Moral Aspects of Basic Income

Moral Aspects of Basic Income

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In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread.
Genesis 3:19

The fall of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for the demise of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Eden is the recollection of an oppressed peasantry of the more humane world of their happier ancestors. Before we bit the apple, we lived off the fat of the land. Hunter-gatherers lived longer, ate better, and worked less than their agriculturalist descendants.  Average adult height, an excellent proxy for childhood nutrition did not return to levels seen in the Palaeolithic until a mere 150 years ago.

Archaeologists tell us the invention of farming may well have been the greatest calamity to befall our species. Kings and slaves, property and war all were by-products of agriculture.  Even today, even when forced onto marginal lands, hunter-gather tribes often prefer to retain their old ways rather than till the soil.  “Why work hard when god made so many mongongo nuts?” ask the !Kung of southern Africa.
The lifestyle of hunter gathers is   much more easygoing than that of serfs and peasants. Subsistence agriculturalists worked from sunup to sundown. Hunter-gatherers “worked” a few hours a day.  That was enough to feed and clothe and house their families. The rest of the time they could socialize, play games, tell stories. And “work” back then was hunting antelope with your mates or strolling through the savannah looking for nuts and berries. Farmers overwhelmed hunter-gatherers, not because their lives were more pleasant but because farming makes land so much more productive.

Of course, we cannot go back to those happier days.  Farming can feed up to 100 times as many people from the same plot of land and soon farmers outnumbered hunter-gatherers. An expanding population locked humanity into a constant and arduous grind. Until now.

To hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner. . . , without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.
Karl Marx

Malthus had the bad luck to make publish his theory just at the moment it ceased to be true.  From the invention of agriculture until the industrial revolution, median incomes remained stagnant.  Technological progress like the heavy plough in the 9th century or windmills in the 12th   allowed population to expand but didn’t raise the standard of living. A Roman peasant transported by time machine to 1750 would have found more similarities than differences. At the height of the Roman Empire, world per capita GDP was $465 (in 1990 dollars).  In 1820 it had gone up merely a 1/3 to $666. 

All this changed in the mid 19th century. Starting around 1820, capitalism and technology together   transformed the world. Population exploded and so did living standards.  Today per capita GDP is over $7,600, more than ten times what it was in the 19th century.  Even India now has a higher per capita GDP than Western Europe did in 1900. We are richer than our ancestors ever dreamed. World GDP is more than 250 times higher than it was before the industrial revolution.
Yet we don’t feel rich.  Despite being surrounded by abundance, we worry about not having enough. Fear of scarcity is bred in our bones.  I often think the appeal of austerity is an atavistic remnant of our past history. In a world short of essentials, profligacy can be fatal.  Lent comes in February because by that point in winter peasants had run out of tasty food to eat. A religion that insisted on lavish feasts in winter would have its adherents starve to death by spring.
Today, we have the opposite problem. Larry Summers’ secular stagnation is a manifestation of the incredible productivity of capitalism.   Low interest rates are a sign of the increased productivity of capital. High unemployment is a sign of the increased productivity of labour. Labour and capital are cheap because we don’t need much of them to create an unprecedented amount of goods and services. Indeed, we can make   much more than we can afford to buy.
Our stagnant world economy, smaller today than it was six years ago suffers not from a lack of supply but a lack of demand. Indeed, ever since the Great Depression demand has been capitalism’s only Achilles heel.  Each year, productivity increases mean that we can make more goods with fewer inputs. In 1920 it took 3 man-hours to make a ton of steel. Today 3 men can make 1000 tons in an hour. In 1980, camera, lighting and editing equipment required to produce a broadcast quality documentary cost at least $200,000. Today you can buy even better gear for less than $5,000.
Both capital and labour are much more productive than they used to be.  Mostly, this is a good thing.  Producing more with less   makes society richer. Greater supply should mean   abundance for all.  The problem is on the demand side. Productivity increases are great on the micro level and are great for supply but for aggregate demand they can end up being destructive. If you can make more with less labour, and so get rid of workers, who will be able to afford to buy the stuff you now make? After all, your workers are also consumers.

