Universal Basic Idiocy, Pt. II

Mar 7, 2018 by

Welfare: Long favored on the left, the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is enjoying a current vogue even among some conservatives. But don’t be confused by the bipartisanship: no matter who likes the idea, it’s a bad one.

The UBI idea has attracted a varied group of backers, including entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, former Service Employees International Union chief Andy Stern and libertarian thinker Charles Murray.

It enjoys public popularity, too. A recent Gallup and Northeastern University poll found that 48% of Americans said they would support a universal basic income, while 52% said they would oppose it. And 46% said they would pay higher taxes to fund it.

Money for nothin’, it seems, is a popular idea. It’s growing in popularity largely because people fear being left jobless by the increased use of robots and artificial intelligence in the workplace.

But it’s a pernicious idea. And, oh yes, it’s already been tried. It didn’t work.

As Robert Rector and Mimi Texeira of the Heritage Foundation recently noted: “In the 1970s, the government ran four random control experiments across six states to try the negative income tax, a similar policy proposal that was popular at the time. In each test, the work disincentive effect was disastrous. For every $1,000 in added benefits to a family, there was an average reduction in $660 of wages from work.”

So, in other words, it took $3,000 in added government benefits to increase family income by $1,000. Another spectacular example of government inefficiency.

It turns out, if you give people money for doing nothing, they actually start doing … nothing.

True enough, not everything about UBI is bad. One of the reasons why Charles Murray supports UBI, for instance, is that we could then replace most of the 80 federal welfare programs with one simple check, eliminating the need for a massive bureaucracy and thousands of rules. He’s right. It would be simpler.

But it would also be a Pandora’s box for bigger government. No sooner would the first check be cut than the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would wail that the amount is too little; it needs to be more. There would be no end to it — or to the income redistribution through the tax code needed to fund it.

It would shrink the welfare bureaucracy, but expand the size and complexity of the tax code and the attendant bureaucracy. And it would give federal government far more control over all of our lives and the economy than it has today, while discouraging people from working.

Despite all this, UBI is getting another tryout right now in the financially broke California city of Stockton. Will it work? No. Because even if the program’s features change, human nature never does.

Source: Universal Basic Idiocy, Pt. II | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis – IBD

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