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A guaranteed basic income sounds great — until you see the details

5 0 1005

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg along with other captains of Silicon Valley industry have called for a guaranteed basic income to help families once robots and artificial intelligence start throwing scores of workers out of their jobs. Those more familiar with history might advise avoiding such doom and gloom predictions: undoubtedly, technology will displace some jobs, but innovation has always ultimately led to more jobs, not fewer. The bigger problem is trying to shift laid off workers into new occupations rather than leaving them idle and living off a minimum government income.

More sensible arguments in favour of a guaranteed income aren’t related to robots but to the goal of poverty alleviation. The ragtag assortment of social assistance programs, pensions, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance and other low-income supports result in inefficient delivery, costly administrative expenses and poor incentives to work and save. Surely there must be a simpler way of consolidating support programs for those in need, under a single stipend.

The idea of a guaranteed income is far from new. Proposals from those on the right and left go back five centuries. In 1516, Thomas More proposed a basic income to reduce robbery, but it was his friend, Johannes Vives, who first proposed a guaranteed income to reduce income a decade later. Famed University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman made the most revolutionary proposal in 1962, recommending a........

© Financial Post