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Four Reasons Why Conservatives And Libertarians Should Support Basic Income

Those who support limited government and free markets should support fighting poverty by giving more money to the poor.

What’s the best way to solve poverty? Democrats suggest spending more on welfare. Republicans suggest creating more jobs. Marxists suggest burning the entire system to the ground and replacing it with “fully automated luxury gay space communism.”

But what if solving poverty was as simple as giving poor people more money?

That’s the idea behind basic income, also known as universal basic income (UBI) or guaranteed minimum income (GMI), which proposes offering all citizens a lump sum to help cover their basic living expenses such as food, utilities, and rent.

The modus operandi of this proposal would be that people, especially those living under the poverty line, would be able to have their basic needs covered while also earning additional money through employment, thus allowing them to better gain economic mobility.

Basic income has been proposed for a long time, but is recently being tested by states such as Hawaii and countries such as Finland. In fact, Canada once implemented basic income on a small scale in Ontario with surprising results.

While having the government give people money may sound counter-intuitive to conservatives and libertarians, basic income is not incompatible with their belief in limited government and free markets. In fact, they would benefit most by proposing and supporting it.

Here are four reasons why conservatives and libertarians should support basic income:

#1: Supported by Prominent Conservatives and Libertarians.

“What? You want the government to give people money? That’s socialism! What kind of pinko commie would support that?!”

Would you believe Milton Friedman, the Nobel prize-winning conservative economist who served as an economic adviser to Republican President Richard Nixon?

Far from being a “pinko commie”, Friedman was a staunch free market capitalist who criticized the welfare state for impeding the economic mobility of the poor, yet he also doubted that private charity alone would be sufficient enough to alleviate poverty.

As such, in his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, he offered his proposal for a basic income through a “negative income tax”, which would issue tax credits to those who fell below the threshold of tax liability.

He wrote: “The advantages of this arrangement are clear. It is directed specifically at the problem of poverty. It gives help in the form most useful to the individual, namely, cash. It is general and could be substituted for the host of special measures now in effect. It makes explicit the cost borne by society. It operates outside the market.”

Would you also believe that F.A. Hayek, another Nobel prize-winning conservative economist, also advocated for basic income, and in his most famous book, the Road to Serfdom, no less?

He wrote: “The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born.”

And would you believe that the very first president to propose a basic income was Republican Richard Nixon? In fact, he received bipartisan support for his proposal, and he would have implemented it had he not been forced to resign due to Watergate.

Many prominent figures, both left and right, from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated for some form of basic income. The very concept itself stems as far back as ancient Greece, thus predating both socialism and capitalism, and thus making it compatible with both economic systems.

In fact, the father of Capitalism himself, Adam Smith, in his book, Wealth of Nations, insisted that the working poor be provided the bare minimum as to help lift themselves out of poverty, arguing that, “no society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”

But perhaps you’re not easily swayed by argument from authority. Perhaps you remain rigid in your belief that the poor need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps through hard work. This would be a noble sentiment if it were not for one major problem.

#2: Help Aid Workers Displaced by Automation and AI.

In recent years, technology has advanced to the point where robots are now performing jobs once done by humans, from driving cars and delivering packages, to serving as burger flippersbaristas, and even security guards.

As technology continues to advance, more and more jobs will be performed through automation. While many workers fear this will lead to their jobs being “taken” by robots, the reality is that this has already happened.

The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost through automation, with at least three jobs being replaced for every one robot added to the labor market between 1990 and 2007.

These job losses are only expected to continue in coming years. We’re already starting to see automation impact driving and trucking jobs thanks to self-driving cars. Goldman Sachs predicts that drivers will be losing jobs at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year.

Oxford University estimates that at least 47 percent of jobs will disappear in the next 25 years. Another study predicts that America will be hit worse by job automation, with 40 percent of jobs being lost in the next fifteen years alone.

Assume that this is only a problem for blue collar workers? Think your white collar office job is safe? Two words: artificial intelligence.

While low-skilled jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation, high-skilled jobs could also be lost through artificial intelligence, with many estimates suggesting that up to 47 percent of jobs could be at risk.

Does this mean every single job will be taken over by a robot or computer? Unlikely. But there can be no doubt that many workers will potentially see their jobs displaced through new technology within the near future.

And until these displaced workers find new jobs elsewhere, most of them will have to rely on unemployment benefits, or, in a worst case scenario, will be forced onto welfare.

Rather than subject these workers to the welfare state, they could benefit more from basic income. Even tech billionaire Elon Musk suggests this as a potential alternative: “I think that there’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. I’m not sure what else one would do.”

Speaking of the welfare state:

#3: Less Costly And Bureaucratic Than The Welfare State.

Both conservatives and libertarians agree that the welfare state has done little to lift poor people out of poverty despite spending more on anti-poverty programs.

The federal government spends an overall trillion dollars a year on these programs, which amounts approximately to $17,000 per person and over $50,000 for a family of three.

