UBI in the US (from the Andrew Yang thread in Elections)

In the Andrew Yang thread in Elections, ralfy is asking some questions that seem more suited to a debate. I’m starting a thread for anyone to discuss his questions or more generally UBI in the US or perhaps Andrew Yang’s plan for UBI.

There is a thread that was started already in Great Debated for Andrew Yang’s UBI a while ago which I’ll link. Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal

The only downside I can see is that it might be inflationary.

For the rest, it’s good for the economy, in stimulating the demand side.

I recall a story about a Ford exec who was showing a UAW organizer a new Ford automated plant, and he said triumphantly of the machines, “So, how are you going to organize them?” The labor leader responded, “How are you going to sell them Fords?”

UBI cuts that knot, at least to some limited extent.

Last I checked, a lot of the UBI studies on Yang’s site were also not UBI. At least a few were more negative income tax. A few of them were tracking pretty small amounts of money.

Is there a way to find out if the UBI will work without implementing it?

The reason I like UBI is because I really think we need to stop prioritizing “jobs” and start leveraging robots to make sure that we all have our basic needs met. Yes, reading that probably sounds silly, but we actually do a lot of bad things in the name of “not losing jobs” or “creating jobs”.

We eventually DO need to get to a point where robots handle a bulk of our labor without any problems - not sure I know the direct path - but at least UBI seems like it would be a stepping stone towards that.

On the other hand, I do think working is good for the human “spirit” and builds a lot of great characteristics, so it’s quite a balancing act.

It would be nice if we could get a proof of concept but I think any short-term tests are flawed simply by not being run long enough. 6 months as mentioned in the OP resulted in some good short term benefits but we won’t know how how it pans out in the long term. That’s a problem.

From my perspective, a UBI program might (note I said might) get us over the hurdle of moving into a post-scarcity society and where automation reduces employment but people still need to be able to pay the rent. I think this could lead us into inflation. I would hope not. But if landlords/mortgage lenders and other cost-of-living sources take advantage, then we’ll be in trouble.

UBI in its purest form is economic policy based on the broken windows fallacy, AKA paying people to dig holes and fill them up, except without the holes.

Government gets revenue from [ol][li]Taxing current taxpayers[/li][li]Borrowing from future taxpayers, or[/li][li]Inflating the currency.[/ol]Most people understand why inflating the currency is counterproductive. Taxing current taxpayers means that one group of people have money, which they spend or invest as they see fit, the government takes the money, and gives it to another group for them to spend or invest as they see fit. (Borrowing means the same thing, except the future taxpayers have to be taxed more to pay the interest, and future taxpayers are less likely to be present to object because they don’t exist yet, or haven’t seen the bill yet.) [/li]
You aren’t adding anything - just transferring money from one set of people to another. Total spending+investment remains the same.

The idea that spending is always better than investing is wrong. (So is the idea that investing is always better than spending.) So the idea that UBI is good because it stimulates spending is misguided, because [list=A][li]People spend their own money differently from money they are given, and []spending is not always better than investing, and []Implementing a program now because we want people to spend more runs into trouble when we want people to invest more.[/list]There is approximately 0% chance that the government will stop doing UBI when the advantages of investing outweigh the advantages of spending, and cannot parse a UBI program finely enough to only apply it to situations now where people should invest rather than spend. Because the government cannot predict those situations. Nobody can - markets are emergent. [/li]
We do not live in a post-scarcity society. We will never live in a post-scarcity society - the Law of Entropy is not going to be repealed any time soon, and Star Trek is fiction.

On average, members of a society have to produce at least as much as they consume. People don’t necessarily want to do that, but they have to. So, either set the UBI low enough that people have to work, on average, and that rather defeats the purpose of UBI, or high enough so that the average person doesn’t produce more than he consumes, and hope the productive ones don’t realize they are being played for suckers.


One problem with UBI is thatit can quickly rise so high, in the minds of voters to the top of priorities that it overrides almost anything else and makes politicians promise things they can’t deliver.

