Show Us the Money: The (Radical) Case for UBI

Ah, Finland! Land of saunas and heavy metal bands. Of unpronounceable nouns and the freedom to roam. Of Santa Clause and archipelagos. Of clean air, clean skin, and clean criminal records …

And, now, of the world’s latest experiment in Universal Basic Income, which a whole array of public figures, from Elon Musk to Yanis Varoufakis, agrees is A Bloody Good Idea.

As do I. But the fact that so many people are agreeing makes me wonder what is being agreed upon, and upon what basis the agreement has been reached. In particular: Why are right-libertarians and uberwealthy business types and even some conservatives pulling on the gloves and pads and going out to bat for an idea more usually associated with the material left? Can an idea that attracts support from Charles Murray and the American Enterprise Institute really have moral merit? I mean, can it?

I think it can, but it’s important to consider the very different assumptions that are being employed in the arguments over UBI, which, in case you’ve just returned from a two-year yoga and ice-fishing retreat in Ittoqqortoormiit, is a scheme whereby all citizens receive an unconditional flat-rate sum from the state or other public institution. It’s important because those assumptions will shape not only what kind of UBI we may get (if we’re lucky enough to get one at all) but also where such a scheme might lead in terms of other redistributive arrangements. If UBI is a means to an end, what end are we aiming at? [More here.]