Duh? Harvard Study Finds Universal Basic Income Discourages Work, Harms Recipients

P. Gardner Goldsmith | July 26, 2022
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In a new study that offers answers about the negative effects – but avoids the inverted ethics -- of Universal Basic Income, researchers at Harvard University and the University of Exeter (UK) actually present readers with one big, umbrella question: “You needed a study to figure this out?

Entitled, “How Effective Is (More) Money? Randomizing Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) Amounts in the US” (replacing “UBI” with "UCT"), and released July 5, its four authors studied 5,000 participants over the course of 15 weeks, and split their focus to compare three groups:

“…(one) receiving a one-time $500 unconditional cash transfer (UCT; half a month’s worth of total household income for the median participant; N=1,374), a $2,000 UCT (two months’ income; N=699), or nothing (N=3,170). We measured the effects of the UCTs on participants’ financial well-being, psychological well-being, cognitive capacity, and physical health through surveys administered one week, six weeks, and 15 weeks after cash receipt…”

They even observed bank account balances for 43 percent of participants, who, we can assume, volunteered the access, since Harvard and Exeter can’t do what government does, and simply tell banks to cough up people’s private banking info.

And in their abstract, they tell us the expected results:

“While the cash transfers increased expenditures for a few weeks, we find no evidence that they had positive impacts on our pre-specified survey outcomes at any time point. We further find no significant differences between the $500 and $2,000 groups.”

And there’s another dimension to the expected results, because the researchers (Ania Jaroszewicz of Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences, Jon Jachimowicz of Harvard University Organizational Behavior Unit, Oliver Hauser of University of Exeter Business School Department of Economics, and Julian Jamison of University of Exeter) also note what many conservatives and libertarians have been discussing as an associated facet of this socialist policy pill.

“These findings stand in stark contrast to the (incentivized) predictions of both experts and a nationally representative sample of laypeople…”

Those “experts” and “laypeople” include high-profile politicians like former Democrat Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, leftie banner-carrier George McGovern, who pushed it during his 1972 presidential campaign, then-President Richard Nixon (who considered it along with a lot of other dumb ideas that he DID institute, like his fascist “wage and price controls” that eviscerated job opportunities for low-skilled Americans, pushed employers to outsource to other nations, and, in the case of the price controls, destroyed the incentives for suppliers to actually maintain supplies of products), “techie” federal government-subsidy recipient Elon Musk, Facebook technocrat Mark Zuckerberg, and even the sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great, economist Milton Friedman, who called it a “negative income tax” (and seems to have influenced Nixon to be attracted to the idea).

In the '70s, proponents pushed the scheme as a way to reshape the growing landscape of federal welfare handouts -- which, by 2019, had expanded to 80 kinds of direct welfare payments, not to mention college loans, below-market-rate home mortgages, moral-hazard-inspiring bank insurance (another bad idea that Dr. Friedman embraced, and later acknowledged that it backfired), corporate bailouts, “public-private partnerships,” tariffs against foreign competitors, handouts to states, the 2020 CARES Act provision allowing the Federal Reserve to directly buy corporate debt (without telling people), the military-industrial-welfare network, direct support for news outlets via the Portman-Murphy “Countering Foreign Propaganda Act”, and much more.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many self-important “bright bulbs” in the political sphere picked up the banner of government welfare and used George H. W. Bush’s lame term for handouts, “Peace Dividend,” to promote them.

Related: Bankrupt Stockton CA To Offer 'Universal Basic Income' | MRCTV

But as the “tech sector” blossomed, the “free money” drug pushers adopted a different rhetorical tack, arguing the luddite line that technological developments would permanently push people out of work, and that the high productivity provided by tech companies should be redistributed in the form of “Universal Basic Income” to the people that, they erroneously claimed, would be “permanently dislocated” from work.

It was kind of like the elitist bloviating we heard in 2016 from former New York Mayor and “progressive” (i.e. socialist) Michael Bloomberg, who infamously implied that it took little skill to farm or handle industrial equipment like a metal lathe, and that politicians had better come up with ways to supplicate workers in those sectors who might be supplanted by tech, before they start “setting up the Guillotine” one day.

What a guy.

And this new study is not really offering new info, because anyone who has read the work of economist-historian Thomas Sowell, or economist Walter Williams, or historian David Beito, or thought about the perverse incentives towards sloth, indolence, and socio-economic stasis that welfarism creates, or anyone who has LOOKED at areas of the US that shower massive welfare packages on residents, knows that when the state furnishes people with money, those people embrace entropy. They don’t bother working to improve their station. They don’t bother trying to find ways to offer their neighbors items and services that might help their own lives. Recipients often adopt an entitlement mentality, amplifying that with a false notion that they have been “wronged” by a racist or sexist (or other “ist”) society that owes them the “reparations.” They don’t improve their lives.

As Thomas Sowell wrote in 2015:

“Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s.”

And the evidence, both in the US and in the UK, Sowell observes, is that welfarism – on a practical level -- is poison.

Why relabel it? Why apply a new name to the same snake oil? Heck, as noted, welfare payments from the government aren’t just useless, like some bogus tonic a charlatan might sell from town to town before his reputation gets ahead of him, it’s destructive, harming the recipient and the person who’s forced to cough-up the cash.

The government of Stockton, California, is only halfway into its silly and sad two-year “UBI” experiment, and, already, the failure resulting from the moral fraud is clear.

Heck, Mr. Bloomberg might have been too busy looking down his nose at people to discover that, last year (almost to the day), his own news service published a piece by Allison Schrager in which she covered reams of real-world and scholarly info about UBI. That was a story with the subtitle:

“In a new study, a reliable flow of free money prompted people to take easier, lower-wage jobs, which would hurt our youngest workers most.”

After millennia of human history, family traditions, advice, learning, productivity gains, trade, religious instruction, and the evidence of societies worldwide, haven’t enough people figured out that self-improvement relies not only on hopes, but on the carrots and sticks that real-world risk, benefit, and loss provide?

Do we really need studies to tell us that insulating people from the pain of their own indolence is a flagrantly bad idea, and that people endeavor to do better, to offer more to others, when they can profit and lose based on the ethics of their behavior?

It’s not ethical to steal, and the idea of government doing it, ostensibly for “good reasons” doesn’t excuse it, in the least. Even if UBI were to lead to some kind of “practical positive” among its recipients, it still would be immoral and worthy of utter condemnation.

Just like those who push it.

Related: No Crisis Goes to Waste: MSNBC Uses Corona to Push Universal Basic Income | MRCTV