Basic income: the world’s simplest plan to end poverty, explained


Dylan Matthews over at Vox (photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images):

There are a number of different names this idea has gone by over the years. “Universal basic income” and “basic income guarantee” are used frequently. “Guaranteed minimum income” and “negative income tax” are generally used to refer to versions of the plan that also impose a tax that gradually eats up the cash transfer, as a means of reducing the cost of the policy. “Demogrant” was popular in the '70s, and “citizens' dividend” and “social wage” get used from time to time.

2) Who supports basic income?

Surprising people! Arguably the biggest popularizer of the idea in the 20th century was libertarian economist Milton Friedman, who specifically favored a negative income tax as a replacement for much of the welfare state. Many left-of-center economists, like James Tobin and John Kenneth Galbraith, were also on board. More recently, Emmanuel Saez and Jonathan Gruber, two of the most influential left-leaning economists currently working, argued that an ideal tax system would feature a “large demogrant.”

Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed the idea in his book Where to Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, writing, “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” Activists and scholars Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven authored an influential article in The Nation in 1966 which called for a national movement of the poor with the intended goal of achieving a basic income. More academically, left philosophers and intellectuals like Erik Olin Wright, Peter Frase, Carole Pateman,Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt and in particular Philippe Van Parijs have written in favor of the idea.

But the idea still retains appeal on the right for the same reasons Friedman embraced it.

More here.