Economy

Apr 10, 2018

Universal basic income? More like universally bad idea.

The fact that those spruiking universal basic income are also those crushing workers' rights should signal the true designs of this so-called "leftist" policy.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Elon Musk

Universal basic income isn't likely to disappear off the policy agenda any time soon. That's not because it's some "leftie nonsense" as some in the media would suggest -- even though the Greens in both the UK and Australia have adopted it. Quite the opposite -- UBI is a neoliberal solution to a particularly neoliberal problem.

As New Daily's Rob Burgess has noted, one of the early spruikers of UBI was, famously, Milton Friedman, who called it a "negative income tax". Friedman also wanted a road pricing scheme in which roads would be painted with radioactive paint and each car would be equipped with Geiger counter to measure the distance it travelled, so Friedman's tendency to devise Rube Goldberg machine-style solutions to policy problems should be enough to warn us of the flaws of UBI.

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32 comments

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32 thoughts on “Universal basic income? More like universally bad idea.

  1. Raaraa

    I’d be interested to know how much it costs to implement UBI, on accounts of abolishing all other forms of payments including those through Centrelink such as Family Benefits and Newstart and other unemployment benefits and the abolishment of the Job Network. How much are we paying for the inefficiencies of administering our existing welfare system, including all forms of means testing.

  2. old greybearded one

    First, how much would it save in removal of DSS and the like, second, the idea that companies are shamed by paying poor wages is total bullshit, the media glorifies them.

    1. Bobby

      It’s not possible to shame a corporation because they are not a person. They only care that real people may become aware of their poor behaviour and boycott their products and services. That’s the only thing a corporation cares about. Effects on the bottom line.

  3. Nudiefish

    I gut-lurch away from anything the Neoliberals want as a matter of primeval instinct.

  4. Teddy

    The left’s version of UBI is based on the notion that everyone will get it – plus existing targeted welfare. I don’t think they mean the neo-liberal version – at least that’s what I understood when the Greens embraced it recently. The nasty UBI the tech billionaires fantasise about and rightist policy wonks like replaces all other welfare payments, tax deductions, superannuation arrangements and presumably all the government bureaucrats at Centrelink, the ATO and hundreds of other government agencies whose job it is to collect the loot and (sometimes) direct it to those who might need it. Sounds like that would decimate not just the Australian public sector but the entire economy, or at least put a lot more people out of work than those pesky robots.

    But its perfectly logical that UBI appeals to the Greens. It fits with their lack of interest in the way the economy works and their generally apocalyptic “we’ll all be f—- ed unless we take drastic action” view of the world. And its mixed in with a strong dose of paternalism towards the displaced workers. Here you go, people, you might not have nice “knowledge worker” jobs like us (see any post on the subject of Greens voters by Guy Rundle) but here’s a basket load of money to buy our video games and smart phones aps…

    UBI will also neatly “top up” the incomes of the already wealthy not now getting any welfare. And that wealthy contingent includes a fair number of retirees not now paying any tax at all – ie contributing anything at all to the financing of UBI.

    Gee. What’s not to like….

  5. Arky

    Applause for this, Bernard. I don’t quite know how this libertarian virus has crept into being so trendy among left-wingers on the internet, but it needs to be called out before it is such a sacred cow people push it without question.

    1. Bobby

      Because the left wing, especially the likes of the Greens, has become increasingly taken over by the truly monumentally stupid in our society over the last decade or so. Which is why average voters are abandoning them

      1. kyle Hargraves

        Actally Bobby, the Greens have been taken over by the monumentally NIMBYist, wealthy (two+cars, houses, yachts, overseas properties, wives etc) PC (when it suits them) but rather far from stupid although their adherents could be this classified. Greens are prevalent, (have parliamentary representation) more or less, in wealthy suburbs/electorates. To this extent they are out of touch – to say nothing of the “no detail – just trust us” message concerning their policies etc.

  6. Jocelyn Pixley

    Once again, some very good points against the basic income idea – it is a Friedmanite solution that he dropped after the late 1970s-80s. His reason I think was that unions have since had a harder time, and full employment is now reduced to the lip service of any poor job. The other problem is that governments – if they understood – need well-paid workers (and NB the corporate sector!) to tax, so that the value of ‘base money’ is retained. It’s safer than ‘bank money’.

  7. Jocelyn Pixley

    Once again, some very good points against the basic income idea – it is a Friedmanite solution that he dropped after the late 1970s-80s. His reason I think was that unions have since had a harder time, and full employment is now reduced to the lip service of any poor job. The other problem is that governments – if they understood – need well-paid workers (and NB the corporate sector!) to tax, so that the value of ‘base money’ is retained. It’s safer than ‘bank money’.

  8. Jocelyn Pixley

    Once again, some very good points against the basic income idea – it is a Friedmanite solution that he dropped after the late 1970s-80s. His reason I think was that unions have since had a harder time, and full employment is now reduced to the lip service of any poor job. The other problem is that governments – if they understood – need well-paid workers (and NB the corporate sector!) to tax, so that the value of ‘base money’ is retained. It’s safer than ‘bank money’.

  9. Jocelyn Pixley

    Once again, some very good points against the basic income idea – it is a Friedmanite solution that he dropped after the late 1970s-80s. His reason I think was that unions have since had a harder time, and full employment is now reduced to the lip service of any poor job. The other problem is that governments – if they understood – need well-paid workers (and NB the corporate sector!) to tax, so that the value of ‘base money’ is retained. It’s safer than ‘bank money’.

  10. Jocelyn Pixley

    Once again, some very good points against the basic income idea – it is a Friedmanite solution that he dropped after the late 1970s-80s. His reason I think was that unions have since had a harder time, and full employment is now reduced to the lip service of any poor job. The other problem is that governments – if they understood – need well-paid workers (and NB the corporate sector!) to tax, so that the value of ‘base money’ is retained. It’s safer than ‘bank money’.

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