Finland ran an experiment that ended in December, but as pointed out above, it was too short to get a feel of what the long term consequences might be. The final report is due next year sometime.

I’ve posted this before, but Kurzgesagt has posted a video on UBI which seems pretty even handed to me. They talk mostly about the “minimum” UBI – basically the $1,000 a month Yang and AOC are advocating for – and ask a lot of questions, admitting, “We just don’t know.”

The famous SIME/DIME experiment of some years ago.

People worked less, their relationships broke up more, and although they did more training, it was not typically job-related,

When you pay people for not working, they tend to work less. Go figure.


The UBI is a cure for the lack of jobs due to automation, but at the moment there is near record low unemployment.
Shouldn’t we be trying to fix actual problems and not ones that may happen someday?

I would blame the short term nature of the tests. Something like this will naturally have many social effects. People might feel freer to quit jobs, start businesses, change jobs, get divorces, get married, start families, spend more time on hobbies and less on paid jobs, all kinds of things. That’s why we need some guinea pigs for a long term test; something like a decade or two. It needs to be long enough for these things to happen and then for the proverbial dust to settle to see what the actual end result is.

I also have an issue with the $1000 figure being thrown around. IMO the amount has to be tied to the local cost of living. $1000/year is pocket change if you live in Manhattan, and it’s a windfall if you live in Farmerville, Arkansas.

The 5,000 or so families were randomly assigned to two groups. One group was for three years, the other was for five. The effects tended to be greater for the five-year group as compared to the three-year. Which doesn’t suggest that the effects would reverse if it went on for a decade, and the effect of the employment gap on subsequent employment would be greater.


I encourage you to read [THREAD=872849]the previous thread[/THREAD] where I argued that Mr. Yang’s proposed plan will fail to achieve its objectives in both the short and long term.

If you aren’t convinced by or take issue with my arguments, let me know why not and I will be happy to debate you.


Yeah, it runs into some of the problems of clientelism, in that recipients can easily become dependent to the point where most other policy considerations pale into insignificance.

Sooner or later, expensive social policies benefiting only the most needy will be cut away to service the average voter. The calculus of each public spending choice can now be cast in zero sum terms: either ‘they’ get the money or ‘we’ do. And since ‘they’ is always a minority (even if a majority of individuals are sometimes a ‘they’), while ‘we’ are always a majority, the system will tend always toward increase of the universal payment at the expense of other programs.

This is why libertarians of the right love UBI (despite its appearance of increased government interference), and why anyone on the left who supports it needs to get their head out of the sand. It’s not a means to improve welfare, it’s a means to abolish it.

I think some of the support for UBI on the left results from it sounding, on paper, a bit like communism-lite: freeing the workers from wage slavery, without the bother of collectivising the means of production. And it might even work for a while, if implemented in a one-party state with no elections and heavily suppressed popular sentiment.

What I don’t think you can do is combine UBI, democracy, and a sustainable welfare state. It’s hard enough keeping up support for the latter under current conditions, where the promise of tax-cuts presents a similar temptation to drive down spending. UBI would make things much worse. Where presently the impetus against spending comes mostly from the wealthier segment of society, under UBI you’d place a far bigger proportion of the electorate in a position where any given welfare policy clearly reduces their own income potential. Casting welfare recipients as people who already get their fair share from the universal payment, populist politicians are going to have a field day selling the benefits of smaller government.

FWIW, Andrew Yang’s proposal already plans to abolish significant pieces of the current welfare program:


Yes – look at how it works in other countries that try it – or have at least seriously considered it, and publicly threshed out the pros and cons.

Here’s a good place to start.

Unemployment is low, but that’s not the whole picture. Millions of Americans are just getting by, even if they work two or three jobs. I hope you will agree that does constitute a problem.

First off, that’s a dumb answer. Obviously the way to see if it works is to look where it’s been implemented but the question was how to see whether it works before you implement it.

Also, your link contains nothing about countries that have implemented it. Most likely because no country has, unless you count native American tribes.