SWF+UBD:the “dividend-based” UBI

More notes on a Universal Basic Income funded by dividends from a stock fund (like a sovereign wealth fund).  The article brings up an interesting objection to the idea (beyond the sheer cost): that by making everyone shareholders, we will be removing support from all the anti-shareholder activity that is actually necessary to make business behave in desirable ways, rather than the rapacious activity that is usually justified by invoking maximization of stock price as the ultimate good.

Which brings us really to the bloody heart of the controversy that surrounds this proposal. Maybe it is true that a dividend-devoted SWF could render redistributive taxation more palatable, but mightn’t the same enthusiasm trick the working class into acquiescing to predatory corporate behavior in the name of increased profitability? This is Mike Konczal’s most serious objection. If we imagine an Alaska-scale SWF, you can argue that this proposal would be a terrible own-goal for those of us concerned with remedying social stratification. The rich are always trying to persuade the rest that what’s good for the stock market is what’s good for America, what’s good for us all. That’s mostly a lie. Decimating labor unions was good for stock markets, good for profitability, but bad for any hope of an equal society. Fracking every goop of hydrocarbons out from the Earth might lead to outsized S&P 500 performance for a few years, but would end up being a bad deal for most of us. Concentration and monopoly power are good for profitability, but are terrible for almost everyone in their roles as consumer and worker, and are destructive of economic dynamism and growth. If everyone suddenly sees themselves as a shareholder — while the true benefits of shareholding continue to go disproportionately to the affluent — then the plan just becomes a warmed-over version of George W. Bush’s “ownership society”.

The author decides the resolution is the oversight afforded by our system of representative government, but observes:

“The coupling between political choices and the quality of actual outcomes is squishier than a spent condom”

Wow, nice prose.  Anyway: a good survey, and critique, of advances on my obviously non-original idea of funding UBI with stock.



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