I have discussed the notion of a universal basic income several times. I always focus on a negative income tax ~ an idea proposed, mainly, by the Nobel Prize-winning conservative economist Milton Friedman. As explained by the Sloan School of Management at the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “This structure is designed so that people who work will always make more than people who don’t, which would ideally incentivize people to work. While someone who makes a little money — but not enough to pay income tax — will receive less from a negative income tax than someone who doesn’t make any money, overall, the person earning more will have more. The goal with a negative income tax is that no one is destitute, and earning even a small salary is always preferable to earning nothing.” That is the key take-away: “people who work will always make more than people who don’t.” If that is not the key aspect of the system then it will make matters worse, not better.
I know that some people who profess to be conservatives disagree with the idea of a negative income tax and even more with the notion of a guaranteed annual income but it seems to me that one cannot disagree with Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and still claim to be a conservative. It’s about the same as claiming to be a Conservative yet disagreeing with Benjamin Disraeli, Sir John A Macdonald, Sir Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Stephen Harper. It’s simply not a credible place to stand.
The Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on National Finance has looked at the Trudeau regime’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and concludes that it comes up short. The committee said that the “emergency spending powers the government gave itself in March should not be extended when they expire in September.” I agree with that fully. Those powers should never have been granted for a day, much less for six months. More importantly, the Senate committee said that the government should “target its key income-support programs on the economic recovery,” and “Ottawa and the provinces should consider a universal basic income as a longer-term option.” Provided they mean a Friedman style of programme, wherein “no one is destitute, and earning even a small salary is always preferable to earning nothing …[and] … people who work will always make more than people who don’t,” then all Conservatives should get behind this.
The key political constituency in 21st century Canada is neither the urban cores nor the suburbs, it is people, not places, it is the precariat and the blue-collar-conservatives (many of whom, coincidentally, reside in the suburbs) and both groups need the sort of financial certainty that a
universal basic income guaranteed annual income negative income tax can provide … if it is well designed on rock-ribbed conservative principles.