Immigration

Some preliminary thoughts I have about our current immigration system:

We are a nation of immigrants.

It is not wrong for our country to enforce immigration laws.

Occasionally I hear that Americans have no right to enforce our immigration laws because we are living on land stolen from Native Americans.  The history of how this country was formed is indeed filled with horrible, bloody tales of murder, pillage, theft and the like.  However, it would be wrong to single out America as if it was the only country guilty of this crime when pretty much the map of the whole world is what it is because of the wars that our ancestors waged and they are set the way that they are because of the treaties we made with one another.

Even among the Native American tribes themselves, they waged war against one another before Europeans came for control of territory.

It is difficult to give out justice for the crimes made by our ancestors, and so I feel it would be much more helpful and productive if we were to just work with the system that we have now.  Treaties and the rule of law help provide moral constraint of our violent instincts, and I would wish we would default to moral diplomacy and conversation as much as possible.

Sometimes I hear we should not respect the rule of law in this case because the law is being used to justify dehumanizing people.

Bear in mind: laws are codified ideas. Behind every law is an idea.

Behind the Fugitive Slave Act is the concept of slavery: humans can be treated as property.

Behind our Immigration laws is the concept of legal and illegal immigrants: we will accept immigrants if they are willing to respect the laws, customs, and process we have in place, although there is room for change to our system if need be.

To say that identifying an individual as an undocumented immigrant is the same moral equivalent of calling someone a slave in terms of dehumanization is just wrong.

Consider our concept of private property.

If a stranger comes to your front door, asking for food, water, and shelter, you have the right to accept or reject the stranger’s claim.  You can get to know the stranger a little better, especially since the person kindly asked at the front door of your house, and you are more likely to welcome them into your house.  As a guest in your house, they are willing to submit to your house rules as you treat them with hospitality.  Ideally this is how legal immigration should operate.

However, illegal/undocumented immigration are those strangers who do not come at the front door of your house, they jump over the fence into your backyard demanding that you give them food, water, and shelter.  This would be extremely discourteous to you the homeowner, and this unwelcome guest would be acting like a thief in the night.

In other words, saying that calling someone an undocumented immigrant is essentially the same as saying that they are unwelcome guests which is a far cry from dehumanizing their human dignity which is what slavery did.

Now of course with our current immigration laws on the books, the status of undocumented immigrants has a lot of grey areas.

Undocumented immigrants can include the following (not a comprehensive list):
-immigrants who have no documents in their possession but still cross the borders into our country
-immigrants who have a tourist visa and overstay their visit in this country (sometimes accidental and sometimes intentional)
-immigrants who are applying for legal immigration but have not obtained news about the outcome of their application

Personally, I am open to immigration reform, there can always be ways to change our immigration laws to make the process more accessible and humane for people seeking to live in our country.   Some examples I have in mind for now: families should be kept together, there should be more courts to handle immigration applications, greater education to potential applicants for the naturalization process, etc.

Don’t Waste Your Life

I just listened to an audio podcast by Pastor John Piper regarding his famous “seashells sermon” in Memphis.  The podcast instantly reminded me of when Hanley and other youth counselors gave me Piper’s book, “Don’t Waste Your Life” at the conclusion of my high school career and before I started my college career.

Piper’s book has become a staple graduation gift handed out to tens of thousands of high school and college graduates, and I suppose I should count myself among those graduates as well.

In the book, Piper recounts how an old man said, “I’ve wasted it. I’ve wasted it,” after sitting on the front pew in his father’s evangelistic crusade after he had pled with him to receive Christ.  The account brought to the forefront of my mind the rather pressing question about whether or not I was living my life in the direction that would bring it meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

Then Piper brought up the verse from Galatians 6:14, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  He exegeted the verse to mean that the cross is the foundation and the central glory of grace and every moment of our lives.  In other words, it is because of the cross that believers are entitled to God’s blessings through both the good and the bad in their lives.  We have no legal standing with God without the cross.

The famous seashell illustration that Piper draws for his audience has to do with defining what a tragic life is.

