At the risk of sounding presumptuous, my suspicion is that most JG supporters (possibly including you) are really UBI supporters. In your master’s thesis summary, for example, you suggest paying people to raise young children in their household. Of course this is the general expectation of families, so why not just give them the money? We already have Child Protective Services for families that fail this duty. Every day people do things to benefit their community without explicit pay, and trying to fit everything into something qualifying as a “job” takes the magic out of it. Giving everyone money acknowledges that people generally do good things, regardless of their official employment situation.

It seems like your point that JG and UBI are complementary relies on the assumption that both would simplify the safety net. This is obvious for UBI, but I’m not convinced it would be the case for JG. Tens of millions of households benefit from some sort of antipoverty program, so for JG to replace those would absolutely necessitate make-work. There just aren’t that many bridges to build, and robots will be doing that soon anyway. If it’s just a partial program, e.g. for young people like EYAN, then it only adds to the complexity of our current safety net web.

Removing EITC’s phase-in to look more like negative income tax would be great. Creating a job guarantee program — which may be the most expensive way to help people if the work isn’t needed, while reinforcing the centrality of jobs as we move toward automation — is pretty much antithetical to this good idea though. Perhaps the UBI and JG crowds can agree on the importance of universality (though JG is only universal for those who can work), but that’d be about it.

Written by

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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