Will universal basic income give too much power to whomever distributes it?

in basicincome •  2 years ago 

About the fear a citizens basic income could increase citizen subservience to government

subservience to authority

One of the more common responses to first hearing about the idea of a basic income guarantee, is the fear that it would give too much power to government. The thinking goes that if government is giving money to everyone, then they could threaten to discontinue doing so at any time, preventing any dissent and potentially creating an authoritarian regime where all citizens are afraid to say "No" to their government.

The answer to this question is as simple as looking at an existing basic income program.

Social Security for All

Senior citizens in the US already have their own form of basic income and it is paid out by the government. It's called Social Security. If the government decided to cancel Social Security tomorrow, this would throw millions of seniors into poverty immediately.

How likely do you feel it is that this would happen? And if it did actually happen, how do you feel seniors would react?

As a secondary question, would you say that seniors are more involved in politics or less? Why?

Do governments not need to worry about anyone over about age 65 and act accordingly, treating them as servile?

According to the logic behind such a fear, because the government gives seniors the money they need to survive, the government can do anything they want with them. Seniors should accordingly not be involved in politics at all, or if they are, they should always support whichever party is in power, and they should always support ruling government policies, whatever they may be.

Seniors according to this theory, should be the puppets of government. But are they?

  • Do we know a lot of seniors who are always fully behind any and all Presidents and always support everything they do in fear they will cancel Social Security?

  • Do we know a lot of seniors who are fully behind Congress and support everything they do in fear Congress will cancel Social Security?

  • Do we know a lot of seniors who refuse to say anything negative about the government whatsoever, out of fear they will lose their Social Security?

The theory behind this fear requires that the answers to these questions are a resounding "YES." If the answers to these questions aren't "yes", then the theory needs some revision because the evidence we have doesn't appear to support it.

Here's the reality. Senior citizens turn up at the polls in greater numbers than any other age demographic, and they do so largely due to programs like Social Security and Medicare. These programs give them skin in the game, and so they make sure their voices are heard. They vote like crazy. They are also more organized. Do you know what the publication is with the highest readership of all? It's published by the AARP.

The same goes for Medicare. If the US government doesn't need to listen to seniors because they wield power over them through Medicare, why did Medicare Part D ever happen? They had Social Security and Medicare already. According to this fear's logic, receiving basic income makes people servile, so the government should have entirely ignored their interests. Why would the government instead do something that helped only seniors?

Because seniors have more political power than the rest of us. That's why.

When it comes to senior citizens and government, who is at whose beck and call? Seniors get what they want. They get it because they come out in droves to vote, and they have a lot of time on their hands compared to the rest of the population.

There exists somewhat of a misunderstanding that the government doesn't give a shit about voters. Although true that the government cares more about rich voters than poor voters, it cares relatively more about seniors than other age demographics because they are mobilized and actually vote. They have big reasons to vote. This gives them more power, and so they tend to get more of what they want than the rest of us.

It could also be argued based on the above reasoning that because seniors have so much power, the government should frequently threaten to entirely eliminate Social Security. It should hold it over their heads, and seniors should be afraid of the government as a result and keep their mouths shut. But that's clearly not the case.

It's the government that is afraid of seniors.

It requires ignoring all of this, to support a hypothesis that if the government provides everyone sufficient money to survive, that suddenly the government will hold all the cards. Such a belief entirely ignores what we know from seniors and Social Security.

There's also another basic-income-like program in place elsewhere and it too tells us something. It tells us that once a basic income is established, politicians who threaten it won't be very successful.

Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend

Every resident of Alaska gets a partial basic income, and that program has been going on since 1982. Like Social Security, it too has been very successful. And there too, Alaskans don't live in fear of it being pulled. Alaskan politicians are the ones who are afraid to not support it. They know it can mean the end of their careers.

In fact, a recent survey of Alaska by the Economic Security Project discovered that most of Alaska would prefer to start paying income taxes than lose their annual cash dividend.

In 1984, a survey of Alaskans found 71% would prefer to end the dividend if it meant raising taxes. By 2017, that ratio had nearly reversed with only 36% of residents agreeing with that position. “Alaskans have become committed to the notion of dividends so much so that they are willing to pay taxes to preserve the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) system,” the survey states. The study found no major differences in views from respondents’ political views or income levels.

