RE: Guaranteed income

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Fri Jul 27 2001 - 09:12:53 MDT

Damien writes

> The cited essay makes some interesting points about the Moynihan/Nixon
> Portland experiment, which I've been trying to chase down on the web.
> More later. There are a number of thick pdf files to read...

Great! Thanks a lot. It sounds a little to pat to me. If this
experiment really happened as written, why aren't the results
better known? Why have their been no follow-up experiments,
because surely there were particular circumstances that could
be thought to have been a fault. In the U.S., the Democratic
domination of Congress until 1994, and the Democratic administrations
of Carter and Clinton, I would have thought, wanted to try again.
Also, why aren't there any such experiments in Australia or Europe.

> The general argument strikes me as empty, since in the first
> instance GMI is meant to replace existing social security
> benefits and all their red tape and pettyfogging, and it's
> hard to see why that would be worse for the soul. Is anyone
> here genuinely arguing that dealing with bureaucrats on a weekly
> basis is a *better* plan, an improving experience that should be
> *encouraged*? Dog give me strength.

Well, I can speak from experience on this one. When I was
28, I signed up for food stamps. It was a humiliating
experience. I was asked to bring a certain amount of
information for the interview, including my checkbook.
The interview was conducted by this arrogant fat slob
lady, who looked me over like a piece of trash. (It was
her job, though, to be skeptical of all such requests.)
At one point, she went over my check book and noticed
a $100 check to my brother, and asked very suspiciously
what that was for. (I had about six hundred dollars to
my name, but my brother was always hovering about zero,
and needed a loan.) For some strange reason, I told her
that I couldn't remember what it was for. I almost didn't
get the food stamps!

No one feels good about doing that. But a guaranteed
income is entirely different. No bureaucracy, no pleas,
no nothing---the money just rolls in. (I got off the
food stamps about six months later when I was asked
to come in for another interview! I admit that they
know what they're doing not to get the system really

> Brian Williams also writes
> >> What happens to so-called minimum wage jobs? Don't get me wrong,
> >> the jobs will still be there but they will go vacant, why work for
> >> minimum wage when you can make the same doing nothing?
> Are people at large so entirely swinish, so lacking in self-respect,
> that they will *refuse* to take a job if it's offered? (Okay, many
> are, and it might be argued that many more will become so.)

Well, maybe I'm a swine, but I won't go work at some stupid
mind-numbing if not back-breaking job, if I can get the money
without such an ordeal.

> The long-term point of the GMI proposal, however, is that
> sooner or later plenty of (endurable) jobs *just won't
> exist*.

That's the hard question. Just what will happen? Why haven't
we seen anything so far (say, as compared to a 1960's economy)?
Will peculiar jobs like delivering pizza or working in Expresso
shops develop further?

> But the key rebuttal is surely that people in a rational GMI regime
> *wouldn't* have an either/or choice. One will get the GMI payment, enough
> to scrape by on, and in order to improve one's lot will need to get a
> menial or a CEO job, or hold up gas stations (just like now), or do open
> source, or paint big-eyed babies on black velvet for tourist coins, and
> only lose the GMI entitlement amount paid back in tax after a sensible
> threshold has been passed.

I dunno. It might be better to never start "taking back" anything.
People get a little irrational about that. They talk themselves
into not taking some job because they'll "lose benefits", just as
you hear people irrationally whine about a getting a raise and
getting into a higher tax bracket.


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