2014-08-05

My Fantasy Is More Realistic Than Yours

Matt Zwolinski writes:
Not only does the U.S. welfare state spend a lot; it spends it badly. Poor Americans receiving assistance face a bewildering variety of phase-outs and benefit cliffs that combine to create extremely high effective marginal tax rates on their labor. As a result, poor families often find that working more (or having a second adult work) simply doesn’t pay. And still, despite massive expenditures by the welfare state, some 16% of Americans are left living in poverty
Wouldn’t it be better just to scrap the whole system and write the poor a check?
Later, Zwolinksi outlines an imaginary political deal in which the pro-welfare crowd agreed to scrap existing welfare programs in favor of the "Basic Income Guarantee." Then he askes, "Suppose, to indulge in a bit of speculative fancy, that this deal was actually on the political table. Should libertarians take it?" (emphasis mine)

After outlining the major benefits of "B.I.G." over the status quo, Zwolinski takes pains to say that "utopia is not an option."

I completely agree with that last part. My question for Zwolinski is: What makes him think that the "speculative fancy" he is currently indulging in is any more realistic than a "libertarian utopia?"

No, really - what makes him think so? I don't see a giant, let's-completely-redesign-the-welfare-state plan on the horizon any time soon. Why, then, does Zwolinski fantasize about coming up with an awesome compromise to a situation that will never occur while simultaneously critiquing others for demanding an equally imaginary libertarian utopia?

It's silly. An imaginary situation is exactly that. There's no special reason to be won-over to Zwolinski's position, given that it requires a situation that will never exist in reality.