Why Universal Basic Income Hampers Your Freedom
By Gabrielle Temaat
Economic freedom plays an essential role in safeguarding all other freedoms that we have. It begins and establishes a foundation with private property, and subsequent freedoms are built upon it. Even seemingly unrelated freedoms such as speech, religion, etc. depend on economic freedom. This is why proposals, such as universal basic income, that seek to control our personal fiscal opportunities should be treated with austerity. Not only do they threaten to undermine our freedoms, but they undermine the dignity of work and elevate the state to a treacherously powerful entity that assumes the God-given role of man.
Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, has proposed a universal basic income of $1,000 per month, meaning that every American adult over the age of 18 would receive $12,000 each year from the government. Some argue that this is necessary, or will become necessary due to the automation of jobs. Currently, however, the Bureau of Labor statistics reports that there are 6.9 million job openings, which is more than the 6.5 million unemployed people.
The justifications for this proposal are not without merit. According to Yang’s “The Freedom Dividend” policy, UBI would “enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future.” However, a monthly stipend from the government may not be the best or most effective initiative for attaining these goals. Oren Cass, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research states, “If we pursue growth in ways that erode the labor market’s health, and then redistribute income from the winners to the losers, we can produce impressive-looking economic statistics—for a while. But we will not generate the genuine and sustainable prosperity we want. Growth that consumes its own prerequisites leads inevitably to stagnation.”
Setting aside the fact that the feasibility of such an initiative is highly questionable, it is important to consider the impact UBI would have on the social fabric of society.
The tie between work and income is vitally important for a community and economy. The Foundation for Economic Education sites Oren Cass’s “Working Hypothesis”, which claims that
a market in which workers can support their families and communities is the primary determining factor of long-term prosperity and should be the focus of public policy.
The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) also addresses the disparity between the concept of UBI and what America stands for. Gonzalo Shwarz of Fee writes, “For a country that was forged and continues to thrive under the mantra of hard work, earned success, business dynamism, and innovation, the concept of a UBI as necessary to solve our problems seems strange. These attitudes have not significantly changed, and human flourishing, the pursuit of happiness, and earned success continue to be the backbone of the American Dream. Certainly, welfare programs have a role in providing a helping hand, but they should be a trampoline instead of a mattress. Though there are areas in need of improvement, a Universal Basic Income is not the right tool to get the job done.”
Ultimately, with the installment of UBI, the government would be taking on a role that is not only far beyond its jurisdiction granted by the Constitution, but also elevates the state to a dangerous place. The state becomes one with greater control over each individuals’ economic well-being, leading to the jeopardization of economic rights. A government that can give its people everything they need can also take it away.
Gabrielle Temaat is a senior at Arizona State University studying economics. She is currently working as a writing tutor at ASU and a communications intern at the Acton Institute.