Tag: tax

Universal Basic Income: Ultimately Botched and Inept

By TJ Roberts | United States

The concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) comes up as a potential alternative to the modern welfare state. What people don’t consider, however, are the consequences of such a system. A UBI is a system in which the state provides a certain income for all people within the polity. Also known as a Negative Income Tax, a UBI requires a heavily progressive form of taxation. All adults within a polity receive this payment regardless of their wealth and their employment status.

Many proponents see UBI as a means of securing people’s basic needs. In addition, they see this as far more efficient than the current system. This, according to a UBI proponent, alters the incentives toward a more productive incentive structure in the economy. Finally, advocates of a UBI claim that it allows for people to survive after automation eliminates the job market. While on the face level, these arguments all seem to have a point, but some basic economic analysis can show that UBI is fundamentally flawed. This article will first outline the arguments one may find in favor of a UBI. It will then refute the arguments. In addition, it will offer some other problems to a UBI.

Why People Support UBI

People support UBI for many reasons. The most frequent reason that people cite is that it guarantees people a certain quality of life. To these advocates, not all individuals are capable of finding employment, so society must provide for these individuals. In addition to the unemployed, a UBI is claimed to help the underemployed. In essence, a UBI is a living wage for everyone.

Another case that some fiscal conservatives and libertarians make in favor of a UBI is that it is more efficient than the current welfare state. With a UBI, there is no massive bureaucracy to determine who needs what. You receive the same living income as every other person. This drastically lowers administrative costs.

Another case that fiscal conservatives and libertarians make is that a UBI readjusts the incentive structures of society. Since everyone is guaranteed this money with no strings attached, says the UBI advocate, there is no poverty trap that encourages people to work less so that they do not lose their payments. This means that the UBI would replace all currently existing social welfare programs and would allow for commodities such as health insurance to be handled entirely by the private market.

Finally, advocates of a UBI claim that it is the only logical means of continuing human existence in the age of automation. People fear that AI and new technology will make low-level employment obsolete, and will, therefore, knock so many people out of work that they will not be able to afford to live without a UBI.

Why the UBI is Wrong

These arguments, however, all fall when one considers economic theory and empirical reality. To start, a UBI would not adequately guarantee that everyone receives an adequate quality of life. This is because a UBI would lead to overwhelming price inflation. If everyone is guaranteed a living income, then more people will be able to consume products. Because more people can afford more goods and services, businesses will be inclined to increase prices whereas this surge in the number of willing customers is an external stimulus to the economy caused by outside intervention.

If a landlord knows that their clients are now receiving a monthly check, the landlord then has an incentive to increase rent to take advantage of the new wealth. As prices rise, people become less capable of providing for themselves, so they spend less. When people spend less, businesses will decrease production, which leads to businesses having to lay off workers. These newly unemployed workers then lose the ability to spend as much as they did when they had a job. This leads to an endless cycle of increasing prices and decreasing employment.

Inflation

To add insult to injury, since the money supply is increasing, the money becomes less capable of holding value. The value of the dollar would tank under this system. This inflationary trap would compound, ending in a society in which most people are jobless, most businesses can’t afford to produce, and those who are employed have a money that is so worthless that they cannot afford anything. Such an inflationary policy overturns all the progress the market has achieved for this world.

Right now, the needs of more people are being met than ever before around the world, and no UBI caused this. Rather, it is decreasing prices that has allowed for the cost of living to drop in such a way that extreme poverty is disappearing from this world. Our World in Data illustrates this point beautifully in this slideshow. Declining prices are benefiting the worst off especially; the countries with the highest poverty rates are currently experiencing the fastest growth rates. A UBI and the inevitable price increases that follow would only harm this progress. We need more production, not redistribution.

We Cannot Afford a UBI

In terms of efficiency, while a UBI admittedly leads to cheaper administrative costs, the nominal costs make a UBI far more expensive than the status quo. Suppose the US implemented a plan that guarantees a living salary to all adults based on the cost of living in their area. According to MIT, the average living wage in the United States is $15.12 per hour. According to the US Census Bureau, there are 247,813,910 adults living in the United States. If one does the math, the cost of providing this basic income to every adult in the United States is $7,793,648,343,936 per year (this does not account for inflation and administrative costs). This is nearly $8 trillion. Given that the US spent $4.094 trillion dollars in Fiscal Year 2018, The United States would have to end every government program and more than double taxes in order to pay for this program alone.

UBI Perpetuates Poverty

While UBI may seem to eliminate the poverty trap, this is not the case. First, consider the inflationary effects of a UBI. If prices increase so dramatically that goods become unaffordable, then poverty increases. Also, the UBI does eliminate the incentive not to work that some means-tested welfare programs do have, but it also has negative incentives of its own. UBI gives businesses an incentive to slash wages.

