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Libertarians For (and Against) Safety Nets

In particular, some form of the Basic Income.  Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians makes the case for, including a couple of different forms it might take, and quotes from both Friedman and Hayek in support of the idea:

Both Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek advocated for something like a Basic Income Guarantee as a proper function of government, though on somewhat different grounds. Friedman’s argument comes in chapter 9 of his Capitalism and Freedomand is based on the idea that private attempts at relieving poverty involve what he called “neighborhood effects” or positive externalities. Such externalities, Friedman argues, mean that private charity will be undersupplied by voluntary action.

[W]e might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance.

And so, Friedman concludes, some “governmental action to alleviate poverty” is justified. Specifically, government is justified in setting “a floor under the standard of life of every person in the community,” a floor that takes the form of his famous “Negative Income Tax” proposal.

David Henderson of EconLog disagrees, targeting, in particular, Zwolinski’s argument that this helps redress past injustices.  Henderson argues that it’s both poorly-targeted and overkill for that purpose.

And James Pethokoukis weighs in with a reminder of the human benefits – and potential costs – of how it’s currently constructed.


Posted in Economics.