As long as consumers keep their wallets closed, firms have no incentive to hire. Firms won’t invest in productive capacity when goods are still sitting on the shelf.  So far, the trickle down tactic of quantitative easing to stimulate asset prices has been disappointing. Yes share prices have been rising but wages have not followed.   It is time to try a trickle up policy.

A number of us here at Pieria have argued that a basic income guarantee (also called a negative income tax) will not only reignite the economy and overcome secular stagnation, it will be the salvation of capitalism. Yes, it provides a safety net for the most unfortunate and yes, it reduces inequality, but most important, by creating steady and dependable demand, it cures capitalism’s only weakness, over-production. By putting money in consumers’ pockets, a basic income guarantees consistent demand and so gives the private sector confidence to hire and invest.

The economics of this proposal strike me as clear and convincing. I want to focus now on its ethical implications. On the one hand, helping the poorest citizens seems the Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or   Buddhist or humane) thing to do. In a wealthy society, it is unnecessarily cruel   that anyone among us should lack shelter, warmth and food. A negative income tax takes care of our most vulnerable without creating another government bureaucracy.

On the other hand, one can cogently argue that paying citizens without requiring work in return could turn us all into lazy and useless layabouts. That is the fear behind Mitt Romney’s division of America between “makers” and “takers”, behind right wing opposition to the welfare state. Generation after generation on the dole is not an attractive prospect.  We certainly don’t want to end up like the fat slobs in the animated film Wall.E, stuffing our faces while slouching on barcoloungers, watching TV, unable to do fend   for ourselves.  Even working sunup to sundown is preferable to that.

Perhaps there is another option. Ever since the invention of agriculture, we have struggled in a world of scarcity. Today, to a degree our great grandparents would have found astonishing, scarcity has been banished. The bottleneck to growth is no longer supply but demand.  We can, once again, as we did in Eden, live off the fat of the land. Maybe the basic income guarantee can help return us to a lifestyle more suited to our species, kinder, more relaxed, more generous, a lifestyle that harkens back to our evolutionary roots on the savannahs of East Africa.

Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.
Margaret Thatcher

In a fascinating article, John Grey tells us that when she was elected, Margaret Thatcher goal wasn’t neoliberal economics but rather on recreating the staid and traditional England of her youth.  She believed cutting the role of the state and increasing the power of free markets was a means to reinvigorate the   respectable bourgeois she remembered from her father’s grocery store.  She was off by 180 degrees. She deregulated and privatised, eviscerated labour unions and cut taxes but the old fashioned values she cherished are further away than ever.

[Thatcher] fully shared Hayek’s view that free markets reinforce ‘traditional values’, which is an inversion of their actual effect. The conservative country of which she dreamed had more in common with Britain in the 1950s, an artefact of Labour collectivism, than it did with the one that emerged from her free-market policies. A highly mobile labour market enforces a regime of continuous change. The type of personality that thrives in these conditions is the opposite of the stolid, dutiful bourgeois Thatcher envisioned. Skill in re-inventing yourself is the key virtue, along with a readiness to cut your losses as soon as any commitment becomes unprofitable or unexciting. Thatcher’s economic revolution was meant to go along with something like a social restoration. Instead, it led to Britain as it is today, a society obsessed with the idea of personal self-realisation, more liberal in sexual matters, less monocultural and less class-bound, more insecure and more unequal.

If a conservative is someone who cherishes the time-honoured ways, is a bit odd that conservatives should exalt free markets. After all, capitalism is the most revolutionary force the world has ever known.  Whenever it meets a traditional society, it turns it upside down. The rise of fundamentalism, in the Islamic world, in America, in India, is a global phenomenon and so requires a global explanation.  The simplest is that capitalism, by shattering age-old relationships leaves many of us lost and alienated without the ancient verities that gave logic to our lives. “All that is solid melts into air. All freed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.”