If everyone working for a business is guaranteed a living salary, then businesses feel empowered to slash wages and keep the profits. UBI is just another form of corporate welfare. It allows for businesses to outsource the cost of having employees to the taxpayers. This makes it more likely for people to be content with what they are receiving from their guaranteed income and not pursue work at all.

In Defense of Automation

Automation is happening. But this is a good thing. Automation does not cause unemployment. Rather, it frees people to pursue other forms of work that individuals are more passionate about. The entire purpose of work is to satisfy humanity’s endless wants and needs. Since people are still poor in this world, it is clear that there are inefficiencies in the status quo. Automation allows for labor to become far more efficient. In the same way that the strides in efficiency that humanity accomplished in the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries did not eliminate the ability of regular people to find work, so too the automation revolution of the 21st century will not eliminate the need for work. Rather, it provides even more opportunities.

This is not to say that everyone will keep the jobs that they have right now. Some people will lose their jobs as automation makes the labor more efficient. But let’s consider what happens to people who lose their jobs due to automation. First of all, no one starved to death as a result of the milkman becoming obsolete in the late 20th century. People that worked as a milkman simply found other means of employment. They adapted to their times. They moved to new jobs that met consumer demand and often made these workers more prosperous

Automation Creates Jobs

But let us consider why someone would lose their job to automation. Resources are finite, but human desires are virtually unlimited. While at the face level, someone might lose their job in one area, that is because the consumer demand is being met more easily through automated processes that decrease prices and the cost of production. Automation brings prices down. This is why the cost of living has dropped so significantly that most Americans can afford something as complex as a smartphone. If people can produce more for less, prices go down.

When prices go down, consumers spend less on what they buy. When consumers spend less, they have more money. This allows for consumers to buy even more products. Since consumers can buy more, businesses have to produce more. This means that businesses need to hire more people in order to produce. Automation does not directly cause unemployment. Rather, it makes it easier for displaced workers to find new work.

Automation Creates Entrepreneurship

Another benefit of automation is that as prices go down and people become capable of affording more, people have more resources which allows them to engage in entrepreneurship. As people develop new industries (some of these industries will come directly from automation), new employees will be needed. As technology grows, the ability to acquire the means of learning new skills that improve your standing on the job market (take Skill Share as an example of this).

Automation enriches the labor force, allows for workers to find new and better jobs, allows workers to learn how to boost their resume, and brings new innovation that will create more prosperity at a lower price which especially benefits the poor. Automation does not justify a UBI. Rather, it shows why we need to avoid a UBI by any means necessary: the price increases caused by a UBI will offset the gains in human prosperity automation is causing.

How a UBI Takes Your Power Away

The greatest harm that a UBI causes is that it rips power away from the common person in the market. In a system with a UBI, people are capable of ignoring the law of supply and demand and pursue their own interests without regard for its marketability and at the detriment of those pursuing profitable work. Once again, someone has to pay for the UBI. If person X chooses to create products that they are passionate about but no one else is willing to buy, they still get the UBI and other people are forced into subsidizing their illegitimate industry.

In a truly unhampered market, person X would realize that their entrepreneurial effort is yielding no fruit and would therefore adjust their strategy to meet consumer demand. Under a UBI, the incentive to do this greatly diminishes. This is another proof that UBI is another form of corporate welfare. There is no sense in propping up industries that consumers do not want. Doing so only encourages behavior that sucks resources away from those who have an eye for what people desire. This is theft from the market and from all of us.

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

On the surface level, Universal Basic Income comes across as an alternative to the welfare state that would make the world a more productive and prosperous place. But when one considers basic economic theory, UBI collapses under its own weight. UBI increases prices, decreases wages, and decreases productivity. This system undos the progress we have made in eliminating world poverty and causes runaway inflation that would make the current living standard unaffordable.


This article was originally published in LIFE.

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BREAKING: French Government Opens Fire on Tax Protesters

By Indri Schaelicke and Ryan Lau | United States

Videos and images circulating on Twitter Sunday night appear to show the French government snipers shooting protesters. There is currently confusion over whether the bullets fired are made of rubber or are real bullets. Regardless, many citizens are coming away with serious injuries.

Continue reading “BREAKING: French Government Opens Fire on Tax Protesters”

Government Could Be Funded Without Taxation

By Jack Parkos | United States

The libertarian ideology is made up of various factions and ideologies, a major one being Minarchy. Minarchists advocate for a small state whose sole purpose is to protect natural rights, including our right to life, liberty, and property. This state would only provide basic functions of government: courts, police, military to protect from crimes such as theft, breach of contract, or aggression.

