Sunday, July 27, 2014

Complex Problem, Simple Solution: Universal Basic Income

The way the system works: These guys have $100 billion. Does that make sense?

I've been thinking and writing about a universal basic income for a while now, so when it pops up elsewhere, I'm excited. David Atkins, at both Washington Monthly and Hullabalo, helped reignite discussion of it in the past week. Atkins links several articles together to buttress his case.

Atkins cited this WaPo article by Max Ehrenfreund, whose premise was that conservatives, one would think, would embrace the universal basic income because it would take the place of a slew of government programs.

Ehrenfreund offers a link to an earlier piece by Mike Konczal that makes the point that the UBI shouldn't be thought of as merely utopian but rather practical, as well. He highlights the aspects of American life that can be liberated from markets:
Another somewhat related focus of the left is the issue of decommodification, or whether certain goods should be provided through market logic. As Naomi Klein argued in "Reclaiming the Commons," one goal for the left is to oppose “the privatization of every aspect of life, and the transform­ation of every activity and value into a commodity.” This has a long history on the left; Daniel Rodgers argued that a major focus of early 20th century progressives was “to hold certain elements out of the market's processes, indeed to roll back those parts of the market whose social costs had proved too high.”
According to this line of thought, the goal isn’t to ensure a sufficient amount of market access and purchasing power, but instead to remove markets from the way people interface with certain goods, such as education or health care. As the welfare-state theorist Gøsta Esping-Andersen argued, decommodification is defined as a situation in which “a service is rendered as a matter of right, and when a person can maintain a livelihood without reliance on the market.” A UBI would delink survival and subsistence from the labor market, advancing this goal.
Another project is to expand the say workers have in their workplaces. This includes not only unionization, but also a more general project of democracy that doesn’t end once you walk through your employer’s door. As Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg and labor attorney Moshe Marvit have argued, labor organizing needs to be considered a basic civil right.
Much of this approach is already on display in European social democracies. The keys are removing certain commodities from markets that don't perform well, education and healthcare being two of them. We also have, in essence, commodified child-rearing and caring for the elderly. Since we don't get paid for that, many families choose to take the woman out of the labor force to deal with these necessities. Again, Europe deals a bit better with these issues, especially in Scandinavia. got into the act as Dylan Matthews, who's been writing about this issue for a while, had a good piece on what we've learned from controlled experiments with a UBI. Matthews references the Manitoba experiment -- which I had studied a while back -- but doesn't discuss it much. That's worth a deeper look.

David Atkins wrote about the UBI here, here and here.

I wrote about it here.

Congressman Paul Ryan, for some reason attracted attention this week by coming out with this new idea for treating the poor humanely:
  1. Take all the federal spending on safety nets and eliminate the huge federal safety-net bureaucracy by block-granting the money to the states.
  2. The fifty states create fifty bureaucracies, thus using the money more wisely.
  3. These fifty bureaucracies hold the recipients of their poverty programs accountable and take away benefits if they don't successfully follow the states' "life plan" by accessing training and getting a job.
  4. ????
  5. Jobs for all the poor!
Or we could follow Rick Santorum's prescription:
There is income inequality in America. There always has been and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be. Why? Because people rise to different levels of success based on what they contribute to society and to the marketplace and that's as it should be.
Thanks for clearing that up, Rick. Left unsaid but clearly implied is that some portion of society ends up contributing nothing and the marketplace rewards them with nothing. And that's how it should be. How very American -- and Christian -- of you.

No comments:

Post a Comment