A Basic Income for Everyone? It’s Not a Crazy Idea

Noah Smith – Bloomberg

This is a fairly straightforward tour of the basic income landscape. Perhaps it is most useful for something unintended, drawing out the extent to which the debate on the virtues or otherwise of a basic income is conducted at cross purposes. People use the phrase ‘basic income’ to mean two very different things (probably many more, but two will do to start), which we might call ‘adequate’ and ‘supplementary’.

An adequate basic income is one which is enough to live on, not luxuriously but, well, basically. A supplementary basic income is not in itself enough to live on, but is enough to make a real difference to people’s lives and choices, particularly at the lower end of the income scale. This article concludes that a UBI doesn’t distort work incentives, but concludes that from looking at examples of supplementary basic income. Even if that conclusion is robust, it can’t in itself tell us anything about adequate basic incomes. This piece does better than many in not obscuring the distinction, but even here the ringing answer of the headline (almost certainly not written by the journalist) is bolder and broader than the article claims.

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