Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

A grumpy basic income

Jerry Stratton, June 10, 2016

While the Swiss universal basic income referendum failed, it has brought the idea of a replacing welfare with a UBI back into the news. It sounds like the Swiss referendum was a very bad plan: it added the UBI on top of other forms of welfare.

It’s hardly a new idea. I first heard about it from an article on Charles Murray’s In Our Hands back in 2006.

Capitalizing on the Swiss referendum, Murray has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. John Cochrane has some interesting thoughts on what Murray says on his own Grumpy Economist blog.

It’s worth reading, because Cochrane goes into detail about what I identified as the biggest problem with the plan, that after time additional welfare will inevitably be added on top of the basic income. It’s a neat idea, but since the entire purpose is to replace all forms of welfare and government income assistance, simplifying government and dismantling the bureaucracy around the welfare state, that flaw is a big one.

In the real world, there’s simply no way around it. It’s a neat idea, but I can’t see how it could be safely implemented. Even a constitutional amendment, I now think, would fail to keep Washington from finding ways to rebuild the complexities of the welfare state. It’s the complexities of the welfare state as much as it is the welfare state itself, that feeds the bureaucratic event horizon. And the event horizon is pretty much the purpose of government bureaucracies. They’re not going to let it fade.

In response to Everybody gets $7,000 a year: Charles Murray argues that we can vastly reduce the cost of the welfare system and social security simply by giving everyone $7,000 a year plus a health plan.