Capitalism has been magnificent in producing wealth and increasing productivity.  Unfortunately, It happily serves our baser instincts.  GDP goes up whether we spend on guns and Internet porn or education and opera tickets. When money is the measure of the man, when consumption is our only goal   our culture becomes shallower, and perhaps so do our relationships. And it is getting worse.
Thrift was the original capitalist virtue. According to Max Weber, upright burghers would limit consumption in order to purchase productive machinery or finance transoceanic voyages. By avoiding sumptuous consumption, our frugal protocapitalist could invest his capital and so increase society’s productive capacity.  That was admirable. That was then.
Today, thrift is passé.  These days, we serve capitalism by buying stuff, even stuff we don’t need.  Thrift no longer has much economic purpose. We have a savings glut, we have a labour glut, what we don’t have is a consumption glut. The world economy doesn’t require prudent savers, it needs us to max out our credit cards just to keep unemployment below 7%. No wonder our children are obsessed with buying the coolest football boots or the dress they saw in Vogue. It is as consumers that we best serve global capitalism. Sadly this addiction to   consumption may offer a bump to GDP but it does not create happiness.

What makes us happy, as Adam Smith recognized in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (the book he thought his masterpiece) is the regard of others.  What brings me joy is not a new toy but the look on my wife’s face that tells me she loves me. What makes me happy at work is not the corner office but what that symbolizes:  the sense that my boss admires and respects my talent and effort. A man buys an expensive watch because he thinks it will impress his mates but sadly, no one even notices.  When a middle aged man pulls up in a candy red Ferrari, he rarely makes the impression he had hoped when he put down his credit card.

What we admire in others are not their possessions but rather the same virtues we admired back in the Palaeolithic: kindness, loyalty, bravery, generosity, beauty, strength and a sense of humour.  Check out the personals ads: a sense of humour trumps an expensive watch every time. Today most of us work long hours, seeing our children less than we would like while others are utterly idle, unable to find work at all.  We act as though we live in a world of scarcity when actually will live in a world our ancestors would have thought abundant beyond their wildest dreams.  In terms of material comfort, you and I and even the guy in the hoodie down at the council estate live better than Charlemagne or Cleopatra. 

Hunter-gatherers shared. Farmers and factory workers, for the most part, did not. In many tribes, a successful hunter would give away 90% of the meat from his kill.  He certainly gained respect (and perhaps female companionship) for his prowess but the families of mediocre hunters also got to eat. Anthropologists suggest this propensity for generosity served everyone’s interests. Since no one family can eat an entire buffalo and even the best hunter sometimes goes a while without a kill, sharing the proceeds of a hunt is not just generous, it is an economically sensible insurance policy.  So is a basic income guarantee.

We can afford a basic income guarantee.  We can give every citizen enough money to survive. It will stimulate an economy starved of demand.  It will make our society more equitable. It will feed the hungry and house the homeless.  It respects the individual. It provides a constant level of demand that firms can depend on and so stimulate the animal spirits of businessmen.  It will strengthen workers bargaining position because they will be able to tell their employers to “take this job and shove it.” It will also reduce labour costs since firms won’t be required to provide a living wage.  It will give us more free time to dance and play and love our children.  I would also suggest, it might just end up making us better human beings.


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In his 1922 book, Triumphant Plutocracy:The Story of American Public Life from 1870 - 1920, Richard Frankiln Pettigrew wrote, "Capital is stolen labor, and its only purpose is to steal more labor.". Pettigrew was in the midst of the era when robber barons were legalistically stealing the American landmass, building privately owned railroads at public expense, forming trusts to monopolize industry and ensure private profits at everybody else's expense, all with the collusion of the majority of politicians and public officials. Already by 1870, Pettigrew saw the actual operation of the US not as a law-bound republic, but as a plutocratic empire ruled by money and power. Europe has been de fact ruled by bankers since the Medicis and Rothschilds. This is plutocracy, rule by private powers, not republican or democratic "self government". Greed for wealth and lust for power, not enlightened reason, rules the world.