“What is a tragedy? I’ll tell you what a tragedy is. Two healthy fifty-somethings wasting their lives collecting shells. That’s a tragedy.” That’s a sentence that everybody remembers — shell collecting. “Look, Jesus, here’s my shell collection that I gathered for you in the last twenty years of my God-given life not to be wasted on your account.”

When I first encountered that passage as a high school graduate, the message resonated hard with me.  I felt disillusioned with the American dream, mainly because I felt it fails to deliver on the promises it claims to keep.  I did not want to spend my life pursuing comfort for the sake of comfort, but I wanted to pursue something that would bring meaning and fulfillment to my life at the time, even if that pursuit came at some amount of risk and hardship.

The conclusion I came to at the time was that if Christ purchased my life with His blood, then it is only suitable that I should live my life for His glory, walking in the same Calvary path as He walked, and loving others even at great cost to myself just as He did Himself.

Now some 6 years later, I am finished with my college career and am about to start my 3rd year of osteopathic medical school.  It has been a long and arduous road, and I still remain committed to my desire to live a fulfilling life for Christ’s sake, and avoid wasting my life, as much as I possibly can.

Medicine is a profession that involves a lot of sacrifice.  You have to sacrifice a lot of free time, energy, and sleep to dedicate yourself to a craft that seeks to bring healing to others.  You miss out on a lot of fun hobbies that others may pursue, and also may miss out on opportunities to celebrate weddings, birthdays, promotions with friends and families as you pursue your career.  The fear of missing out occasionally becomes an ever-present temptation to hold at bay.

Even so I do not regret my decision.  I chose medicine as a manifestation of my loyalty to King Jesus.  It would be great to have others who shared the same passion as I do, as medicine can feel like a lonely road at times unless you have someone who shares the same values as you.  Even so, just as God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because He was with him, I know I can count on God in Christ Jesus to do the same for me.  I want to live my life well, and I will strive to see that goal through to the very end.

Thoughts on the Arizona Teacher Strike

https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2018/04/05/arizona-teacher-strike-hurts-kids-spend-money-better/482859002/

As the above article points out, Arizona school teachers go on a strike in an effort to regain taxpayer funds for public education.

A NY Times writer, Paul Krugman, believes that a number of state governments fell into the hands of “extreme right-wing ideologues,” who are trying to usher in a low-tax, small-government, libertarian utopia.

He states some Republicans have been willing to learn from experience, reverse tax cuts and restore education funding.  But he also notes all too many are responding the way Matt Bevin, the conservative Republican governor of Kentucky, did: “Instead of admitting, even implicitly, that they were wrong, they’re lashing out, in increasingly unhinged ways, at the victims of their policies.”1

I agree with Mr. Krugman that perhaps some Republican politicians should better relate to their constituents with respect to the issue of public education funding.  I do not agree necessarily with his proposal to reverse tax cuts and restore education funding that way.  I would like to see education funding in public schools, but it should be done through voluntary community donations and not through mandatory taxpayer money.

As Republican leaders push for school choice, they will inevitably invite backlash from those who support the status quo of public education.  I would prefer that conservatives do not retreat from their long support of school choice, but rather that they recognize that reformers have erred in casually ascribing critiques of dysfunctional big-city systems to all of the nation’s 14,000 districts.  Such a view would recognize two legitimate, competing visions of localism – one geographic, and one voluntary/market-based.  Both have much to recommend them.

Practically speaking, this would mean the following, as proposed by a writer from the National Review:

First, approach school choice as part of an education agenda rather than the sum of it. For instance, career and technical education has such appeal because it’s an inclusive, practical way to address a real concern of countless families — whether their kids will be prepared for the world of work. Expanding online options and dual-enrollment models are examples of choice-based reforms that could complement local systems.

Second, promote school choice with an eye to respecting, rather than slighting, concerns about how “disruption” can upend communities. This means talking about school closures as regrettable, not a bloodless consequence of vibrant markets. It means empathizing with, rather than ridiculing, suburban parents concerned that school choice might disrupt their communities. And it means acknowledging that conventional notions of school choice are frequently a poor answer for much of rural America, where the next-closest junior high might be 40 miles away.