Since the War on Poverty began in 1965, the government has spent nearly $16 trillion through the welfare state, more than twice all spending on all military conflicts since the American Revolution.

And yet despite all of this spending to combat poverty, overall poverty rateshave remained stagnant since then. In fact, poverty rates were on the decline before the War on Poverty began. So if anything, the welfare state has prevented poverty from decreasing.

Aside from being costly, the welfare state has also proven to be bureaucratic, consisting of more than 200 federal and state programs, which, according to Forbes, includes, “23 low income health programs, 27 low income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, at least 13 food and nutrition programs, and 24 low income child care programs, among others.”

Why does our government require so many departments to administer so many benefits and programs? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper simply to cut a check for every poor person? The answer to that question, surprisingly enough, is yes.

The Census Bureau, as reported by Forbes, “estimates that our current welfare spending totals four times what would be necessary just to give all of the poor the cash to bring them up to the poverty line, eliminating all poverty in America.”

Let me repeat that: we spend four times more on trying to end poverty than it would actually cost to pay poor people enough to actually lift themselves out of poverty.

In fact, libertarian writer Charles Murray once estimated that providing all unincarcerated Americans over the age of 21 with a monthly check for $13,000 ($3,000 of which would fund their healthcare) would not only be sufficient enough to provide for their basic needs and help raise the poorest among them above the poverty line, but would also be less expensive than our current welfare state, which includes agricultural and corporate subsidies.

So, yes, if we were to abolish all forms of welfare, both social and corporate, including Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, we would not only be able to eliminate burdensome government bureaucracy, but also use that money to fund a cheaper alternative.

Such a major cut to big government spending and bureaucracy would be reason alone for fiscal conservatives to put their money where their mouths are and support basic income. But there is one greater reason:

#4: Attracts Young People Who’d Otherwise Support Socialism.

It’s no surprise that kids these days vote Democrat. What is a surprise is that this wasn’t always the case.

Back in 1984, the youth vote helped Ronald Reagan win re-election, with 61 percent of young people voting for him. In fact, so many young people once affiliated with Reagan and his party that “Young Republicans” were considered a cultural phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the young demographic that once voted in droves to put the Gipper back into office has since turned away from the Grand Old Party to chase after “Hope and Change.”

Only 1 out of 5 millennials lean Republican. Even those who do identify as politically “conservative” are distancing themselves from the GOP, especially now under Trump, with nearly a quarter of millennials who once identified as Republicans now identifying as Democrat.

Conversely, the past few elections have proven that their loyalty lies with the Democratic Party. Not only did the youth vote overwhelmingly help Obama win both election and re-election, but more young people voted for socialist Bernie Sanders than for Trump and Hillary combined!

As such, aside from identifying as politically liberal, more young people also identify economically as socialist, with more than half of all millennialshaving a favorable view of socialism.

(Of course, their case for socialism isn’t exactly helped by the fact that few millennials can accurately define socialism, and that they tend to outgrow their socialist beliefs as soon as they start making more money.)

Even if millennials don’t outright identify as socialists, more and more of them are favoring socialist policies such as free healthcarefree education, and minimum wage hikes.

As for the reason why millennials favor socialism over capitalism, while it would be tempting to scapegoat their college education (or rather, their indoctrination within their leftist safe spaces), the real culprit seems more likely to be their bleak financial situation.

The sad economic reality for millennials is that they earn 20 percent less than previous generations. So when they’re forced to work twice as hard to earn the same standard of living as their parents and grandparents, the siren song of socialism sounds all the more alluring to them.

If conservatives and libertarians, especially those in the GOP, want to win over the youth vote, they have to appeal to their economic needs. Unfortunately, the GOP has been failing to do exactly that, which is why they’ve been hemorrhaging young voters.

Conservatives and libertarians currently have two choices: they can either sit back and watch as young voters are carried away by the tune of pied pipers like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, or they can win over the youth vote by offering them a reasonable alternative to socialism. Basic income is that alternative.

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LordTHawkeye Featured By Owner Edited Jul 3, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Isn't this just repackaged minimum wage?

And didn't we already learn our lesson from that nonsense back when we were new to the work force and nobody would touch us if we didn't have experience?

Where do you think this money is going to come from?  Did all the lesssons about economics just fall out of your head?
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
The money would come from scrapping the welfare state. As I mentioned, our government spends 4x more than what is actually needed to lift poor people out of poverty. Scrapping the whole thing and simply writing out a check to these people would be much less expensive. I'd recommend reading libertarian writer Charles Murray on the matter:…
LordTHawkeye Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Haven't we done this song and dance before?  If you think this isn't going to balloon in cost and eventually be just as toxic as the welfare state, you haven't been paying attention to the past few decades.

Cutting welfare IS how you lift poor people out of poverty.  Look what happened when Canada actually cut the welfare state.  The people who got cut out pretty much just said "Oh...I guess I'll go get a job then."

