In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

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In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:17 pm

A couple years ago, Megan McArdle summed up a debate she'd been a part of with a short post on the problems with a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). Here, I'll lay out responses to each of her four criticisms.
(NOTE: in the interest of space, I won't quote her whole argument for each point, and instead I'll pull what I think is representative or summary language from them. One useful response to this post would be to point out if I am misinterpreting her argument or responding to a straw version of it.)

Megan McArdle wrote:Cost: ...[Z]eroing out our current income security system wouldn't provide much of a basic income... Getting rid of all of our spending on welfare and so forth would be enough to give each of those people less than $3,000 a year. For a lot of poor people, that's considerably less than what they're getting from the government right now.

First, I think this calculation is off. McArdle only considers spending on "income security", but the programs that could be replaced with a BIG could be much broader. Social Security ($1.3 trillion), disability ($200 billion), agricultural subsidies ($20 billion), and likely many other large government programs could be eliminated or reduced and replaced by a BIG (that "or reduced" is important: any program whose justifications include the well-being of workers should be reduced commensurate to the degree that that justification supports the program; if the well-being of family farmers is part of the justification for agricultural subsidies, then agricultural subsidies will be less necessary if we have a BIG).

However, such calculations might not even be necessary: $3000 a year is not a trivial sum. Globally, $3,000 dollars a year is near the median individual income. Guaranteeing that every person in a country is above the median globally is an absurd achievement. Even in the US, for the median household it would be 6% raise, a not insignificant change. But perhaps the best way to look at it is this: every citizen would get enough money to eat a nutritious meal every day of the year.

Finally, to the point that it's "less than what [a lot of poor people are] getting from the government right now", it's not a 1-to-1 comparison. McArdle treats $1 dollar of food stamps as $1 in value, but any first year econ student can tell you that their values aren't equivalent. Giving people cash is more valuable than giving them vouchers or in-kind services, because cash can be used on whatever an individual values most. You can't save up food stamps to start a business. You can't buy stocks with services. You can't invest in yourself to the same degree with vouchers and in-kind services. And you have to spend vouchers and in-kind services where you're told, so that most of your spending goes right back out of poor communities. Cash lingers, and allows for trade and development within communities, which tends to break the cycle of poverty.

Megan McArdle wrote:Reciprocity: ... How can you say that the affluent have an obligation to give a considerable portion of their income to their fellow citizens, precisely in order to free said fellow citizens from any obligation to the people who are paying their bills?

McArdle touches on the response to this when she considers "trust fund babies", but I think she takes that point too literally. The better statement of the point is not "trust fund babies", but "the average middle class American", who has non-reciprocal benefits from their family and social network throughout their lives. A BIG just adds in the same safety net already provided to anyone who's family makes median wage. Moreover, people who grow up in communities of people making median wage or better have plenty of non-reciprocated benefits: better schools, better services within closer distance, less crime, etc.

And while the focus of BIG is frequently on the individuals receiving the BIG, many of the benefits and justifications for it are in externalities. A wealth transfer from top to bottom is a net increase in the value of the currency, as people who might have bought a third car instead give money to someone who can then buy a first (and so contribute better to society). A BIG will decrease crime, it will stimulate the economies of the most depressed areas, it will bring into the economy through opportunity many people who would otherwise be excluded, increasing diversity and thus likely the speed of innovation and the richness of culture. Those are reciprocal benefits, not paid directly by BIG recipients, but nonetheless reaped by those funding it.

Megan McArdle wrote:Politics: As I pointed out recently, any sort of guaranteed basic income means ending immigration from poor countries... There is no way that we are going to admit people to this country in order to hand them, and all of their descendants, a check for a thousand or two every month...

...Some people would make bad decisions with their cash, and then we would have to bring back various programs to help the people who make those bad decisions. There's also the issue of people who don't make bad decisions but simply have greater needs: the disabled, the mentally ill, those with cognitive disabilities and so forth. A guaranteed basic income instead of a welfare state might be attractive, but a guaranteed basic income on top of a welfare state presents a lot of problems, not least that it would nearly double everyone's tax bill.

