This may be axiomatic at this blog, but I think it bears repeating. Today’s lesson: Government provided income chains you to government.
LinkedIn decided to put some dreck in my email agitating for a “Universal Basic Income.” (UBI) I tweeted about it, and someone with an autosearch function spit this back at me:
— Scott Santens (@scottsantens) December 13, 2016
Now, if they had spent 2 seconds looking at my profile they’d have seen that I followed that first tweet with these two tweets:
The longer term experiment is social security, which inevitably grew to became the de facto retirement plan and is now unstable. https://t.co/G1jILpqilc
— tsrblke (@tsrblke) December 13, 2016
Insane to think people won't just vote themselves better benefits (like they do now with said SS) https://t.co/UEvHzG1rzK
— tsrblke (@tsrblke) December 13, 2016
Now I read Mr. Santens argument that “we are the government” and so “we shouldn’t fear it’ll take away our benefits,” and frankly found it a bit unpersuasive to say the least. Firstly he confuses “government dependency” with “totally subservient” arguing that people aren’t afraid of the government now merely because they’re dependent on it. His evidence is that people who get money (social security and Alaska Dividends Fund people) are politically engaged to the point they represent a voting powerhouse and so the benefits will never go away and yet they still often say “no” to the government.
There are a few problems with this logic: 1) Those people are engaged precisely because they’re afraid if they aren’t benefits will go away (or at least be reduced). 2) This works OK when your paid group is relatively small compared to average income (AK’s average income is about 30k, the Alaskan Dividend last year was just over 1k. (This small number means you’re not “dependent” on it as we would usually define the word.) [As an aside, I’m not sure the dividend fund is really a good comparison to a UBI anyway, in part because it’s relatively small and also because it’s really built out of excess money flowing in to Alaska’s treasury. Finally, it did take a benefit hit in 2015, which sorta goes against his logic.]
Now you’ll notice something about the average Social Security voter. Not a single damned one of them seems very concerned with the long term viability of social security (which not good.) Indeed, I called social security “Generational Theft” and the dude decided not to reply. (Considering I fully expect to get less out of Social Security than I put in, and possibly 0, I think it’s a fair assessment.)
Now, turning to point 1 again: I think he’s right that seniors are more motivated to vote because they prize their social security and don’t want it reduced (it was supposed to be a safety net, not a retirement plan, but whatever I guess.) As such they have outsized political power because no one else votes in the numbers they do. But if you carry the logic that a UBI is going to encourage people to vote (out of fear they’ll lose it.) Then what you’ll have is a massive number of people, all voting their interests as the seniors do now. A thin majority of those decide their interests run counter to the minority and…well…simply decide to put restrictions on said minority? This is especially likely should the fund of unicorn parts that’s paying for your UBI start to get thin.
Impossible you say? OK, let’s look at current events, how about drug testing for welfare recipients? Whether or not you think it’s a good idea, it’s impossible to argue that it isn’t a restriction being placed by the majority group on the minority. One could envision any number of restrictions designed to slow the flow of money to a particular group.
Here’s the deal, if you think Trump is threat to liberty because he won a narrow election decided by the electoral college, then you sure as hell better be afraid of what happens when a group in power controls the purse strings that you’re relying on to survive. You think it’s a divided country now?
Ah, I’m sure the counter will be “but people will just find a way to survive without the government assistance.” Perhaps except that the entirety of your argument for the UBI is that automation has lead to a dearth of jobs necessitating large scale government handouts. So yeah, got a bit of a pickle there don’t you.