That we’re going to have some manner of welfare state is obvious. No one actually does want poor people croaking on the doorstep – unsightly as well as insanitary. The argument is therefore not over whether but how and how generous?
There’s a good argument for the universal basic income in that utility is always personal. This means that for any given amount of money taken off the richer total societal utility is maximised by giving that, as cash, to the poor. Because this means the poor can go off and maximise their personal utility by spending said cash as they wish.
We can think of exceptions to this, the mentally deranged might not quite understand how to best deploy their resources so we have to do a certain amount of it for them – so much on rent, so much on food and so on. There’s a useful corollary to this which is that the more you insist that the poor must have their health care directly provided, not bought from cash, the more their housing must be directly provided, not bought from their cash, the more you are insisting that the poor are mentally deranged and unable to determine, cohesively, what does maximise their own utility.
One useful dividing line between Lady Muck type liberals handing out the favours and classical liberals trying to actually improve society is exactly this. Us classicals agree that there are those who simply cannot cope but we don’t regard simple poverty as being the signifier.
OK, cool. But then there’s that problem of how generous should such a system be?
Almost half a million low-income tenants who are claiming universal credit – many of whom were forced to apply for the benefit during the pandemic – are struggling to pay rent because it only covers the cheapest third of rents in each part of the country.
Low income people get aid to pay the rent. OK, seems fair enough. Sure, we want to bring down said rents and we’re doing that by loosening planning permission so more houses get built. But the base idea of poor peeps getting aid with the rent seems fine even if it’s just an interim thing.
Generation Rent called on the government to …(…)… ensure that the housing element of universal credit covers median rents in each part of the country.
Erm, why? Why would we want to insist that the poor gain access to the average level of housing? We can all see the point of poor people gaining aid to be able to have any housing. Or even housing of a sufficient even if base standard. But why should they – OK, for some of us around here, we – get everyone else to pay for the average housing experience?