Third, seek policy solutions that respect the healthy desire for both community and choice. For example, some cities have allowed charter schools to employ “neighborhood preferences,” meaning the school remains primarily choice-based but local families have a better shot of getting in. And in New Orleans, most of the charter schools are now overseen by an elected board. While the details matter immensely, there’s real value in seeking ways to empower families while also respecting geographic communities.

Lastly, part of what fuels nervousness about school choice is the sense that communities and their heritage are being sacrificed in the service of some grand policy agenda. This concern can be strongest in conservative communities. In smaller towns, when they talk about schools, residents and community leaders frequently bring up the importance of high-school sports or the ways that elementary schools help bring new parents into community networks. State and local leaders working to expand school choice should explore ways to protect the civic goods offered by local systems, for example by permitting students in choice-based schools to participate in the sports teams of traditional public schools and encouraging partnerships that enable alternative and traditional schools to cooperatively raise funds for good causes and host community activities.2

To summarize the above points:
-approach school choice as a supplement to public education as opposed to a replacement
-respect that transitioning to school choice will raise understandable concerns and politicians should do what they can to comfort their constituents with the transition.
-politicians and their constituents should seek policy solutions that respect both the local community and choice; in other words, treat public education and school vouchers as “both-and,” instead of an “either-or” situation.
-State and local leaders working to expand school choice should explore ways to protect the civic goods offered by local systems and encourage partnerships that enable alternative and traditional schools to cooperatively raise funds for good causes and host community activities.

Also as I already alluded to earlier, public schools could benefit from private citizens in the form of parent-teacher associations, instead of asking the government to provide the funds to support their education.  Parents, especially the affluent ones, should be able to contribute to their public schools if they choose to do so.  That’s the idea behind school vouchers, if I understand the idea properly.  School vouchers are essentially tax money given back to parents, and they can decide how they wish to spend that money, whether it’s back in their local public school or in an alternative school that would teach their child better.

I would also support the idea that parents could partner with schools in less affluent areas and forge a fellowship over time.  As one writer said, “In better understanding that public education extends beyond the five-mile radius of their communities, parents might be willing to share a portion of their considerable resources and social capital to benefit other kids.”3

I love the idea behind school choice, but its proponents, especially among state and local officials, should approach school reform in a manner that’s sensitive to the concerns that their constituents have as we transition from a nearly monopolized public education system to a more innovative one.

In addition, I would propose that public schools seek public fundraising campaigns from their local communities through parent-teacher associations and other non-profit organizations.  I would even invite parents from other school districts to consider donating funds to provide school supplies to students who live in less well-off school districts.  I would much prefer this approach to raise money for public education over asking the government to raise taxes.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/opinion/teachers-protest-education-funding.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage
  2. https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018/03/19/education-reform-local-schools-key/
  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/01/rich-parents-school-inequality/431640/

A Biblical Perspective on UBI

I think Christians should consider the UBI from the perspective that 2 Corinthians 8-9 provides.

Speaking of the Macedonian believers, Paul states, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints – and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5)

Christians should be known as a people that are zealous to give generously. In a sense, giving and contributing to a UBI-like system is a matter of conscience, but the Christian faith is peculiar in that our personal preferences are involved as well.

If we are truly redeemed by Christ through the acceptance of the gospel, then the Spirit should be working on our desires so that our personal preferences gradually conform to the moral expectations set upon us by God through our conscience.

John Piper stated it quite beautifully, “There is built into the Christian faith an inner impulse by the Holy Spirit through the gospel to make sacrifices so that others have their needs met. And there is no such impulse built into human nature or the human heart apart from God’s grace. It is so vital that this kind of love and mercy and sacrifice be free and uncoerced that this is laid down as a principle by Paul in 2 Corinthians 9 and by Peter in 1 Peter 5 as he instructs the elders.”

The UBI, in principle, sounds much like the scene portrayed in 2 Corinthians Chapter 8 where Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to participate in the relief of the saints in Jerusalem.

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Cor 8:13-15)

One of the assumptions behind the UBI is the idea that even when some of our neighbors are working several odd-jobs at once, they still cannot make ends meet, and so they do not even meet the national poverty line.

Ideally, Christians should spearhead the effort to mobilize churches and influence the greater society to form non-profit organizations that are dedicated to supplying the need of our less fortunate neighbors.

