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Basic Income: From Paine to MLK; a solution to Welfare and Poverty?

My goal has always been to find the best "compromise" solution to the issues that divide us as communities (Nation, State, City, Family and World).

In response to Ron Paul's 2012 "cut 5 departments" I developed a "cut all but 5 (and add 1)" strategy.

Part of that was to streamline all Welfare into a single Welfare Department (the other 5 surviving departments would be; Defense, State, Interior, Justice and Treasury).

With that in mind, I recently started reading and thinking about the concept of a minimum income (Switzerland recently passed such a law; Alaska mimics it with the $10,000+/year citizen subsidy from Oil profits).

Simply looking through wikipedia found a number of supporters and quotes:



Thomas Paine: A "Citizen's Dividend" to compensate for: "loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property."

The first Musilm, Abu Bakr, proposed a minimum income for all men, women, and children.

MLK Jr.: "I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

Even HAYEK: "I have always said that I am in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country."

Currently, Welfare is given out in waivers, and expensive government ran systems, that seem to actually subjegate the poor.

Section 8 is only accepted by certain renters, and those renters must go through a bunch of paper work to be approved to accept the "welfare."

Food Stamps can only be used for specific items, require work from the vender, and keep those that need them in the culture of being poor.

HUD moves "the poor" into the same neighbor, away from society.

With a basic income "the poor" would just have extra cash, they could rent anywhere, buy anything (and yes, they will buy food and nessesities first, it's nature). And it'll save all those involved a lot of time and energy, and the government (thus the tax payers) a lot of money.

In connection with concepts like "Free Clinics" (not government run health-care), poverty would actually be fixable.

Is this an issue which Social Progressives and Fiscal Conservatives could agree upon?

In my opinion it is better for both sides' concerns (for taking care of the poor, and for keeping Government small).

Any thoughts?

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Forced confiscation breeds inequality and communism

Perhaps the world is not ready for such truths yet?

Enforcing laws in order to prevent inequality produces class warfare. Forcefully confiscating everything in the name of inequality, breeds nothing but disdain and distaste for the same.

One of the biggest problems

One of the biggest problems with a, "guaranteed income," is how fewer people would work because of it. It's hard enough to find good workers.

Why get up every morning when you don't have to? The check is in the mail regardless, so why get up, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed and go to work?

Just sleep in, wake up at noon, watch television, be unproductive and collect a free government check the rest of your life.

Liberals push government welfare so much because they know once they get people dependent on their dope, people have to vote for them.

Never be afraid to ask simple questions.

Forced wealth transfers harm both the "giver" and reciever

The "giver" is forced with threat of violence to provide the funds to the state. You can call it welfare, citizen dividend, whatever, it's still an act of violence that is resented by the "giver".

The reciever will not be educated in the basic idea and skills of how to survive let alone thrive. Their only skill will become how to get more out of the system.

A wedge divides both parties. Resentment on one side, demand for more on the other. This has been the way throughout history. It doesn't work, never will.

The most proven way to lift the most people out of poverty has been private property, limited and small government, stable money (ie gold and silver), and free markets.

You need to address one thing first: define "skills of how to

survive." Maybe in the past the free market system was the best way to distribute resources to the most people; but people had a means to earn a living (work, receive wages, spend wages on what you need or want, creating a demand, which ends up providing work...). The system as you're imagining it makes an assumption that people *can* work. But with jobs going overseas & replaced by technology, that will only be true for increasingly fewer people. What's necessary is a paradigm shift in thinking.

I'm liking the idea of, not minimum guaranteed income, but basic income. The first is more like welfare. With basic income, everyone receives the same salary from the government. Those who are satisfied with basic necessities won't need to work - but will remain buyers, i.e., helping to create the demand that will provide jobs for those who do wish to work. Free market principles would more or less still operate - with the employed and unemployed creating the demand for goods and services (through their purchases), but with a smaller segment of the population on the supply side (all that's needed given technology). On the whole, the "givers" will be getting all their money back because the unemployed will need to be spending all they have to cover their necessities. Anyway, I'm trying to learn more about it because, in reality, the current way of looking at things is history.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

This has never worked in all of history

And won't now. The people on the Mayflower tried it, for example. Damn near starved to death because no one would work. The stupidest idea ever promoted on this website.

Private property is key.



There is a push (and evidence supporting it) to begin giving reservation land to private individuals: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoppisch/2011/12/13/why-are-...

A Basic Income doesn't conflict with this concept. In fact, it empowers it.

