The following article is a response to Elaine Power and Jamie Swift Respond.

Power and Swift conclude that the B.C. Expert Panel report “gives no indication that the themselves met with or spoke to anyone living on low incomes … Nor does it appear that Professor Richards spoke with any of the low-income people, often with complicated lives, who might benefit from basic income.” The expert panel did meet with many on low incomes, but maybe fewer than Power and Swift. The same applies to me. The basic income debate should not turn on counting the number of poor that we have met.

Power, Swift and I all agree that people living on low incomes “with complicated lives … might benefit from basic income.” I think more would benefit from the B.C. Expert Panel’s agenda of incremental reforms. Maybe I am wrong; maybe the B.C. panel is wrong. However, Power and Swift might have devoted a passage in their response to assessing the tradeoffs.

Central to my critique of basic income proposals is an argument, admittedly controversial, that communities in which transfer income becomes the major income source are prone in the long term to serious social dysfunction. In the early 1990s, the share of the Canadian population in receipt of social assistance exceeded 10 per cent, and long-term seasonal reliance on unemployment insurance (“lotto 10/42” – 10 weeks work, 42 weeks UI) was prevalent. These realities underlay work-oriented reforms to social assistance and unemployment insurance. In the United States, similar unintended consequences of intergenerational social assistance prompted President Clinton to accept work-oriented reforms to social assistance programming.

Power and Swift dismiss these issues as a “trope.” They make no mention of William Julius Wilson’s analysis of ghetto life in American cities, Case and Deaton’s “deaths of despair” analysis of opioid addiction, alcoholism and suicide among White working-class communities in the United States or exceptionally high suicide and homicide rates among Canadian First Nation communities in low employment regions.

Click to read the original article on the case for Basic Income, Work, Idleness and Basic Income, and the case against in Basic Income Provides Dubious Benefit at a High Cost. And while you’re here, check out the rest of the Basic Income Section in this issue of Inroads Journal!