Skip to main content

Nathan Heller on Universal Basic Income

Nathan Heller writes in The New Yorker:
Economics is at heart a narrative art, a frame across which data points are woven into stories about how the world should work.
Heller reviews a number of books debating the merits of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), its benefits, and its likelihood of true success. While it's true UBI is having a bit of a moment, it's clear no one has settled on the narrative it should take. Annie Lowery has a timely op-ed in The New York Times on the very topic, and is one of the authors Heller reviews.

One coworker enthused to me about a UBI, saying that it would solve so many social ills! He was excited to be able to shut down Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and innumerable other aspects of the social safety net. Libertarians and conservatives seem thrilled about this chance to finally, finally kill that great bugaboo, the idea that government might need to administrate social programs.

For my part, I greet a potential UBI with extreme caution. A UBI is no panacea, and one must be very cautious about any social program that libertarians greet with enthusiasm. They'll happily espouse the benefits of "choice" while building a society designed to take that choice away from its citizens. A UBI without adequate and affordable choices is no UBI at all, and such choices won't exist without regulation. (The horror! The horror!)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It's hot here

Today I decided to see some of Hyderabad. Being the adventurer that I am, I picked a walking route to the botanical gardens. "20 minutes? No problem!" I thought to myself. Even in 100°F heat, that should be plenty doable with enough water and sunscreen. Reader, it was not. After about 30 minutes hitting dead ends and nearly getting hit by tuktuks while turning redder that a tomato, I decided to try cooling off in a mall along the road. The security guards wanted to confiscate my camera, so I turned around and left. At that point I decided to call an Uber to take me back to the office. The Uber at least was prompt, clean, and fast. I felt awful using Uber, but for a foreigner who speaks no Hindi it's the best option by far. Takeaway: Hi-Tech City isn't a walkable part of Hyderabad except at grave risk of heat stroke or traffic accident, and I'm going to stick to taking an Uber anywhere I need to go.

In praise of the Casio World Time watch

My watch for my India trip is the humble Casio World Time Illuminator in black resin . It has 5 alarms, every time zone, and a sub-dial for the home time zone. When working weird shifts across multiple time zones, it's hard to beat. The World Time has a distinctly 80s aesthetic. While not as gorgeously uncomplicated as the F-91W (my favorite Casio watch), it is still a lovely example of a classic design era. There's a little world display that shows you which time zone you've selected, plus it gives the city code for the biggest city in the time zone. One of the World Time's biggest selling points is its price. I bought mine from Amazon for $15, only about $6 more than the F-91W. It's almost impossible to beat, and is reliable to boot. Casio claims it has a 10-year battery (depending on usage of the illumination function). Speaking of illumination, the light on the World Time is much  better than that on the F-91W. It has two lights, one in each of the lower

Stuff I hadn't thought about

A lot of stuff hadn't occurred to me before I started planning for this trip. "Stuff" is a wonderful catchall word that can hold many different ideas, but my school teachers hated its vagueness. So, I'll elaborate a bit on what I mean by "stuff". First, it's HOT in Hyderabad. I knew it was warm, but I didn't realize it was 105-degrees-Fahrenheit-hot. That's hot enough that I need to plan a specific wardrobe to account for it. My body will be under a lot of stress, and I need to help it out however I can. Second, the air quality in Hyderabad is also pretty bad. Not Beijing bad, but still bad. I had time to place an order for N95 air filter masks that I can wear when outside, but it also affects what I'll do in my free time. For instance, as an asthmatic it's probably not a good idea to do anything too strenuous outside on bad air days, especially factoring in the heat. Third, I need a prescription filled but the pharmacy won&#