Social Justice, Libertarianism

Libertarianism and the Basic Income

Today, I did a short interview with Cato on the libertarian case for a Basic Income Guarantee, and published a much more substantive essay on that same topic at Cato’s

The essay has been taken by some people to be an unequivocal defense of the basic income on libertarian grounds. But I’m actually a little ambivalent about the issue. I’m probably not quite as enthusiastic about the idea as Jessica is, but perhaps mores than some of my other BHL bloggers.

In the essay, I set out several arguments that libertarians could or have endorsed for a basic income, the strongest of which (I think) is this:

Current federal social welfare programs in the United States are an expensive, complicated mess. According to Michael Tanner, the federal government spent more than $668 billion on over one hundred and twenty-six anti-poverty programs in 2012. When you add in the $284 billion spent by state and local governments, that amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America.

Wouldn’t it be better just to write the poor a check?

Each one of those anti-poverty programs comes with its own bureaucracy and its own Byzantine set of rules. If you want to shrink the size and scope of government, eliminating those departments and replacing them with a program so simple it could virtually be administered by a computer seems like a good place to start. Eliminating bloated bureaucracies means more money in the hands of the poor and lower costs to the taxpayer. Win/Win.

But I also set out several objections to the policy, all of which seem to me quite powerful. Here’s a taste.

Effects on Migration – When most people think about helping the poor, they forget about two groups that are largely invisible – poor people in other countries, and poor people who haven’t been born yet (see this paper by Tyler Cowen for more). With respect to the first of those groups, I think (and have argued before) that there is a real worry that a Basic Income Guarantee in the United States would create pressures to restrict immigration even more than it already is. After all, when every new immigrant is one more person collecting a check from your tax dollars, it’s not entirely unreasonable to view those immigrants as a threat, and to be more willing to use the coercive power of the state to keep them out. That worries me, because I think the last thing anybody with a bleeding heart ought to want to do is to block the poorest of the poor from access to what has been one of the most effective anti-poverty programs ever devised – namely, a policy of relatively open immigration into the relatively free economy of the United States. Especially when one’s justification for doing so is merely to provide a bit of extra cash to people who are already citizens of one of the wealthiest countries on the face of the planet.

Read the rest here.

Published on:
Author: Matt Zwolinski
  • mikewaz

    How about this for a thought. I’ve seen a number of calls for a national service requirement for all Americans. I know Cato has endorsed this idea in the past. Setting aside the difficulty of amending the Constitution to do this, what if you tied national service completion to the basic income and allowed any person of other or no citizenship to complete double the service to get citizenship and qualify for the income as well? That would seem to nullify the problem with opening the borders.

    • Libertymike

      A national service requirement is for slaves, not for free and enlightened individuals.

      • mikewaz

        I would ask that you read Gobry’s arguments at the link below and consider whether you agree with them. I think they even suggest that a statutory law mandating this would already be constitutional.

        • Libertymike

          Not impressed.
          For one, he conflates libertarianism with the republican party and acceptance of the state and acceptance of taxation. The core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle.
          To be sure, there are many who incorrectly and falsely claim the mantle of libertarianism. They attempt to distinguish libertarianism from anarchism when there is no such distinction. The practical application of the NAP results in anarchy.
          Turning to the notion of national service, under what conception of libertarianism does the state have a claim on an individual’s time, energy and vocation?
          An individual is not a cog in the Borg; put another way, a libertarian recognizes that each and every individual life is an end unto itself and is not beholden to a collective. The individual’s aspirations and creations and associations and expressions and property are not subordinate to the grand schemes of the national greatness crowd.
          You do know that the Swiss hardly embody rugged individualism. If they did, why would they roll over to the IRS and fink on their American bank customers?

          • Libertymike

            He also mangles the second amendment.
            He presents no evidence that even a minority of the framers, and more importantly, the ratifiers, pressed for the 2A upon the basis that all men should be conscripted in order to serve the nation.
            The raison d’etre of the 2A was to provide a check on government, not to empower the state to enslave citizens.

          • Earn Money Plans – TricksBot.c

            You’re right to say that Spooner was a real libertarian but mistaken to call him an anarcho-capitalist. But For Earn Money check Zarfund Earn Bitcoin Plan

    • jdkolassa

      When did Cato endorse a national service requirement? If you’re thinking of the recent Cato Unbound issue with Gobry, that was an invitation to get knocked down on his ass by Jason Kuznicki. That was not a statement of endorsement from the Cato Institute.

