I've been a radical social liberal for a long time, but agnostic about most economic issues. Macroeconomics is black magic, after all. Nonetheless, over the past few years my economic politics have skewed more and more liberal, even though I don't blog about it much.
For example, one hypothetical policy I would support is a policy of giving everyone money.
a policy that I never would have supported when I was younger. Even
when I was a teenager, I understood that money is a fictitious entity.
If everyone had more money things would just cost more.
another way, say we had enough bread and houses to provide food and
shelter for a million people. If you gave everyone money, then prices
would just rise until only a million people can afford bread and
houses. The same number of people would starve and go homeless, because
it's not really a money issue, it's an issue of how much resources we
On the other hand, if you give everyone the same
amount of money, that has the effect of redistributing wealth. It
would reduce inequality, basically. And there really would be fewer
starving and homeless people, because we would invest less in producing
luxury goods for the most wealthy, and invest more in producing
additional bread and houses for the poor.
that colors my view is that I'm part of the millenial generation. I'm
entering the workforce in a time when unemployment is higher than ever.
What do unemployment rates say about our society? It's possible that
it means we're just allocating resources poorly. But the other
interpretation is that we have a surplus of labor. We're too
efficient at producing the goods that we need. This is a bad thing only
because employment is the primary way we distribute money. If individuals
can't find jobs then they're in financial trouble. The easy solution is
to distribute money by other means.
I think the
unemployment levels are really just the tip of the iceberg. When people
are desperate for jobs, they'll accept worse jobs. I'm coming from a
cynical grad student perspective, and one of the things I despise is the
workaholic culture in academia. People expect you to work longer than
normal hours. And in order to advance to professorship, most people
have to spend years in postdocs for low pay. You just have to put up
with it, because there are too many other people who want your job.
are also governmental jobs which provide no real value to society.
They're just there because governmental employees can vote, and
therefore vote to maintain their own jobs. I would rather just give
those people money instead of having them waste their time to get it.
Why a guaranteed basic income? Why not welfare instead? There are two reasons, one economic, and the other social.
I learned a bit about how welfare works in the US. People are awarded a
certain amount of money, with a certain percentage of their income
deducted. And in order to remain eligible for welfare, people need to
eventually find a job. But if we have a surplus of labor, why require
people to find a job? And deducting a percentage of people's income
amounts to an effective tax on the poorest people. By giving everyone
the same amount of money regardless of income, we remove that effective
tax (not to mention cut down on bureaucratic costs).
also has a social problem, since they're perceived as handouts rather
than money that is rightly owned by its beneficiaries. Taking welfare
amounts to admitting that you are unable to provide for yourself. But
this isn't really a matter of individual failure, it's a matter of
correcting an economic problem that comes from labor surplus. Thus,
nobody should feel bad about receiving money. If wealthy people receive
the same amount of money, it would be harder to stigmatize.
I have the impression that this puts me way to the left of US
democrats. Although to be fair, libertarians often support a similar
policy under the heading "negative income tax".