Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

Basic Income Grant

Ooooh, nifty!

This link is via shadesong, and it may seem like an odd thing for someone who often likes libertarian ideas to be interested in:

The idea is simple: The payment of a basic monthly income, funded with tax revenues, of 100 Namibia dollars, or about €9 ($13), for each citizen. There are no conditions, and nothing is expected in return. The money comes from various organizations, including AIDS foundations, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Protestant churches in Germany's Rhineland and Westphalia regions.

This paragraph is a bit perplexing, because it starts with "funded by tax revenue" and concludes with "the money comes from charity". From reading the rest of the article, it looks like the experimental version is funded by charity, with the hope of expanding it nationwide to an taxpayer-funded entitlement. I admit I generally have a bias in favor of charitable endeavors, because I prefer people to help other people voluntarily, rather than force being used to coerce a group of people to give up funds and then spending those funds to help people.

But the thing that really intrigues me is the "no conditions" part. Some years ago, I wrote about Charles Murray's book, "In Our Hands" (available as free download here), which posited replacing all existing social programs with a flat $10,000 annual income grant to all citizens over 21.

The thing that intrigues me about Murray's proposal is that it doesn't offer incentives against earning money of your own. Traditional assistance programs phase out if the person earns money outside the program: "we give assistanct to those who need it, so if you don't seem to need it we stop". Which makes sense on the surface, but it has the unintended consequence of offering people an incentive (aid funds) for not doing something you'd like them to do (earn money). Now, of course what people decide to do or not do is by no means based solely on specific economic incentives. Still, making economic incentives line up with desired results is generally a good thing. The economic incentives under Murray's plan still line up; granted, you might not need to work in order to eat and house yourself, but you will not lose any existing benefits by working, either.

And I've long thought it would be neat to try out his plan as an experiment, to see what would happen. Would people really stop working because their basic necessities were already seen to? Or would the lure of additional money be compelling enough to keep the economy strong enough to fund the entitlement? But the cost of running such an experiment for a town in the US is prohibitively high for a charity to tackle.

But the cost of a living stipend is much lower in Namibia! And look, some people are actually trying it! How cool is that? I will totally be following this to see how it goes long-term. I hope they're able to extend beyond the two-year original plan -- two years isn't really enough time to gauge the full effect either way.
Tags: charity, politics
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