The true cost of basic income

Scott Santens

Imagine a group of 5 people. They have an income distribution of $10, $20, $30, $50, and $100. Someone gets the BIG idea of everyone putting 40% of their money into a hat, and dividing the result equitably between everyone.

That means $4, $8, $12, $20, and $40 goes into the hat. That's $84 which when divided by 5 is $16.80.

Another way of looking at this result is that the amounts paid were -$12.80, -$8.80, -$4.80, $3.20, and $23.20. The poorest three people paid negative amounts (negative taxation), meaning they received money, and the richest two people paid positive amounts (positive taxation), meaning they lost money.

If we add up the negative amounts and the positive amounts, we see that the poorest three received a total of $26.40, and the richest two lost that same amount. That is the amount of money that physically changed hands, even though everyone put money into the hat, and everyone got money from the hat.

Okay, so here's the question: How much did it cost to make sure everyone received $16.80? Was it $16.80 multiplied by 5, so $84? Or was it $26.40?

The answer is $26.40, which is 31.4% of $84. The true cost is less than one-third the false cost!

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