Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Libertarianism and a Universal Basic Income

By David Gordon

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.

(The above originally appeared at


  1. If there was an offer of a UBI of say $1500 a month, my wife would be out the door of the school where she works so fast the words "I quit" would still be echoing.

    1. Maybe she should just post an ad to see if some family wants to adopt her.