Charles Murray

Paying people to not work still means they won’t work

There’s an old economic saw that goes: If you pay a couch potato to sit on his ass, he’ll keep his rear-end parked firmly in front of the TV.

OK, so maybe the proverb didn’t mention slothfulness and prat. The more well-known version concerns fish and pedagogy. But I think the lesson needs an update in light of an increasingly popular welfare ruse.

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, social theorist Charles Murray proposes the ultimate form of the dole: a guaranteed income for all adult Americans. “The UBI [universal basic income] is an idea whose time has finally come, but it has to be done right,” he writes. How does one give away loads of free money “right,” you ask? By eliminating the entire welfare state, including Social Security and Medicare. Rather than have the less-well-off jump through bureaucratic hurdles trying to get food stamps, Medicaid, section 8 housing, and Obamaphones, just cut them a check and cut out the middleman.

“Under my UBI plan,” Murray notes, “the entire bureaucratic apparatus of government social workers would disappear, but Americans would still possess their historic sympathy and social concern.” The concern would be replaced with a faceless monthly bank deposit, presumably debited on the “1st of tha Month.”

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