People Want to Work

Vox has run at least four different articles this year supporting a Universal Basic Income. For a variety of reasons, I basically agree with Josh Barro that a UBI will be much more socially disruptive in the American context than most people acknowledge, the cost of the program aside. But it’s worth noting that a UBI isn’t even all that popular, and not only in the “nobody wants to pay for it” sense. Americans want to work, and a steady portion of between 65 and 75 percent of respondents have told the General Social Survey ever since 1973 that even if they were so rich they never needed to work again, they would continue to work.


People want jobs with a measure of dignity, at decent wages. I don’t think minimum wages are the way to get there, but this from Duncan Black/Atrios is largely correct- there’s no real reason that something like full employment and a rising standard of living is out of reach for as rich a country as the United States. (I think Atrios and I would agree that a more inflationary monetary policy and giant infrastructure projects would be good short-term ways of getting to rising wages.) How to engender that rising standard of living, is a worthy object of debate, but in the meantime Universal Basic Income should probably be left on the shelf.

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