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Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, April 17, 2017

Perry Fleischer Presents The Libertarian Case For A Universal Basic Income Today At NYU

Fleischer (Miranda)Miranda Perry Fleischer (San Diego) presents Atlas Nods: The Libertarian Case for a Universal Basic Income (with Daniel Hemel (Chicago)) at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Rosanne Altshuler: :

Proposals for a universal basic income are generating interest across the globe, with pilot experiments underway or in the works in Finland, Kenya, the Netherlands, and the city of Oakland, California. Surprisingly, many of the most outspoken supporters of a universal basic income have been self-described libertarians — even though libertarians are generally considered to be antagonistic toward redistribution and a universal basic income is, at its core, a program of income redistribution. What explains such strong libertarian support for a policy that seems so contrary to libertarian ideals?

This Article seeks to answer that question. We first show that a basic safety net is not only consistent with, but likely required by, several strands of libertarianism. We then explain why libertarians committed to limited redistribution and limited government might support a system of unconditional cash transfers paid periodically. Delivering benefits in cash, rather than in-kind, furthers autonomy by recognizing that all citizens —  even poor ones — are the best judges of their needs. Decoupling such transfers from a work requirement acknowledges that the state lacks the ability to distinguish between work-capable and work-incapable individuals. Providing payments periodically, rather than through a once-in-a-lifetime lump sum grant, ensures that all individuals can receive a minimum level of support over lifespans of variable lengths, while also allowing individuals to adjust payment flows through financial market transactions.

Although our main objective is to assess the fit between libertarian theory and a universal basic income, we also address various design choices inherent in any basic income scheme: who should receive it?; how large should it be?; which programs might it replace?; and should it phase out as market income income rises? Lastly, we consider the relationship between a basic income and the political economy of redistribution. We find that the case for a basic income as a libertarian “second-best” is surprisingly shaky: libertarians who oppose all redistribution but grudgingly accept a basic income as the least-worst form of redistribution should reconsider both aspects of their position. We conclude by drawing out lessons from our analysis for nonlibertarians, regardless of whether they are supportive or skeptical of basic income arguments.

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UBI has the same fundamental problem as tax reform: it's not politically stable. From the moment of its enactment political forces begin implacable efforts to demolish it, adding back all the special programs and provisions which were eliminated. UBI and tax reform make sense only if permanence could somehow be assured. Otherwise the grand bargain is certain to be broken.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Apr 17, 2017 8:11:45 PM

"libertarians committed to limited redistribution" .. well, there's an oxymoron right there.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Apr 18, 2017 4:17:19 AM

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