The Economic Case for a Universal Basic Income


People have many reasons for supporting a universal basic income (UBI). Moralists maintain that an income sufficient to cover the necessities of life is a basic human right that should be guaranteed by society as a whole. Futurists fear that jobs, as we know them, will become obsolete due to automation. Environmentalists see a UBI as a way of breaking a treadmill of overproduction and overconsumption that is destroying the planet.

Economists, for their part, make the more limited claim that a UBI would be a more efficient and effective way of reducing poverty than the patchwork income support system we have now. This commentary explores the simple economics of a UBI and compares it to existing policies.

Criteria for evaluating income support systems

What makes an income support program good or bad? I suggest these four criteria:

1. A good income support program should be effective in leaving no one below an agreed poverty level.

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