To immigration: first, I think the point is a dodge. It's effectively arguing that McArdle isn't convinced because not enough people are convinced, which is empty. As it stands, not enough people support a BIG to replace other government programs with it, that's clear. What I take the goal of the argument to be at this stage is to convince the thought leaders, intellectuals, and influencers that it's a good idea, so that they can convince the body politic.

And on immigration, a BIG has a lot going for it. First, recall again that we aren't necessarily talking about "a thousand or two every month." A $4000 BIG would be a significant improvement, could replace a lot of programs, and would be a much easier sell. Moreover, there are great security benefits to a BIG. Immigrants would have to make themselves known in order to be eligible for it, so it would encourage honest immigrants looking for a better life to come forward, increasing the presumption of guilt on anyone who remains undeclared.

Otherwise, the argument really boils down to ones stance on immigration. If you think that immigration is good for the country, good for the economy, or that immigration is a right, you will likely not have any problem allowing immigrants and come and participate fully in a society, however it is structured. If instead you see immigrants as a drain or as a threat to "natives", you will likely oppose it regardless of how society is structured. Immigrants use the roads, no matter how much we spend to repair them. They are protected by police, no matter what those police are paid. If a BIG makes things better, there's no reason to deny it to immigrants, and if immigrants add value, they will still add value through the use of their BIG to pursue their happiness.

In-kind services: With judicious elimination of in-kind programs, we can avoid many of these problems. First, many programs that support people who have made bad decisions in the past would be unnecessary: the BIG is not a one-off payment, it's a continuing payments, and misspending last month's check does not need to affect next month's. Also, it should be noted that substance abuse is closely associated with economic hardship. Given a more fulfilling life, many who might otherwise waste away in a bottle would choose otherwise.

Other programs could be reduced without being eliminated. Some people with disability are merely subsidized, and such subsidies could be replaced by the BIG. Moreover, private services would develop to cater to people who might not otherwise be worth building a business around, because suddenly they have available resources to spend on what they value most.

And of course, some services would always remain. Services for those with severe disabilities; legal services; child welfare services. But criticizing BIG on the basis that it can't replace every program is an absurd standard that no program can meet. If BIG can replace welfare and improve lives in the process, we should do it, even if it only means giving people $500 dollars a year and leaving every other program intact.

Megan McArdle wrote:Work: If you make it possible for some people to live without working, some people will live without working. That decision will be rational in the short term but disastrous in the long term... Discouraging people from making the short-term sacrifices necessary to gain a long-term foothold in the job market is not good social policy.

First, again, McArdle over-estimates the level of comfort that a properly calibrated BIG will provide. It is possible to live on $4000 a year, and some people live. But many more people will use that to supplement rather than replace their other income. And, they'll use it to fill gaps in employment, so that they can transition to better and more fulfilling jobs, or to gain additional training to be able to contribute more and better.

In addition, an influx of money into economically depressed areas means more jobs available to those most likely to drop out otherwise. Shoveling steps and walkways door to door, babysitting, car washes, these are jobs frequently available in wealthier areas that are unavailable to those whose neighbors are all as poor and desperate as themselves. Or, consider a corner store in a poor neighborhood, surrounded by a populace that can't afford to shop there. An influx of money into the area means more business, hiring someone to stock shelves or wash the floor. The commensurate reduction in crime means less spending on security, freeing up more capital to hire, to develop, to expand and innovate.

Of course, some people will check out. But few who do would have been long-term employed otherwise. The marginal person influenced to drop out by a modest BIG is a vanishingly small number, and to weigh that more heavily than the economic gains, especially in the area of work, is myopic.


To sum up, I've taken the easy route of criticizing someone else's argument rather than make an argument of my own. But in doing so, I think I've provided several compelling arguments in favor of a BIG in some form and at some level.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:22 pm

Now I agree with the basic premise of BIG but I am going to
spin it a different way.