"Civilization", beginning with agriculture, is the systematically organized tyranny of the ruled by owners and political rulers. If you're not an owner/capitalist or political/military ruler, then you're not a member of the class whose interests civilization is designed to serve. Capitalism is not an economic system. Capitalism is oligarchic government of people based on oligopoly ownership of money and productive land and industries. Feudalism was government by monopoly ownership of the land during the era when agriculture was the economy, and land was the basis of agriculture. Capitalism simply expanded monopoly to capture the bases of the new industrial economy.

I'm not arguimg that tribal life is "better" than civilization. But the whole 20th century Walter Lippman/Edward Bernays idea of manufacturing mass mind to serve the needs of mass society is part and parcel of "civilization". Even the rulers of civilization are not free. If they don't serve the needs of monopoly, they will lose their power and be reduced to the status of ruled rather than ruler.

People of the libertarian persuasion argue that state welfare is capitulation to the unfree system of deliberately organized government/rule. Contrary to the lessons of history, and the opinion of Thomas Hobbes, libertarians believe people can live comfortable civilized lives by mutual agreement, as if all men are men of enlightened reason who would agree on what is true and what is just, and who would not practise falsity or injustice for private gain. They believe life can be "fair", and free, without a ruling Leviathan possessing overwhelming compulsive force to keep them all in awe, and to provide them with welfare or a guaranteed annual income.

I think the moral argument for a GAI has to begin with recognition of reality. We are not self governing citizens of democracies. Our governments operate under the higher rule of bankers, who issue the money and lend it to governments. The Medici/Rothschild system of rule by money is alive and well, as every politician who has tried issuing debt free government money and spending it into circulation has discovered to his peril. Bankers rule the Earth by their monopoly of money issuance. There can never be enough private demand and tax money to buy what we produce, as long as bankers maintain their monopoly of money.

Adair Turner recently raised the issue of the policy that dare not speak its name: overt money financing of government deficit spending, an idea Milton Friedman advocated as a no-brainer back in 1948. Rather than issuing bonds that banks purchase by creating bank deposit money which the government then spends into circulation, the government could create its own money and spend it into circulation, without having any bond interest to pay and without ever having to pay the loan principal "back" to anyone, because the money would not be created as a debt. A guaranteed annual income funded by overt money financing might work, if any government can defy the bankers and domit. A GAI funded by redistributive taxation will never fly, because all of the "moral" objections will be raised to prevent the tax increases needed to fund the GAI.

["Malthus had the bad luck to make publish his theory just at the moment it ceased to be true. "]

I'm sorry, but such a statement has no place in economic discourse in this day and age. The Malthusian issue has never went-- and will never go away. I don't mean to be rude, but I can't stand it anymore. The reputation of the finance and economics profession --unquestionably scarred by the crisis -- will never be redeemed by skimping on intellectual rigor and the certain amount of emotional detachment required for valid scientific inquiry.

["All this changed in the mid 19th century. Starting around 1820, capitalism and technology together transformed the world. "]

I'd say [Energy -- technology and free enterprise transformed the world] would be more accurate.

["Yet we don’t feel rich. Despite being surrounded by abundance, we worry about not having enough."]

Even a working class person could consume an inordinate amount of junk; but the way the system has been geared (and later evolve into), land rent policy ensured said person is always walking on a tightrope, even if the individual abstained completely from purchasing anything that isn't a Need. Certain events out of anyone's control; such as an interest rate hike, an expensive car repair, a visit to a hospital or a chronic health issue; entail a financial order of magnitude that has grown to a level absurdly incommensurate with the "new" working class wage level--growth by asset price inflation very insidiously induced a rather vicious debt peonage.