So contrary to what some people fear, once we have a universal basic income, it will likely be practically untouchable. No politician will be able to threaten to eliminate it without committing political suicide. Politicians will be afraid of citizens, not the other way around.

Meanwhile, more people will be more involved in politics, just as seniors are. They will have more reason and time, to be more engaged just as seniors are now. They will have more money to engage in politics, which we already know increases with income. Voting will increase, not decrease. There are also reasons to believe a basic income will actually strengthen direct democracy over representative democracy. That means further decentralization of self-governance.

The fear of basic income as government serfdom is the kind of fear founded mostly on a fear or dislike of government. It thinks of government as being something separate from people, and somehow our enemy. It's understandable this kind of thinking has developed over the years, as it seems so unresponsive and worthless lately for anyone who doesn't earn around seven figures, but that doesn't mean the government is a bogeyman.

We are the government. The government is us.

If we want to make it work better, it requires our involvement. And it definitely requires reforms of elections to be more responsive to everyone instead of merely the few.

But this fear that the government is just going to stop major programs and use this fear to control us... it's entirely unsupported. Such actions are political suicide. And if someone wants to believe in conspiracy theories and how the big bad government is out to get them with basic income, that's certainly an opinion people are welcome to hold, but really, all one need look at is Social Security and seniors to realize how unfounded such fears are.

Universal basic income has no conditions aside from citizenship. That lack of conditions empowers all citizens to take back control. Basic income is not so much a redistribution of access to resources as it is a redistribution of power.

If your concern is subservience to power, look at the subservience going on right now all around us, where employees are subservient to their employers, due to the inability to leave those jobs without fear of impoverishment. If everyone had a basic income such that they could refuse to work, subservience to employers ends. Employers must then make jobs attractive enough to get employees to work voluntarily. That means higher wages for low demand jobs. It also means less need for wages at all, and that makes high demand jobs like starting your own business far more possible. It means a free market for labor.

Austrian economist and capitalist free market champion F. A. Hayek himself knew the above to be true.

A basic income is the end of subservience, and the beginning of freedom.

Parijs on basic income and freedom

Who am I? Read my introduceyourself post here on Steemit.

Have a question about basic income? Here's a list of links that answers frequently asked questions.

Like my writing? Please subscribe to my blog and consider a small monthly pledge of $1/mo on Patreon.

Are you a content creator? Become a Creator on Patreon and take the BIG Patreon Creator Pledge.

Wear your support for basic income to help spread awareness with a T-Shirt!

Interested in reading an entire book about basic income? Here's a BIG list of what's available out there.

Subscribe to my blog | Follow me on Twitter | Like me on Facebook | Follow me on Steemit
Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

This post received a 3.7% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @scottsantens! For more information, click here!

I feel that once a UBI is established it will create a slow but growing stream of empowerment to the people which will create a strong society, one which can handle the problems of balancing the power of government.

Unfortunately, you have fallen for the idea that, "oh, this time we can implement socialism better than ...".
Since no one can predict the future, the best quantifier for future behaviour is past behaviour. You have to admit that governments all over the west have a poor track record on social programs (see my post on this article for examples). It is just natural human behaviour (for good people with souls) to be optimistic and you are in good company; problem is, the people in charge are not any of these things.

That's right.

if UBI means same salary for everybody, it is collectivism. Free will will very quickly be trampled

Its time has come..

and went..

I don't believe univeral basic income will buy citizens loualty, but it could be use to manipulate behavior and would be an avenue for fraud. And I question your definition of freedom. Yes, having money frees one to be able to make choices and act they way they want, but a guaranteed income will raise prices, encourage lower productivity, etc.

Conditions manipulate behavior, not lack thereof. Think about it. If I only give you a piece of chocolate if you dance for me, that is manipulating. That's also the way welfare works. The government is manipulating behavior. Did you know it spends $1 billion a year of money meant for the poor, to try to convince unwed pregnant women to get married? That's fucking manipulative as hell.

Now if I give you a piece of chocolate without conditions, you can do anything. Granted you may like me a bit more, but I'm not manipulating you, especially if you happen to believe chocolate is a human right and therefore not something you should even be thankful for.

