Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Miranda Perry Fleischer presents The Libertarian Case for a Universal Basic Income (with Daniel Hemel (Chicago)) at Northwestern today as part of its Advanced Topics in Taxation Workshop Series hosted by Sarah Lawsky:
Imagine a society in which each member regardless of need, receives an unconditional basic income – perhaps $1,000 a month, perhaps more, perhaps less. This idea (known as a universal basic income, or “UBI”) is garnering support around the globe and across the political spectrum, from the conservative thinker Charles Murray to the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley to the social democratic state of Finland. Tax law scholars will recognize this concept as a variation of the negative income tax. Despite this obvious overlap and the UBI’s growing popularity among policymakers, the UBI has not attracted widespread attention from legal scholars in recent years. This Article begins to fill that gap by examining the theoretical underpinnings of a UBI and analyzing how those underpinnings illuminate relevant design questions.
Notably, this Article argues that a nuanced exploration of libertarian theory justifies the provision of a UBI on normative – and not simply pragmatic – grounds. We ground this argument in libertarian ideals for three reasons. ...
This Article proceeds as follows. Part I provides a brief overview of the UBI, its historical roots, and current UBI experiments. Part II makes the theoretical case for providing limited redistribution (usually, a sufficientarian safety net to the poor) on explicitly libertarian grounds. Part III demonstrates why a universal basic income is superior to other forms of redistribution. Part IV explores design choices and assesses how the theoretical justification for a UBI influences those choices. Part V examines the political economy surrounding a UBI. Part VI concludes.