I wonder if this Nicholas Kaldor quote referring to the establishing of the US dollar as reserve currency has anymore merit than is acknowledged:

[" the product of American industry are increasingly displaced by others both in America and in foreign markets...Maintaining prosperity requires ever-rising budgetary and balance of payments deficits, which makes it steadily less attractive as a method of economic management.
If continued long enough it would involve transforming a nation of creative producers into a community of 'rentiers' increasingly living on others, seeking gratification in ever more useless consumption with all the debilitating effects of the bread and circuses of Imperial Rome."]

-Nicolas Kaldor --London Times 1971.
(Quoted by economist Jane D'Arista)

One must admit the situation described here would fit most of the western economies i.e. the outsourcing of manufacturing to the countries where labor is abundant and cheap was, for all intents and purposes, universally adopted.

Ultimately, the basic income idea appears to be a "desperately rational" solution to a problem that was swept under the rug for the last 40 years.
[It will strengthen workers bargaining position because they will be able to tell their employers to “take this job and shove it.” ]

--That, I agree.

From an environmental point of view a basic income would only be of benefit if it reduced the overall pressure to consume and hence the material throughput of the economy. Whilst it may be justified on the grounds of social equity and indeed stability, it is not obvious that it would reduce the production+consumption pressure on the environment. People may still be just as driven by the ephemeral status value of items consumed as they are today.

However, we have to find ways of financing a basic income. Just re-classifying existing social transfers may not suffice to provide the level of basic income that we are fondly imagining. Here a progressive consumption tax might be a smart idea. This could be presented to the middle band of voters as a way of lopping off "excess" consumption by the "rich" in order that others could have a fairer share. The neat thing about this form of tax is that there is no implied judgement as to which purchases are deemed to be "excess". From an environmental point of view the tax would also encourage everybody to order their consumption decisions in favour of real needs (i.e. use-value) instead of status (a zero-sum positional game).

Posted by Tom Streithorst " I am again extremely disappointed IMO the superficiality of most experts. For example this article overlooks the fact that basic income (free unearned income) is already enjoyed by the bankers and their stockholders. If you don't believe it, just look up the practice of "fractional reserve banking" and really consider its meaning. So of course IMO it is only fair that other adults in the world share equally in the same privilege. So yes, yes, basic income is only fair corrective step.

Ironically, the bankers don't spend their unearned basic income into circulation as money but they loan the unearned basic income to borrowers who have to pay back unearned principal with value earned by their services and/or production. Not only that, the borrower has to pay interest on the unearned principal with his earned value for services and/or production. Tell me please what is fair about that? Could that be one of the most important reasons why our economy is sinking by the day.

I strongly support a basic income guarantee, but I do find Mr. Streithorst's arguments rather conflicted. If demand is the problem, then consumption is the solution. Driving up consumption further will not turn us into a kinder, more generous and empathic society. It will, on the other hand, drive up inflation and require a commitment to regular increases in the guaranteed income to keep demand revved up. It will also increase environmental problems that are already quickly closing in on us. That said, the second half of this article describes the ethical rational for a basic income guarantee quite well, even if the first half of the article is spent undermining it.

While it is true that contemporary capitalism's Achilles' heel is rapidly growing productivity, efforts to increase demand to compensate will, at best, only ever amount to running faster to remain in place. Automation virtually guarantees there will never again be enough jobs to go around. We're fast approaching the point where we'll either choose to share the wealth generated by gains in efficiency or the economy collapses. The basic income guarantee's virtue, from an economic perspective, lies not in increasing demand but in driving down efficiency. It is less efficient/productive to give people money whether they're doing anything to "earn it" or not than it is to put that money to work by investing in the latest technological advances, or even just sticking it in the bank to earn a very low interest rate. Even risky investments at least offer the chance for significant gain. Giving the homeless guy on the corner $20,000 a year to live off of will definitely benefit him, and it will bring us that much closer to becoming a just society, but to those being asked to share their wealth in this manner the benefits will be far less tangible than a dividend payment or a new summer home. While the hunter-gatherer sharing of buffalo meat is an apt analogy up to a point, we shouldn't forget that money has the capacity to do something meat doesn't. It can grow over time. Meat, on the other hand, has a rather immediate use it or lose it quality.