As for fraud, it will cut down on fraud because everyone gets it without condition. Fraud is when someone lies to get something they shouldn't.

As for freedom, I suggest reading this article and arguing against the way Hayek viewed it.

For Hayek, then, and for those who follow in his footsteps, a basic income is motivated not by an allegedly misguided commitment to egalitarianism or to positive liberty. It is motivated instead by the value that libertarians prize above all others – freedom. And it is motivated by an understanding of freedom that libertarians ought to find highly attractive. The point of a basic income isn’t to give everyone the same amount of wealth. It is to ensure that everyone has enough access to material wealth to render them immune to the coercive power of others. That’s an understanding of freedom that appears to have been good enough for John Locke. It ought to be good enough for his contemporary followers as well.

As for inflation, that's a silly blanket claim to make in regards to an equation with a ton of variables. I suggest spending some time looking into them as well as the applicable evidence by reading this article.

As for productivity, the existing system is lowering it. It encourages people not to work by punishing people for working with removal of benefits. Meanwhile, two-thirds of all workers are not engaged or actively disengaged by their work. Perhaps worst of all, because people are bidding down each other's wages thanks to a surplus of labor, we aren't investing as much in automation as we otherwise would be, and so a lot of work is being done that could be done by a machine, or even need not be done at all. Plus, what we are automating tends to be high productivity work, and then that person tends to find a new job in lower productivity work. All of the above is bad for productivity.

Basic income will boost productivity. It will also boost innovation by reducing our fear of failure.

I don't think ANY government money will lack strings. To believe otherwise is ridiculous. I understand that Hayek believed a minimum guaranteed income was a good idea, but would he believe it now? Would he believe a megastate could do it well and actually enhance freedom with it? I highly doubt that.

What strings come with Social Security right now? What strings come with the Alaska dividend for all residents of Alaska?

And do you honestly think Hayek only thought what he did because he wasn't alive in 2017? Do you apply that same logic to everyone in our past who is no longer alive?

I agree with you, that is why I go a step further and has started up a movement for a money-free society.

Having to rely on the government to distribute UBI is such a bad idea. Statism is at the core of all our ills.

Hayek would certainly refute what he said he was alive today, but he too wouldnt have any real monetary solution. The global debt (short term debt) is 3 x the global GDP as we speak, how much is the world indebtment if considering the long term debt... 5 or 6 times? They amount to 100 trillion for the US alone. No kidding.

They obviously don't consider the costs do they

They read Hayek and THAT is the part they remember? How about the Fatal Conceit????

Yep. In Finland, people receiving payments are already turning down job offers and staying home lol..

This post has received a 7.17 % upvote from @booster thanks to: @scottsantens.

Congratulations @scottsantens! You have completed some achievement on Steemit and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

Award for the number of upvotes

Click on any badge to view your own Board of Honor on SteemitBoard.
For more information about SteemitBoard, click here

If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

By upvoting this notification, you can help all Steemit users. Learn how here!

Nice work Sir!

Be sure to take part in my @bellyrub challenge...

Where I reward great posts, with my own @bellyrub and I send a bot to upvote as well...


I like your post and it's a solid case for something that I've been against. I do have one question that I'd like your view on regarding your "chocolate bar" analogy in the comments. I don't believe the government has a bar of chocolate to give. The government does not produce. It consumes. The chocolate bar belongs to productive citizens, which the government then decides how best to eat, distribute or whatever it sees fit. The decision to freely give this bar of chocolate to all sounds nice, but how could it possibly be fair?

The chocolate bar in this analogy is given to people right now in the form of conditional welfare. You appear to be arguing that it should not have a chocolate bar to give because it comes from taxpayers, so let's operate from that premise.

Okay, so no more government chocolate. This has fixed the incentive problem because people get nothing whatsoever, but they do get chocolate in reward for working. All is good, right? Well, as a result, people with no chocolate start the Great Chocolate Riots. Buildings and businesses go up in flames. Crime goes way up. Healthcare premiums, yours included, skyrocket. The guillotines come out and people with all the chocolate start losing their heads. It turns out that people just really love chocolate, to the point of needing chocolate, so it's a really REALLY bad idea to withhold it, however fair that may sound to those with all the chocolate.