Covenant Church already did something similar to what I have in mind: https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Local-Church-Donates-100000-Eliminates-10-Million-in-Medical-Debt-478514693.html

The Bible does describe an economic redistribution between the rich and the poor, but the key difference between what the Bible describes and what people like Andrew Yang have in mind, is that the economic redistribution in the Bible is voluntary, while Andrew Yang’s idea involves coercion.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:6-8)

As one can plainly see, God prefers voluntary donations from believers who want to give. Taxes, by their very nature, are coercive and compulsive, because if you do not pay them, you will face repercussions from the IRS.  Socialism is essentially economic redistribution accomplished through coercion.

Piper stated the case well: “In other words, Socialism borrows the compassionate aims of Christianity in meeting people’s needs while rejecting the Christian expectation that this compassion not be coerced or forced.”

The primary reason that God prefers voluntary donations is because such actions are a reflection of His own character:

As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 Cor 9:9)

Christians should consider ways to support the well-being of their less well-off neighbors whenever possible because such actions have a missional flavor to them and bring glory to God. Voluntary generous donations also help our neighbors see that our ultimate treasure is in Christ (“confession of the gospel of Christ”), and not in our riches. Ideally, our generosity will attract them to the riches of Christ Himself.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor 9:11-15)

As for 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat,” yes, this sentiment should be included in our considerations for how we help our neighbors.

There is a particularly helpful case study in 1 Timothy Chapter 5 where Paul tells Timothy to make a distinction between deserving widows and undeserving widows:
“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” (1 Tim 5:16)

Included among his instructions is the following statement: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim 5:8)

So we should do what we can to supply the needs of our poor neighbors, but not in such a way that we enable them to live an idle life. Just as Paul told Timothy to “care for those who are truly widows,” we should “care for those who are truly needy,” as opposed to those who are not actively searching for a job. Therefore we should have an administrative program that can effectively screen people and distinguish those who are already working jobs but still cannot make ends meet from those who are not seeking a job.

Bottom line: A UBI is one way that Christians can demonstrate their generosity as we could invest our resources into helping genuinely needy people. Voluntary donations help our neighbors see that our treasure is in Christ, reflect God’s generosity, and attract our neighbors to Christ. We need to discern between genuinely needy individuals and those who are living an idle life.

For further reflection:
Ask Pastor John podcast: “How Should Christians Think About Socialism”:
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-should-christians-think-about-socialism

On Universal Basic Income

Andrew Yang, UBI, and the VAT

A friend of mine pointed this article out to me: http://www.yomyomf.com/entrepreneur-andrew-yang-is-running-for-potus-2020/

If you read the article, you find out about a man named Andrew Yang, who is running as a Democratic candidate for POTUS in 2020. He has proposed that all American citizens between the ages of 18-64 should receive a government check of $1000 every month. This is called a Universal Basic Income payment (UBI). The premise behind the idea, in Yang’s mind, is this: the US has a lot of resources, but those resources are not distributed to the people effectively.

Why $1000 a month?
-recommended by former Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern
-$12,000 a year brings an individual close to the US poverty line, which is $12,752 per person per year for those under the age of 65, according to the US Census Bureau.
-$1000 a month UBI has been studied and modeled by The Roosevelt Institute (It could grow the US economy by 12.56 percent after 8 years if paid for by increasing the debt).
-$1000 is low enough to help assuage a common criticism of UBI: that it will discourage people from working (It would make a huge difference for families, but not enough to lead one not to work.)

Yang believes UBI will encourage entrepreneurship, as it will improve mental well being.

Under Yang’s plan, the UBI payment would be funded by a value-added tax (VAT) of 10 percent on goods and services a company produces, particularly those produced by companies benefiting the most from automation.

Yang states that VATs will become more important in the future as we cannot collect income tax from robots or software.  He believes that this plan would generate between 700 to 800 billion dollars in revenue.  He bases this estimate on a study done in 2010 by Eric Toder and Joseph Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center.

Under Yang’s plan, current welfare and social program beneficiaries in the United States would be able to keep their existing benefits if they prefer.

