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Universal basic income (UBI) is a non-contingent and non-withdrawable form of social security that establishes “income floor below which no eligible individual is expected to fall” (Wispelaere 17). UBI schemes guarantee that all citizens of a country will regularly receive an established sum of money regardless of whether or not they have other sources of income provision. UBI is delivered as a matter of right; therefore, it is radically different from modern welfare schemes. Finland has recently announced that it launches an experimental UBI scheme that is going to replace other forms of welfare benefits (Graham). Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the validity of the claim that UBI can alleviate poverty. This paper will argue against the implementation of UBI and will provide philosophical and economic arguments opposing this concept.
By stating that UBI is a right, the proponents of the concept go against the grain of the foundation of Libertarianism, which emphasizes on liberty (Gordon). This philosophy is based on the beliefs of Aquinas, Pufendorf, and Locke who were ardent proponents of natural rights (Allahyar 14). In the framework of the natural rights law, it is illegal to coerce people to pay taxes; therefore, anyone who advocates for UBI should realize that such a scheme would break the non-aggression principle.
UBI proponents are also wrong on the economic grounds. It is important to understand that by providing people with guaranteed income, governments will disincentivize them to work, thereby instead of alleviating poverty, they will substantially exacerbate it. Therefore, those who see the provision of UBI as a feasible approach to redistributing wealth should consider that by forcing those who are at the top of the income ladder to pay for net receivers of benefits, it is possible to create more people in a low-income bracket.
Another economic argument against UBI schemes has to do with the fact the provision of eligible citizens of a country with non-conditional income will lead to the growth of non-productive activities among the population (Sheahen 23). A functioning marketplace, on the other hand, does not support individuals whose endeavors are not considered valuable by consumers. In short, UBI will subsidize the existence of individuals who do not generate substantial value; therefore, such a system will make every citizen of a country that has implemented it less wealthy.
UBI schemes have gained a significant level of support from different political groups, based on the assumption that such a system is capable of eliminating a substantial drawback of current welfare programs—a disincentive to earn a higher income (Sheahen 27). Some proponents of UBI even believe that this form of social security can increase employment rates “because the financial cushion provided by UBI will help people in the transition from unemployment to employment” (Keeble). However, as has been demonstrated above, UBI is inferior to the unhampered market; therefore, such systems can only impede the process of wealth creation, which should be generated before it can be redistributed.
Even though UBI has gained substantial support on both ends of the political spectrum, the implementation of such a system cannot be considered feasible. Philosophical and political arguments provided in the paper show that UBI restricts liberty and impedes the process of wealth creation. Therefore, both downtrodden and well-to-do groups will not benefit from living in a society that uses unconditional cash transfers for the alleviation of poverty.
Allahyar, Joy. “Universal Basic Income: Could it Be Introduced in the UK?” Dissertation, The University of Sheffield, 2014.
Gordon, David. “A Libertarian Argument for the Welfare State.” Mises, Web.
Graham, Luke. “Finland Experiments with Universal Basic Income Scheme.” CNBC, Web.
Keeble, Nathan. “The Dangers of a Universal Basic Income.” Mises, Web.
Sheahen, Allan. Basic Income Guarantee. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Wispelaere, Jurgen. “An Income of One’s Own?” Dissertation, University of Tampere, 2015.