The question a society asks itself is this, what does it take to create a viable,
successful society and what will that society look like in, say 10 or 20 years.
One means to do this is by looking at viable, successful societies
in the past. there is a commonality of what successful societies look like.
The have strong, centralize governments with a fixed and dependable tax base.
the citizens have incentive to participate in the society and they have relative
security/safety within that society. Now the BIG program does offer it citizens
greater security/safety and a greater incentive to participate in society as they
are not marginalized as before. the basic point of society is that not only the citizen
have obligations and responsibilities to society but society has obligations and responsibilities
to its citizens. The continued existence of society depends on its citizens and their
fulfilling their obligations and responsibilities. What we must do and BIG is just an
example, is that we must find way to help our citizens and aid in their success and
survival. Without successful citizens, the society will fail and BIG is one means to
help create successful citizens. All policies must be evaluated in terms of what
it means to aid and improve the society and its citizens. AS we are a majority
based society, we must act in terms of the majority of our people. So in other words,
giving billionaires massive tax cuts is not helpful or aiding the majority of our citizens,
giving massive tax cuts to the majority of our citizens isn't helpful or aiding the
majority of our citizens. One of the criteria of a successful society is a large
and dependable tax base which turns over enough money to the state to allow the
state in return is use that money to aid and benefit the majority of its citizens such
as building roads, maintaining sewage plants, with schools and hospitals, fire and police
services, in other words maintain the services that allow a successful society to continue
its path to being successful. The BIG plan is just another step to maintaining a
successful society and that kids, is smart. It is by looking at the big picture that we
can see how the BIG program can help the society at large.

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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:37 pm

That's all very rosy.

How much of that money will be spent on booze, smokes, drugs, junk food, etc?

Any idea?
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:44 pm

phyllo wrote:That's all very rosy.

How much of that money will be spent on booze, smokes, drugs, junk food, etc?

Any idea?


K: and why does that matter?

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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:54 pm

If you give out food stamps, you force people to get food with it. Thus, the government money is invested into a specific social change which we, as a society, may agree is beneficial.

If you simply give people money, then they can spend it in any way that they wish. Money is spent but society is not necessarily improved.

Why would people buy nutritious food simply because you give them $3000? They might but they will probably buy the same junk food that they have been buying. Cause that's what they know.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:05 pm

phyllo wrote:If you give out food stamps, you force people to get food with it. Thus, the government money is invested into a specific social change which we, as a society, may agree is beneficial.

If you simply give people money, then they can spend it in any way that they wish. Money is spent but society is not necessarily improved.

Why would people buy nutritious food simply because you give them $3000? They might but they will probably buy the same junk food that they have been buying. Cause that's what they know.


K: your specific point was they might buy junk food, booze, smokes, but you aren't making
an economic point, you are making a moral point. this is important to understand.
You would deny them money based on your morality about what people is or isn't supposed
to buy. I hate fish. I hate especially eating fish. I wouldn't eat fish on a bet. and for me,
I wouldn't pay anybody any amount of money to eat fish. that is a moral choice for me because
I fucking hate fish. If I hate it, so why would I want other people to eat fish when I am paying for it?
It can go both ways. We can make an argument for almost anything based on morals.
smokes, hell no, meat say the vegan, hell no, fish says Kropotkin, hell no, hamburgers, hell no
because they aren't healthy, You can basically argue against anything because it is not up to
YOUR standards and your MORALS. Some diets are religious based, pigs and the like, but I like
pigs, so of course everyone should eat pig regardless of their morals based on religion. Right?

Kropotkin
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:18 pm

K: your specific point was they might buy junk food, booze, smokes, but you aren't making
an economic point, you are making a moral point. this is important to understand.
The economic point is irrelevant... either the original taxpayer spends the money or the BIG recipient spends the money... either way it ends up in the economy.
You would deny them money based on your morality about what people is or isn't supposed
to buy. I hate fish. I hate especially eating fish. I wouldn't eat fish on a bet. and for me,
I wouldn't pay anybody any amount of money to eat fish. that is a moral choice for me because
I fucking hate fish. If I hate it, so why would I want other people to eat fish when I am paying for it?
It can go both ways. We can make an argument for almost anything based on morals.
smokes, hell no, meat say the vegan, hell no, fish says Kropotkin, hell no, hamburgers, hell no
because they aren't healthy, You can basically argue against anything because it is not up to
YOUR standards and your MORALS. Some diets are religious based, pigs and the like, but I like
pigs, so of course everyone should eat pig regardless of their morals based on religion. Right?
You're going to take away $3000 from somebody who worked to earn it and you are going to give it to someone else. Don't you think that the taxpayer should have some say in how that money is spent?
If someone earns some money then he can spend it in any (legal) way that he wants. But if he is getting money from someone else then that other person has a legitimate interest in how that money is spent. Unless it is a gift from one person to another which taxation is not. :evil:
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:41 pm