It wasn't that the Pilgrims didn't want to work because they got enough food to survive despite working, it was because they had no claim (ownership) of the work they did do. That was the problem. Even when farm land was re-privatized, it was still rotated from family to family (similar to rotating crops I guess, it ensures over-all health). This is probably a bit more government than you and I would want.

Especially when a Basic Income is provided by reducing over-all Welfare costs, and supplemented by revenues from a Public Banking system (thus, not based on taxes), and if that Dividend is enough to live a modest life (like no fancy food, sharing a house, riding a bike, having to garden for food, etcetera) than the same "private ownership" insentive will work. People will want to work, but instead it'll be what they want to do, and what they want to own, and that'll actually motivate them more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

And when techonology is making our lives easier (and has been for decades: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/23428/23428-h/23428-h.htm - The Conquest of Bread) then we can truly live free, we can end taxes (maybe have some taxes of online gambling and drugs) and we can end the whole argument over Socialism and Capitalism. It will be irrelevant. All that will matter is Liberty and Freedom.

Jack Wagner

Basic income does conflict with property rights

To guarantee a basic income to marginal producers or non-producers necessitates a theft from producers, violating property rights.

It's not a good enough reason not to try it again

just because it was done before and didn't work. Circumstances are different. The tradeoffs are different. And it's a *given* that some people wouldn't work. I do not believe that there wouldn't always be entrepreneurial types and those who simply want more or better things who would choose to. And bear in mind, in the future that is being discussed, it won't take too many people to get a needed job done.

Are you saying that people should work for the sake of working? Even if needs could be provided for with significantly less workers than there are now?

Also, regardless of its potential flaws, it still might be the best type of system given the alternatives.

Lastly, you didn't answer my question as to what you meant. When our manual labor, factory, technician, office, and farm jobs have mostly either been outsourced or replaced by some technological advance eliminating the need for human beings to do the work, what sort of "job skills" are you talking about?

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir


doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result

50 Phrases to Kill Ideas & Stifle Creative Thinking

o That you repeatedly ignore my request to explain yourself leads me to believe that you can't.

o Your insanity cliche makes no sense unless you view both American history and world history in the years 1620 & 2030 to be the same.

o Even assuming there were uncanny parallels between two such circumstances (timewise or otherwise), just because something "didn't work" in one case doesn't mean it couldn't in the other; even small, but salient, differences could make all the difference.

o Regardless, in terms of something "not working" in the past, there is no perfect system. How do you know that some system with some obvious drawbacks might not still be the best among alternatives? That's what you keep ignoring, the alternative that won't be there that you're basing the viability of your theory on - the one where human beings go back to doing the kinds of jobs that have been increasingly taken over by computers and other machines in order to "earn" their keep.

I think this post is an important one. It faces reality vs. clinging to theories with assumptions that will no longer hold (if they even do still now). Jobs are leaving. The world is changing, liberty4us. Some customary ways of viewing things will need to change as well.

This is what I don't understand. "Basic income" isn't the only possible idea. But it is one. And it's one that has different variables. There's a lot to consider. What is behind your seeming aversion to even have some discussion and debate about it? There are some bright minds here who could help flesh out the pros and cons. We don't need people trying to stifle dialogue but add to it. Maybe there's some way of looking at things that no one's thought of yet.

I recommend that you check out articles that cover different aspects of the changing employment landscape, of which this is just one: "Half of All Jobs Today Will Disappear by 2030." http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2013/09/25/predictions-workplace/

And in case you're ever a manager, you might want to keep the following in mind: "50 Phrases to Kill Ideas and Stifle Creative Thinking." (And drain enthusiasm, I'll add.) http://www.bankofideas.com.au/Downloads/50_Ways_TO_Kill_Idea...

Lastly, as to your Einstein quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result - at times it might show you're crazy; at times it might show you have conviction, perseverance.

Over and over and over Col. Sanders did the same thing: he walked into a restaurant and asked the proprietor to taste his fried chicken recipe with secret sauce in the hopes he'd inspire the place to carry it. And he was told: no. How many times of getting rejected would you consider *enough times* to conclude that, any more of doing the same thing, and Sanders must be *crazy* to think he had a marketable dish that people would love? A dozen cold calls to restaurants? 50? 100? 150? 200? 400? 500? 75O? Keep going...