  • I’ve provided thoughts against this communist idea of basic income here: – if you are interested.

    • marcus davidsson

      The discussion is a little more colorful than black vs white
      communism vs capitalism. Are you sure you are up to the task?

      • Your very question indicates your communist beliefs. You assume a right to my work and my money merely because you happen to be born.

        But note that your existence has nothing to do with me. I didn’t ask you to be born. Earn your keep and if you struggle to even exist, I WILL (as classical liberal) provide a frugal top up AFTER verifying that you’ve put in your very best effort to work.

        But by no means you are going go get a “basic income” from my work to fulfill your communist “each according to his need” plan.

        • Hah. I love it. The very fact that you asked the question, marcus, shows that you’re a commie in disguise! Guards!

          • The man who purports to identify colourful shades of red (communism) and insults my capacity to think deserves to be put in his place, young man Matt. If Marcu had ANY intellectual capacity to discuss and debate he would have dealt with the many substantive issues that I raise in my blog post. Instead, ad hominem attack, pretense that he can see shades (of red, of course) and now your approach of attacking the person – not the argument – indicate to me a bunch of pseudo-beggars (intellectuals who thrive off taxpayers’ charity) who want to suck other people’s money.

            No, you won’t get my money but you may well try to go to North Korea and earn your basic income.

        • marcus davidsson

          born what? I thought we where talking basicincome?!

  • Aeon Skoble

    Matt, I’m on board for #1, the Murray argument. I’m skeptical of #2 – I don’t see any way to properly identify either the ones in need of rectification or the ones who ought to bear the burden. #3 seems wrong on Beito-ish grounds, and in any case this wouldn’t justify interferences with liberty (unless we embrace consequentialism, which I reject).

  • Jason Brennan

    Do you even liberty, bro?

  • Jason Brennan

    More seriously, here’s a skeptical response to your argument #2, which uses Hayek’s insights to argue against rectification.

  • Steven Flaeck

    US immigration isn’t that successful an antipoverty program. Even if we assume that every US immigrant comes here poor and dies not-poor, that’s only around 75 million people ever lifted out of poverty. Deng Xiaoping Thought, on the other hand, has probably lifted around a billion people out of poverty. Even if we use a less charitable measure, DXT has lifted China’s half-billion person middle class out of poverty.

    When there’s just no comparison between the successes of one program and another, it’s hard to say that it’s “one of the best”.

    • adrianratnapala

      Moreover it cuts right to the heart of the matter.

      Immigration is good for immigrants, and mostly good for the countries that host them. But it is a very slow and clunky way to try to save the world. That is the total humanitarian good caused by economic migration is not a big deal in the scheme of things.

  • murali284

    On the immigration objection, we can distinguish between citizenship, permanent residency, guest workers etc. So, you can have an open door guestworker program, let people freely apply for permanent residency when they arrive (or institute income requirements for permanent residency), and give permanent residents the option of naturalising as citizens after n-number of years. Perhaps perks can be graduated in some way. Permanent residents get more perks than guest workers. Citizens get more perks than permanent residents. maybe becoming a PR gives you the right to vote. While becoming a citizen gives you the right to welfare and the right to run for office. The whole thing can be arranged such that people come for jobs, and not to feed at the teat.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Although I am sympathetic to the minimum income argument (I may put forth my own revised scheme at some time). I can see a big problem with your approach.
      What may happen is that we get a stratification of people into the citizens and the newcomers. the poorer citizens, who often live in the parts of cities where the newcomers live, would be able to have free income, while the newcomers have to do all the work and get nothing. I can see lots of problems with civil strife and even race war coming out of this.

      • murali284

        In Singapore, the government provides direct subsidies for lower income folks. PRs get less subsidy and guest workers get almost none (except at hospitals I think). Singapore is a multiracial society. Yet there is no race war, though there are some tensions between local born Chinese and China-born Chinese. I doubt newcomers are going to start anything since they are already getting jobs and don’t have to jump through hoops to get in. Locals who are most likely to start something have the least reason to since they’re getting welfare as well and new comers aren’t. Of course people can be stupid, but I don’t know how to plan against that.

  • You didn’t mention the corrupting effects of a universal guaranteed income. Even people who abhor the idea of living at the expense of others may be tempted to do so when it is offered to them as an unstigmatised option; and in the process they may (and should) lose their self-resepct.

