War on Work: A Closer Look at Proposals for a Universal Basic Income

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from IWF,

Proposals for a universal basic income are in vogue.

They leave me with a troubling question: Who’s going to go to work every day to earn all that money required to pay basic incomes to all citizens, including incomes for those who prefer to opt out of work altogether?

So I was glad to see Aaron M. Renn’s review of the book that most prominently lays out the arguments for a guaranteed universal income, Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy. by Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght.

First, what is a universal basic income?

-A basic income—an annual, unconditional cash grant to every adult, regardless of need, and without a work requirement to obtain it—would be non-taxable and total about 25 percent of GDP.

-The amount of the grant could vary depending on the age of the recipient, but it would start at birth. It would supplement existing safety-net programs and replace only those whose benefits are less than the basic income amount; thus, the grant would establish a floor, but not a ceiling, on government income transfers. (Publicly financed health care would remain outside the system, for example.)

-The overarching goal of the basic-income proposal is to ease economic distress stemming from the structural disappearance of work and declining real incomes for lower-skilled workers.

What’s not to like? Plenty. The headline of Renn’s review is “Post-Work Won’t Work.” And that is the problem with the basic income: it denigrates work. Because of this, the basic income is both morally and economically destructive.

Our elites, who are ambitious and have jobs that define them, seem to think that the jobs of those they regard as their social inferiors have no such moral value. But they are wrong. Work endows life with meaning and in many cases with upward mobility, even these jobs are not of the sort that our elites would regard as prestigious or meaningful.

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