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

There is opportunity in welfare reform

First, the way in which government provides help to the poor needs to be changed. Consider medicine. The government could simply give cash to the poor and let them buy their own healthcare, which would be much cheaper. But instead they provide in-kind benefits, which requires them to tightly regulate and control the medical industry, which raises costs of both Medicaid and of private insurance. So, get rid of Medicaid and use its current budget to pay cash to poor people, to buy their own healthcare. Medical costs will fall dramatically. That benefits consumers immediately, and it would allow the Medicaid budget to eventually be cut, without lowering the quality of benefits provided. Do likewise with every program. Replace all in-kind benefits with cash benefits.

Second, for the able-bodied poor, there should be a work requirement. If the labor market were freed up (no unions, no minwage, etc), there would be no shortage of work, even it some of it only paid $5/hour. Make the poor work 40, 50, 60 or more hours per week in order to be eligible for welfare. Have the government match the difference between their earnings and some basic income level: e.g. $15,000. That would get rid of the loafers currently exploiting the welfare system.

"Alas! I believe in the virtue of birds. And it only takes a feather for me to die laughing."

fireant's picture

This is a state issue.

Each state should be free to decide how to handle. In my state, I would advocate an abundant supply of dried beans and rice, liberally distributed to anyone, and I would advocate zero property taxes except for when the property changes hands.

Undo what Wilson did

If we had a truly free market,

society would be so prosperous that such programs could be established voluntarily without any government involvement. What I envision for a free society would be one or more trust funds which would call for voluntary donations and accumulate wealth, paying out only the interest earned on the accounts. After a period of time, such programs could be quite substantially funded and there would never be any need for any type of material poverty at all.

I would not support establishing any government programs to do this, as that allows the initiation of force, and we've seen how that slippery slope works.

State Nullification is the answer, deliver results.

State Nullification of federal, nullify what does not work until everyone is convinced of the federal's failings. State Nullification is working on a wide scale so continue the effort and push back.

Without further opposition to state nullification, unwanted laws including spying can and will be halted. Just requires taking the action.

Trusts are very important!

I wish I understood the concept of "Trust" when I was in my 20's (and making 3 times as much money). If I had a fraction of what I spent at the bars to invest, I wouldn't have to be working right now.

With that said, part of the vision I share about Public Banking is that of a Public Trust (obviously a voluntary system would be better, but in my bringing this up as "progressive" forums, I am actually spreading this concept to individuals so that they may take it on voluntarily themselves).

Basically, the Governments would begin building Trusts (capital) within their Public Banks, and the interest of that would go to the General Fund, eventually ending the need for all taxes (it'll take oversite to make sure it doesn't just go to new spending).

Ideally, it'd be that Public Trust that pays out the Basic Income (or Citizen's Dividend as Paine termed it).

Jack Wagner

It would certainly be an

It would certainly be an improvement over our current system of entitlements and all the corruption that goes with it. We would have to be careful about keeping the basic income low enough. If it were too high it would cause massive problems.

Make no mistake, there is no possible way we will have a small libertarian federal government in this country in our lifetimes. People are not ready for it. No matter how bad things get, people will continue to demand welfare, and politicians will continue to provide it.

Principles of Liberty contradict the Basic Income idea

A Republican form of government is about governing the forces that hinder liberty, not controlling everybody and everything. It is about protecting the rights of the people so they can be free to do what they believe they ought to do, need to do or even want to do, provided they do not infringe on the rights of others, their property or their person.

If you want a government where the state is the ultimate power, then maybe a basic income would seem fair. But liberty-lovers want the ultimate power to remain with We the People. Therefore, the only form of government that will work is one that protects that idea; which is what the Constitution, properly interpreted, does, if the People keep it within the bounds that they ordained that it be kept.

This is where all our failures stem from - our failure to keep the Republic. Government is a good thing if it remains a servant. When it becomes a master, it is as an evil thing.

A better solution would be to have a Basic Property, where every family has tax-free land. They can do whatever they want with their land to supply their needs, even to the point of selling it; but after so many years, say 50, all land returns to the original, designated owner or his heirs. This way the malfeasance or laziness of one generation does not destroy the whole life of the succeeding generation. This also requires people to not be lazy if they want to succeed, and it is equitable. This is what God instructed the Israelites to do when they first entered the Promised Land.

I don't see how it can be done at this late date in our country, but for the sake of argument, I present it as the fairest way to provide for a truly liberty-based society.