phyllo wrote:
K: your specific point was they might buy junk food, booze, smokes, but you aren't making
an economic point, you are making a moral point. this is important to understand.
The economic point is irrelevant... either the original taxpayer spends the money or the BIG recipient spends the money... either way it ends up in the economy.
You would deny them money based on your morality about what people is or isn't supposed
to buy. I hate fish. I hate especially eating fish. I wouldn't eat fish on a bet. and for me,
I wouldn't pay anybody any amount of money to eat fish. that is a moral choice for me because
I fucking hate fish. If I hate it, so why would I want other people to eat fish when I am paying for it?
It can go both ways. We can make an argument for almost anything based on morals.
smokes, hell no, meat say the vegan, hell no, fish says Kropotkin, hell no, hamburgers, hell no
because they aren't healthy, You can basically argue against anything because it is not up to
YOUR standards and your MORALS. Some diets are religious based, pigs and the like, but I like
pigs, so of course everyone should eat pig regardless of their morals based on religion. Right?

You're going to take away $3000 from somebody who worked to earn it and you are going to give it to someone else. Don't you think that the taxpayer should have some say in how that money is spent?
If someone earns some money then he can spend it in any (legal) way that he wants. But if he is getting money from someone else then that other person has a legitimate interest in how that money is spent. Unless it is a gift from one person to another which taxation is not. :evil:



K: and in taxes, do you have any say in how the government spends YOUR money? No, as a
taxpayer you get no say in how the government spends your money, thus one of the many
reasons, I did the full on anarchist thing for several years. In life, we get very little choice.
For example, in breakfast cereals, you think walking down the cereal isle, you have
a billion choices but in reality, you have three choices, as over 95% of all cereal made
is made by three companies. Post, Kellog and drawing a blank for the third. Choice is
a modern myth. The government gives us no choice in how our money is spent, companies
give us little choice as for our cereal example shows or in cars as in for all the cars
being sold, in reality we have just 4 car companies, 4. The government spends trillions upon
trillions in defense spending, how much choice did you have in that?

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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 6:59 pm

K: and in taxes, do you have any say in how the government spends YOUR money? No, as a
taxpayer you get no say in how the government spends your money, thus one of the many
reasons, I did the full on anarchist thing for several years. In life, we get very little choice.
You seem to be okay with that since you would perpetuate it by supporting BIG - take money from taxpayer and give it to someone else without input from the taxpayer.
(not that I agree that government actually works that way. :evilfun: )
For example, in breakfast cereals, you think walking down the cereal isle, you have
a billion choices but in reality, you have three choices, as over 95% of all cereal made
is made by three companies. Post, Kellog and drawing a blank for the third. Choice is
a modern myth.
You also have a choice not to buy any of the cereal. A choice which taxation does not give you.
The government spends trillions upon trillions in defense spending, how much choice did you have in that?
I'm not okay with that and so I don't support systems which are based on that idea. If you say ... let's do something over which the taxpayer has no control ... I won't agree to it. It's wrong.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:08 pm

I agree with you, remember former anarchist, however, the BIG theory
does achieve something that is important and that is to make more
citizens invested and part of society. The more people you drive out
of society, the weaker the society is until it collapses, much like the
Roman empire drove enough people out until it burn and crashed.
You have to keep your eye on the prize which is simple,
keep your society strong, viable and able to adapt. So what makes
a strong society? That is really the question, how do we create and keep
a society that will continue on long after we are gone and BIG is one method
of that, the only method, no, but one method.

Kropotkin
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:17 pm

I agree with you, remember former anarchist, however, the BIG theory
does achieve something that is important and that is to make more
citizens invested and part of society.
Are they invested and a part of society? Show me.
The more people you drive out
of society, the weaker the society is until it collapses, much like the
Roman empire drove enough people out until it burn and crashed.
Maybe the Roman empire deserved to burn. When a system becomes too corrupt, then the healthy members must leave and build a new system. Why should they stay and support corruption?
You have to keep your eye on the prize which is simple,
keep your society strong, viable and able to adapt.
It's not enough that a society is strong... it also has to be worthy.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:25 pm

phyllo wrote:
I agree with you, remember former anarchist, however, the BIG theory
does achieve something that is important and that is to make more
citizens invested and part of society.
Are they invested and a part of society? Show me.
The more people you drive out
of society, the weaker the society is until it collapses, much like the
Roman empire drove enough people out until it burn and crashed.
Maybe the Roman empire deserved to burn. When a system becomes too corrupt, then the healthy members must leave and build a new system. Why should they stay and support corruption?
You have to keep your eye on the prize which is simple,
keep your society strong, viable and able to adapt.
It's not enough that a society is strong... it also has to be worthy.


