10k/yr makes it $2.4T. Social security is approximately $770B, safety nets $410B. Medicare/Medicaid is around $730B. That's getting close.


> Bolsa Familia is not a basic income. It fails to fix the fundamental problem with current welfare: that it is a disincentive to reemployment.

I don't think it's disincentive to reemployment in this case, because being unemployed is not a requirement to receive the money, just being below a certain level of income per family member. Those families can both receive the benefit and work, as the program has the potential to stimulate the local economy and create business opportunities or jobs that didn't existed before.

> This has nothing to do with socialism.

Redistribution of wealth is a core concept of socialism, and that's what this program effectively achieves. The resources come from heavier taxation from the federal government on the bigger economic centers of Brazil. So I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.


Redistribution of wealth is a core concept of centralized government of all kinds, through the medium of taxation. And governments of all kinds already redistribute wealth in pursuit of social goals, whether they are socialist or not.


> I don't think it's disincentive to reemployment in this case, because being unemployed is not a requirement to receive the money, just being below a certain level of income per family member.

Well, I personally know people that refuse to work because they get the benefit, and even a minimum salary would make them ineligible.

Bolsa Familia is fixing several people into poverty.


Minimum salary won't get you out of poverty either. It means 2-4h in a packed bus, work for someone else, see your kids only when they're sleeping, have no alternative but public health and education, which usually is hellish.


I'm sorry, but for some reason I can't believe you.

The program currently pays per family, tops, R$ 306. Minimum wage is more than double. I don't see why mentally and physically capable people would refuse the opportunity of doubling their income.


Some can make more by taking informal jobs, which they don't have to report. With that, they are locked into a local maximum. And I've heard anecdotes from social workers of people who do prefer taking the "free" money to working. When you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of families, there will always be a few outliers.


Genuinely curious, at what point does taxation become socialism?


There are many ways to spend tax money that aren't directly related to welfare: military, infra-strucure for the private sector (docks, airports), industry, research...

I believe that a state that taxes and redistributes wealth is enforcing some level of common ownership, so acting under socialist principles. A state that uses tax money and reverts back into public services though is more often said to be only a welfare state.


Sounds like, in short, taxation to help the poor is socialism, while taxation to help the rich is not. Which I suppose is true, but not exactly a reason to avoid socialism.


Okay, that puts this into perspective:

>> This has nothing to do with socialism.

>Redistribution of wealth is a core concept of socialism, and that's what this program effectively achieves. The resources come from heavier taxation from the federal government on the bigger economic centers of Brazil. So I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.

You two are arguing around two definitions of socialism, the OP is using the standard definition and you are using your own heuristic.

>I believe that a state that taxes and redistributes wealth is enforcing some level of common ownership, so acting under socialist principles.

This doesn't follow. If they were abolishing property rights, then yes you might have a point, but this is nothing new. It doesn't erode away any of the problematic power relations in a pre-socialist economy.

It's like equating the following:

>There are many ways to spend tax money that aren't directly related to welfare: military, infra-strucure for the private sector (docks, airports), industry, research...

with fascism.

It bears a resemblance but upon closer inspection is absolutely nothing of the sort.

I'm also curious as to why you don't classify the above corporate welfare as socialism as well.


> You two are arguing around two definitions of socialism, the OP is using the standard definition and you are using your own heuristic.

I'm giving my definition, as someone who knows what goes on inside this country.

The program was put in practice under a left-wing government, whose president was the head of the worker party and went to jail during the right-wing, US-supported, military dictatorship we had in Brazil from 1964 to 1986.

So even though the program looks like "just" welfare, there's a strong socialist doctrine behind it, revolving around redistribution of wealth and the maintenance of the left-wing in power. Mind you, the same party that implemented the program won all four subsequent elections for presidency.

> It bears a resemblance but upon closer inspection is absolutely nothing of the sort.

Nothing of the sort? It's pretty close a description of where the US government invests it's tax money, and there are quite a few people who classify it as a fascist government. The fact it's a military power, ran by a two-party system where both sit on the same axis of the political spectrum, with a strong nationalism sentiment and martialist culture are often given as indicators.


