Guaranteed Basic Poverty

From time to time, some “social planner” will float another trial balloon for the “guaranteed basic income” (GBI).

Most recently, it is Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), also known as the Parliamentary “fiscal watchdog.” I don’t know what master this “watchdog” is really serving but if it’s the individual or Canadian taxpayers, then this “watchdog” is either soundly asleep or barking at the moon.

This “social planner” clothed in “fiscal responsibility” offers up another emotionally appealing (to many) scenario that betrays everyone, including the proposed beneficiaries.

The PBO betrays the Canadian taxpayer to the tune of $43 Billion per year with this proposal, according to the report quoted in the linked news item. That amounts to about $1,200 per year for each man, woman and child based on a population of approximately 37.5 million people. Of course, they’re not all individual taxpayers so the impact on individual taxpayers is even greater.

If you read the article it becomes clear that the $43 Billion is a very optimistic projection based on the following assumptions:

  • the GBI will replace other existing “support” programs,
  • “cost savings” will result from cooperative administration of the GBI between federal and provincial governments.

I ask, how often, once established, any “entitlement” program is ever fully relinquished? More importantly, when has the administration of any program by any government, let alone multiple levels of government “cooperating” together, ever operated in an efficient, “cost-saving” manner?

The PBO also betrays the 7.5 million Canadians (20% of the population) who would allegedly “benefit” from a national GBI program. By the way, I really doubt whether that large a portion of the Canadian population is actually living in what could legitimately be called poverty.

Simply handing each of these beneficiaries about $17 thousand per year as does the Ontario pilot program, upon which the PBO’s work is modelled, robs the recipient of incentive to create value by being productive.

Humans by their nature must produce the values of life in order to survive. They must create value for themselves and to trade with others, value for value. If you are simply given an unearned “income” it is unlikely that it would result in significant motivation to develop the moral ambition to survive and flourish.

I suggest that the most prevalent consequence of a GBI program will be the regrettable creation of a social class that is effectively stunted, institutionalizing a “guaranteed basic poverty.” It will be a poverty of psychology and intellect as well as the assurance of a low standard of living.

The linked article refers to the “Pros and Cons” of basic income programs and the related debate “among academics and policymakers.” The “Pros” are more or less stated as the provision of a minimum income level with “no strings attached.” That’s pretty vapid given there is no possible moral argument that could be made for this madness.

Worse however, are the “Cons” that are cited. “Too expensive,” they say. That’s obvious. The moral point is, by what right does anyone propose looting that kind of wealth from other Canadians in the first place?

“It would discourage people from seeking full-time work,” they say. Of course it would, but the moral and intellectual damage created by destroying the incentive to flourish as a human being is far more fundamental.

“It wouldn’t address some of the root causes of poverty like mental illness and addiction,” they say. This and all the “Cons” share one thing: they are concessions to the nobility of the idea of a GBI or some other form of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” It’s just that the “Cons” don’t seem to like this particular way of going about it.

Nevertheless, this latter point of disagreement is so far off the mark it warrants further discussion. The root cause of poverty is a lack of productivity, that is, not creating value. A very small minority of people are incapable of being productive enough to support their own lives, and they must rely on the productivity of others (friends, family or charity) for that support.

There is a choice to be productive, whether it be the modest endeavour of “minimum wage employment” or the entrepreneurial creation of business empires. The degree does not matter. What matters is that you choose to do it.

As to “mental illness,” I submit this is less of a problem than imagined by “social planners” and there already exist many programs and social services to help such unfortunate individuals. Regardless, this condition alone is not a moral claim on the lives of others to provide an unearned “income” for them and it is wrong, if not disingenuous to suggest it is a “root cause of poverty.”

“Addiction” on the other hand is clearly a condition which is the result of a choice—a very poor one. The consequences of “addiction” may well be in part, “poverty,” but there also are means in place to address this social problem. To the extent they are ineffective does not likewise suggest that a GBI would even begin to be a solution.

Social ills cannot be cured by forcibly taking from the productive in society and giving that loot to the unproductive, minus the costs of administration for the compensation of bureaucrats and “social planners.”

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