    You also omitted the fact that having a floor below which no one will fall licenses obnoxious behaviour. When people do not need to co-operate with others in order to make a living (because the state gives them a guaranteed hand-out), they are able to treat the other members of their community abysmally without fear of losing income. Here in the UK (and it must be the same in the US) we have estates on which the lives of working people are made a misery because there is a substantial proportion of people who do not work and who spend their time commiting petty crimes against their neighbours (such as theft and vandalism) and keeping people awake in the early hours of the morning by playing loud music or engaging in other disruptive behaviour. The scumbags are able to carry on in this way because their neighbours, and others, are forced to pay, via state hand-outs, for their rents, their health costs, the education of their (usually many) children and an income often in excess of the median wage. The problem is not just the over-generous nature of the welfare state. The problem is that people are encouraged to be bastards because the state guarantees them a minimum level below which they will not fall, no matter how big a bastard they become.

    • Sol Logic

      It’s not an option as I understood it. Everyone gets it.

    • adrianratnapala

      What kind of connection do you propose between the need to make a living and the need to be decent to ones neighbours? If housing estates were tribal villages with small-scale socialism the connection would be strong. But in large capitalist society the strongest connection I can think of is simply that workers have something else to do with their time than cause trouble.

      That means the main way to reduce crime-by-hoodies is to reduce unemployment. Perhaps a universal income which counted towards the minimum wage would actually increase British low-skill employment (at the expense of Chinese factory workers) .

      • To make a living in a market society you need to co-operate with others, whether they be the buyers of your product (good or service), or the suppliers of your inputs (goods or services), or your investors (whether they be banks, friends, relatives or neighbours) or your co-workers (whether they are contractors, employees or employers). This co-operation requires that others have a degree of trust in you, which in turn requires that you generally behave in a decent fashion toward them, which in turn is more likely if you generally behave decently to people in general. Market relationships encourage (but do not guarantee) good behaviour.

        If you do not need to co-operate with others in order to get your income (and to get your family looked after), that allows you to opt out of the usual standards, either because you find them demanding or because you find it is more fun to be obnoxious. Everyone has their good side and their bad side. The market encourages and often rewards the former; guaranteed state hand-outs encourage the latter. It is also, especially for younger people, a lot easier to be nasty than to be nice. Maintaining decent standards of behaviour takes an effort; though the more of an effort one takes over a long period, the easier it becomes (out of habit), which is why I singled out younger people just now.

        If you do not have a job, being nice to one’s neighbours will normally help you to get one. Some of those neighbours may be able to offer you a position; some may be able to put in a recommendation; others will be willing to help in other ways. So, if you need a job to make a living, it makes sense for you to make the effort to be nice to your neighbours. If you can get a good living without a job, you can tell the neighbours to go fuck themselves. Sorry for the language, but we have whole cohorts on municipal estates here who do just that.

        I would have thought that the main way to reduce crime by hoodies would be to stop paying them to do it; or, at least, to stop the regular state hand-outs that enable them to live well (by their standards) by being anti-social, useless nuisances.

        • adrianratnapala

          “To make a living in a market society you need to co-operate with others,…” I think our disagreement is smaller than I made it sound. As you say there are many mechanisms behind your first sentence, but I think in practice, in our kind of society they mostly boil down to employment: if you have a job you can’t muck up as much.

          “If you do not have a job, being nice to one’s neighbours will normally help you to get one.”

          Perhaps a little — I don’t know if many kids on council estates get jobs through their neighbours. I am almost sure the guys running in gangs are not much influenced by the possibility. Thats why I speculate tweaks to the welfare system modify anti-social behaviour almost entirely by their effect on employment.

          But cheer up. No matter how oppressive the atmosphere is on the estates, it can’ be as bad as the the England dressing room in Adelaide right now.

          • I don’t think you are quite getting my point.

            First, a tangential matter. There is a difference between having a job and being employed. Many people work for themselves; quite a few people on council estates are sole-traders (freelance electricians, plumbers, painters-and-decorators, etc.).

            Second, you can muck up as much as you like if you have a job, so long as you have the state to fall back on, provided you don’t mind living on benefits.

            Third, it used to be the case that quite a few kids on council estates would get jobs locally because the (small) employers either knew their character or knew someone who would vouch for them. I suspect that still happens now, though to a lesser extent; but I don’t really know, since I have not lived on a council estate for two decades.