K: I am going to ignore the rest for the moment to understand one word, worthy.
Worthy for what? and who judges? Why must a society be worthy? I really don't understand
this idea of "worthy".

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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:43 pm

K: I am going to ignore the rest for the moment to understand one word, worthy.
Worthy for what? and who judges? Why must a society be worthy? I really don't understand
this idea of "worthy".
Worthy of survival. Judged by its members. What kind of society do you want to help prosper? Do you know what a corrupt society is like?

Can you say that one society is better that another? If yes, then you understand 'worthy', if no then all societies are equivalent.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 30, 2015 7:50 pm

phyllo wrote:How much of that money will be spent on booze, smokes, drugs, junk food, etc?

There are a lot of ways to respond to this question; let me start with the most direct: I don't know, and neither do you. Perhaps we can agree on a range: greater than 0%, less than 50%? Less than 25%? Less than 10%? 5%? (I'd wager so)

But a better response it to point out that that's the wrong question. It immediately frames the question in myopic terms. Lets say 75% of the money is spent on booze, smokes, drugs, junk food, and prostitution, but the other 25% produces a 7000% return for society, would you cancel the program? Does the return on investment of food stamps weigh in? Does the drag on society of an otherwise unsupported poor factor in? It seems like they all should, but how much weight do you put on making sure poor people don't buy smokes with money they didn't earn (speaking of: if a person earns $50k, and buys $3k worth of smokes, have they spent the BIG on smokes? Or did they spend the BIG on necessities and then have more earned income left over?)

The concern is political, not practical. A whole bunch of the money could be spend on cigarettes and beer, and the net impact of the program could still be positive.

phyllo wrote:You seem to be okay with that since you would perpetuate it by supporting BIG - take money from taxpayer and give it to someone else without input from the taxpayer.
(not that I agree that government actually works that way. )

This is worth keeping in mind. As it turns out, the way welfare funds are spent is only partially about nannying the poor and pacifying tax payers. The other, large factor in making these decisions is the influence of special interest that perpetuate the programs to seek rents. The food lobby loves food stamps, because they're a virtually guaranteed revenue stream that must be spent on food, even when food isn't what a poor person needs most.

One big improvement with the BIG is that it decreases rent seeking. Rather than government deciding how money is spent, individuals decide. Companies get money only if they produce goods and services that consumers value. The poor get the goods and services they prioritize, not the goods and services provided by the company who's CEO was the same frat as the Senator from Iowa (or whatever).

If the BIG makes a better society for less than any other program, and yet requires that 'unworthy' poor people get free money as part of the deal, would you still oppose it? Would you prefer a society where worthy people get less just to ensure that unworthy people get nothing?

phyllo wrote:When a system becomes too corrupt, then the healthy members must leave and build a new system. Why should they stay and support corruption?

We are passed that point. There's no where else to go. You and Elon Musk can try to start over on Mars, but until you get there, you're stuck in a gravity well with 7 billion other people, and you need a society that works.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:01 pm

phyllo wrote:
K: I am going to ignore the rest for the moment to understand one word, worthy.
Worthy for what? and who judges? Why must a society be worthy? I really don't understand
this idea of "worthy".
Worthy of survival. Judged by its members. What kind of society do you want to help prosper? Do you know what a corrupt society is like?

Can you say that one society is better that another? If yes, then you understand 'worthy', if no then all societies are equivalent.


K: the word "worthy" is a moral judgment, nothing more. and like all moral judgments it
depends on the speaker. I deem this moral or I deem this immoral and based on.... whatever
sounds like a good idea at the time.

