Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

Communism attempts to reinvent itself as a universal basic income.

The push for a government dispensed form of ‘universal basic income’ seems to be gathering more unwholesome steam by the day. I even had a commenter mandating for it here the other day. As a result I feel compelled to weigh in on the subject and discuss not just its underlying flaws but the giant deceit that cloaks the entire disgusting edifice.

As the above cartoon demonstrates, universal basic income is just another attempt to sell us communism in another name. But in order to demonstrate how it will inevitably morph into yet another version of socialism that “just hasn’t been implemented properly”, we need to examine what the consequences of just such a scheme would be on the ordinary individual and to society at large.

The drive for a UBI comes from the scaremongering associated with the implied threat that the majority of us will lose our jobs in the future to robots. This is the same threat that socialists have been making since the 1870s. Back then everyone was going to lose their jobs to those pesky machines of the industrial revolution, and today everyone is going to lose their jobs to the … well, to those pesky machines of the technology revolution.

The sugar that is being used to coat basic income crunches to make them palatable seem reasonable at first glance. Which is always the way with sweet temptations. The claim is being made that a UBI will reduce bureaucratic costs by rolling all different types of welfare into one single scheme. The big catch-phrase of the moment is ‘reducing complexity’. Before you begin jumping for joy, please understand that public servants will never voluntarily introduce a scheme that could then see them losing their own jobs to its supposed efficiencies. The bureaucracy never seeks to diminish itself.

And it is very easy for proponents of a UBI to toss out such platitudes without any numbers to back them up. Thankfully, someone on our side of the fence has made an in-depth study. Professor David Henderson has a wonderful paper titled, A philosophical economist’s case against a government-guaranteed basic income.

The annual BIG expenditure for U.S. citizens, then, would be approximately $2.068 trillion. This expenditure estimate does not include any expenditure for administering the program or for monitoring for fraud. In other words, it is a minimum estimate.

… Assume, as Zwolinski advocates, that such a program would displace all 126 federal antipoverty programs and all state and local government antipoverty programs. … Notice what would happen. A $2.068 trillion program would replace programs whose total expenditures in 2012 were $952 billion. Even rounding up the $952 billion to $1 trillion, the program that Zwolinski advocates is more than twice as costly in budgetary terms as current antipoverty programs. … How would Zwolinski fund this major increase in federal spending? … he would need to have the federal government increase taxes from their estimated $2.993 trillion to $4.361 trillion, an increase of 45.7 percent.

Those sneaky public servant managers – always out to increase the size of their underlings and thus give themselves more power. Not to mention the tax grab. Isn’t that extraordinary. And thus we come to the next problem with the UBI; government largesse. Or to be more accurate, taxpayer largesse at government gunpoint.

Professor Henderson has this covered as well.

…there is another major problem: the “public-choice” problem. …those who advocate further government programs…must show that there is a high probability that such government programs will not grow further. …in the case of a BIG, they must show that there is a high probability that a scaled-down BIG really would replace all of the existing programs for the poor and near poor. This is hard to do because the various interest groups that favor the existing programs will not sit back: they will fight to keep some or all of those programs. Zwolinski…writes that if the BIG “were implemented via a constitutional amendment, many of the public choice considerations could be reduced, I think, to an acceptable level.”11 Yet, as Randy Barnett (2004) and Robert Levy and William Mellor (2008) show, even strict constitutional limits on federal government power have yielded to the U.S. president, Congress, and the courts.

For those of you who doubt this, just consider that personal income tax was a temporary emergency measure brought in by western governments to help fund the Great War.

This scheme would steadily erode the taxpayer base, shrinking it ever further as more and more businesses elect to move their operations to other less restrictive nations. One can see this in action in the present day with the events in Venezuela. And of course, there aren’t too many private businesses in North Korea, a country that has to beg for international aid to feed its worker slaves while it spends what little money it has on nuclear weapons.

The other major flaw, and potentially the aspect of the UBI that would have the most devastating consequences would be the effect that it would have on the individual. Work gives people dignity by giving them personal power. Under a UBI people would become chattels of the state, and it would only take a couple of generations for memories to fade and for such a situation to become the norm, much as what happened with those temporary personal income taxes.

