Is a Universal Basic Income a Feasible Approach to Forestalling a Socioeconomic Crisis?

Rising inequality, decades of stagnant wages, job insecurity, the fickle gig economy and now automation: these are some of the reasons for the resurrection of an old idea.

Proponents argue that providing every person with a universal basic income (UBI) could offer a permanent working solution to poverty, joblessness and the administrative complexities of government-supplied social services.

Financial journalist and historian Rutger Bregman argues that a UBI indeed is a viable, long-term economic tool. He cites pilot study results suggesting that a UBI would lead to dramatically lower health care costs and higher grades for schoolchildren. He believes that a UBI would ultimately save governments billions of money previously spent dealing with poverty and its consequences.

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Don’t Believe in a Universal Basic Income?

A universal basic income could wipe out poverty and save taxpayers money in the long run.

Rutger Bregman World Economic Forum

Philosophy professor Philippe Van Parijs, one of Europe’s most prominent advocates for a “basic income” model, agrees: When people can count on a basic income regardless of their relative income, poor people have an incentive to work without the fear that they could lose their benefits. Basic income thus avoids the unemployment trap and social exclusion associated with conventional benefit systems.  

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Basic Income

Free cash to everyone – a surprisingly powerful way to lift people out of poverty.

Philippe Van Parijs Université catholique de Louvain

In a sobering fact-check, economists Melissa S. Kearney and Magne Mogstad rebut the idea that handing out a monthly government paycheck would effectively address economic inequality.

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Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a Policy Response to Current Challenges

Despite good intentions, a universal basic income might do more harm than good.

Melissa S. Kearney and Magne Mogstad Aspen Institute

UBI, they explain, does nothing to upgrade people’s skills or their ability to negotiate higher wages. Instead, the authors argue in favor of an Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides wage subsidies and has a record of encouraging people to work.  

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