Basic income is a hard concept for denizens of our ideologically-charged age to grasp because it is a government benefit that is inherently conservative in nature.
A basic income is a flat-cash payment made to all or most members of society to support their lifestyles. That sounds like socialism to most people because it involves a government payment.
A basic income is conservative because its goal is to shore up traditional institutions and society instead of disrupting or undermining the established order. That runs counter to most welfare schemes which are progressive in nature. Those schemes are designed to disrupt society by forcing everybody to advance towards some desired goal – even they do not want to go.
Basic Income is Conservative
Basic income is conservative because it involves no force and drastic changes to individuals or their lifestyles. Most welfare programs are designed to force individuals or families to change.
Most American benefit schemes are designed to force everybody to work at a job or participate in the “job culture.” Some U.S. states require welfare recipients to look for work or perform volunteer work to receive benefits.
Progressive welfare schemes are based on the delusion that human beings are perfectible. That is everybody can be transformed into a pure, ethical and angelic creature under the right circumstances. Such a transformation is clearly impossible, which explains the almost total failure of the modern welfare state to deal with problems like poverty.
Basic income is based on the conservative conclusion that human beings are imperfect. Its architects understand that human beings are flawed, or as traditional Christians would say fallen, beings that cannot be perfected. Unlike traditional welfare, basic income does not work towards the unattainable goal of transforming everybody into a white middle-class Christian that works at a 9 to 5 job.
More importantly, basic income is a rejection of the use of benefits to force values on other people. There is no attempt to force the poor to become middle class by behaving in a certain way.
Basic Income can Achieve Conservative Goals
Conservatives should embrace basic income because it can help them achieve some of their goals.
The basic goals of American conservativism can be boiled down to: reducing the size, scope and power of government, expanding freedom, strengthening the family, protecting and strengthening traditional communities, preserving the traditional social order, and preserving traditional religious faith. The basic income can help achieve all of those goals if properly applied.
Here is how basic income can help achieve the basic conservative goals.
Basic Income can shrink Government
A basic income can shrink government and reduce its power by eliminating the need for the welfare bureaucracy.
Using modern financial technology, basic income sent to recipients electronically. A simple direct deposit can be made to bank accounts by a computer algorithm. Those without bank accounts can be paid via a phone app or given a debit card. The entire process can be digital eliminating the need for physical government infrastructure and bureaucrats.
From a small government standpoint the best thing about a basic income is its simplicity. There is no need for means testing, bureaucrats, offices, brick and mortar buildings, applications, or forms. It can simply be sent to everybody. There is no need for social workers, forms, offices, or somebody to watch the poor to see if they are following the welfare state’s rules.
Requirements for basic income can be very simple; it might be distributed to everybody whose income is under $60,000 a year. Since we already have a government agency that knows how much most Americans make – the IRS; and another Social Security that does a great job dispersing cash to average Americans. No new bureaucracy would be needed for basic income.
It is no coincidence that most stubborn and aggressive resistance to the basic income comes from welfare-state bureaucrats. The social-services bureaucrats oppose basic income because they know it threatens their cushy jobs.
How the Basic Income can Strengthen Families
Every observant person knows that the American economy and society have become hostile to the traditional family.
The traditional 1950s family life; working dad, stay at home mom, two or three kids, house in suburbia, idolized by most conservatives is impossible for most modern Americans. Mom has to work to provide the two incomes needed to pay for the house and dad often has to work two jobs or a billion hours of overtime just to meet the mortgage payment. Children end up in daycare, and parents often have little time or energy left over for family activity. Some couples choose not to have kids because of the expense.
A correctly designed basic income might allow most American families to choose such a lifestyle. Mothers might be able to stay home because they were receiving basic income. Basic income for dad and the kids, they’re citizens too, so why not, might make possible to live a middle class lifestyle on a single income again.
Many couples would chose to have more kids if a basic income was available. A great way to encourage this would to pay parents a basic income for each of their children. Parents would also be able to spend more time with their kids, or in family oriented activities.