            Fourth, I agree that the guys running in gangs are not much influenced by the possibility of getting jobs through their neighbours. Some of them have grown up in families where no one works; and government hand-outs keep them comfortable (though bored and ready for mischief). I guess that the possibility of getting a job at all is not one they seriously consider.

            Finally, the only sports I have ever followed are boxing and horse-racing, and I don’t even follow them any more, so I have no idea what is going on in Adelaide…

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      All that you say is true, but it also holds true today since we have nearly the equivalent of a guaranteed income already. I think a lot depends upon the level of the income. If it is low enough and if people did not lose their benefits completely when they started to work, (I favor a three to one loss of benefits vs income for all welfare) it would not be that great an invitation to sloth.
      Of course that brings another question, how can you create it in such a way that it is very difficult for future politicians to not just increase it as a bribe for votes?


      Well said! (and true, also)

  • TracyW

    I note that you don’t mention how expensive the BIG would be. When I was working on tax forecasting in NZ we did a very rough back-of-the-envelope estimate of this for NZ. If we replaced all of the then government spending on benefits and superannuation by the BIG then paying everyone $10,000 a year would require average tax rates of 50% (average, not marginal). $10,000 a year would have meant cutting superannuation benefits to individuals by about a third.

    We concluded it wasn’t politically doable, and every other study I’ve seen that has calculated the costs has come to the same conclusion for a BIG funded by that country’s citizens.

    • brandonberg

      Right. Cutting everyone a check for $10,000 essentially means that you’re giving everyone a huge refundable tax deduction. At a rate of 33%, that’s a $30,000 tax deduction. This severely narrows the tax base, requiring much higher rates to make it work out.

  • John Hall

    I favor a negative marginal tax rate at low income levels. I find saying that is less confusing than talking about negative income taxes or EITC. It subsidizes both working more and encourages the poor to report income that may not have been reported previously.

  • MingoV

    I don’t understand the discussion at all. Since when has libertarianism supported handouts by a welfare state government? We’ve always advocated private charities as a mechanism for helping those who, temporarily (we hope), need assistance. We’ve never believed that there is a positive right to a “basic income.”

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      A comment like yours comes up every time we talk about something like this. The short answer is that while most libertarians would like to do away with all such government schemes we recognize that we live in a real world where libertarian ideas are by far an away a minority view.
      In the worlds modern democracies there will be some form of social safety net, because the majority of people demand it. What we are discussing is how can we come up with one which is less harmful than what currently exists.

      • John

        Okay, so include an endgame. Saying that someone should be able to spend stolen money more freely while maintaining the theft is just ridiculous.

    • John

      Since they came up with the fantasy that they could coopt liberals by agreeing with them. That always worked SO well for John McCain too.

  • racerx605

    seems to me if the elites want to hoard all the land & resources on this
    planet (to which we are all equally entitled) then they owe the rest of
    us a way to survive here *without* being slaves in their factories…
    (personally I’d just like a bit of land and for their puppet government
    [and anyone else who thinks they have the right to tell others how to live] to FOD!)

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Why are we all entitled? And do you actually know any elites who “hoard” rather than reinvesting most of their wealth, or spending it? And if you are lucky enough to get a job in a factory, why don’t you insist on being paid, Slavery is not actually legal in most places.

      • racerx605

        anyone who is born on this planet is entitled a piece of it… unless you think it should be survival of the fittest in which case I hereby challenge you to fisticuffs or pistols at dawn… (winner take all)

      • JayLib

        “All men are created equal” *
        *Except some will have to buy the opportunity to work, while others won’t — and in fact, some won’t have to work at all since they can get rich off charging other people for the opportunity to work.
        If all are created equal, then all are equally entitled to be on the planet and use its sustaining resources.
        If people could monopolize air, would that mean there’s no right to breathe unless we pay some one ?
        Those are some of the reasons why making earth a common asset (through a mechanism like public collection and distribution of rent) makes a lot of sense to me.

    • TracyW

      How about if the elite want to hoard all the resources but can’t, due to collective action problems? And disagreement about who specifically amongst the elite gets to do the hoarding?

  • Thomas

    Matt is absolutely right about this.

