Five Reasons to Prefer a Basic Income to a Welfare State

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In the above discussion on Same Seder’s The Majority Report He asks Karl Widerquist about why we should prefer a basic income to the welfare state if it is likely that even with a basic income we would likely need to keep many social programs like social security and medicaid in place.

I thought it was a great discussion but I also thought that there was some room particularly on this topic to talk a bit further about the advantages of a basic income.So, without further ado five, very brief, reason to prefer a basic income to a welfare state.

1. People have a right to a basic income. People don’t merely have a right to food so they don’t starve and a house so they are not homeless but they have a right to a basic income. The welfare state infringes on personal liberties in a way that is morally impermissible and a basic income is the best way to eliminate poverty without infringing on anyone’s rights.

2. A basic income would make sure that nobody falls through the cracks. If we take the idea that even a single homeless child or a single homeless person is a moral tragedy then we should institute a basic income to make sure that poverty is once and for all eliminated.

3. A basic income would be cheaper to administer than even an ideal welfare state. Part of the Seder’s point was that we would still needs to keep lots of programs around. This is true but I don’t think it is true that we would need to keep all the current programs around. Unemployment insurance is one that comes to mind pretty easily as being unproblematic to cut.

4. There is actually a good chance that in time we could eliminate all of the current social welfare programs. The one exception here seems to be some sort of special health care for those with disabilities but this could also be scrapped if we move to free universal health care.

5. And most importantly a basic income has the potential to revolutionize society in ways that a the welfare state never could. A basic income would eliminate the need for a minimum wage and unions. It would eliminate the need for work altogether. It would unlock an astounding amount of creative energy that is now being devoted to make rich people richer so that poor and middle class people don’t starve and go homeless. The potential of a basic income is staggering and frankly quite unimaginable at this point. What would society look like 50 years ABI (after basic income)? I think there would be unprecedented social cooperation in a united effort to raise the basic income of all person’s. I think there would be an end to racism and racial tension as scarcity is eliminated. There would be an end to class warfare as all person would truly have an equal opportunity to succeed. Massive reductions in crime. And with unprecedented levels of political involvement even an end to war. I obviously can’t prove all of that to be true at this point but there are strong empirical connections between poverty and income inequality and virtually all the social problems that we currently face.

How close would basic income get us to utopia? I’m not sure but I’d like to find out.


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