The UBI’s Parent Trap

Advocates on the right and left are getting behind the Universal Basic Income—but would they offer it to their own children?

Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is one of the hot policy ideas of the moment. It calls for the federal government to provide every citizen with an unconditional cash stipend sufficient to meet basic needs. Just this week, Harvard University Press released Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, a major work by Belgian professors Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght. Tomorrow in Manhattan, Charles Murray and Andy Stern (bothauthors of pro-UBI books) will debate former Obama advisors Jason Furman and Jared Bernstein on whether “the Universal Basic Income is the Safety Net of the Future.”

These discussions tend to focus on the feasibility of the policy, and comparisons with the current safety net of government programs like Medicaid and food stamps, while ignoring a crucial question: What would it mean to remove the expectation that one provide for oneself and one’s family, instead assigning that role entirely to the state? While policymakers sift through the data, non-economists will find their answer in common sense and lived experience.

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  • BillyHW

    I think we’re going to trigger Denyse.

    • Shebel

      Do you realize that I never did know anyone that I posted to..
      It never was of a concern to me. I still don’t know —
      Now ,I am getting curious. It is an age thing.

  • Frances

    Our kids were still in elementary school when the issue of paying for the Grade 6 class trip to Quebec came up. Our solution: flyer delivery by the kids. Granny helped, but the kids were expected to earn – from external sources – a fair portion of the cost. All did; it was fun to watch them go to the bank, withdraw the hard-earned funds, and hand the money over to moi who had already paid for the trip.

    Fast forward to Grade Seven. The message was now: you will graduate from high school, you will take a further training, and you will contribute financially to said training. The kids knew we were serious, and they all had various types of part-time jobs (library page and babysitting are the two I remember). Fortunately, we live within commuting distance of a university, so we provided room and board (and other amenities.

    Once graduated, they all stayed chez nous rent free. They all had good jobs, and our concern was that they could save for the future (RRSP’s were big then – providing both an instant deduction and a fund for a down payment on a future home). All did: all moved out to their own homes.

    In retrospect, I think our approach is the right one. Where there’s a problem with a child, one can be flexible. The issue is that they take responsibility for their own lives.

  • Shebel

    I guess that I lucked out. .
    I told the kids that if they stayed home-then they had to work
    If you want to leave—then go live with the welfare bums.
    I did have cars for them all.
    When my youngest Son left —he had more than a $120000—So he bought a house. . They all did.
    Screw the RRSP— buy Real Estate.

  • Hard Little Machine

    The problem is always at the edges. It’s not the difference between the UBI and the middle class that should concern people. It’s the difference between the UBI and the people just above it. It’s like jacking the minimum wage. In theory it can make sense except for all the people who are already just above the new figure and see NO gain from it while all the monkey-flunkies below them got huge increases just for not taking a dump on the floor. Because everyone will do the mental math and decide for themselves whether working 30 hrs a week for an extra 50 bucks above the UBI where you can sit home smoke weed and jerk off all day is worth it. And for the millions of people who decide it’s not worth it, your country just slid a little bit further back into the shit.

  • Dana Garcia

    I hate the idea of government cash for doing nothing, but it may seem like the only solution in a couple decades when half the jobs are wiped out by robots, automation and computers. Is there a better idea?

  • Tooth&Claw

    What you pay for, you will get more of.