Does Universal Basic Income Make Sense?

Universal Basic Income — the idea that citizens of a country get paid, just for being citizens — has grown more popular over the last half-decade. But does the idea make sense?

People do a lot of unpaid work. If you want someone to take care of your children, you will have to pay them to do it. If you want someone to clean your house, you will have to pay them to do it. If you want someone to fix you car, you have to pay them to do it. So clearly these tasks have a monetary value.

However, if you do them yourself — take care of your own children, clean your own house, or fix your own car — you don’t get paid to do these things. Why not? Why don’t you get paid to do a job that has monetary value? But who would pay you for it?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Are we too busy?’


In a similar vein, we all share common resources. From the water we drink to the land we live on, shouldn’t we all benefit when these resources are used?

Alaska has done exactly that. The state has the “Alaska Permanent Fund” which receives a percentage of oil, gas, and mineral development in the state. Each Alaska resident then gets an annual check from the revenues generated from the fund — typically somewhere between $1000 and $2000 each year. It is wildly popular in the state, and has cut the poverty rates drastically. Could something like that work on a national level?

Simple mathematics shows that if each U.S. citizen — 330 million — received $2000, it would cost $660 billion each year. That is a lot of money, to be sure, but the annual U.S. defense budget is higher ($778 billion in 2022). But would it make sense to spend that much, particularly when a large percentage of people receiving the money would hardly notice the $2000? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to target just the people who would most benefit?

But then you would be creating a large amount of bureaucracy to administer the funds. That would not be substantially different from the welfare system that is currently in place.

Is Universal Basic Income an effective way to reduce poverty and empower individuals, or would it actually increase inflation and decrease productivity? In your opinion, does it make sense?

Related questions: What is the purpose of money? Time or money? How can we encourage debate?

Can We End Poverty?

While poverty is a subjective term, it is a fact that, right now, not the marketplace, public policy, nor charitable giving consistently covers the necessities that so many people in this country desperately need. Millions must choose between healthy food, adequate housing, reliable health insurance, quality childcare, and many other essentials because their job doesn’t pay a living wage, or they cannot work for various justifiable reasons.

Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest Americans pay no income tax and do an outstanding job of converting taxable income into protected wealth, playing a massive role in keeping America’s public coffers without the resources to address this situation, along with other needs. Similarly, tax loopholes allow U. S. companies to create “headquarters” in other (low-tax) counties to escape paying their fair share in this country.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Are we too busy?’


From a different perspective, many well-intentioned people point to various religious texts that say, in effect, the poor will always be with us. But there is theological debate over whether this means there will always be poor people or, coming at it from a completely different angle, advising those with means to have an affinity or allegiance with those of extremely limited resources over the “needs” of those who either do all right or, more to the point, have considerable resources that could help meet more needs in this country.

On the political front, many wonder if anybody is worth enough to be a billionaire. Did you know that there are 614 billionaires? The wealthiest 400, in fact, hold $3.2 trillion in assets. A slice of those resources could go a long way toward meeting the needs of our poorest neighbors.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, when those in government decide to help the poor, our existing programs do a pretty good job at alleviating their immediate needs?

Can we end poverty? Should we at least give it a try?

Related questions: What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How will the economy be impacted by COVID-19? What is the purpose of money? How do we turn ideas into actions?

Vacation Or Staycation?

How many times have you heard someone say, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation”? Maybe the easiest way to recharge is to do something small. Alternately, you can’t have many new experiences staying at (or near) home. Which do you prefer?

Share why if you wish.

Vacation Or Staycation?

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars?

If something unforeseen happened and you suddenly received an unexpected million dollars, what would you do with it?

Several states are offering money, through a random drawing, for people who have received the COVID vaccine. Ohio, for example, has already given away a prize of a million dollars.

Now, a million dollars is not the amount of money it used to be. Still, for the majority of Americans, a million dollars would be a life-changing amount of money. Plus, the fact that it is not a ridiculous amount of money might make it more challenging to think of various possibilities.


Related: Listen to the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question, ‘How much is enough?’ The discussion comes after a bonus question, ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’


What would you do with that kind of money?

Perhaps you would spend it. One way is to pay off your mortgage, or even buy another house. You could eliminate any student debt. You might go on a lavish vacation. Or buy a fancy car.

You might decide to save the money (or at least some of it). You could invest in the stock market, start a business, or go back to school.

Alternately, you might donate some or all of it. You could help struggling friends or family members. There are any number of worthy causes that could be assisted.

Do you think you would leave your job? You could switch to another, more fulfilling job if you had some financial cushion. You might even take an early retirement, depending how close you are to retirement age.

Ultimately, knowing what you would do with a sudden windfall may just influence how to spend the money that you do have.  What would you do with a million dollars?

Related questions: What is the purpose of money? Time or money? How do you plan for the future?