A Review of Economic Principles

Basically Yang states that a UBI is necessary because technological advancements are putting more and more people out of work.  There are so many robots doing jobs that people used to do that millions of people will be unable to work. Unskilled labor workers will have no other choice but to depend on wealth redistribution in order to survive.

However this scenario does not seem to be likely in the near future any time soon.

The very field of economics exists because of the existence of scarcity.  This world of ours simply does not possess enough resources, goods, and services for everyone to have limitless amounts.

Thomas Sowell said, “The Garden of Eden was a system for the production of goods and services, but it was not an economy, because everything was available in unlimited abundance. Without scarcity, there is no need to economize – and therefore no economics” (Basic Economics)

In other words, in a post-Eden world where scarcity exists, economics must exist unless we find a way to recapture the unlimited abundance of a pre-Fall world.

Even if robots do take over an increasingly higher number of jobs traditionally filled by humans, the reality of scarcity in the economy will not change. It still takes resources and labor to build and program these robots, and the robots themselves must use resources to produce goods and services.  More resources still will be required to service and repair these robots when they break down.   Therefore a more technologically driven economy will not change the fact that there are costs to produce goods and services and entrepreneurs will only continue to produce the goods and services so long as there are sufficient profits to leave them better off.

If the world of Disney’s Wall-E is ever realized, where robots will do literally everything including build and repair other robots and so humans will be able to simply relax all the time, then I suppose a UBI would be necessary, but I would not count on this scenario happening any time soon.

Therefore even assuming the robot takeover happens as all these doomsday technologists claim, the laws of supply and demand will still apply to the economy, even with a universal basic income.

Next, history has already given us many examples of jobs that became obsolete due to innovation.  For example, when was the last time you were walking down the street and saw a business that produced and sold saddles and horseshoes? There are still some around, but there were far more before the invention of the automobile. Nonetheless did a massive amount of unemployment result for ranchers and merchants who sold horse related equipment? Maybe for a short time, but the reality is that people simply found other lines of work that resulted from the technological shift itself. The creation of automobiles improved long distance travel and high-capacity shipment giving rise to a boost in the road construction and transportation industry.

As another example, despite whatever jobs may have disappeared as a result of the world wide web, I do not think anyone prior to 1995 could have predicted how many people would be earning 100% of their income solely by using the Internet.  The bottom line is even if the advent of technology predicts a shrink in a given industry, history has shown that it will inevitably lead to a boost in another new industry. If and when robots can literally do everything there is to do, we will have a different discussion but I just do not see that happening.

With these two things in mind, the continued existence of the laws of supply and demand and the eventual shift of people from one industry to another, let us continue.

Application of Scarcity and History

If there is a robot or machine that give you everything you want or need as UBI proponents predict, then we will have achieved the world of Wall-E.  We will have achieved the unlimited abundance of Eden instead of continuing to live in the scarcity of a post-Eden world.  There will be no entrepreneurs because robots will be doing literally everything. However because of the reality of scarcity, there will never be a robot that can give you literally everything you want or need.  Until a robot can create resources out of thin air this statement will remain accurate.

It has been said that Internet sales replace retail workers, diagnostic apps replace health care workers, and self-driving cars will replace drivers. According to a study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, almost half of all US jobs are at risk of being automated in the next 2 decades.

However, we need to consider the job figures that will be created as a result of these technological advances. There still have to be people to build, service, and repair these self-driving vehicles. There will be competition amongst app developers and internet sales platforms. Even if we can predict that some jobs will disappear wholesale, history has already shown that we cannot possibly predict what new jobs will result.

The UBI experiments

UBI proponents like to point to studies (Oxford, The World Bank, MIT, Science Magazine) that have shown that people who receive free money do not stop working initially at least.  However, the biggest failure in economics is the failure to see the long-term consequences of a policy.

Hilmar Schneider noted, “Experiments are made that are supposed to demonstrate empirically that people would not or would only insignificantly reduce their working hours after the introduction of a UBI. These experiments are financed “externally,” and as such, the incentives for earning more than the UBI remain attractive because there is no necessity for internal financing. Furthermore, these experiments always cover temporary periods. People might therefore not quit their jobs just because they receive greater income temporarily, since they would risk longer unemployment after the experiment ends.”