The moment you do something useful to society with the tax revenue.


At the point at which it's mandatory.


I would hardly call "basic minimum income" socialism. Socialism is top-down control of the economy by the state; this is just an (extremely) liberal (in the european sense) welfarism. You could argue that it's less socialistic than the US' welfare system, which imposes lots of behaviour controls on its recipients.


>I guess that's as close as you can get to socialism, and there's a lot of controversy surrounding it, since brazilian government is provenly corrupt.

I would say that is as close as you can get to capitalism (while having welfare). In the current welfare systems, the government funds specific programs to provide for the public. With a BI, the government gives money to individuals, and allows the market to arrange itself to provide for the public.


Actually, that's what I meant.

It's as close as you get to socialism (redistribution of wealth is a form of common ownership of the country's GDP) without rendering money useless (having the government provide everything for everybody).


a) France does just that.

Since 1988.

It was called for years RMI for "Revenu Minimum d'Insertion" which translates to something like minimum revenue for social integration.

Our previous government changed the name to RSA or "Revenu de Solidarité Active", which translates to revenue of active solidarity. They reduced the revenue by a few percent at that occasion.

The RSA provides now enough to live (about 500€ for a single person per month) if not in a major city center. It becomes about 1200€ month for a family with two children. Again, just the minimum to live.

Also take in account that education and health are free* in France.

(*) YMMV, not all MDs, but most schools, etc.


Except RSA is not available to everyone (many people are not eligible), not guaranteed (it's tied to searching for a job, for instance), and not an actual income that provides you the bare minimum (in some places it doesn't even get you housing).


Does this apply to immigrants ? If so why are there such large tensions around the issues of immigrant unemployment ?


Yes, under conditions. Mainly: stable residency, plus legal immigration papers.

Legal immigration is pretty low in France (compared to other European countries for instance), but what you mention IS a source of tensions, and the bread of extreme right parties.


I've been thinking about this proposal for quite a few years, and wrote a blog post explaining how this kind of negative income tax actually reduces distortion of free markets by separating personal risk from income risk.

I think the reason it keeps coming up here is because the ability to do this is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it didn't get much interest when I posted it here, but hopefully some folks will find it interesting enough to more seriously consider this.

It is not welfare, it is not socialism. It frees people to be rational actors in a capitalist society.

http://neltnerb.tumblr.com/post/58818804903/an-entrepreneurs...


Basic income of all the failed attempts at communism, whats the end difference? Everyone can be happy in poverty except for those who run the industries and government?

Seen it, fails every time. Basic Income is nothing more than some people hoping to pay some groups enough so they don't steal their stuff. The issue becomes, how much is that pay off going to be?

NPR has lots of stories about people living off of SSI/SSID and similar, very close the requirements of BI, guess what, they seem to lose the will to improve their lives.

BI will just result in more people not trying to improve themselves


If you think the majority of people would just lay their lives to waste because they don't need to doing the bidding of others just to survive, then you are wrong. 99% of able-bodied and able-minded adults would not succumb to idlery.

Applying for SSI/SSID is an incredibly dehumanizing process. It takes over a year if you are lucky. You will be denied for any reason they can possibly find. It is guaranteed you will be denied for your first application. You have to prove you are disabled to them (disgusting really). You must have documentation. It goes on and on, but they honestly hope most applicators either die in the interim or just give up on 'improving themselves'.

Really, if there is a miniscule amount of people who will abuse the system it does not at all outweigh the good it provides. If your qualm is with said abusers, profile, detect, and prosecute them. Society is not going to collapse.


>If you think the majority of people would just lay their lives to waste because they don't need to doing the bidding of others just to survive, then you are wrong. 99% of able-bodied and able-minded adults would not succumb to idlery.

I would like to be the first to welcome you to planet Earth and introduce you human beings, as it is clear you have just arrived here.


The people who make more than enough money to survive (many tech people), what keeps them pushing for more? The drive to prove oneself, the drive to rise above the rest, the drive to obtain what others do not have, the drive to fame. Those forces will always exist, and will always push people.


