"Give People Money," Annie Lowrey, Crown, 263 pages, $26.
Several recent books have provided good background briefings for what a U.B.I. could be, including “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work and Remake the World” by Annie Lowrey, a contributing editor for the Atlantic.
Her book gives an upbeat, though measured, assessment of the concept, whose early supporters included Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Nixon and Milton Friedman. She recommends that a U.B.I. be set at $1,000 a month for every American, because of the poverty definition by the U.S. government. If a U.B.I. replaced specific programs for the poor, goes the argument, it would also reduce government bureaucracy, minimize government interference in citizens’ lives and more.
By virtue of being available to all, a U.B.I. would establish a baseline for what membership in that society means. U.B.I.’s critics understandably worry that it would spur millions to drop out of the labor force. Lowrey musters substantial research to rebut these claims.
There also would need to be some sort of tax to pay for the $3.9 trillion a year cost, which is about $1.3 trillion more than existing welfare programs.
The argument continues that continued automatization of work would make up for the loss in workforce. A core challenge in the future will be how to avoid a greater chasm between the haves and have-nots. This is not just an economic challenge but also a political one. Sadly, Lowrey does not discuss how to deal with this paradox.
NEW YORK TIMES