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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!)

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