That's the reality-based argument that we will never exist in a world where taxes don't exist, but what we absolutely can do is make sure those taxes go back to people as cash so that everyone can make their own decisions within markets instead of letting governments set conditions to control people and distort markets.

As for other fairness arguments, please look through my other Steemit posts, as I've already written a few blogs here along those lines. Thanks!

If the goal is for the government return cash to the people, why tax them in the first place.
And do you really expect us to believe that instead of working for a living, people will riot and society will end? I think you are proven wrong every day, when millions of people get up, go to work, and are happy to do so.

A flat tax combined with a basic income would be extremely simple to administrate. It would save money and shrink government. If we instead decided to only tax people if they earned enough, that would require calculating everyone's income which would require government workers, and it would also require targeted welfare which punishes people for working via withdrawal of benefits in reward for working.

As for thinking everyone will do nothing, I don't know what you're talking about. People sell their labor in the labor market because they have no other choice, unless they are born rich that is, they have a choice. Only one third of the labor market in the US is engaged by their work. Do you think that is evidence people love what they do?

I don't at all think people are lazy, nor do I think people should be forced to work involuntarily. I think work should be fully voluntary, and that the work people do is what they choose to do, for enough money to get them to voluntarily do it, or for no money because their basic living expenses are already met.

Why have an income tax at all? It should not be mine or the governments business as to how much you earn. Yes, even rich people work. Try not to justify programs with jealousy. People have to work to eat, nothing changes that, not even printing money out of thin air. Without products being first produced, they cannot be consumed, no matter how much Zimbabwe money you have.

The basic problem with socialism inspired programs is not the theoretical or ideological foundation of these seemingly altruistic ideas, right? After all who does not agree that pure capitalism has a down side; namely, it is statistically impossible for everyone to win in a merit based competition, there has to be losers. Hence the famous quote, "Capitalism is the worse system ever invented .... except for all the rest".
The problem, as with almost every en devour in life, is in the execution and all the empirical evidence shows this to be true, in almost every case:

Social programs are designed by bureaucrats to be easily accessible, but very hard to relinquish. Why do these programs punish people who try to get extra income through the marginal work they may pick up (as 1 example)? Clearly, policing 'wrong doers' or scammers is not the reason (see next point).
Social programs are badly managed and therefore full of 'less than moral' persons, who are anti-social and criminal. Even though these actors are not at all sophisticated about their fraudulent acts; they rarely get caught.
Every socialist western democracy has fostered at least some notably large 'welfare generation' and in most cases, multi-generational welfare 'communities' (see above for reasons).
the examples could go on ...
Of course, we could skip all of these detailed examples of how human nature does not always (sarcasm) meet with our desires or wishful, hopeful ideal of ourselves. Don't you have to prove that the philosophy of "equality of outcome" is a better approach then the "equality of opportunity" philosophy? Anything else is just confusing the real practical issues with a mixture of ideals (portrayed as reality) and incorrectly assigned microcosms (limited examples of a narrow or small group of successes, portrayed as being applicable on the large scale).
I don't believe humans are anywhere close to the monolithic, identical in behaviour ideal that is required by the "equality of outcome" philosophy and Governments traditionally do not engage in the activities that would evolve or support such an ideal. Not to mention the conundrum represented by 'trying to make everyone think, feel or act in very similar ways' when humans are by definition completely unique creatures, not the Borg.
I could go on ... but it is a huge topic. Bottom line is, my hope is one day through organic means (everyone evolves to agree ) we agree humanity is one thing. Until then, the free market with limited and TRULY democratic government is the best environment to incubate these outcomes, we hope for.

Universal basic income is about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, and it is a market expanding and further decentralizing solution to the problem of both non-working and working poverty. So I'm not really sure why you posted everything you just did unless it's based on the misunderstanding that basic income isn't still capitalism, which it is. That's why well known capitalists like Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek wanted UBI implemented by governments.