So these studies have either been done on a small scale or are privately funded with money coming from voluntary donors outside of the small-scale economic decisions of the participants. Therefore there is a problem with extrapolating from the results of these studies to support a larger scale, permanent version.

If the money is coming voluntarily from private donors, the results of that study will not tell us anything about whether or not a UBI would be effective coming through the force of taxes in a large country like the United States.

As a thought experiment: If someone just offered you an extra $1000 would you turn it down?  Of course not. It is not surprising then that if people rich and poor alike are temporarily given some extra money for a few months, they will use it to enrich their lives with a new computer, help pay their school bills, or to make a new investment. This is the same principle behind what private employees do when they’re given a one-time bonus or a temporary pay increase.

However consider what happens when a UBI is permanently implemented on a large scale for a large country like the United States. If you simply provide everyone with a modest amount of cash but not enough to live on, all that will result is a form of inflation since everyone has a little more money to spend, when they all go out to spend more, prices will rise to compensate for the increased demand. The initial spenders will get lucky but once the price raises take effect, everyone will be no better off than before there was a UBI.

When money is redistributed from the wealthy to the poor, the poor will come out and start buying things that they were not buying before. Since there is now an increased demand for the things that the poorer demographic wanted but previously couldn’t have, the prices of these goods and services will rise to compensate for the increased demand. Just because it is not overall inflation caused by an increased currency supply (from printing more money, for example) does not mean this redistribution will not cause inflation in the very markets that affect the demographic that the UBI is supposed to help.

The Cost of a UBI

What if we give a UBI that can be lived off of without working?

David Freedman states: “Economists are quick to point out that whatever savings might result from cutting out the existing safety net bureaucracy, they are likely to be far outweighed by the cost of handing an annual check for, say, $10,000 to every adult in America. (Proposed amounts vary, of course, and are likely to be adjusted for those supporting children. It’s generally assumed that existing health-care financing programs would remain in place, as would Social Security.)  A rough calculation suggests that a $10,000 basic income, enough to lift the vast majority of Americans above the poverty line, would be at least twice as expensive as current antipoverty benefits and overhead, adding between one and two trillion dollars to the federal budget.  Halving the size of the check would go a long way toward solving that problem, but that would leave millions below the poverty line with fewer other programs to help.”

Ted Cruz pointed out in a debate with Bernie Sanders that even if the US confiscated 100% of the earnings of all Americans who make more than 1 million dollars a year, it only produces about a trillion dollars in tax revenue. What does this mean? It means that in order to provide a UBI of $10,000, it will mean massive tax increases on both the rich and the middle class.  Financing a UBI of just $10,000 a year would cost far more than could be paid for only by those who make a million dollars or more a year.

So coming back to Yang’s idea.  To support his annual UBI of $12,000, we would need at least one or two trillion dollars, and his VAT plan would only provide between 700 to 800 billion dollars in revenue.  To make up for the remainder, we would need to increase taxes on both the rich and the middle class.

The Problems with Increasing Taxes on the Rich and the Middle Class

Whether it is through the VAT or other taxes, profit earners will have to finance the UBI. Once the UBI becomes sufficiently expensive, those profit earners will no longer earn profits high enough to motivate them to keep working.  Once this happens the whole system will collapse.

As Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Does a basic income create a floor from which people can lift themselves up? No, once you reach a certain threshold your basic income will simply be your own money being given back to you since the money is obtained through taxes. The tax rates that will finance the UBI alongside all other forms of government spending to include universal health care and other programs that most UBI proponents also support will mean that even middle-class families will likely pay up to 50% income tax or more.

It is extremely doubtful that government spending will ever go down or that people will stay happy with a UBI of $12,000 a year. It is practically human nature as this verse from Proverbs 27:20 astutely points out: “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” Over time there will be pressure to raise the UBI and in doing so increase tax rates even further. This will discourage people at the top from working hard and innovating.

UBI might appear to be successful in the short term but eventually it will bankrupt the country especially once the people at the top stop working as they see their success stolen from them.

The Problem with Socialism in General

People should be allowed to keep the money that they worked for.  Socialism, through its use of governmental coercion,  takes other people’s money and gives it to people that did not earn it for nothing in return.  This is theft, plain and simple.

