lunedì 6 giugno 2016

When the Basic Income Guarantee Meets the Political Process Jim Manzi

  • When the Basic Income Guarantee Meets the Political Process Jim Manzi
  • reminds me strongly of the lawyer’s proverbial “in the alternative”argument about a dog biting a neighbor: “Your honor, my client doesn’t own a dog; even if he did own a dog, then it could not have bitten this man; and even if he did own a dog that bit this man, then it must have been provoked.”
  • He claims that social science evidence indicates that it not clear that a BIG would result in a reduction in work effort. But he argues that even if it did, this would not necessarily be a bad thing.
  • It is fairly extraordinary to claim that the government could guarantee every adult in America an income even if they did zero work of any kind, and that somehow this would not reduce work effort.
  • But we have scientific gold standard evidence that runs exactly the other way. A series of randomized experiments offered a version of Zwolinski’s proposal between 1968 and 1980. These tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle. They consistently found that the tested programsreduce the number of hours worked
  • There was a further series of more than 30 randomized experiments conducted around the time of the welfare debates of the 1990s.
  • we can state with confidence that Zwolinski’s proposal would lead to fewer work hours in America.
  • I will simply note that the moral intuitions of the American electorate appear to be very negative about a BIG.
  • compared to the current welfare system a BIG would be less bureaucratic, cheaper, reduce rent-seeking, and be less paternalistic.
  • But in that case, the real comparison is not between a theoretical BIG and a theoretical means-tested welfare system; it is between an academic idea that has not yet been subjected to lobbying and legislation, on the one hand, and real laws that are the product of a democratic process, on the other.
  • This points to what I think is the most serious flaw in Zwolinski’s argument: He assumes that the ideal of no government welfare is politically unobtainable, but simultaneously assumes that we could successfully pass and enforce a constitutional amendment enshrining a BIG and nothing but a BIG
  • Zwolinski presents no evidence that there is any prospect that such a set of changes would be politically feasible in our lifetimes.
  • I’ve called the first “liberty-as-goal” libertarianism and the second “liberty-as-means” libertarianism.
  • Hayek, for example, cannot reasonably be construed as supporting an unconditional income for all citizens.