Libertarian UBI

Graphic of a woman sitting cross-legged, with a thought bubble of the bitcoin icon.

It may not be surprising to hear of a genuine libertarian argument for universal basic income, considering libertarianism is the conservative ideologue’s political philosophy of choice.

In 2013, around the time Switzerland began experimenting with guaranteed cash payments to citizens, Matt Zwolinski, associate professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego, and founder of the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog, wrote a much-linked-to essay laying out three supportive arguments for UBI a libertarian could palate.

Zwolinski begins with a realistic appraisal of how much money taxpayers would save if not for bloated, welfare-dispensing bureaucracies. After passing the litmus test of conservatism, by discussing fiduciary responsibility, and thus gaining the ear of this guy, Zwolinski says something truly remarkable.

Universal Basic Income can be a tool for righting the wrongs of centuries of improper and unethical accumulation of wealth by, well, the wealthy. Despite the near-inviolability of property rights in libertarian dogma, Zwolinski thinks the existing distribution is a product of uncompensated theft and violence. It is only until this uncomfortable fact is dealt with, and people are “given enough access to material wealth to render them immune to the coercive power of others” that the era free-market utopia can be ushered in.