Being a state chattel means a complete loss of hope, as well as personal power. Just ask anyone who lived behind the Iron Curtain. Pretty soon there would be no need to send the majority of the children of the underclass to school. What would be the point if your future is a guaranteed basic income? The only thing that it would guarantee would be the total servitude of the majority of the population. If your only income is dependent on your relationship with the state then you better not step a foot out of line. That guaranteed basic income will be the only thing between you and guaranteed starvation.

Power and subservience. The two feed off each other. Without one there cannot be the other. A universal basic income would give great power to unelected bureaucrats and others fortunate enough to find themselves in the right seat at the right time. These individuals would do their utmost to ensure that their own power would pass to their progeny, which is exactly what happened in every major socialist state.

Socialism at heart is a return to feudalism, but without the pomp and ceremony. And those pushing for it, in whatever form that it takes, are always keenly aware that they must ensure that they end up on the correct side of the fence. The side with power.

The side that has a job.

Thanks to Dam Mitchell’s essay on this topic for various links.



Tar baby.


Podcast #67 – The sit down money episode.


  1. TechieDude

    These UBI advocates lack of basic economics knowledge is sad and disturbing. Specifically the laws of supply and demand, and market equilibrium. What is the value of something that’s free?

    None of these schemes ever work out. We need to look no further than student loans for college or medical care to see what happens when you remove the marketplace from the economic equation.

    Income (Money) is merely a vehicle to exchange work for things you want or need. It’s not an end in an of itself. So what happens with UBI? The market gets flooded with valueless money.

    Take this example; as a member of the cognitive elite, spoiled technology dude, I have ample resources. Last time I checked, a box of coco-puffs was on the order of $3 or so (I think it may be more, I don’t eat them). $3 is nothing to me, so into the cart it would go. For a poorer person, (if you can find one with sense, and not on WIC), that $3 is a poor value. The $1.75 generic or the $2 big box of oatmeal will stretch further. That $3 box of sugary cereal is priced for what the market will bear. Remove that process, and with everyone with money in their pockets, especially the poor, initially sales of coco puffs will boom, then the price goes up up up as markets seek equilibrium. Then, the poor are right-smack-dab where they were before UBI.

    And the article is correct, those groups with their sacred cow programs will be reticent to give them up, AND in today’s climate of envy and spite, they won’t hand that money out to everyone (so it won’t be ‘universal’). There will be those that are deemed to not need it, as well as astonishing fraud.

    So what we’ll wind up with is a very south american thing – huge population of very poor (bigger than now, since, as mentioned, you’ve just given every uneducated and mal-educated idiot reasons not to work, combined with an elite in gated communities.

    It amazes me that these lefty fools obsess over disparity of income, yet do everything they can to make it worse.

  2. Adam

    Intellectual rigour is sadly lacking these days. Thanks for breaking it down so that those who still read can understand.

  3. David Moore

    “Under a UBI people would become chattels of the state, and it would only take a couple of generations for memories to fade and for such a situation to become the norm, much as what happened with those temporary personal income taxes.”

    It’s almost like that was the goal…

  4. Mike Randall

    I agree with everything said about UBI. I really do.

    I am concerned that technology is going to reach a point where AI, automation, etc. (automated agents) are so good that there really isn’t going to be work for everyone. Automated agents are an extension of their owners. The work they perform is for the benefit of the owner, not society (as we would expect).

    People keep stating that with every great transformation society has adjusted in new and unexpected ways, that it eventually works out. But, I don’t see opportunity for the masses when a small number of people can provide a majority of work through their agents.

    What then?

    • Mr Black

      Productivity increases. Instead of one person performing a role, they monitor a computer screen of 50 AI robots performing the role and doing 50 times as much work. Multiply that across the economy and everyone becomes essentially, 50 times wealthier.

  5. Let’s see, I’ll bet they would not be willing to lower my taxes by the same amount. Any bets that people who want this would not come and do as I said for 40 hours a week if I was paying for it.

  6. Brandon

    People wonder where the minimum wage, tax credits, the new Living wage, relative poverty formulas linked in and out of work benefits inflation up-ratings and working hours agreements across the EU come from. The universal basic income is merely the icing on the cake

    Leon Trotsky writing in the wake of the US New Deal and before the post war welfare state:

    “The right to employment is the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is being shorn from him at every step. Against unemployment, “structural” as well as “conjunctural,” the time is ripe to advance along with the slogan of public works, the slogan of a sliding scale of working hours. Trade unions and other mass organizations should bind the workers and the unemployed together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. On this basis all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, under a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. It is impossible to accept any other program for the present catastrophic period.”