There is a significant moral difference between donations and taxes done through socialism.
-Donations: voluntary; “I am giving money because I want to give money.”
-Socialistic taxes: militarily coerced; “I am giving money because people with guns will come for me if I do not”

As Friedrich Hayek said, “There is a difference in the world between treating all people equally and attempting to make them all equal.”

The more you steal from Peter to pay Paul, the less incentive Peter has to work hard and try to earn more the next year, which means this will only accelerate the spiral of failure that results from penalizing good behavior like smart work decisions with higher taxes and rewarding bad behavior like perpetual unemployment with free money. Eventually you run out of other people’s money.

What would a nationwide UBI look like?

Quite possibly, in the first year that a UBI is implemented, thousands of people will rejoice if not millions.  Although the higher income earners will groan as they see even more of their hard-earned profits stolen from them, there will still be enough low income earners who see it as free money. The media will run tons of stories showing poor women going to the store to buy enough groceries for the first time or proudly driving down the street in her new car. Everyone will praise the US for its progress.

There will be a significant amount of people who decide to simply leave the workforce and try to live off their UBI. What will be the result be? With fewer people willing to perform basic labor, prices of all goods and services will rise.

Schneider said, “Price reactions are likely if nobody can be found who is willing to perform low-wage labor. Wages for such work would have to be higher than under the status quo. Although UBI proponents see this development in a positive light, it would actually lead to a worsening of the real income situation of households, since the accompanying wage increases would be reflected in rising consumer prices.

Conversely, if for some reason the wages for these types of jobs did not rise, the UBI would dissuade workers from performing them. Consequently, households would be forced to spend their own time on tasks they would otherwise pay other people to do, such as housework or food preparation. In both cases, these households would be worse off than before, because they would either have to spend additional money or additional time to get what they used to have.

Due to the increased tax burden, the UBI would increase incentives for illegal employment and create even more financing needs. Furthermore, a UBI would destroy incentives for investing in one’s education. Not only would it lead to increased unemployment among unskilled workers, but it would also enlarge the group of workers with low qualifications.

Finally, a UBI would serve as a tremendous pull factor for immigration, which would consequently increase financing needs even further.”

Those who choose to live off the UBI will not be satisfied with a $10,000 per year income. Legitimate question: When is the last time you heard a welfare recipient say “I have enough, please don’t give me any more welfare?” Before long people are going to be complaining about how the UBI is not high enough and how the rich need to pay their fair share, even though by this time the highest earners will likely be paying more than 90% income tax.

Only the politicians who promise to raise the UBI will be able to get elected and as more and more of the rich stop working when they see their earnings stolen from them, the system will collapse into bankruptcy.

As I have repeated before, I will say again: The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.

How Socialism Undermines Motivation

Under any form of socialism to include the implementation of a UBI, the more successful you are at your job, the more you will be penalized by having the fruits of your labor stolen from you.  Where will the motivation to do difficult jobs come from?  Who is going to bother going to medical school when they see that being a doctor will not leave them any better off than a garbage man or someone who simply does not work and lives off his UBI. The personal satisfaction of work is not strong enough to motivate a high enough number of people to do these types of work.

Concluding Thoughts

To recap:

The problem that a UBI is meant to address: the lack of jobs that automation will bring, does not truly exist.
-we have not yet made a robot or machine that can create resources out of thin air and thus gets rid of scarcity, which is the very foundation of economics.
-when jobs are lost, people simply move from one industry to another industry; it may take time and be inconvenient at first, but people do eventually adjust.

A UBI could work well if it is done on a small scale, voluntary, and temporary basis.  But to replicate the results on a larger, permanent scale will be problematic.

The cost of a national, permanent UBI would require higher tax rates on the rich and middle class than what they already are.  This places a heavy financial burden on the rich and middle class, and if they chose to stop working, the whole system collapses.  The pressure to stop working will almost certainly come when the government and poor individuals ask for more money.  Also mandatory taxes are fundamentally different than voluntary donations.

The prices of all goods and services will increase because of inflation due to increased demand, and when a significant amount of people decide to simply leave the workforce and try to live off their UBI.