I can play that condescension game too! Mason, you seem to have really taken the don't-question-things-fall-in-line schooling to heart all the way to where you think you are actually an independent thinker, but you just parrot completely baseless folk wisdom!

See? Isn't this productive and enjoyable? Hmm, if not, maybe you could try to have respectful and productive things to say in the future. You might learn something.


It's clear that you have a very limited view of humanity. Go out and meet some people, and learn their motivations and what drives them.


> a) no country has ever tried it

Isn't the cash you get from "Social Services" (or whatever it's called) just that, a basic revenue that's guaranteed (as long as you follow some very simple/basic/normal rules)?


No, not really; and the rules aren't that simple.

Example: My father's Medicaid was suspended/discontinued because he failed to submit some paperwork by a deadline, and missed a scheduled appointment.

Well, of course he has to fill out the proper paperwork and make his appointments! you might respond, and yes, for you or I, perhaps it might be reasonable to demand filled out forms, on time, and that we submit to an in-person interview. However, if you have COPD / Emphysema, you must to take oxygen with you; lacking a portable oxygen system means that you are, for all practical purposes home-bound. You most certainly are not able to make a sixty mile round trip. So, homebound, and lacking necessary medicine, portable oxygen, his health deteriorated until he needed hospitalization. At the hospital, a social worker was quickly made available. Medicaid was restored. He received enough care at the hospital to be released. He returned to his apartment. This cycle was repeated several times before his death.


Horrible story. This is exactly why these types of services should be provided without conditions attached to them.


One of the tenants of basic income is that you don' discriminate who gets it. The economic impact of everyone having some fraction (relative to their monthly checks) of demand met regardless of employment is something we have never seen. Additionally, all those unemployment / SSI projects are probably less popular because its discriminatory. With BI everyone from a homeless guy on the street to Bill Gates would get a check.


Those services have very narrow windows of qualification. This create a lot of top heavy bureaucracy which wastes a great deal of money that could be going directly to people. In addition it create a bifurcation of society, "those parasites" vs everyone else, which is turn create social stigma which only further exacerbates poverty.


> "those parasites" vs everyone else, which is turn create social stigma which only further exacerbates poverty.

Yep, our cultural stupidity does exist. That's why everybody should get a good education.


The issue in this branch of the conversation is the stigmatizing of people who legitimately need services but have actual hardships in maintaining them in the face of beauracratic rigidity and "discrimination by fiat".

My mother is legally blind and needs assistance for almost any trip out of her residence, and all paperwork. How many classes/subjects will fix that?


Not so much. It is not very easy to navigate and can take a while depending on how you end up there. Some of the money is also restricted use[1]. It is very much not guaranteed.

1) ok, in the last year or two some rules changed allowing EBT payments at strip clubs and liquor stores, but not buying a burrito at a gas station then cooking it in the gas station's microwave.


> a) no country has ever tried it, really, so there isn't a real-world experience case to look at yet.

Argentina had implemented a minimum income based on the number of children of a family. There are some studies about it like: http://www.degruyter.com/dg/viewarticle/j$002fbis.2012.7.iss...

This is not a basic salary but it's an important income for poor families.


Australia has it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_security_in_Australia#N... It's conditioned to seeking a job, but nonetheless there is no time limit; plus they offer job placement support, helping you become a productive citizen.

Surprises me that in 400+ coments there is no mention to it.


That is nothing like an unconditional payment to every adult regardless of their work situation. That's why no one has mentioned it.

The concept of a basic income seeks to replace the variety of welfare/support payments a country has. In Australia, that would include Newstart, Austudy, Abstudy, veterans payments, carer's allowance, disability, pensions, etc. You would get the basic income even if you chose to work as well.


They idea is interesting, but only if you take healthcare out of the equation. Healthcare expenses are close to nothing when you're in good health, but can get incredibly high - at market rates - when you're not. And no, private insurance is not the answer.


> no country has ever tried it, really, so there isn't a real-world experience case to look at yet

Canada tried it in the city of Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s. While it was not conducted across the entire country, there is at least some data to look at.

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