Friday, 4 May 2018

Killer Arguments against Citizens' Income, Not (14)

In the comments to the last post on CI/UBI, Sobers wrote:

You're assuming those who currently net payers-in will continue to pay into the pot at the same level for those who are net recipients. If the amount is set at a level that allows a reasonable lifestyle (say at current benefits cap level for a family of 4) then significant numbers of people will say 'F*ck it, I'm not working 40 hours a week to get only a few £££ more, I'm going to take it easy and take the UBI and do nothing instead'.

However, once again, what we observe in real life tends to contradict how many people think human beings behave based on the prejudices handed down to them.

1) Landlords, non-exec directors, the heirs of rich parents and other people with unearned incomes still work, on the whole, even when their incomes mean that they don't have to. Some don't, obviously, but surprisingly few.

2) People are regularly had up for working when claiming benefit. Why should they risk breaking the law and being prosecuted, when they could simply adopt the attitude "I'm going to take it easy and take the dole and do nothing instead"?

3) It is possible for almost anyone to game the system and end up with enough to live on and a council house rent free, but the vast majority don't. If we are all inherently lazy, why not?

4) If the terminally lazy give up work to subsist on their CI, that means there are more jobs available for the industrious. Who wants a lazy bastard working for them anyway?

5) Voluntary, unpaid work - it's a thing!

This assertion has more to do with puritan ideas embodied in the Rule of St David, "He that does not work, neither shall he eat" than it does with actual observations of human nature or economics: the lazy should be forced to work for the good of their souls, and sod the wretched employer who has to try and wring some value out them in return for what they pay them.


Sobers said...

1) There's a difference between working because you want to (and enjoy it) and because you have to pay the bills. I don't have to work, but I do. But equally I know I don't have to so there is never the stress of having to. Its entirely different. Give people who currently have to work the chance not to, even for a slight pay cut, and many will grab it.

2) They are usually working in the black economy while claiming benefit, so such work is untaxed and unofficial, so not necessarily relevant to a UBI argument. Would such people take official taxed employment if they received a UBI instead of illegally claiming benefits? Maybe, maybe not. Particularly not if the marginal tax rates were higher - the incentive to continue in the black economy would be greater than today.

3) While its possible, its not very nice, and would involve giving the State a massive control over your life. If on the other hand you could stay exactly where you were living, and have a UBI drop into your account each month with no strings attached and no hassle of dealing with the benefit system (which is a job in itself at times), then the work/not work calculation is far easier, it comes down purely to £££ vs leisure time etc, than a complete life upheaval (which going onto the current benefits system would entail).

4) So? My argument is that if you set a UBI too high many people will choose to live on it and stop paying any taxes, thus meaning those who do must pay higher taxes to compensate, and so on in a downward spiral.

5) Again so? If loads of people stop paid work, live on their UBI and do voluntary work, the tax take again drops, and taxes have to go up on those still working, as above.

My argument has nothing to do with puritan ideals, I'm not arguing that people should work for the good of their souls, I'm arguing that a UBI set too high will necessarily destroy itself. Its an entirely practical, not moral argument.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, nice one.

S, see next post for a take down.

George Carty said...

Isn't "He that does not work, neither shall he eat" a throwback to times when labour productivity was so poor that it took 90% of the population working just to keep society fed, just as the pro-natalism of most major religions (such as the Catholic prohibition of contraception, or the Islamic view that women who die in childbirth are martyrs) is a throwback to the bad old days of high infant mortality?

Bayard said...

GC, possibly, but St David was a right old puritan.