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Welfare for those ‘unwilling to work?’ It’s not as crazy as you might think.

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16.02.2019

The rollout of the progressives’ Green New Deal has been less than smooth. One major reason: the release of an FAQ that listed “economic security” for those “unwilling to work” as one of the program’s goals.

“Unwilling”? The now-retracted FAQ made other eyebrow-raising claims, but conservatives pounced on that word in particular. Of a piece with the usual complaints about welfare as a reward for laziness, it was called extreme, absurd and, in one florid instance, a “Communist Manifesto, 21st Century.”

But is the idea of unconditional economic security really so extraordinary? In fact, Finland recently completed a landmark basic income project aimed at just that. And while the results are preliminary, they give us reason to reflect on our own values.

The concept of a universal basic income (UBI) isn’t new, but interest has picked up in recent years. A state-dispensed, unconditional cash stipend for every single citizen — whether willing to work or not — has been touted as a way to decrease welfare bureaucracy, give workers more bargaining power and perhaps end deep poverty as a whole.

One of the main goals of the Finnish project was to test whether a basic income would promote employment. The program handed 2,000 unemployed citizens 560 euros (about $635) per month for two years, from January 2017 to December 2018. The money........

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