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Is Universal Basic Income a good idea?
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UBI does not reduce incentives to work

UBI benefits are not withdrawn if a person works, so work is not disincentivized. UBI allows people more economic stability to pursue other fulfilling work: entrepreneurship, arts, child-raising, or higher education.


A major criticism to UBI is that providing income to people for free will incentivize them to not work. Less people working will hurt the economy. Less people working will cause more chaos in society, but most importantly, disincentivizing work will deprive people of a purpose in life. Critics of UBI who cite the issue of disincentivized work are mainly concerned that UBI will cause people to stop working permanently.[1]

The Argument

UBI does not reduce incentives to work. A conditional welfare system with negative income tax disincentivizes people to work because as a person's income increases, benefits decrease. This system contributes to the poverty trap. Since UBI is unconditional regardless of income, UBI does not discourage work. Results from preliminary studies to test the effectiveness of UBI suggest that people who received a guaranteed minimum income did not stop working.[2] Instead, part-time employment increased.[3] Another study showed that people pursued work more flexibly and some pursued education.[4] Results from these studies show that people use their guaranteed income to improve their lives and economic positions rather than stop working. If people find work fulfilling, then a guaranteed minimum income will not cause them to stop working. Instead, UBI allows people to pursue jobs that are more fulfilling even though the job pays less. These jobs could be in entrepreneurship (founding a company, opening a restaurant) or the arts (managing and working at a community theater, organizing community arts programs).[5] Thus, UBI does not affect the labor supply and allows people to pursue more fulfilling lives.

Counter arguments

People will always take the path of least resistance. If people begin to receive cash unconditionally, they will take advantage of the opportunity to do less work. The labor supply will decrease. The more people are able to do what they want—whether to make art, take care of family, or simply relax and work less—the more chaotic society will become. With more freedom from an income floor, people will choose to do what is easier for themselves rather than what is best for society or the workforce.[6]



People are inherently lazy. People do not work hard without motivation.


[P1] UBI benefits are not dependent on income level. [P2] People want to work because work is fulfilling. [P3] UBI does not disincentivize people to work; it allows people to work more flexibly.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] People will always take the easy way out and will choose not to work if income from UBI is enough for them.

Further Reading

The following study by Ionna Marinescu under the Roosevelt Institute explores how unconditional, guaranteed minimum income affected recipients in three experiments.


This page was last edited on Monday, 31 Aug 2020 at 21:43 UTC

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