Freedom is the ability to do what you want to do.
Liberty is the ability to do what you ought to do.
"Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." 2 Corinthians 3:17

Doing away with Property Tax

I have consistently tied together Public Banking with getting rid of Property Tax locally in California. I agree that is a huge first step at letting people live freely.

Basic Property is an interesting idea. To me this would take far more Government oversite than Basic Income (for instance, if I sell my land, then who takes it back for my heirs?).

In the end I believe we will have to actually accept the ideas from the Bible, of letting go of material possession in order to take care of the poor (and I agree, having the government force/do it for you defeats much of the spiritual purpose, it won't last until it is part of our culture, and each of us have our own challenges to do it within our own lives).

Jack Wagner

Any thoughts? YES...

My immediate thought upon reading your post here, is that the "minimum, base, or guaranteed income" notions presented here are all actually, in essence, similar to what Ron Paul has preached. Of course in the big picture Ron Paul preaches for no welfare, but he has often said that if we are to enact any kind of welfare, that it would be best enacted as basically laid out by Paine, MLK, Hayek and such - direct to individuals, and as broad-based as possible.

No, it's still redistribution of wealth. Not a good idea.

http://www.thedailybell.com/news-analysis/34831/Top-Conserva... (excerpt follows)
"We begin with Henry George who created the idea of a land tax in the mid-1800s; he influenced his disciple, the Fabian socialist Silvio Gesell. Gesell's crackpottery about depreciating money was popular in the 1930s. His mutual ideas were accompanied by the social credit nonsense of Major Douglas who called Gesell's ideas a dreadful tax.

Douglas wanted people to have a basic income – and he called the annual disbursement of such an income "social credit." Such reformist ideas were to prove influential in Germany, Italy and Japan during the national socialist era. Adolf Hitler was a fan."

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."
- Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

fireant's picture

A model of the Henry George philosophy, Fairhope, Al, has

devolved into a tax scheme where people who live on colony property pay an exorbitant tax while non-colony residents of the city pay no city tax other than the sales tax, which everyone pays. The colony residents are footing the bill for everyone else, in other words. It's really screwed up.

Undo what Wilson did

I recommend Charles Murray's

I recommend Charles Murray's relatively new book on this subject.


What's the title?
Have you read it?
Can your summarize what might be relevant here?

Sorry for the delay

The book is called "In Our Hands", and recommends the total elimination of the welfare state, broadly defined (everything from TANF and Medicaid to Social Security and unemployment insurance to agricultural subsidies) and replacing it with a $10,000 grant to every American citizen over the age of 21.

I have not read the book, although I sympathize greatly with the idea behind it.

worth the wait, thanks

rich comment, answering all my questions
nice summary! and quite relevant here as Murray sounds quite in line with those mentioned in the OP

speaking of Murray, he gets quite a positive shout out in this lecture. it's one of my favorite lectures. I'll link it here on the chance you might enjoy it as much as I...

if it involves any coercion

if it involves any coercion or tax it will conflict with the basic philosophy of the majority of people on this board. the question is whether 100% voluntarism is actually a possible or viable state of human society. the side that advocates it pretty much assumes the premise and takes it as a given. it must be true because it ought to be true on moral grounds. anything that contradicts it from experience or reason is ruled out of court because it is a moral imperative. if the whole world has to go up in flames and chaos in or for the condition of 100% voluntarism to be realized, that is worth it because the principle trumps all practical considerations.

you can do the same thing with the principle of equality. no matter what practical or realistic impediments to its realization, based on reason, experience, science, etc., they are impotent if you hold the principle itself above, beyond any dispute or argument. if it is itself the definition of what is good and moral, no practical consequence could serve to invalidate it.


What is the best way of "educating" people on volunteerism and the "free-market."?

Is it to continue repeating the doctorine, or to engage with actual reforms that move us in that direction?

Is the best way to success knowledge or action? Some combination?

And, if we are looking to find balance, then do you find balance by moving all weight in the opposite direction? Or by moving it to the middle?

Jack Wagner


the Govt should provide everybody at least one free kitten or puppy. Then the world would be full of love. :)

With a free basic income and a free cuddly pet, people would then be free to sit around doing meth all day with no motivation to do otherwise.

~wobbles but doesn't fall down~



Slippery Slope - Assuming that a very small action will inevitably lead to extreme and often ludicrous outcomes.

For example: “If we allow gay people to get married, what’s next? Allowing people to marry their dogs?”

Jack Wagner

Is that an example of Association Fallacy?


Or is that a Fallacy of Composition?

Or is that a Strawman?


Jack Wagner