A common issue brought up with a Minarchist state is of how it should be funded. As libertarians, we are opposed to income tax, capital gains tax, property tax etc. But we also believe in a small state to protect rights. So there appears to be a conflict in funding the state and keeping our principles. However, there are many solutions.

In the early days of the United States, the government was funded through lottery revenue.  The first of these lotteries was held during the Colonial area in Boston Massachusetts in 1745. The revenue from the lotteries was used to build bridges, fix roads, and fund other projects. This would be an efficient way to fund a Night-Watchman state.

Just like in Colonial America, a government lottery would be completely voluntary to participate in. People would purchase lottery tickets from the government and put money into a pool. Then, the winner would be drawn and would keep a certain amount of the prize money, and the rest would go towards funding the state. The amount going to the state may vary, but this would be an efficient way to fund. The lotteries would run similarly to raffles at fundraisers. Skeptics of a lottery system may counter that the government would not be able to function with these means of funding. But it must be remembered that this is a nightwatchman state with a small budget, requiring less revenue.

Fundraising, in general, could be a good way to fund the state. Many parents participate in fundraisers for things like kid’s sports teams, and it would make sense  they would do these to fund police or courts. If a service is good enough, people will be willing to pay for it. Perhaps the people or the government could do silent auctions on items and raise money like they do now. These could be run by the people and have the government funded via a donation or the government itself could run an auction.

Another way the government could function is fining people who commit crimes. Of course, a minarchist would never advocate a fine for a victimless crime, but rather for actual crimes; theft, breach of contract, assault etc. Let’s say, for example, someone damages another man’s property and is found guilty in court. In addition to paying for the damages, he may also pay a small fee to cover court costs. Some may scoff at this idea thinking of it as enforced taxation. But it must be remembered that this is the guilty party paying. This person chose to commit a crime that harmed another party knowing the consequences, this being one of them.

This is a system already used. Instead of abolishing fines, we have them only be put in place for actual offenses. So a person would not be fined or even punished for using drugs, but if they broke a contract or harmed someone and is found guilty by a jury, the guilty party would have to cover court costs. This system would be a great way of keeping courts running, ensuring justice, and protecting rights.

The minimal state will require funding, but this funding does not have to be taken from your income. There are plenty of ways to fund a basic government that do not require such a system. In the past civilizations have had systems similar to these. It worked well to fund a small, more localized government in early America. If we can shrink the government and reduce budgets, there is no reason it would not work today.


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No, Jesus Was Not a Socialist

By Ian Brzeski | United States

On countless occasions, I have either seen or heard that Jesus is a socialist. I see it through memes, I hear it through others. It’s complete and utter nonsense.

Let’s spot the differences in these two cases. In the first scenario, let’s say that you are walking down the street and a man comes up to you asking for money. He says that he runs a charity to help out the poor, and you decide to donate because you feel that it would be beneficial towards his cause. In the second scenario, you decide not to give the man any money at all. The man is upset at this and decides to pull out a gun, forcing you to donate to meet the threshold he needs to raise. In both of these scenarios, the man got the desired money and was able to help the poor.

The differences are clear. In the first scenario, you voluntarily gave up your money whereas, in the second, the man coerced you to. Objectively, the way the man acted in the second scenario is immoral, even though he gave the money to the poor.

Now, why is it different when the government takes your money through taxation? The government sets up programs for the poor, asks you for money to help fund the programs, and if you don’t give them your money, they throw you in a rotting cell for the rest of your life. That sounds eerily similar to the second scenario that I presented. The government uses a form of coercion in the same way that the man coerced you. Andrew Lepore writes a fantastic article which really delves into why just because you or somebody else benefits from taxation doesn’t mean that it’s morally justifiable in any way whatsoever.

Now let’s get to why Jesus is not a socialist. First of all, Jesus preaches about helping your neighbor and caring for the sick and the poor. He tells you to spread the Good News. It seems to some that socialists preach the same, but this is simply not true. Jesus never said that you can force somebody else to live by your values.

You should hope that people want to give back to their community or to the poor out of the goodness of their heart. You have every right to tell somebody that they should give to the poor, and to spread Jesus’ message. However, there’s a reason that Jesus never says that it’s okay to force somebody to live by His message. If somebody is going to hoard all their money, then they are well in their right to do so. You cannot, in good moral standing, throw somebody in prison on the premise that they are a subjectively bad person. The only just reason to do so is if they infringe on someone else’s rights. Not giving money to somebody else is not an infringement of their rights.

