MINIMUM BASIC INCOME
by Karl Arnold Belser
18 December 2013
The article Rethinking the Idea of Basic Income for All by Bruce Bartlett Made me realize that a Basic Minimum Income might be a way to deal with the low employment participation rate by redistribution of wealth created by work done by robots. The income might be provided by a robot productivity tax or even better a graduated wealth tax. The latter would not require the government to figure out what kind of advantage a certain type of automation might produce so that it could tax it. The serious moral hazards of such an income might be manageable with today’s technology. So the proposal might work.
A minimum income would replace or eliminate many kinds of government interference and subsidies like disability payments, health care payments, food stamps, unemployment payments, aid for dependent children, minimum hourly wages, limits on property tax increases and welfare. Given this income people could move to locations where it was within their means to live, which would be away from the intellectual and economic centers.
Note that I am emphasizing that government get out of the way by keeping the system as simple as possible. This change may be so revolutionary that it requires constitutional revisions.
A minimum income would create mobility, but to have true mobility people would probably want to rent rather than buy property because the cost of buying and selling property today is onerous. The demographic trend of renting is already happening because of the severe economic downturn that started in 2008.
Educational institutions could be located in these low cost-of-living places to allow people to move to more productive and higher paying jobs. So there would be an incentive for acquiring a skill and moving to a more desirable place.
On the other hand, there could be shelters in these low cost of living places where people that choose to do drugs or squander their money could live. The cost of living in the shelter could be deducted from the minimum income payment. Further drug usage could be legalized and the cost of the drugs deducted from the minim income. Universal drug testing could be implemented as a requirement to work such that the drug users would end up in the low cost-of-living places.
Then there is the issue of illegal immigrants gaming the system. Clearly the low cost-of-living places would be in many cases much nicer than where the immigrants formerly lived. Managing this situation would require a robust and reliable way to insure citizenship in the United States.
Let’s face it the government will not be able to place an “identity chip” in everyone’s head. What’s more forged chips might be inserted, similar to the way the false green cards and passports are used. The solution I suspect will be that of facial recognition coupled with full palm prints for exact identity. I would suggest that gaming the system will be extremely difficult given national databases.
I have assumed so far that everyone is an individual which ignores the problems of marriage, divorce and children in and out of wedlock. I suggest that the government should stop giving preferential treatment to married people.. This would eliminate alimony and motivate all people to contribute to society if they choose to do so.
The issue with children is more complicated because today it is customary for women to game the system by having a lot of children so that either an ex-husband or the government pays for the children. I am unclear if it would be constitutional to insist that women and men that are receiving a minimum basic income refrain from having children. What would be the recourse if a person refused? I don't think that a forced implantation of a contraceptive would be legal under current law. So maybe women could continue to game the system by having children to get more income. Maybe a smaller minimum basic income for children would be sufficient.
The centralization effect of this proposal would be a step to making the United States into a large living organism in which people would become similar to cells in the human body. I think that the benefits that I have outlined may in fact justify this drastic change. An evolutionary change like this would be a true black swan. However, I would prefer that a much smaller entity, like a city-state, become similar to a living organism so that government mismanagement and lack of competition for new and better ideas would be minimized.
The adjacent possible for the uncertain future seems to be that of a large state becoming unified. My hope would be that the centrally controlled large entity would be so unwieldy that it would disintegrate into smaller states over time. I imagine that these small states would still be under the minimally invasive umbrella of a multi-state powerful military, the rule of law, and a stable money system.
Last updated December 19, 2013
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