What are your views on Universal Basic Income?

Finland, Canada, The Netherlands and Scotland are all seriously making strides towards the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (the idea that everyone gets an income from the state as a basis upon which to build their lives earning, learning or stating a business). Europe's biggest political party, the Labour Party, their Chancellor has indicated that UBI will form part of their next election manifesto, along with laws to bring about worker co-ops. Could this be another way to organise our economies away from Capitalism?

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To answer your question directly: it could be. But that depends on how UBI is understood and then used. As other commentators have pointed out, in capitalism there are basically two sources of income: labor and property. Labor incomes include wages, salaries, fees for services rendered etc. Property incomes include rentals, profits, dividends, interest, capital gains and so on. The key point here is that capitalism already dispenses income to people unconnected with their work. So UBI would NOT be a new ideas in the sense of disconnecting income from work. What UBI does is make that disconnect universal, for everyone rather than just for owners of income-earning property (usually a small minority of the population). If we do not believe that providing income without requiring work to property owners has not dampened their incentives to be socially productive, I see little reason to worry about that in regard to universalizing such a basic income distribution so everyone gets it. The way to do this is also simple: tax property income and distribute it equally to all persons. Framed in that way, yes, UBI could be a step toward the next system, toward doing better than capitalism.

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  • responded with submitted 2017-01-01 12:02:05 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-01 07:02:24 -0500


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