December 18, 2019


Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (Grayson Quay, DECEMBER 18, 2019, American Conservative)

First, it avoids nanny-state paternalism. Yes, it's "free money" from the government, but it's free money that everyone gets. And even better, UBI is designed to replace every other entitlement program. Libertarians might gag at such extensive redistribution of wealth, but even they should clap their hands at the thought of no more bureaucrats deciding who gets what and how much and how they're allowed to spend it. Also, no more exhausting debates over work requirements and drug testing for welfare. You want to spend your entire thousand-dollar Freedom Dividend on hookers and blow? Go ahead! Most people won't, and even if they do, I'd rather see that than watch the government micromanage their lives while they shun work to avoid sacrificing their benefits.

Second, it shows real concern for people in rural areas and small towns who have watched their jobs vanish and their neighbors die of suicide and opioid overdoses. "Things are disintegrating in communities around our country, and our government does not care. ...Trump's victory was a giant cry," Yang said in one interview. While other candidates like Pete Buttigieg continue to trot out the old "basket of deplorables" talking point, Yang truly gets it. His Freedom Dividend policy proves that he does. In her video on the topic, conservative commentator Lauren Chen questioned whether it made sense to give everyone the same amount of money no matter where they live. After all, $1,000 goes a lot further in rural Mississippi than it does in New York City. This isn't an oversight on Yang's part though. It's a deliberate choice to incentivize people to live where their Freedom Dividend has the most purchasing power. This proposal could help breathe new life into dying towns that have lost many of their best and brightest to swollen megacities. It's no surprise that Ben Shapiro says Yang has much in common with Tucker Carlson.

Third, it might be the only way to deal with coming economic changes. In The Jetsons, which premiered in 1962, George Jetson worked as a "digital index operator," a job that consists entirely of pushing a single button to start and stop the manufacturing process of an otherwise entirely automated factory. "You gotta have it up here," George says, pointing to his forehead as he tries to convince himself that his job is meaningful, "to know how to start these things and stop 'em." What was a punch line in 1962 is reality today. Truckers, Uber drivers, customer service representatives, manufacturing workers, and even radiologists could all lose their jobs to automation over the next few decades. By one estimate, 50 percent of the work that people are currently paid to do could be taken over by automated systems using just the technology we already have. What happens when those jobs disappear or cease to pay a living wage? I imagine a dystopian future in which the underemployed masses foment revolution while Jeff Bezos rules over a robot empire of factories, drones, and delivery trucks without employing a single human being.

Posted by at December 18, 2019 12:00 AM