A national, permanent UBI may possibly work if the following conditions are met:
-the rich and the middle class are willing to shoulder the financial burden of financing the poor individuals of society
-government spending goes down and people stay happy with a UBI of $12,000 a year
-people continue to seek and stay in the workforce instead of living off their UBI.
However these conditions are unlikely to be met for very long due to human nature.

Ideally, we could replicate the results of the UBI through voluntary donations, not through socialistic taxes.  As already alluded to in the UBI experiments, people have  voluntarily invested their resources to participants on a small scale and temporary basis, and the results have been great.

I am personally fine with financing through voluntary donations a UBI done on a targeted, small scale, and temporary basis, which is a far cry from the mandatory, military coerced taxes that a national UBI would require.

The Collection of Private Information

 

I do find this meme humorous, and it raises an important issue.

Some thoughts that came to my mind when I saw this:

Information is power. There are questions about how that information is obtained, who accesses it, and how that information is used.

The Dark Knight (2008) had an excellent scene regarding this issue of invasion of privacy vs public safety: Batman used Lucius’ sonar idea on the people of Gotham’s cell phones to locate the Joker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr7AONv3FSg

The government may invade our privacy for a stated purpose of protecting the public from potential terrorists among us. Or it may use that knowledge to manipulate us into supporting its agenda.

Mark Zuckerberg may invade our privacy and give that data to a political data firm for an efficient marketing strategy. However he is somewhat better than the government, since he generally gives potential Facebook users a notice beforehand that our data may be collected and thus there is more of an emphasis on consent.

So both the government and Mark Zuckerberg are guilty of invading the people’s privacy, albeit for different reasons.

Generally, our privacy should be protected, but there are times when an invasion of privacy is warranted if it is done for noble pursuits. It is similar to how HIPAA permits a covered entity to disclose protected health information to law enforcement if there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the patient or others.

Collecting our private information for marketing purposes is a little different. Ideally the collector would be transparent about the gathering of data and ask for permission to collect said data. They also need to be careful about how they use that data. They may obtain it for research/academic purposes or to subtly manipulate public opinion and behavior.

All in all, transparency and accountability are key.

Generally, private information should be obtained by consent.
There are exceptional times when invasion of privacy is warranted, as in the case of public safety, for example.
There is a moral expectation that the information gathered should be used in a responsible manner and respects the autonomy of others as much as possible.

Whether it be the government, Mark Zuckerberg, political data firms, marketing firms, and the like, these are some of the guidelines that should be followed.

Looking at Syria through a Prophetic Perspective

Regarding the situation in Syria, I find this passage from Jeremiah particularly apt:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

God might as well be saying all this to Bashar al-Assad and to the leaders of Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia who amplified the civil war in Syria.  Bashar had a responsibility to lead his people well, but he has been and continues to use his authority for evil, even going so far as to wage chemical warfare on his own citizens.  Perhaps one day God will soon attend to Bashar for his evil deeds in one form or another.  Perhaps Russia will be effectively rebuked and Putin will actually pressure Bashar to stop using chemical warfare against his people. Perhaps the United Nations will be able to effectively call for a temporary ceasefire in the land so that much needed humanitarian aid can be given to the citizens still living in Syria. Perhaps the United States will find a way to intervene in the crisis to bring the conflict to an end sooner. Only God knows.

“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

God might as well be saying all this to the Syrian refugees, who like ancient Israel, are scattered throughout the world from their homeland.  I hope that one day, these refugees can come back to their homeland to leaders who look to their interests better than Bashar ever did.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)

Ultimately, the best hope I can offer to Syrian refugees is the Lord Jesus Christ.  God already sent and raised up the Davidic King Jesus.  He is not the Savior of just ancient Israel, but the whole world as this passage in Isaiah greatly clarifies:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

Therefore the offer of salvation and deliverance that Jesus offered to Israel is also available to Syrians and so if these refugees accept Jesus as their reconciled Lord and Savior, perhaps they may come back to their land filled with the peace, joy, and forgiveness that Jesus can bring.  In other words, they can experience the blessings of His reign in their hearts, no matter where they are, and perhaps, Lord willing, they will return to their land in external peace as well.