Adding to an already stacked line-up of speakers at Students For Liberty’s 10th anniversary conference, Bryan Caplan will debate Will Wilkinson on a vital question: “Should libertarians support a Universal Basic Income?” Bryan Caplan is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University as well as the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, which was named “best political book of the year” in the New York Times. Will Wilkinson is the vice president of policy at the Niskanen Center, and former U.S. politics correspondent for The Economist.

The idea of a UBI is not a clearly socialist scheme. Indeed, Finance Minister of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state Haseeb Drabu, operating under a mixed economy, suggested replacing existing social welfare with direct transfers of money from the government into citizens’ bank accounts. Although some versions of this idea may fit within a libertarian platform, many question the policy’s potential to expand government jurisdiction and further entrench dependence on the welfare state.

Not only does Caplan respond with “an emphatic no” to the idea of a UBI, he contends that: “not only libertarians, but liberals, conservatives, and reality-based socialists should oppose this populist earworm.” In this golden age of knowledge, the idea of a UBI might be argued from the standpoint of allowances among shareholders or payments which decrease as income rises. This could, however, disincentivize many from working to increase their income.

Wilkinson doesn’t think the evidence bears this out. He asks: “If work requirements have such great symbolic value in propping up our culture’s commitment to work, then why have so many men dropped out of the labor market?” In other words, we’ve tried to support the least fortunate in ways that encourage work, and have seen the opposite effects. Wouldn’t a UBI be simpler (and less market-distorting) than the complicated systems we’re dealing with today?

No matter where you stand on this hot-button issue, you’re sure to enjoy this debate between two of the liberty movement’s greatest minds. Don’t miss this intriguing philosophical debate, only at ISFLC.

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