See this is how terms are manipulated in Orwellian ways to make otherwise traditionally horrible or deviant from the accepted norm, completely acceptable.
How is a program of Universal welfare for people who have lost their jobs to automation or, more commonly, to globalist corporations that lobby governments to ship jobs out of our first world countries, a 'free market' solution?
Let's step back and look at why 1st world countries are in this mess. Globalist corporations over decades have paid politicians to give them tax exceptions, regulation exemptions, etc.; all in an effort to squash competition and it worked. While global corporations try to convince everyone that they are 'just following the free market' and finding the cheapest labor pool, they openly kill the small to medium businesses that would work to replace them with domestically created goods and services. Instead of that outcome, the strangled western markets are left with only low paying service jobs. Those jobs are going to be replaced by robots via a normal free market embracing of new better processes. That is the problem UBI is trying to solve, right?
As for the 'traditional capitalist' who support these ideas, we are back to the theory vs practical issues again, right? You didn't address any of the 'practical problems' the current social democracies have with their 'social safety net' or do you believe in the "this time we will get it right" socialist mantra? Giving people money for nothing, under the assurance that it will not trap them in a 'welfare cycle' is putting a lot of faith in people who's past performance is awful. Why not try the only method that has a proven record of creating a huge middle class and prosperity; the fairly regulated free market? This does not depend on handing over huge amounts of money to a small number bureaucrats with the hope they will not act exactly like every other single group of people with concentrated power have acted -- corruptly try to retain power.
Watch this video for a quick example of what real capitalism is supposed to be


the money paradigm is over... in 10 years from now, we'll 50-70% unemployment, UBI will mean government rationing. Orwell was a genius.

the only solution: money-free with a non darwinian permise since it is darwinism that led us there. Man is simply not an animal. And we are going to learn it, that we like it or not.

if you put equality before freedom, expect neither
if you put freedom before equality, expect a high standard of both

When the government centralizes, it is collectivism in desguise, in any form of shape. And the free market theorists have shown their true color... there never was, never has been, a free market. It was all regulated by a government. Socialism vs capitalism is ^divide and conquer^

Reads Friedman and Hayek, misses hundreds of pages of evidence that government programs do not work.
Heard of the Fatal Conceit? "The curious task of economics, is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." - Hayek

Yeah maybe soon we will add UBI to the list of failures that include Social Security and Medicare. They don't cover everyone nor everything but yet they are unsustainable as far as cost. So how can a responsible person advocate more a much larger program in UBI?

Social Security and Medicare are both very popular with those receiving them and both very efficient with very little overhead. Soc Sec has an admin overhead of less than 1%. Medicare's overhead is 2%. The overhead of private healthcare is on average 12%.

As for what Medicare covers, again those who have it love it, and it can be compared to Silver and even Gold plans as rated by the ACA market exchanges.

Meanwhile, UBI is meant to replace over 100 government programs (but not Medicaid/Medicare), and over 100 tax credits to simplify the tax code. Why give someone $3000 off their taxes for owning a house if they are getting $12000 cash from UBI?

The net increase in taxes required for UBI is not as large as you seem to think it is. In fact, it would be a reduction in tax burdens for 8 out of 10 households, which likely includes you. If your taxes go up $7000 to pay for $12000 in UBI, that's a net gain of $5000 and thus a net tax reduction equivalent to a $5000 tax credit.

The fact that those people enjoy receiving free money, proves nothing, except their bias.
Social Security is insolvent: it brings in less money than it pays out.
I have been looking for costs on your articles, i'm glad you mentioned it. So if everyone in the US, 320 million people, receive $12,000 a year, that's a total bill of $3.8 Trillion, that is more than the entire current federal budget. And you want to keep Medicare, so add another Trillion to that. Those two programs alone would be about double the current entire federal tax revenue, and that sounds cheap to you?
What about those other 2 out of 10 households, do you plan on robbing them at gunpoint yourself, or are you going to cop out and ask the government to do it for you?

Sounds like a nice plan, except it lacks choice.
You can put your money into a hat if you want. Just don't force other people to, by taxing them.
We may never know the cost because we can never see what will now not be able to be produced. The higher income earners are the ones that produce many of the goods you take for granted that will be available to buy with UBI payments. It those entrepreneurs who arrange capital goods and labor in ways that result in better and cheaper products for the consumer. And they are rewarded for their efforts with profit. If you hamper their ability to do so. We will never know the true cost of UBI, which is all the goods and services which will not be created as a result of it.

That's really the best you have? The cost will be zero because I will pay $12,000 and get $12,000 back in payments? Ludicrous. What's the point? Except to steal income from higher income earners, which is not an original plan at all..