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Poverty Is Optional

Basic income is commonly described as an amount of money that’s sufficient to ensure some pre-determined minimum standard of living. I have previously dismissed this characterization as inaccurate. But who am I to insist that the popular definition of basic income is wrong? Why should I not admit that this blog is about something slightly different? The answer has to do with how we determine an appropriate minimum living standard. Does it ever make sense to draw the poverty line anywhere other than at its highest achievable level?

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Life Is Just a Game

Does humanity need to exist? No. If we disappeared, nobody would be around to notice. But since we’re here, why not make the most of it? The first step is to keep ourselves alive and healthy. We feel better when we’re not sick or dying. This might seem self-evident, but there’s a reason why dying feels bad: Without an aversion to death, humanity would not have survived. Things start to get interesting when we move past basic physical health.

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Inequality Is Not the Problem

When people ask me about whether basic income addresses inequality, I tend to punt on the question. I explain to them that basic income solves the problem of how to provide spending money to consumers. I remind them that there are important problems that basic income doesn’t solve. Specifically, basic income does not address inequality. It takes nothing from the rich. It merely gives the poor better access to the economy’s resources.

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There's Only One Way to Pay for a Basic Income

Basic income gives consumers money to spend. The only way to pay for a basic income is by having an economy that gives consumers something to buy with that money. If our economy can’t produce enough goods to match the level of consumer spending, then we end up with inflation. There. I just gave you the answer. You can now skip the rest of this blog post. You’re welcome. For some reason you’re still here.

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Andrew Yang: Almost Not Wrong

As I’ve previously mentioned, basic income proponents fundamentally understand that our economy has the resources to do better for humanity. Andrew Yang understands this. He also understands that the economy exists to serve the people. Yang is a candidate running for United States president in 2020. His campaign slogan is “Humanity First” and he’s running with basic income front and center on his platform. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing Andrew Yang speak at a town hall meeting campaign event in Henniker, New Hampshire.

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The Wrong Thing to Tax Is Money

I explained last month that tax revenue is meaningless. But that doesn’t mean that taxes are all together useless. Taxation can have important positive (or negative) effects on the economy. It all depends on what we tax and how we tax it. And, as it turns out, money is always the wrong thing to tax. This must sound strange. Taxation is, after all, the taking of money. When I say we shouldn’t tax money, I specifically mean that the amount of money taxed should not depend on the amount of money or other financial assets that someone owns.

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Justice Is Overrated

Many of us are dismayed by the injustice we see in the world. We want our society to treat people fairly. Our sense of justice feels absolute and right and good. Yet different people hold incompatible views about what’s fair. How can this be? Could it be that justice is indeed objective and that some people happen to be getting it wrong? Do some people lie about what they think is fair when it’s in their interest to do so?

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Why Basic Income Makes No Sense

After having read my last post, a friend mentioned that basic income’s purpose had never before been clearly articulated to him. This is hardly surprising. People are confused about basic income. They’re confused about what it is and what it’s for. It bears repeating that basic income is a regular income unconditionally paid to every person. Basic income solves the problem of how to get spending money to consumers. It’s pretty straightforward.

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Basic Income Clichés

Basic income is simple. It’s a regular income unconditionally paid to every individual. It solves the problem of how to get spending money to consumers. That’s all it is and all it does. Among the many things that basic income is not, it is not defined to be an amount of money that’s sufficient to meet people’s basic needs. It could be less. It could be more. The income is basic.

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We Are All Disabled

My first post mentioned that the most remarkable thing about basic income is that it’s actually possible for us to hand out money to people. Interestingly, what makes basic income possible is also what makes it possible for us to pay out other cash benefits. Namely, the economy has sufficient resources to produce what people will buy with the money. In March of 2013, This American Life aired an episode about the increasing number of Americans receiving federal disability benefits instead of working.

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