Mr. Streithorst's argument would be considerably strengthened if he didn't claim that engaging in more environmentally destructive and soul crushing consumption (driving up demand) will be the outcome of an income guarantee. A society that gives everyone a better chance of catching up with the Joneses isn't more generous or kind. It's just better at bringing people to the mall on Black Fridays. If that's all this policy is going to achieve I need to rethink my position on it. Many of us, myself included, would use the income guarantee to spend more time volunteering in the community, enjoying the company of family, and perhaps taking a few classes now and again. How, exactly, do these activities significantly drive up demand? They don't, of course. Their virtue lies in their capacity to slow down production as traditionally conceived by capitalism, while enhancing the production of meaning and fulfillment.

Unlike Mr Streithorst, I actually lived in Britain in the 1950s and the 1970s, which latter was the trigger for Mrs Thatcher's reforms. A one-minute study of history will inform those memories of those times that it was the mid-to-late 1970s which were a result of Labour collectivism: the Conservative 1950s started with the gradual ending of rationing and the "bonfire of controls", which led to the most significant improvement in living conditions since the Ecwardian era (real GDP/head rose over 50% in 13 years). This led to a far more optimistic, positive and friendly outlook with workers quite happy to see a rise in the real value of state pensions at their expense (contrast today or, more relevantly to the argument, the cut in the real value of state pensions under Labour 1974-9).
I find people who rewrite history to suit their arguments irritating.
Secondly " Low interest rates are a sign of the increased productivity of capital." is patent nonsense. Increased productivity of capital should lead to higher returns: a low rate of interest results either from a low productivity of capital or an excessive supply of capital relative to the uses to which it can be put or - the current position - governments using their printing presses to flood the world with paper money which creates the appearance of an excess of savings and capital.
Personally I am in favour of a basic income, as I was when it was mooted forty years ago, but I don't need phoney arguments to support it. It guarantees everyone enough money to live on (unless their parents spend it all on drugs or booze and fags) and removes the disincentives to work created by Gordon Brown's obsessive tinkering with tax and benefits: that is enough.

Whoops--make that, "addiction to CONSUMPTION", not "capitalism." Sorry for the mis-quote!

A deeply conflicted post, it seems, with a confusing message. Soon after acknowledging, "in a world short of essentials, profligacy can be fatal, Mr. Streithorst argues that the cure for our societal ills really is amped-up consumption. Perhaps he believes we actually are not facing shortfalls of essentials, that reserves of inputs aren't diminishing--that we live in a post-shortages world--and that the writhing arms of our externalities aren't rising up to choke us? Capitalism, he implies, is doing pretty great, and just needs some tuning (the basic income idea) to deliver the Millennium--its "salvation" will be through "creating a steady and dependable demand," thus overcoming its "only weakness, overproduction."

Only weakness? Other than moral ones, I suppose, such as the capacity to leave us "without the ancient verities that gave logic to our lives." I don't pretend that providing everyone with an economic floor above the poverty level isn't imperative. But it strikes me that an even more basic moral stricture is that we at least leave our descendants a livable world. This is in evident tension with framing stagnation as our main difficulty, with identifying our dilemma as "an economy starved of demand."

In the end, basing things around consumption is a zero-sum game. Streithorst gets this, lamenting that "these days, we save capitalism by buying stuff, even stuff we don't need." How can such frenetic, senseless behavior--how can this "addiction to capitalism"--be then made the very predicate for our economic health? We no longer can afford, surely, brave talk about "growing" our way out of our constantly-deepening fiscal and ecological pit. Simple justice, for the less privileged as well as for those to follow, requires that we decisively forsake the model of an ever-enlarging economic pie in favor of henceforth dividing outputs--the fruits of constantly increasing productivity--more equitably.

Brilliant piece, thank you! Of course, the Right and others who insist on viewing economics as a morality play will never sign on.

