dignified arguments for UBI

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Matt Bruenig writes that UBI already exists for the 1%:

The universal basic income -- a cash payment made to every individual in the country -- has been critiqued recently by some commentators. Among other things, these writers dislike the fact that a UBI would deliver individuals income in a way that is divorced from working. Such an income arrangement would, it is argued, lead to meaninglessness, social dysfunction, and resentment.

He points out the flaw in this argument:

One obvious problem with this analysis is that passive income -- income divorced from work -- already exists. It is called capital income. It flows out to various individuals in society in the form of interest, rents, and dividends.

Currently, "around 30% of all the income produced in the nation is paid out as capital income," which prompts Bruenig to snark that "If passive income is so destructive, then you would think that centuries of dedicating one-third of national income to it would have burned society to the ground by now:"

In 2015, according to PSZ, the richest 1% of people in America received 20.2% of all the income in the nation. Ten points of that 20.2% came from equity income, net interest, housing rents, and the capital component of mixed income. Which is to say, 10% of all national income is paid out to the 1% as capital income. Let me reiterate: 1 in 10 dollars of income produced in this country is paid out to the richest 1% without them having to work for it.

This leads to an improved defense of UBI:

The UBI does not invent passive income. It merely doles it out evenly to everyone in society, rather than in very concentrated amounts to the richest people in society.

Meanwhile, the indignity of not-work should be examined:

As I see it, there's nothing necessarily dignified about most people being forced to have the freedom to sell their ability to work to a tiny group of employers. The idea may be intrinsic to capitalism--but that doesn't mean it contributes to the dignity of people who work for a living, especially when they have no control over how they work or what they produce when they work.

"So, when critics of a universal basic income rely on the 'dignity of work' argument," the piece continues, "what they're really doing is reinforcing the idea that most people can and should derive dignity from working for a small group of employers:"

At the same time, critics are presuming there's no loss of dignity for the tiny group at the top, those who have managed to capture most of their income from sources related not to their own work, but the work of everyone else.

Where's the dignity in that?

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 9, 2017 9:44 AM.

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