Sunday, May 10, 2015

Four problems with work requirements for Basic Income

On twitter, Morgan Warstler, a very persistent fellow, has been trying to sell me on a version of basic income that requires everyone to register for jobs and forces them to accept any legal work that's offered. He misses these points:

1. Basic Income is not welfare. If you must think of it as something other than a benefit of citizenship, think of it as insurance. No matter how rich you are, disaster can strike. With Basic Income, you would always be financially able to survive.

2. Basic Income should be handled as simply and cheaply as Social Security: every month, citizens get money in the bank to use as they see fit. Only people who have been legally declared incompetent should have other people controlling their lives. Creating bureaucracies to test and monitor people only benefits bureaucrats.

3. Basic Income addresses a fact of life in the modern age: there are not enough jobs for everyone—see Reminder: There Are Still 3 Times More Unemployed Workers Than Job Openings - The Atlantic: "With more than 11.7 million unemployed Americans still out there, the government estimates that there are 3.8 million jobs to be had -- a ratio of 3.1-to-1." As computerization continues, there will be even fewer jobs.

4. A work requirement assumes 100% employment is possible, so the palmed card of people who want work requirements must be the creation of make-work. While I'm a big fan of government job programs like the Works Progress Administration, even with the government adding meaningful work that the private sector cannot provide, achieving 100% employment is impossible without the creation of unnecessary jobs—which may be the intention of people who want bureaucrats to micromanage Basic Income.

ETA: Tangentially relevant: The power of stupid ideas: ‘three generations that have never worked’ | Working-Class Perspectives