A debate scheduled for next month at the 10th Anniversary Students for Liberty conference has a peculiar topic: “Should libertarians support a Universal Basic Income?’ The topic strikes me as odd because the answer to it ought to be obvious. Libertarians believe in property rights, and taxation to support a Universal Basic Income violates these rights. But a new generation has arisen that deems strict property rights old-fashioned. For Will Wilkinson, it suffices to be a libertarian that one in general thinks the free market a good thing: and the Non-Aggression Principle in the style of Murray Rothbard is best abandoned. There is no difficulty at all, on his view, of combining libertarianism with a UBI.
Bryan Caplan, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University, counters that a UBI is a poor idea. A means-tested welfare program affects incentives to work in a less perverse way than a UBI. The eminent Austrian economist Joseph Salerno notes that this is a characteristic argument of Chicago School economists, who concentrate almost entirely on the incentive effects of welfare programs rather than their total size. I hope that, besides discussing the economic flaws of the UBI, Caplan also addresses its anti-libertarian character. Even if the UBI were more “efficient” than a means-tested program, libertarians could not support it.