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DEBATE: Is a Basic Income Better Than Welfare?

In May this year, Bryan Caplan debated with Karl Widerquist about Universal Basic Income (UBI) and Welfare at

Widerquist is associate professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service at Qatar and vice-chair of Basic Income Earth Network (co-chair at the time of the debate). He sees UBI as a means to completely eliminate poverty and as a compensation for the government’s actions to turn resources into property, which creates groups of people that don’t have access to resources they need to survive. Widerquist predicts UBI will also have an increasing effect on lower level wages, as the payment for work will need to be high enough for a non-starving person to accept the job. In the current system, employers don’t have the incentive to provide good wages, according to Widerquist.

Caplan is professor of economics at George Mason University. He thinks the idea that everyone should be supported by the government is ridiculous. Whatever charity is given should only be for to the people who need it, and UBI is therefore not a good idea, according to Caplan. Furthermore, it will discourage people from working and is not fair to people that are paying their taxes, he states.


Info and links

Photos: Karl Widerquist by BICN/RCRG Basic Income Canada Network, 2014 and Bryan Caplan speaking empathically by Eric Hanneken, 2015, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Special thanks to Dawn Howard for reviewing this article

About Hilde Latour

Hilde Latour has written 21 articles.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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