In theory, a universal basic income offers an intriguing alternative to our current dysfunctional welfare state. But a closer look raises several questions about whether and how a UBI could be implemented in a way that doesn’t create more problems than it solves.
I set aside the question of whether redistribution – for that is what UBI really is – is ever justified. Matt Zwolinski makes a solid case in favor of such efforts, and certainly a limited amount of redistribution has been supported in the past by prominent libertarians, including Hayek, Nozick, and Friedman among others. On the other hand, as Michael Huemer points out, UBI will, of necessity, violate the Nonaggression Principle at the heart of much of modern libertarianism. Yet, as interesting as such debates are, there will be some form of government-imposed redistribution for the foreseeable future. The real question therefore is whether UBI offers a better way to fight poverty.