Another way basic income strengthens families is by allowing people to stay home and take care of elderly or disabled loved ones. Many people end up dumping their parents or grandparents in a nursing home, because they cannot afford to take time off from work to care for them. Others end up at the food bank because being a responsible child or parent does not pay in our society.
Beyond that many families fall apart because of the stress induced by the modern economy. Parents breakdown, turn to drugs or alcohol, or get divorced because of the stress created by poverty, and limited incomes. Kids’ minds get destroyed because parents are forced to turn to the TV or video games for babysitting.
Traditional families contribute the least to the GDP and are least valued in our market-driven culture, author and basic-income evangelist Rutger Bregman wrote in Utopia for Realists. Basic income can change that disturbing paradigm.
How Basic Income can preserve and Strengthen Traditional Communities and the Traditional Social Order
Both traditional communities and the traditional social order are fracturing because of our modern economy.
Vast numbers of people move away from their hometowns, extended families, and churches simply because there is money where they were born. Parents have to raise their kids far from the church, community, and family they want.
Local leaders are often forced to choose between “jobs” and preserving the community. For example allowing Walmart to open in town and kill Main Street in order to protect the tax base and keep the schools open. Another example is bringing in more tourist-oriented businesses in order to create “jobs” on Main Street and hopefully generate enough sales tax to pay for the fire truck.
Many people end up commuting for two or three hours a day and neglecting their families just to get a decent paycheck. Others find themselves in atomized cities or suburbs with no real social or cultural life because that is where the work is.
A basic income can alleviate some of these problems by providing a source of income not dependent on a “job.” Many Americans might choose to stay in the small town or rural area where they were born if they had a basic income available. For example, some college graduates might chose to teach at the high school in their old neighborhood or stay at the family farm if they had additional income.
Extended families and traditional religious groups might stay together if financial support was available for them. So would many traditional communities such as Native American tribes.
Can Basic Income Save Traditional Society and Traditional Lifestyles
Beyond that, basic income would strengthen religious, charity, cultural, and non-profit groups by giving more people the opportunity to concentrate on unpaid volunteer work. A person that wanted to devote himself to maintaining a historic church, or working with elderly shutins would have the freedom to do so.
An added benefit might be to help preserve traditional art and cultural forms such as classical music, poetry, live theater, and religious writing that are not always profitable. Also strengthened would be economically-threatened traditional lifestyles such as the family farm, ranching, the mom and pop shop, and the stay at home mom.
Some sort of basic income might be the key to preserving traditional American society, traditional culture, and traditional American communities. In the process it might strengthen traditional religions and values.
One obvious way basic income might achieve these would be enabling more parents to home school. If a basic income were available more parents might be able to stay home from work and teach their kids.
Basic Income is Freedom
The major reason why progressives and some conservatives fear basic income is that it can increase freedom. At the end of the day, basic income is about freedom.
This can include the freedom not to work at a job that violates your values. A person that did not want to sell certain products, serve a certain clientele, or offer certain services because of her religion might not have to if a basic income were available.
A basic income would give women the choice of whether to work or stay home with the kids. The woman herself and not the economy would make that decision.
It would also give more families the freedom to choose home schooling or private school for their kids. Some parents might be able to put their kids’ basic income towards private school. Other parents might afford to stay home and teach the kids.
A person that wanted to devote all of his time to his religion or faith-based work might have the freedom to do so. Those who refused to take part in the “jobs culture” for whatever reason would have the freedom to do so. Many more people might be able to devote themselves to pursuits like art, science, charity, research, scholarship, entrepreneurship, or philosophy.
People would have greater choice in deciding where they lived and how they lived. No longer would people have to leave their traditional communities and families in search of a “job.”
The increase in freedom is why many progressives fear the basic income. They understand correctly that basic income will lead to a society in which they will lose much of their power to force their values upon everybody else.
Some cultural conservatives will fear basic income for the same reason. They should not because a properly-designed basic income would make society more conservative. That is another reason why progressives fear the basic income.