The average household in poverty is working less than 15 hours a week, spend 40% of their income on luxuries and have you seen a lot of the people on welfare?  They're dying of obesity because they have nothing to do.  I don't think lack of wages is the problem here.
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I doubt that the US, or any country for that matter, can get away with cutting welfare nowadays. You see what's going on in Congress concerning healthcare? We have the GOP trying to repeal and replace Obamacare (albeit with something not any better), and the liberal media is whipping up hysteria about people dying from having their insurance taken away. If they tried to get rid of welfare, we'd have a similar PR disaster on our hands.

The way I see it, with many countries proposing basic income (Switzerland, Finland, even Canada), it's only a matter of time until it's proposed over here. And there's only two ways it'll be proposed, either as a replacement of the current welfare state (something the GOP and libertarians would propose) or as an extension of the welfare state (what the Dems would propose). In that case, I'd rather we try to "repeal and replace" rather than extend, which is why I'd suggest that conservatives and libertarians support it. If it was good enough for the great Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, it ought to be palatable for us.
LordTHawkeye Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Just rip the band aid off.  Every time a country has bit the bullet and just cut an entitlement program, the reaction has ended up being "oh...that wasn't so bad."

I mean sure, the media whips up these doom and gloom stories.  Just ask them if they can name ONE case where it actually happened.  You will get a blank stare.
PurplePhoneixStar Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Interesting take on this. I do know I would take more risks in opening my own business and look for more suppliers than thrift stores and the like and maybe be able to afford the college I need because with my time it is work or school not both and with bills to pay, that answer is easy. Work. 

However I do worry that people like me would be in the minority because I know that there are many who would just take it and live off that check and not do anything better with it. I mean I see people who get Social Security and Welfare who don't need it but use it for their own ends and don't bother trying to even improve but just play the welfare queen card. So honestly I am conflicted. Maybe have a requirement that you must be working for new skills sort of like unemployment but better (do not get me started on those losers at the unemployment office who run the place) or working to start a business. And if you are making a lot of money, it should be phased out or like they do with social security that some of it is taxable based off of how much income you have. 

It seems to easy to fall into the trap of every other program that had the same good intentions.....
Alpha-12 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2017
Yeah...even if universal basic income could pass a SCOTUS ruling, I got cold feet regarding this idea myself.
PurplePhoneixStar Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Like I said, seems good on paper, but the people who would maximize the potential of it are in the minority and unless we do something like tax it based on your earned income like social security, then it will cost more than it would make. 
Alpha-12 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2017
Yup. If nothing else, cutting corporate welfare would be a step in the right direction. Trying to add UBI to what we currently have (i.e. not cutting the other crap out) would just be asking for trouble, and there are legitimate problems regarding people just being lazy bums like you say. At this point, I'd be fine with legalizing all drugs at the federal level so the population gets a little smaller. If someone wants to snort a small county's worth of coke, die of an OD, and end up as fertilizer for someone's garden, fine. It would probably save money in the long-run, though of course DUIs are still a concern (not that we don't already have alcoholism as a major issue).
Der-Himmelstern Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2017
Universal Income? How can people honestly believe
such a system is viable?

Universal Income is economically absurd by all
standards, since these minimum salaries have to
be paid by the state. Where does the state get
all that money if not by taxes and other forms of
impositions? That irremediably means that we
burden the working people in order to pay for
those who don't. Consequently, the more people
would live on Universal Income, the more the
burden for the workers becomes heavy, pushing
them to leave their work and instead go on the
Universal Income, creating a vicious cycle of
spiraling down poverty in society.

Universal Income is nothing else than welfare,
or otherwise known in European countries as
unemployment money, on a much more massive
scale, as justified by no specific conditions.
A society can only prosper if people work and
produce wealth. A society composed of an
increasing population of parasites can only bring
it down. Universal Income is the suicide of economy.
HNBBTF Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2017
While I wouldn't necessarily call Basic Income a Libertarian value it's far more preferable than the bureaucratic monster that is the existing welfare system.
SingABrightSong Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2017  Hobbyist Artist
Something that intrigued me earlier about this idea was the mention of a basic income as a macroeconomic "shock absorber", which, in microeconomic terms, would allow people to continue to participate in the economy during periods where, as of now, there are more people than jobs. The economy will grow to provide employment, but growth takes time, and risk, and moreso vision, and when you're just barely surviving you don't take risk and don't have vision. Moreover, a basic income, as opposed to welfare, would allow people to accumulate capital for lifting themselves out of poverty, and perhaps more importantly, for their own value-creating projects. Currently, people on welfare are not *allowed* to save money, or to create value from what the government has given them. You probably won't find a more conservative artist than one Ralph E Hayes, Junior, and he shared a certain story about a man who, having been assigned food stamps, used them to purchase uncooked meat, which he then prepared and sold for profit. The state, of course, considered this fraud, and went to "deal" with it, and his response was remarkable. "You should be saying 'Well done thou good and faithful servant'(in reference to the Parable of the Talents)" Welfare is designed, not for lifting people out of poverty, but for keeping them barely alive and dependent on the bureaucracy. Pournelle's Iron Law strikes again, I fear.
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