I am not in the business of political discourse to achieve some utopian vision for the sake of some distant future generation. The worst outcome I would be happy with is a substantial improvement in the conditions of life for my child by the time it’s my age. 30 years is soon enough for a baby due in June to really enjoy adulthood, and soon enough for me to have a great retirement too. That is my reward for all the hard work I’m doing now.
Yesterday at Liberty League’s Freedom Forum I saw pro-liberty activists giving the time of day to the Citizen’s Basic Income. The policy promises, not implausibly, to fix some of the stupid consequences, as James Bartholemew put it, of the current welfare system which are ample, real and serious. Could it work? Perhaps. The most serious practical obstacle to the policy is that it would incentivise idleness and reduce the tax base available to pay for it, and it would be expensive. I am, however, utterly uninterested in the detail because engaging in such talk is to consider the terms of your surrender.
You might consider the CBI to be a tactical and pragmatic retreat from dogmatic principle that would save lives and achieve some short term improvement in the social condition. I do not dispute that, but it is also a strategic blunder that surrenders the core principles of this movement: self-ownership and non-aggression. Not only do you risk an epic schism, but if you concede that self-ownership is open to compromise, then the only remaining matter for negotiation is the tax rate. You’ve lost the argument already, and it will take hundreds of years to get back into the ascendancy and have another go.
It is also an unnecessary retreat. From the principled high-ground we are on now, several other policies might achieve similar ends without involving any retreat from principle:
- Creating a demand for concierge medicine, also known as direct care, to supplement the GP system.
- Reform of health service rules to allow private health companies to refer patients to NHS specialists.
- Educational voucher systems (which I notice the speaker yesterday also advocated)
- Privatised bin collection, burglary investigation and parking management services
- Sponsored food-banks
- Micro finance, crowd funding and community loans for training and study
- The transformation of job centres into ultra-local friendly societies by reforming the tax system.
Some of those are not what we normally think of as welfare, others are, but all of them are possible without retreating from principle, all are possible for a rag tag army of individuals to make progress on, and all will show the weakness of state solutions.
Later: Andy Bolton has more detail. TL;DR, but promising.