Guaranteed Basic Income- Why Not?


-This Op-Ed was submitted by Crystal Johnson, patriot, wife, mother, and artist of Flathead County

Recently, I watched a Ted talk in which someone was floating the idea of a guaranteed basic income and even going so far as to assert that “the right to a basic income” is a “human right.” The speaker was so talented that he managed to set off all of my internal alarms at once and keep me awake all night in bed wondering how such a blessed and prosperous society can become so degenerate and ignorant in such a short time that it would consider-and even applaud- this kind of self-destructive ideology. I do understand why it’s so easy for some people to be deceived. Getting something for nothing appeals to the natural, mortal, animal instinct side in all of us. It’s more difficult to choose the higher road. We should turn around and run from this idea like it’s the Black Plague.

First, we need to understand what money is. What gives money its value? Is it made of really valuable paper? Can you eat it? Smoke it? The truth is, it’s valuable because most people accept it as a medium of exchange. Every dollar represents a dollars’ worth of products or services to us, so we can exchange it for those goods and services. If we create more goods and services and keep the same amount of currency, the currency will be worth more. If we create fewer products and offer fewer services, the money we have will be worthless.

Secondly, we need to know the difference between a right and a privilege. In the painstaking process of crafting our divinely-inspired constitution and later Bill of Rights, our Founders based their ideas on the premise that we each have a right to life, liberty, and property. Not a right to be handed each of these on a silver platter, but an opportunity to obtain and keep each of these by some combination of providence and individual effort. The danger of confusing rights with privileges comes when we demand things for ourselves that must be provided by someone else so that our demands begin to infringe on the fundamental rights of others.

Let’s say you enter into a contract with your neighbor John. You agree to trade the products you’ve made or the services you can provide for a certain amount of money. If you keep your contract, John has an obligation to pay you, or else he would be stealing what you have a right to claim.

But on the other hand, if there’s no contract and you aren’t giving anything to John, then he doesn’t have an obligation to give you his money.

Does this still apply if John has more money than you do? I mean, shouldn’t we be fighting injustice and inequality? There must be something wrong if John has more than you do! Right?

As unfair and infuriating as inequality can be, John doesn’t have an obligation to make you equal in wealth with him (although that would be very kind and generous of him, and he’s free to give you money if he’d like to.)

But you don’t have a right to take John’s money without working for it or without his consent. If you did, it would make John your victim and slave, and it would make you an oppressor and a thief.

Think about it. What is a slave if it isn’t someone who’s forced to work for someone else without compensation? As wealthy as John is, if you force him to work for you- to give you his earnings without compensation, you’ve just made him your slave. If you take his property or money without permission, he’s now your victim. If you say that’s impossible because slaves can’t be wealthy, then you might be onto something. In this kind of arrangement, he definitely won’t be wealthy for long.

Maybe you would like to change the basic premise that stealing is wrong? Maybe it should be legal and culturally acceptable if you’re stealing from a wealthy person as Robin Hood did?

The next problem we come to here is who has the right to decide how far we can go with stealing and how far is too far. God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” Pretty simple, right? But if we’re throwing that out the window, then who gets to make the new rule? You? Me? Oh, yeah, I forgot – if we get rid of “the truth,” then there are so many other options, like “your truth” and “my truth.” But what about John’s truth? Does John get to have truth? Of course not. He’s disqualified from that decision because he has more money, which is bad because inequality is the greatest evil. Right? Wrong. There are much worse things like civil war. If only you and I were protected by the law, and the law let us steal, but John wasn’t protected by anyone, then sooner or later, he’d have to figure out how to protect himself. Eventually, he might need to recruit his unprotected buddies to help him out. The lack of lawful protection might drive them to take the law into their own hands, and that could get ugly.

Also, if we’ve just legalized the act of stealing from wealthy people, then we’ve also made success a crime punishable by robbery. So no more success. No more “pursuit of happiness.”

“Okay, whoa,” you say. “You’re taking this too far.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t do all of that to John, personally,” you say. “I just think the government should make things more equal. And we should all have a guaranteed basic income.”

You’re right. That was getting a little extreme. Okay, so back to a basic income. In order to have a basic income -made out of dollars that represent goods and services- someone will need to create enough goods and services to equal your income. If you believe in established science, then you probably believe in the law of conservation of mass, which implies that matter cannot be created or destroyed? This scientific principle tells us that something cannot be created out of nothing, and it means that your monthly paycheck -representing an actual amount of goods or services- can’t be generated out of thin air, so someone will need to create it. I wonder who that should be. John? He has way more than enough. But we already covered that. No stealing. How about the government? Yeah, the government can make all that extra stuff.

Who exactly did you mean? Like, your Senator? Maybe he can weave some baskets while he’s sitting on the Senate floor waiting for filibusters to end. Good luck with that. Or maybe the lady at the DMV could take a second job as a telemarketer between issuing license plates. Where will the extra goods and services-the extra wealth- come from? We’re back to John again.

I know! We could get the government to raise his taxes and just use that to pay for our incomes.

Here’s the thing. That one document that outlines a representative government for the United States of America… It says that WE tell the government what to do. THEY work for US. Government is the servant “Of the People.” That’s why we call government officials “public servants.” If you were to pay and send your servant- your housekeeper or your landscaper or other employees to go rob your neighbor, John, instead of doing it yourself, would that make you guiltless? Of course not! You would hold some major responsibility for the crime. When citizens authorize the government to do things outside of what the Constitution says they can do, then they’re using the government as a shield to protect their crimes. The Constitution authorizes taxes to protect rights and promote liberty. Citizens should never allow the government to force their neighbors to pay for things that are wants or privileges, but not rights. That’s called legalized plunder.

Besides all of the inconveniences of ethics, let’s get practical for a minute. John’s savings might help you out for now, but how long will it last when spread equally among all of the neighbors who will soon be binge-watching Netflix to celebrate their new “guaranteed” income? How long do you think we can guarantee this? Maybe we should do the math before we give up all our jobs and businesses to live on John’s savings.

And let’s not forget, if we authorize our government to enslave John for us, then next week, when his savings are gone, John can require that same government to do the same with us. Eventually, the culture becomes one of demanding stuff instead of making stuff, and with no more makers, we all run out of wealth.

No Liberty. No success. No more goods or services. No food, clothing, or shelter. But equal. Equally miserable, but equal. So yeah, I guess there’s that. Is that what you wanted? Please say it’s not.


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  1. Better to ed it “Is that what your wanted? Likely not, you couldn’t want that, you didn’t actually take universal basic income to its logical conclusion, which is universal abject poverty.”


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