Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Have the UBI People Turned to the Dark Side?

Yesterday, I wrote a post highlighting the regressive effects of Andrew Yang’s UBI proposal, especially its impact on our poorest and most vulnerable. Yang promises to pay for his UBI (of just $1,000 per month–far lower than the living wage) with a combination of spending cuts and a regressive VAT, or national sales tax. Yang writes openly of fooling poor people into exchanging lucrative benefits with spending-restrictions for smaller lump sums:

Andrew proposes funding UBI by consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a Value-Added Tax (VAT) of 10%. Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally – most would prefer cash with no restriction.

The post has been picked up by parts of the basic income community and has been circulated in Yang subreddits. But to my horror, many people in these circles seem to be untroubled by these features. This leaves me deeply concerned about whether rank and file Yang supporters care about poor people on any level.

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Andrew Yang’s Basic Income is Stealth Welfare Reform

When I first heard Andrew Yang was running on a UBI platform, I thought he was running to popularise universal basic income as a policy option for the future. It has become increasingly clear, however, that Yang thinks he is a real presidential candidate and that his UBI is for now, not later. The thing is, UBI is traditionally marketed as a post-work policy. The point of UBI has always been to give every citizen a large enough basic income to give them a real choice about whether or not they take a job. This levels the playing field between employers and employees, forcing employers to offer people more substantial inducements to get them to work. But it’s increasingly clear that this is not what his UBI is for. Its purpose is more sinister–it is a vehicle for legitimating benefits cuts for the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

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Why Political Disagreement is so Hard to Settle

Last week, I went to one of the debates at the Cambridge Union about whether or not Britain ought to have a second referendum on Brexit. It struck me that the way this argument works is very misleading. The two sides pretend to be arguing about whether it would be democratic to have another referendum, and frame their arguments around procedural fairness and democratic legitimacy. But that isn’t really what the argument is about. There’s a much deeper disagreement, about whether Brexit is an acceptable outcome in the first place–if it’s the kind of result which, by its very nature, invalidates the process which led up to it.

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Marx and Gandhi in the Spooky Forest

Once upon a time, Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi were driving a car through a spooky forest. It was spooky, in the sense that it was dark and mysterious and full of who knows what. Marx was behind the wheel, and Gandhi was in the passenger’s seat. Gandhi was looking nervous.

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I Have a New Podcast Called “What’s Left”

Today I’m happy to announce a new podcast I’m co-hosting with Aimee Terese called “What’s Left. Adam Rensch, co-host of the Stop/Rewind podcast, is the producer. On “What’s Left”, Aimee and I will discuss left-wing politics, including, among other things:

  1. What it means to be left wing today
  2. Whether or not particular ideas or policy proposals are left wing
  3. What kinds of political strategies are likely to be useful to a left wing project in our current circumstances
  4. To what extent we can find useful ideas and strategies for the left in political thought which is not traditionally associated with the left
  5. The theoretical underpinnings of contemporary political events

There are many different places you can listen to the podcast:

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