Case in point: the government bailout of the U.S. auto industry has been a spectacular success, at least if you look at actual numbers of jobs saved, jobs created, and all the other knock-on effects. But conservatives are still screeching "failure" (though some seem to realize that their position is utterly contradicted by the actual data, so they have to fall back on "In the long run it will turn out to have been a bad idea"). If, according to your ideology, something shouldn't work then it can't work, even if it does work.

“A number of us here at Pieria have argued that a basic income guarantee . . . will be the salvation of capitalism.”

“…it might just end up making us better human beings.”

For me Basic Income offers the possibility of opening the economic shutters to reveal a utopian landscape, but it seems that Mr. Streithorst prefers to guide us down to the cellar where the root vegetables are protected by the mad dog of capitalism.

Tom nice work.

A few caveats: there will be a work requirement for GI. It's the compromise between left and right moral codes (Haidt). And work will be directed by the sweat / trade of others spending their own money, not the state.

This is my formal plan: Guaranteed Income / Choose Your Boss

It's important to grok that this Internet thing, the transformation from the scarce atomic to the digital infinite - this platform is the solution to clearing labor to its greatest hedonic upside and administering the GI.

Please read my plan, it is quite specific. But the open source software is built for US states and other nations to be able to control the dials as they deem appropriate.

There's no way to get thru the moral window, or save capitalism unless you are required to so something of your choosing, that another private citizen is willing to pay at least a pittance for....

If you are able to live with that definition osLeisure, great! otherwise I need to convince you.

I should add: Your initial quote, "In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread" points out a problem with the way we help the poor. The presumption in earlier times was that it was always beneficial to work for your sustenance. Even the biblical ways of aiding the poor assume this.

The book of Ruth depicts her as gleaning for food. Boaz orders his workers to make it easier for her, but she still has to gather the wheat stalks and then take other steps to convert them to bread, be it barter or grinding, sifting, and baking. And this is the major way prescribed:

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest
Leviticus 19:9

The poor are not simply handed money. They were to be allowed to help themselves, which not only gave them some dignity, but allowed them to develop skills that could potentially result in being paid wages for similar work.

Experience has shown that people do much better when they perceive themselves has having done something to warrant what they receive. Just handing out money without demanding something in return destroys self-esteem if it is not clearly very temporary.

@ Russell I think your views on marriage are viewed as outdated by the increasingly "progressive" governments which will no doubt be in power in the West for quite some time. That being said I actually agree with you.

Basic Income is necessary regardless as more and more jobs displaced by technology, I really don't see any other solution apart from complete centralised control of the the economy which for me is not an option.

The libertarian Cato Institute is claiming that we currently spend over $20,000 for poor person in American (including children). If that is correct, a "basic income" policy might well be affordable, if it could be done in such a way that didn't motivate more people to make themselves eligible for it.

But people are not poor simply because they don't have enough money. They lack money because in many cases, they lack the skills and values needed to earn money. A basic income program might be a way to remedy that. In particular, if we could identity the main causes of this lack, receipt of a basic income could be tied to certain behaviors. That could make the program politically palatable to conservatives, who would otherwise block it.

For example, fatherlessness and dropping out of high school seem to correlate with persistent poverty. In the past, we have aggravated the former by directing funds specifically to single mothers. If there was a way that we could direct them instead to poor married couples, that might lead to fewer out of wedlock births, and more paternal involvement. There are obvious startup problems with such a change - if the culture already strongly disincentives marriage among the poor, we cannot change that overnight with a policy change - but it could be some kind of long term direction.

Ultimately, though, it is very difficult to solve social problems via any bureaucracy or simple policy. Yet those are the problems that would need to be addressed both to reduce persistent poverty and obtain support for such a "basic income" proposal.

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RT @NIESRorg: Britain’s stunted ‘recovery’ leaves us wishing for what might have been | Jonathan Portes via @guardian

RT @ShodanAlexM: Good post > MT @Frances_Coppola Text of my talk at Manchester Univ’s PCES yesterday: “The failure of macroeconomics” http:…