Dylan Matthews, a liberal proponent of a universal basic income (UBI), recently interviewed Robert Greenstein, a liberal opponent of UBI... An expert on fighting poverty makes the case against a universal basic income. Most of the lengthy piece is pretty useless but Matthews did bring up one point that had the potential to produce some substantial discussion...
One reason I write a lot about basic income is not that I think it’s going to pass soon, but because I think giving cash aid to poor people, including the nonworking people, is a very good thing, and I view it as part of my job as a writer with a platform to try in some small way to change public opinion on that.
And the way that basic income has caught on as an idea makes me think it’s a vehicle through which people, particularly the kind of high-income people with jobs that give them enough freedom to read articles about basic income all day, can come to think, "Maybe poor people aren’t lazy; maybe we should trust them to spend money as they see fit."
Do you think there’s any value in basic income as a persuasive tool that can translate to more sympathy for comparatively modest expansions of the safety net?
Greenstein started by saying, "I certainly agree with that goal" but then he immediately veered off into strategy.
Do these guys truly believe that we should trust poor people to spend money as they see fit? If so, then these guys should truly believe that we should eliminate democracy.
Poor people already spend money. Poor people have the freedom to choose how they spend their money. Poor people get to decide whether they want more food, clothes or entertainment. It's called consumer sovereignty. Clearly the premise of consumer sovereignty is that people should be trusted to spend their money as they see fit.
What's the premise of democracy? Does it have the same premise as consumer sovereignty? Nope. The premise of democracy is that voters should be able to overrule consumer sovereignty. The government collects taxes and elected representatives have the freedom to spend the money as they see fit.
There's a clear conflict between democracy and consumer sovereignty. So anybody who is truly a proponent of consumer sovereignty must logically oppose democracy.
In a recent blog entry... Democracy is Not Freedom... the economist Miles Kimball wrote...
No way of making decisions is perfect. And of course judges, too, make mistakes. But since democracy has no magic that makes democratic decisions always correct, we should not be afraid of a constitutional system that sometimes has judges overrule democratic decisions if we find that it works well in practice.
Kimball says that sometimes judges should be able to overrule voters. Why didn't he argue against voters overruling consumers?
Matthews says that he supports consumer sovereignty. Why didn't he argue against voters overruling consumers?
Matthews really doesn't seem to realize that his argument for UBI is also an argument against democracy. So here I am pointing it out to him. Will he acknowledge this fact? Or will he try and ignore it? Will he bravely run away from logical consistency?
Kimball is correct that no way of making decisions is perfect. But has he ever considered replacing voting with spending?