The Philosophical Argument for Basic Income
The first thing a basic income does is effectively end poverty. For a single person common dollar amounts for a basic income put them only a few thousand dollars below the poverty line. For any other household basic income generally puts them over the poverty line even with a couple children. So assuming minimal inflationary effects a basic income would end poverty in the United States. And indeed countries that implement a basic income among their poor like India and Brazil witness the elimination of poverty amongst its recipients. The EITC which is a form of the basic income among the working poor is shown to be an enormous aid in alleviating its recipients from poverty than almost any other welfare program.
After raising its recipients out of poverty the next thing a basic income does after academically ending poverty is to alleviate its symptoms and allow for investment in the future. As a poor person it is nearly impossible to invest in your future because you are always working to live. You typically buy the cheapest food, skimp on housing, skip school to work, delay medical or dental visits and try to find the cheapest sources of childcare possible. Basic income allows you to buy better food, invest in better housing, go to school at the expense of working more, go to the doctor or dentist for checkups, and stay with your kids longer. These findings are consistent across all basic income experiments in Canada, the US, India, and Brazil.
Basic income also can revitalize areas in proportion to their population. Old manufacturing towns died once the main source of income and pay for their town left. The employees of that company couldn’t find any employment that paid nearly as much and as a result the cash flow of the town decreased substantially. That lack of cash caused stores to close and lay people off and the cycle continued. A basic income would set a baseline of cash that would come in year after year. The local economy could only fall so far and as a result people could invest in businesses knowing that the demand was there hire more people further increasing the cash flow and helping the town grow and maintain a respectable and healthy economy.
A basic income would allow a free market system to thrive without threatening people’s financial security. The unrestrained free market is a cold system. It tends to consolidate power, limit competition, and depress labor wages. It also puts a worth on labor and even with mitigating factors like a government insured minimum wage it can pay people less than what they need to actually have the freedom to make choices. It can be hard for people to justify buying healthier foods because they are more expensive. It can be hard for people to justify buying higher quality goods even if they would be cheaper in the long run (i.e. good clothes) or better for them (i.e. healthier foods) because they have such a higher upfront cost. The free market ideologically of the customer choosing an item based on its worth to them and that increased demand causing the price to rise until the supply could match the demand doesn’t work if customers simply can’t afford products. A basic income allows customers to afford those higher upfront cost goods and give a clearer view of what goods the market actually values.
A basic income also shifts the free market system back to the side of labor. With automation and outsourcing, the cost of labor is being forced down. However, with a basic income employers would also have to compete with the “wages” being offered by basic income. Employers would have to find some way to make it worth their workers to give up their time for money. This doesn’t have to bode poorly for employers who might feel they are forced to pay workers more money, but can have other implications. For example employers might hire more people to work less hours and offer more flexible schedules. Having a basic income allows the workers to value their time more and not simply become enslaved to the first company who offers them a wage so they can simply survive.
A basic income also encourages collaboration and gives a value to those outside of the free market system. A single person under a basic income would be underneath the poverty line, but if he teamed up with his high school buddy or a girlfriend to get a place would immediately be above the poverty line. For example, if two graduates wanted to go to a big city to look for job opportunities there basic incomes would cover rent for a year, moving expenses, and possibly food for a few months while they adjusted. And the collaborations wouldn’t be limited to just two friends or significant others what if a band wanted to move in together, or a group of entrepreneurs, a basic income allows people to group together their resources to achieve a goal improving the culture of the United States as a whole.
Furthermore, supporting a family member or even a good friend no longer puts a strain on your budget in fact it can be a boon as they pitch in for expenses if they move in. Mothers no longer have to completely rely on their babies fathers and if the relationship isn’t working they now have the money to leave. Furthermore, if a girl has a boyfriend who doesn’t have a job he can still pitch in with expenses instead of leaching off of her. It gives everyone a financial value and encourages responsibility and allows people who are productive but not compensated (i.e. new mothers or charity workers) to still have a financial value and allow them to contribute to a household.
The argument for a basic argument goes behind just the dollar amounts. Basic income is an intriguing idea because it would have a cascade of effects that would not only benefit the working class, but also help improve the free market economy. Basic income would benefit working class people by lifting them out of poverty, allowing them to have more power when negotiating the cost of their time, and allow them to invest in better goods and their future. Smaller towns especially those in rural towns benefit because their economy now has a demand floor based on population which would encourage business to invest and gives the town a constant tax base to support its operations. The economy benefits because the working poor who historically spends almost their entire income in the free market has more money increasing demand, the demand of goods would follow a more representative model encouraging the best goods to be produced, and distortive effects to minimize the effect of the free market on the poor can be eliminated. Finally, a basic income would be a more equal distributive model for the economy that eliminates some of the intrinsic inequality seen today by giving everyone the means to invest in themselves and the things they believe in.