Bryan Caplan  

The Widerquist-Caplan UBI Debate

Who stands in the way of popul... America: A dromedary, not a B...
I recently did another debate on the Universal Basic Income, this time on Public Square with Georgetown philosopher - and founder of the journal Basic Income Studies - Karl Widerquist.

To be honest, I was surprised by the path the debate took.  I expected Widerquist, a specialist, to run circles around me on the academic research, but he almost never discusses empirics.  Instead, he offered a radical critique of the very legitimacy of private property.  I'm not sure whether to call his view socialist or just Georgist, but Widerquist did put me in the strange position of debating a person even more at odds with mainstream thought than myself.

We did agree on open borders, though!  Enjoy.

COMMENTS (3 to date)
Charlie writes:

Like that beard.

Maximum Liberty writes:

Widerquist says (at about 3:23 to 3:41), referring to some time in the past:

Once the resources of the earth were available to everyone. We didn't necessarily live well then, but none of us were homeless; none of us were poor; none of us were poor in this sense of being not being able to access goods and resources: None of us were destitute."
Is he kidding? At the points in time when resources were "available to everyone," we were all hunter-gatherers living in small nomadic bands. EVERYONE was destitute compared to the "poor" in America, Europe, Japan, etc. Compare the standard of living of the poorest charity cases in the US to the increasingly rare surviving primitive societies on earth. I would take "poverty" in the US any day over "average" in such a society. This is that golden-age fallacy in the extreme.

Maximum Liberty writes:

My undergrad degree was in economic history. Widerquist seems to have a PhD in economic ahistory. At 6:36, he says:

... the way we got property is that government went around imposing duties on people. And they've imposed these things called property rights and they've given them to privileged people and the privileged people trade them.
Someone please introduce him to Douglass North or even Jared Diamond!

That's not where property came from. Property arose before the existence of anything we'd recognize as government. Property came about by original possession. Personal property (which preceded real property) came about by taking something from the wild. Individual or familial real property (as opposed to tribal hunting ranges) came about, as a practical matter, because people excluded others from land that they were farming or grazing. Excluding others means fighting them off. Protection of pre-existing property is one of the reasons that people accepted greater government. It had nothing to do with government strolling along and saying, "Hey, Joe, you get this land."

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top