There are all sorts of arguments against an unconditional, universal basic income — that is, the idea of giving everyone a minimum income regardless of whether they work, whether they’re disabled, or whether they’re poor. The problem with these arguments is that the only one that actually stands up to reality is, “I don’t like it.”
Whether it’s in industrialized nations like Canada and the UK, or poorer countries like India and Namibia, experiments with a basic income have challenged fears that it will lead to a culture of dependence, an unsustainable drop in employment, or do anything at all to destroy or kill an economy whatsoever. When given free money unconditionally, time and time again, the results have shown that the only people who quit their jobs are people like students, single mothers, or other people who have better uses of their time than being employed.
There is no catastrophic disincentive to work, or incentive to be lazy, like basic income opponents predict. Everyone does not start sitting around at home. People who are able to work and keep society running continue to do so. The economy does not collapse. The fears of doom-and-gloom just flat-out don’t happen.
Every day, the arguments against alleviating poverty and inequality by just giving everybody money sounds more and more like arguments used against same-sex marriage. It will lead to bestiality. It will be bad for the children. Heterosexual couples will stop getting married. Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria. None of these things happen. They’re weak attempts to rationalize the argument that, “I just think it’s wrong.”
For opponents of basic income, there is no evidence on their side. Their arguments come entirely from the fact that they believe that giving people money for nothing is icky. They don’t want to live in a world where anybody can make a comfortable living without having to break their back doing work if they don’t want to. They’re not afraid of any real, existing consequences. They just think it’s wrong.
But they’re never going to admit that. When the debate is framed like that — is it right or wrong for everyone to have food, shelter, and security; is it right or wrong for everyone to be free to choose what work they do — it’s no longer a debate they can win.