Why the most generous basic income scheme ever trialled will only arm sophists.
Imagine a government official took one valuable item from each of your neighbours’ houses and put it in your living room each month, and then a documentary film maker came over to document how your standard of living increased dramatically over the course of two years.
Would anyone be surprised to see that you were better off, or that you “loved free money,” as was reported of the participants of the Finland study that took place between January of 2017 and December 2018 but was unable to decrease unemployment or increase self-employment.
The Government of Wales is about to roll out one of the most generous basic income schemes ever trialled in the world. Ministers want to use the scheme to assess the impact receiving a basic income has on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. But it will fail to do that. For a start, the the people taking part in these trials know ahead of time that they will only be receiving the money for a short period, and so are more likely to save it or invest it wisely. Given the promise of a permanent UBI, participants might have grand plans to put their handouts to constructive use some day, but they will be under no time pressure to do it.
Empirical studies are trotted out from time to time (such as from Finland, Namibia and other places) in the attempt to prove that it would benefit all of society to introduce The Universal Basic Income across the whole nation – but their methodology is based on one humungous fatal (and irrefutable) flaw.
There is a big difference between a national basic income scheme and a local study. In the local study the money to provide the basic incomes for the lucky participants is taken from outside the population that is meant to benefit from it. The whole point of a UBI is that there is no “outside” to bring money in from – its universal. In other words, while you were getting richer, your neighbours were getting poor.
It is impossible for these useless “trials” to measure the cost to everyone who was taxed to fund the experiment and what the benefits would have been to other sectors of the economy if they received a tax cut. They can never provide legitimate evidence on the overall benefits and costs of a UBI.
What we know for a fact is that people the UBI will place an additional tax burden on working while making it comfortable to stay at home. In the long term, it is also a dream come true for depots, who will be able to railroad the populace into line with the threat of removing the state-furnished UBI which they have come to depend on.
Antony Sammeroff is Spokesman for Economics and Environment for The Scottish Libertarian Party and author Universal Basic Income – For and Against.