    Libertarians need to think more deeply here. The state of nature is one in which a natural person has de facto rights to fight for his survival — which includes not just his own personal survival but the right to sire and raise children to equally viable adulthood. When I use the word “fight” I mean it: Animals will fight for territorial access for the lives of themselves and their progeny. The Austrian and Lockean schools fail to recognize the situation which arises in nature when an animal is without the means of inter-generational sustenance, and the necessity of aggression in some of those situations. Civilization attempts to ignore this by proclaiming “property rights” as “natural” against “aggression”. This foolishness at the heart of these schools of thought renders them forever vulnerable to collectivists.

    The way out is trivially obvious: Follow Lysander Spooner’s definition of legitimate government as a mutual insurance company into which men voluntarily invest their natural rights in exchange for shares in and dividends from the company. The premiums paid for property rights take the place of taxes. The dividends take the place of social welfare. The violation of this simple and obvious libertarian construct sacrifices the bedrock principle of liberty upon which civilization is founded for the high purpose of becoming politically impotent against collectivists.

    • JayLib

      How does Spooner define “property”? I think the sort of natural assets that you mention here that are necessary for survial (i.e. land) would fall into a different class than human products (including land improvements). Henry George saw the crucial need to sharply distinguish the two: one is created by no one (and whatever value attaches to it, is created by an entire community) while the other is produced by the individual. Therefore one should be common (as in socializing its economic value) and the other, 100% private.

  • Thomas

    Libertarian thought is founded on individual sovereignty. Individual sovereignty has a particular meaning that, if confused as it is by pseudo-libertarians, corrupts the foundation of libertarianism.

    We can construct a good foundation from the components of the phrase “individual sovereignty”, starting with “sovereignty”.

    “Sovereignty” is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a territory.

    When qualified by “individual”, we can say simply that: “Individual sovereignty” is the quality of individuals having supreme, independent authority over their own territory.

    To our civilized minds this may seem like an absurdity but it is easy to demonstrate that, except for eusocial animals, sexually reproducing species are naturally in a state of individual sovereignty. Clearly, “independent authority” cannot mean that an individual calls forth his own mass-energy-space-time from the void. These things are given.

    What, then, does “independent authority” mean?

    It is necessarily Malthusian:

    In competition for reproduction, it is individuals, rather than groups, that battle for limited resources—the primary resource being “territory”, or an ecological domain over which bio-available energy is concentrated.

    Humans, unlike other animals, are capable of entering into agreements with others. Until such agreements are reached, the pseudo-libertarian’s concept of “ownership” simply does not exist. They claim that you own yourself by virtue of exercising control over your own body and that “non-aggression” is “axiomatic”.

    No it is not.

    Aggression is axiomatic because aggression is part of nature. You own your body only to the extent that you can defend your body from aggression in individual combat—individual sovereign vs individual sovereign conflict over reproductive resources.

    So, right off the bat, they deny individual sovereignty by denying individual aggression in their axioms.

    Intellectual death before they start.

    Get individual sovereignty correct and you can start to understand how genuine legitimacy arises from true individual sovereignty.

    It is from the notion of a natural territory over which an individual, not a gang, is sovereign that is formed the “founders stock” of any society that claims to uphold “property rights” and collect fees to pay for the costs of upholding those “property rights”.

  • Thomas

    The fundamental problem is subsidy of property rights and political dispensation of social goods resulting in private sector rent seeking and public sector rent seeking respectively.

    Here is what Lysander Spooner said about government in “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority”:

    “It is true that the THEORY of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other; that that each man makes a free and purely voluntary contract with all others who are parties to the Constitution, to pay so much money for so much protection, the same as he does with any other insurance company; and that he is just as free not to be protected, and not to pay tax, as he is to pay a tax, and be protected.”

    And Spooner’s “Trial by Jury” section “Taxation”:

    “All legitimate government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily agreed upon by the parties to it, for the protection of their rights against wrong-doers. In its voluntary character it is precisely similar to an association for mutual protection against fire or shipwreck. Before a man will join an association for these latter purposes, and pay the premium for being insured, he will, if he be a man of sense, look at the articles of the association; see what the company promises to do; what it is likely to do; and what are the rates of insurance. If he be satisfied on all these points, he will become a member, pay his premium for a year, and then hold the company to its contract. If the conduct of the company prove unsatisfactory, he will let his policy expire at the end of the year for which he has paid; will decline to pay any further premiums, and either seek insurance elsewhere, or take his own risk without any insurance. And as men act in the insurance of their ships and dwellings, they would act in the insurance of their properties, liberties and lives, in the political association, or government.”

