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The Source: Calls To Eliminate Social Welfare And Simply Cut A Check

Bradley Gordon / http://bit.ly/1pZWgz2

Instead of making the poor navigate the dozens of different social welfare programs, would it just be better to cut a check for everyone? 

The Basic Income Guarantee, BIG,  is getting a lot of attention, even among libertarian crowds. Two conservatives flirting with a presidential runs, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, both made the case for simplification of services and funding streams for the states.

Libertarians like it because on its face it is less paternalistic than the status quo. Contrary to public perception the libertarian tradition does have thinkersarguing for a basic social safety net including the Nobel-Prize winning economist Milton Friedman.

In his essay, "The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee," Matt Zwolinski, a professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego argues that this kind of program would benefit the country and the poor because it is simpler, cheaper, and less paternalistic.

The largest argument against the BIG, and social welfare programs in general, is they create disincentives to work. Pointing to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, and the Negative Income Tax experiments of the 70s, Zwolinski argues people act responsible with the money for the most part, foregoing the flat-screen TVs for things like paying off debt.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend was established in 1976, and is moniesdistributed to every Alaskan each year based on the amount of money the Fund made that year, a fund powered by taxes from the petroleum industry. 

The idea of a Basic Income Guarantee is not universally accepted in the libertarian wing of the GOP and it is at odds with much of the conservative wing. After all, the idea would ditch welfare reform efforts achieved by the GOP throughout the 90s. Zwolinksi admitted this may be one of those ideas that actually appeals more to progressives and could could split the GOP/Libertarian alliance.


  • Matt Zwolinski, associate professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego.
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