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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:05 pm

There are a lot of ways to respond to this question; let me start with the most direct: I don't know, and neither do you. Perhaps we can agree on a range: greater than 0%, less than 50%? Less than 25%? Less than 10%? 5%? (I'd wager so)

But a better response it to point out that that's the wrong question. It immediately frames the question in myopic terms. Lets say 75% of the money is spent on booze, smokes, drugs, junk food, and prostitution, but the other 25% produces a 7000% return for society, would you cancel the program? Does the return on investment of food stamps weigh in? Does the drag on society of an otherwise unsupported poor factor in? It seems like they all should, but how much weight do you put on making sure poor people don't buy smokes with money they didn't earn (speaking of: if a person earns $50k, and buys $3k worth of smokes, have they spent the BIG on smokes? Or did they spend the BIG on necessities and then have more earned income left over?)

The concern is political, not practical. A whole bunch of the money could be spend on cigarettes and beer, and the net impact of the program could still be positive.
In other words, you don't know if this is a waste of money or not.
If the BIG makes a better society for less than any other program, and yet requires that 'unworthy' poor people get free money as part of the deal, would you still oppose it? Would you prefer a society where worthy people get less just to ensure that unworthy people get nothing?
You haven't shown that it would make society better.
We are passed that point. There's no where else to go. You and Elon Musk can try to start over on Mars, but until you get there, you're stuck in a gravity well with 7 billion other people, and you need a society that works.
This is purely US-centric stuff. At least 18% of the global population does not even have electricity... They have bigger problems than BIG.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Peter Kropotkin » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:10 pm

C: We are passed that point. There's no where else to go. You and Elon Musk can try to start over on Mars, but until you get there, you're stuck in a gravity well with 7 billion other people, and you need a society that works.

PH: This is purely US-centric stuff. At least 18% of the global population does not even have electricity... They have bigger problems than BIG."

K: and so we should give up because we can't solve everyone's problem? Let us work
on the problems and solutions we can work on because we can't solve all the problems
of the world. Lets do what we can with what we got.

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wind up with neither."
"Ben Franklin"
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:18 pm

phyllo wrote:You haven't shown that it would make society better.

No, but I've given a lot of good reasons to think that it would. Do you have reasons to think any of my arguments are invalid? Is "some people might by cigarettes" your only objection?

It hasn't been tried on a very large scale. Some small scale studies show positive results, but they aren't direct analogs to what would happen if everyone were a recipient. In the interim, we can reason and model and find parallels and argue theory.

phyllo wrote:This is purely US-centric stuff. At least 18% of the global population does not even have electricity... They have bigger problems than BIG.

I agree, and I think the BIG should be global eventually. In fact, the benefits and the moral justification for a BIG are significantly more obvious if we consider implementing a global BIG.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:18 pm

K: the word "worthy" is a moral judgment, nothing more. and like all moral judgments it
depends on the speaker. I deem this moral or I deem this immoral and based on.... whatever
sounds like a good idea at the time.
I don't know when morality became such a huge problem. Either you believe that life and society should go in a certain direction or you don't. If you don't, then you don't give a shit about what happens.

If we disagree about the direction, then we can talk about it and maybe arrive at an agreement. Or maybe not.
I tend to think that you are human and we have some things in common ... so an agreement seems possible.

Do you care about justice? Then a poor member of society deserves fair treatment but so does the taxpayer. You can't have a fair society by mistreating one or the other.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:34 pm

agree, and I think the BIG should be global eventually. In fact, the benefits and the moral justification for a BIG are significantly more obvious if we consider implementing a global BIG.
You don't even have evidence that it's a good idea for an isolated society and you are already thinking about implementing it globally. :icon-rolleyes:
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:05 pm

phyllo wrote:You don't even have evidence that it's a good idea for an isolated society and you are already thinking about implementing it globally.

I'm not sure what you're looking for in terms of evidence. This is a philosophy site, I'm talking theory, and I've given you reasons. Is there a specific premise you're doubting?

