Let us start with a dilemma. For an idea to be worth thinking about and fighting for, it must be both desirable and sustainable. But, we now often hear, a basic income — i.e. an income paid to all on an individual basis without means test or work test — is at best either one or the other, but it cannot be both. Here is the argument.
On the one hand, you could take all the cash transfers of the welfare state, whether social insurance or social assistance, and distribute it equally to everyone. That is uncontroversially affordable and sustainable: we have the money to do it and shall keep having it if spent in this way. But it cannot be regarded as desirable because it will increase poverty rather than decrease it: you give a lot of money to people who do not need it while reducing the amount of money available for households that badly need it as they have no other income.
- Number: 1
- Year: 2019