7 February 2018

Free Exchange: Is Universal Basic Income the answer?


Universal Basic Income may just be the trendiest idea in politics. It’s also one of the most radical. Its advocates include Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and John McDonnell. From the joblessness that could arise from automation and machine learning to growing concern over income inequality, UBI’s cheerleaders claim the policy could solve some of the biggest political challenges we face.

Put simply, a basic income is a lump sum from the government to which everyone is entitled. These days this generous sounding proposal is associated with the Left. But it has its roots on the libertarian Right. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were both supporters of a version of UBI. And one of the few real-world trials of the policy was carried out by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

But does this rare point of agreement between Left and Right mean UBI is a good idea? On the latest episode of Free Exchange, I brought together Sam Dumitriu, who recently made the free-market case for basic income on CapX, and Robert Colvile, who thinks UBI is a particularly bad idea, to debate whether such a simple idea could really be the answer to so many difficult questions.

You can listen to the full episode here, or subscribe via iTunes.

Oliver Wiseman is Editor of CapX.