Finland, Finland, Finland. The country where I quite want to be.
Finland’s government is drawing up plans to pay every citizen a basic income of euros 800 ($1,165) each month, scrapping benefits altogether.
Under proposals drafted by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela), the tax-free payments would replace all other benefit payments, and would be paid to all adults regardless of whether or not they receive any other income.
While it may sound counterintuitive, the basic income is intended to encourage more people back to work in Finland, where unemployment is at record levels. At present, many unemployed people would be worse off if they took on low-paid temporary jobs due to loss of welfare payments.
These days I am generally in the middle of about 30 books at a time. (I never did this before Kindle and audiobooks but it works out.) One of the books I am reading is Charles Murray’s In Our Hands : A Plan To Replace The Welfare State.
Murray proposes that we give everyone a guaranteed minimum income of about $10,000 a year. (Murray wrote the book in 1997.)(Economics nerds will recall that Milton Friedman proposed something very much like this.) Then, Murray says, we would scrap all other transfer payments, period. Something like a third of that is supposed to go to health care. (Well, Mr. Murray, we pretty much did that part with ObamaCare!)
I’m about halfway done and remain utterly unconvinced. But Charles Murray is a very credible writer. (I am also in the middle of Losing Ground, and What It Means to Be a Libertarian is sitting on my shelf, asking what it takes to be part of the 30-book rotation.) I’ll admit that Murray makes some interesting points, even if (halfway in) he has not begun to convince me. If you’re totally committed to ultra-compromise and throwing common-sense principles out the door, he makes a decent case that his system of handouts might be better than the crummy system of handouts we have right now.
But . . . I don’t think so. I’m still trying to keep an open mind, but I’ll admit that the idea of handing people money for nothing — even as a “realistic” alternative to our present welfare system — really rankles.
The part I am waiting to see him address is: what about when people accept your system and then want all the previous benefits back too? Or when they say things like: “How do you expect Americans to live on $10,000 a year?” or other spoiled, entitled crap like that.
I’m happy to see the experiment running in another country. By the time we start to see how it’s working in Finland, I’ll be done with Murray’s book — and I’ll get a chance to whack him across the head for his silly idea . . . or maybe to eat some crow.
I really doubt I’ll be eating any crow. But life is funny. You never know.