The program I'm advocating hasn't been tried on the scale I'm advocating, but there are small programs that have produced good results:
- There was a study of native american reservations that compared students whose families receive an unconditional income to their white neighbors that don't.
- There were short term experiments in negative income tax in the US. They showed mixed findings, but they were for very short duration, and didn't track e.g. the well-being of children raised by families receiving the benefit. Notably, they did find that the negative income tax did not increase the rate of expenditure on e.g. cigarettes. The also found decrease in hours worked and some analyses suggested an increase in divorce, but I don't find these results surprising in the course of <5 year pilot program, nor do I think they represent proof that the program would decrease net hours worked or net family stability long term.
- There is a charity called GiveDirectly which is having some success using unconditional cash transfers in poor countries to relieve poverty, rather than in kind aid such as mosquito nets or food. They have shown good results so far, finding significant positive short- and long-term effects, and often show a decrease in what they call "temptation goods" (e.g. cigarettes), and an increase in hours worked.

There's also the example of Alaska's state fund that pays out some portion of oil revenues to all citizens. I can't find good evidence about the effect of that, and it's difficult to draw comparisons since Alaska is a fairly unique state in many ways.

Do you have contradictory evidence? Would evidence even sway you, or are you still stuck on the cigarettes? I feel like you're not grappling with the proposal in good faith, and instead using eye-roll emojis to distract from the lack of arguments.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:47 pm

If I question it, then I'm imposing my morality on the poor oppressed unfortunates.

If I think that public money ought to be spent responsibly on proven systems, then I'm some deranged lunatic.

Okay, I'm not here in good faith.

bye
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:04 pm

There are excellent results from micro-lending. Just saying.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby Carleas » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:18 pm

phyllo wrote:If I question it, then I'm imposing my morality on the poor oppressed unfortunates.

If I think that public money ought to be spent responsibly on proven systems, then I'm some deranged lunatic.

Okay, I'm not here in good faith.

Not at all. But given
-the only argument you've offered is 'cigarettes,'
-you haven't responded directly to any argument I've provided,
-when I respond directly to your concerns you paraphrase a thoughtful reply as "you have no evidence,"
-you use the troll-y eye-roll emoji,
-when I give you studies because you don't seem interested in my theoretical reasoning, you're done with the conversation

That seems like bad faith. Not the bad faith of not wanting to participate, or of deliberately trolling, but the bad faith of not taking your interlocutors seriously enough or paying them the respect of actually writing more than a line or two to explain your position. Bad faith like you demand evidence when I've offered arguments, and then can't be bothered to respond to the evidence (but, and I am assuming, you still want to hold on to whatever policy views you had when you first entered the thread). Bad faith in that you aren't discussing, you're doing a drive-by.

I'm just saying, that's how it comes across. I could be misinterpreting, maybe your one liners are all that was needed to respond to everything I've said. It doesn't seem that way to me.

phyllo wrote:There are excellent results from micro-lending. Just saying.

I'm not aware of any direct comparisons between the two. My impression of microlending is that it still tends to disfavor the most vulnerable, it depends on somewhat more infrastructure than unconditional cash handouts, and the rates can be predatory.

But I take it you care a lot more than I do about Worthiness, and microlending does select better for that. Personally, I think everyone's Worthy, but I don't think that entails that outcomes don't matter. Improving quality of life -- and I mean pareto improvement -- is a good thing, it's an outcome that matters. I want to see the greatest improvement possible.
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Re: In defense of a Basic Income (Response to McArdle)

Postby phyllo » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:54 pm

You have a few studies with a few thousand participants and mixed results. The theoretical reasoning seems little more than wishful thinking. Why would you even mention a global initiative with such scrawny evidence? That makes me roll my eyes.

If I question it then I get a knee jerk reaction that I'm imposing my morality on others.

You are proposing to take money from one group of people and to give it to another. Those who are losing the money, have very good reasons to be concerned about how it is used.

There are lots of people who want to spend other people's money. There are lots of noble experiments being proposed. Lots have gone terribly wrong in the past. There has to be convincing evidence that BIG won't be another instance of legalized theft.

I mentioned micro-lending because it has a proven track record in developing countries. And it's relatively cheap.

If you want other suggestions :
- teach people how to handle money (in high school). People don't know how to effectively use the money that they have.
- teach people how to start and manage a business. If people knew how, they could create service businesses with little up-front capital.
- make micro-loans easier and cheaper. The poor are underserviced by a banking system which does not trust them and charges them exorbitant rates. It seems that the only time that you can get money from a bank is when you can prove that you don't need it.

Still, it's much easier to shuffle money from those who have it to those who don't. :evilfun:
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