A few problems I’m seeing:

  1. The claim that landlords will just raise rents has been pretty widely refuted. Soaring rents/housing prices is a problem, but not one that’s likely to be exacerbated by UBI or any other social welfare program.
  2. This is something I think the Yang Gang and Marxists have both gotten wrong — the claim that capitalism will result in mass unemployment. We’re seeing the exact opposite. A lack of jobs clearly isn’t the problem. The rise of make-work ‘bullshit jobs’ that either serve no clear purpose or actively make society worse is the real, observable pattern, along with unstable part-time “gig” jobs.
  3. If a UBI gives workers the minimal financial freedom needed to leave an exploitative job, how exactly does that shackle them to the capitalist system as we know it? This is highly counterintuitive and never fully explained.

Where I think people like Yang are correct is in pointing out that we need a dynamic market economy in order to fund broad social welfare programs (can’t tax the rich if there are no rich). While free trade deals have had some adverse effects on segments of the population, they’ve been on the whole pretty good for Americans and very good for raising living standards worldwide. It should also go without saying that capitalism has been a major driver for the rapid technological advancement along the lines that Keynes predicted. So just talking about all the ways capitalism sucks both leaves out a lot of crucial info and fails to offer any pragmatic vision for how to fix its shortcomings. Maybe the assumption here is that they can’t be fixed, but that raises even bigger and more difficult questions about what the alternative is and how it’s going to work in practice.

UBI may not be a silver bullet. Other ideas like co-determination have potential, but it’s important to acknowledge that they’re still working within the framework of a market economy, which is what makes them attainable goals and not just utopian thought experiments.

Written by

Volunteer organizer. Humanist. Pragmatist. Public health advocate. Global citizen. Living that ADHD life. Part of the Greatest Generation (Millennial).

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