    A mutual insurance company, like a government, whose object is the establishment of artificial property rights will, in its “articles of the association” be required by the signatory, “if he be a man of sense”, to pay a dividend to him as a voting share holder.

  • Thomas

    The non-aggression principle is incompatible with nature. When Ted Turner claims “ownership” of a million acres, Ayn Rand/Austrian School “libertarians” say that a young couple in love who want to start a family are committing an act of “aggression” when they plant a garden and build a cottage on a few acres of “Ted Turner’s” land. In nature, that young man would challenge Ted Turner to natural duel if Ted Turner came up and initiated force to kick the young couple off “his” land.

    But these are “pseudo-libertarians.”

    They should read Lysander Spooner — 19th century American frontier anarcho-capitalist philosopher who, during the founding of the civilization here in the US, saw first-hand the practical realities of carving property rights out of nature and described all legitimate government as a “mutual insurance company”.

    • John

      Land ownership is not libertarian. Land usage is libertarian.

    • Epikuro57

      You’re right to say that Spooner was a real libertarian but mistaken to call him an anarcho-capitalist. In fact, as a real libertarian Spooner could ONLY be an anarcho-socialist, and as this article shows ( that’s what he was. Spooner was also a member of the socialist First International.

      The reason that all real libertarians are anarcho-socialists is that libertarian is in fact the anglicization of the French word libertaire, which was coined in 1857 by French anarcho-socialist Joseph Déjacque to describe himself. Thus, Déjacque was the world’s first libertarian and all real libertarians are anarcho-socialists who follow in his footsteps, people like Mikhail Bakunin, Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Emma Goldman, Ferdinando Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti ― yes, that Sacco and Vanzetti ― Pierre Vallières, Adrien Perrissaguet and Noam Chomsky.

      Thus the word libertarian had about 100 years of history as a word meaning anarcho-socialist before Murry Rothbard tried to steal it. Murray Rothbard admitted this in his book Betrayal of the American [sic] Right: “‘Libertarians,’ in contrast, had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over.” In that statement, Rothbard revealed himself as no better than a political identity thief.

  • John

    Okay, that’s just a massive load of bovine scat. Please stop calling yourself a libertarian. It’s offensive.

    • Guest

      Cool arguements bro.

    • MoronMcdoublechin

      Libertarian meaning fox news retard?

  • PL

    I understand that a direct payment is more libertarian than the current establishment. It would also permit individuals to choose best where to allocate these funds, potentially serving them better than the status quo.

    I do wonder, however, how the quantitative amount will vary geographically, and what implications or subsequent effects would come about as a result of this policy; changing the trends by which recipients immigrate even within USA. I.e. $20k’s effects on trends in moving between the coasts and midwest, or urban vs. rural residence.

    Interesting idea; I’m not comfortable with the basic income idea on the grounds that individuals’ still must transfer wealth, and the political games involved with that decisionmaking, but I am very sympathetic and appreciative of the improvement over the current mechanism of wealth handout.

  • JayLIb

    Much respect to Messrs Zwolinski, Murray, and of course, Friedman, for engaging the Right on this argument.
    A BIG is not only a political expedient as Murray argued ( entice the left to let go of its paternalistic welfare state) or a mere pragmatic choice (since it’d work much more efficiently and cheaply than the Rube Goldberg machine we have now). It’s also supportable from moral grounds and from the fact that, given classical liberal principles, the income each individual are entitled to already exists, only is pre-empted by rent-seeking in the most literal sense.
    The home of Sarah Palin, the great State of Alaska, pays citizens a dividend based on natural resource extraction based on the tacit premise that the citizens collectively own the resources.
    After all, no individual put the resources in the ground. (Do individuals extract them? Yes indeedy they do! They deserve a fair wage; investors deserve a reasonable return on capital, including the risks in discovery; what they don’t deserve are monopoly rents accruing to the scarcity of the resource! That rent can be and is calculated, “taxed” (rather, recovered), and becomes the basis of the dividend paid to shareholders in the common ground.
    This is a twist on George’s idea that land and resource rent is the mother of them all (after all, that’s where we get the term “rents”) and that the way to dissolve the privilege aspect of controlling rents would be to collect them for public benefit, eliminating speculation, stabilizing costs, and cultivating a non-distortive source for whatever modest public revenues we might need.
    A greater or lesser portion of the rent from common natural assets could be allotted to the BIG or as I like to call it, Citizens Dividend.

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