  7. “… If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. “Realizability” or “unrealizability” is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

    People often note the contradictory nature of the lefts agendas on economics. They look at Venezuela and think things have gone horribly wrong. No, the policies are designed to crash capitalism so irrevocably that “the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

    All the social policies around sex, gender and family life are about “destroying the bourgeois family” and replacing it with collectivised child and elder care, which is now the case in the UK. I won’t go on you get the picture.

  8. Kauf Buch

    The “slavery” aspect of UBI is what I’ve found resonates with those whom I spoken about it.

  9. Brandon

    I recently read something, possibly on The Saker site, about the bloodthirstiness of Lenin. I have been putting off re-reading these Marxists text again. Mainly because I’m not interested in there demonic nonsense. Yet 30 years ago I had a romantic, foolish view of Trotsky, even after breaking with the sect I still viewed is social analysis as gripping; as did Christopher Hitchens if I remember correctly.

    But just that phrase “…understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery…” is so ominous, so dripping in blood. The Marxists, at least the ones that understand the theory – which is very few that go under the name – see capitalism as a social relationship. “Liquidate” means to kill the small shop keepers, businessmen, larger farmers, land owners, etc. etc. Dead.

    Chilling and as popular with the younger millennials as it was with me and mine.

  10. kerdasi amaq

    Would those in receipt of UBI be precluded from getting jobs, saving money or buying shares? If so stuff it.

  11. > This is hard to do because the various interest groups that favor the existing programs will not sit back

    Because the whole point of – for instance – special handouts for women is that men don’t get them. Ditto any other interest group you can name. Even if they would be better off with a UBI, the crippled lesbian eskimos will scream blue murder if people they hate – men, the rich – get the money too.

    > Under a UBI people would become chattels of the state

    Pish and tosh. Nonsense. Go find a dictionary, look up “chattel”.

    > If your only income is dependent on your relationship with the state then you better not step a foot out of line.

    How is this different from the situation now, when the state has these things called “laws” which everyone is expected to “obey”? UBI must be *universal*, it must not be conditional on anything. The only ting that ought matter is that you be a citizen.

    The main benefit of UBI is that it injects money into the bottom of the pyramid – milk and bread. An economy cannot run indefinitely on a few absurdly rich people gambling with one another.

    • Mr Black

      You should try to understand how an economy works before putting your name to comments like that.

    • Paul, Do you really think that a program like this will ever be conditional on being a citizen or that if it is, citizenship will become meaningless and automatic? The Democrats in the USA want to import millions of uneducated Latinos from Mexico and other central american countries. They want to give citizenship to hundreds of thousands who came illegally across the border on the grounds that they have been breaking the law for so long that they have nowhere now to go. Each new citizen then gets to bring dozens of others through chain migration.

      Australian citizenship is available to people who apply for a student visa and complete a degree program, or who invest a lot of money in Australia, as is Canadian citizenship.

      Have a BMI for citizens only and the progressives will immediately start screaming about “white privilege” and racism, while working tirelessly to open the borders to those who will vote to increase and expand the program.

  12. While I agree with your ultimate opinion on the UBI, or BIG, I think some of your arguments are not necessarily perfect.

    First, I doubt that there are many bureaucrats that are championing the UBI with the lust for power. Rather, this is mostly pushed by University professors with good intentions that are trying to come up with solutions to issues of technological disruption that they perceive to be permanent. I happen to think that automation will at the very least lead to temporary increases in unemployment that will be politically disruptive, hence thinking about solutions is a valid endeavour.

    Also, there are people like David Graeber, that argue that many jobs that exist now are useless, as most necessary work could be done by machines, and we could all turn to our hobbies, get a UBI and let the robots do the work.

    Further, a UBI is not meant to be the only source of income for people. Supporters of the scheme argue that the profit motive would remain, as people would likely want to earn more. Rather, the UBI would ensure that people have the peace of mind to turn to their actual passions, rather than to work out of fear of hunger.

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