I urge people to not be that guy. I urge people to live by Jesus’ message even if they don’t believe in his divinity. The majority of people in this world are good. There are plenty of people who will give back to their communities; many celebrities already do. Ellen DeGeneres, for example, loves giving money to people who need it. Whether those people directly need it or are raising awareness for a cause, she will provide. There are plenty of other examples of celebrities giving back to their communities. There are millions of everyday normal people who give money and time to charities and other organizations and may even be incentivized to give more if the government didn’t already steal their money.

Socialism requires the government to use a coercive force to redistribute the wealth among everybody even if the majority of the people did nothing to deserve that money. It is completely immoral as it lines up with the second scenario I presented to an even bigger extreme. When Jesus tells somebody to go out and take care of the sick and the poor, he is saying for you to go out and voluntarily do it, and not to have a governing body force people to do it. If anything, Jesus is way more of a voluntaryist than a socialist, as the latter requires force which he opposed.


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Keynesian Economics: A Misleading Policy

By Jack Parkos | United States

Imagine a kid doing chores for his parents. One day there isn’t a lot for him to do, so the parents make a huge mess for him to clean up. Does this make sense? Of course not. But, this logic is similar to the Keynesian school of economics. Keynesianism has taken over both American parties and severely hurts the economy.

What is Keynesian Economics?

During The Great Depression, economist John Maynard Keynes developed a new school of economic thought. He hoped that his Keynesian economics would bring an end to the decade’s stagnant economy. Keynes’s theory focuses on demand-side economics. Keynesian economics asserts that a mixed-market economy will be the most successful in the long run.

Governments employ this by increasing both spending and the money supply. Keynesians would argue that the government should spend on programs such as infrastructure in order to boost the economy.

The Critical Flaw: Increased Spending

Despite such common adherence, Keynesian economics has a number of key problems. The first of which deals with spending increases. The money for this spending must come from somewhere, and it usually lands on the taxpayers. Otherwise, US debt levels just increase even more.

The wealthy, who play a key role in economic growth, often see the worst of tax hikes. The government taxes those who provide jobs and products, then uses for the money on a bridge, for example. The idea here is that government created jobs and a product. However, they only did so by robbing the same opportunity from a private company, which is more likely to use the money more efficiently to provide a greater number of jobs and better services. Allowing all classes of wealth to have more disposable income will simply lead to more economic growth.

Keynesian Economics and Government Monopolies

Keynes often criticized the free market, claiming it created monopolies. But government is also capable of doing this. In fact, the creation of monopolies is a huge fault of Keynes’s theory. A government, with its reckless spending, can easily create monopolies and ruin private businesses, which only spend more if profits increase.

On the other hand, the government has a tax farm of millions of citizens. Thus, it can take money from any one of them, or simply print more of it. For example, Keynesian economics would have the government spend more on infrastructure. But what happens to the companies that the state does not fund? They will likely lose business, even though they may be the best ones for the job.

On the other hand, government services are usually subpar and inefficient. There are just some things government can’t provide that the market can. Government is not meant to produce, it is meant to protect rights. A business owner, to keep customers, has to make an effective product or service. This forces him or her to improve the quality of service.

State services simply do not work the same way. Don’t like the service? Too bad. They don’t need to rely on supply and demand. Rather, they can tax people or drive further into debt and provide a subpar service. We have established that under Keynes’s model, there will be more state services. This will be an atrocity! Instead, the state should seek to lower taxes and lower spending in order to improve the economy.

The Danger of Increased Money Supply

The last and possibly the most dangerous part of Keynes’s model, increasing the supply of money. Simply printing out more money will not help the economy but will do the opposite, it will cause inflation which hurts the economy. This has happened a lot in history.

Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic

The most infamous example of this is 1920’s Germany.  The problem started when Germany abandoned its gold standard during World War 1. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to pay reparations that they simply could not afford. The government then printed out more marks to pay off these reparations, but this caused hyperinflation. Money became worthless to the point where Germans used it for kindling. Children would use paper money to make toys to play with. If someone went to the store with money to buy two loaves of bread, they would only be able to afford one by the time they arrived. In fact, by late 1923, 1 US Dollar was worth a staggering 4.2 trillion German marks. The German Mark was worthless.

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Of course, hyperinflation will not occur every single time money is printed. But history repeats itself with many other examples of hyperinflation. Zimbabwe also tried this and, like Germany, saw hyperinflation in its economy. Keynesian economics would suggest printing more money for the economy during times of recession. However, history shows this does not work.

The Keynesian School of economics suggests increasing spending, debt, and taxes. It also replaces market services with the government and calls for the risky activity of printing money. Most of the last century’s policies have been Keynesian. Without a doubt, they have raised taxes and sent the country further into debt. Hope, however, is not lost. By looking towards more free-market schools of economics, the American people and state may create a freer and stronger economy.


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