Andrew yang, a Democratic candidate for president current this date, has made universal basic income the foundation of his platform. This appears to be accepted as a “far left” idea. However, the way he has it proposed, is 1000 dollars a month, and that 1000 is not one top of current welfare but instead of. I.e. if you receive 1500 in benefit it’s a month, you now will get 1000 of the UBI plus the 500 in additional welfare.

Logically speaking, this just sounds like a tax refund, as he is not purposing raising taxes. You get a 1000 dollars of your taxes back each month. This sounds like a conservative idea. The only flaw I see is arguing trust those that do not pay 1000 a month shouldn’t get 1000.

  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to answer the question. If you would like to answer, please post an answer which adheres to the rules and quality standards of our community.
    – Philipp
    Mar 21, 2019 at 15:29
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    For context, universal basic income was endorsed by conversative economists Friederich Hayek and Milton Friedman. At a high level, the description in your question seems to apply perfectly to Friedman's idea.
    – JimmyJames
    Mar 21, 2019 at 17:32
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    Shouldn't group which comprises roughly 50% of the population believe certain thing? This question isn't great, because it suggests a homogeneity that does not necessarily exist.
    – Stephen
    Mar 22, 2019 at 0:33
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    Which group of conservative ? A strict-father conservative will practice "law of the jungle", not use UBI is bad to them, even a universal vaccination program is bad.
    – mootmoot
    Mar 22, 2019 at 9:11
  • There seems to be a problem with the grammar of that sentence around the word "trust".
    – hkBst
    Mar 22, 2019 at 16:32

7 Answers 7


Forget about names, except for PR purposes.

A clear-headed analyst looks that the net flow of money, now and in future entitlements. Call it "UBI" or "tax credit", call it "tax" or "mandatory insurance premium" or "tithe" -- people either give money to the government and government-affilated institutions like pension schemes and insurance, or they get money.

Historically, some conservatives have supported welfare systems. In 19th century Germany, the rather Conservative Bismarck introduced worker's health insurance, in part to lure workers away from the Socialists.

Conservatives are a mixed group and any one of them has many goals, some of them contradictory. A few generalizations:

  • Conservatives tend to believe that those who earn money should be able to keep much of it. That goes against redistribution schemes (no matter how they are called).
  • Conservatives tend to believe that welfare should go to those who cannot help themselves. Not to those who can (or could) earn their own living. To discourage lazy layabouts, there should be a clearly visible gap between the income of an unskilled worker and the income of a welfare recipient.
  • Some conservatives are affilated with businesspeople and employers. Employers like to see workers who need a job to make ends meet, because that improves their negotiating position for wages and employment conditions.

The second bullet point is the main thing.

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    – Philipp
    Mar 23, 2019 at 20:09

Some conservatives do support basic income.

One of the earliest proponents of basic income in the United States was Charles Murray, who supported the idea before its recent surge in popularity. Although he identifies primarily as a libertarian, it is not inaccurate to say that he is right of center and that he has been associated with conservative publications and organizations.

There are even proposals to do basic income as a feature of the tax system.

One of the mechanisms that has been proposed for distributing basic income payments by right of center advocates for the idea is as a negative income tax. Currently, if you make less than the standard deduction amount, you owe $0 in taxes to the federal government. Under a negative income tax, if made less than the standard deduction, you would owe a negative amount of money to the government, e.g. the government would owe you momey instead. Typically, proposals to doing UBI this way involve increasing the standard deduction amount.

A similar mechanism to this is the Earned Income Tax Credit for taxpayers who make small amounts of money but still work. This is a refundable tax credit. This particular credit is supported by many conservative politicians in office today, and it is possible to implement UBI through another refundable tax credit.

  • While some might call this UBI, I think it's an entirely different animal from the kind of UBI that the question is about. Mar 21, 2019 at 15:26
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    @TKK Oh? "Logically speaking, this sounds like a tax refund" is in the question, so it seems exactly like what the question is asking about.
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2019 at 15:54
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    @TKK Murray's proposal still pays every American a minimum amount, so it's still universal even though it pays poor people a few thousand dollars more
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2019 at 20:36
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    Murray's proposal would pay $0 to people earning exactly the standard deduction. Yang's proposal would pay those people (and everyone else) $1000/month. Yang's proposal is "universal"; Murray's is purposefully not. Mar 21, 2019 at 21:31
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    @TKK Murray's proposal says nothing about deductions. Also, negative income tax is identical to a UBI system that has no standard deduction. Mar 21, 2019 at 22:45

Some conservatives (and liberals) have argued for UBI. The devil is in the details. The conservative plans are, as far as I can tell, a way to entirely substitute the existing US welfare system with UBI... a substitution that isn't quite palatable to liberals.

On the right, UBI has been endorsed by the likes of economist Milton Friedman, former president Richard Nixon, and libertarian pundit Charles Murray. On the left, Martin Luther King, Jr., former Democratic politician George McGovern, and the Green Party have all championed the idea of the government giving each citizen a certain amount of money on a regular basis—no strings attached.

Conservatives tend to see UBI as a strategy to replace most of the existing welfare state wholesale. Nixon, for instance, proposed a basic income for needy families as part of a plan to overhaul the New Deal-era welfare state.

The problem, of course, is that a UBI would be incredibly expensive. Robert Greenstein, founder and president of the Washington, D.C., thinktank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates that a $10,000 annual basic income would cost more than $3 trillion per year, consuming nearly all of the tax revenue that the government currently raises. A UBI of this scale would either crowd out most other social programs—the conservative wish—or would require ratcheting up the federal government’s tax collection.

Murray endorsed a basic income in a 2006 book, which proposed to scrap all existing safety-net programs in favor of a $10,000 yearly grant to each American adult. Bernstein objected, anticipating that the poor would be made worse off, and defending the safety net’s gains in fighting poverty.

Murray’s basic income looks a lot like a $10,000 Trojan horse. He explicitly rejects any additional government support for families with children, and would refuse any further public aid to those who fall in need after exhausting their income grant. Those with such misfortune, Murray says, must depend on charity.

Liberals like Bernstein are right to resist this sort of basic income. Murray’s plan would voucherize the entire welfare state—a buyout in exchange for unwinding the federal government’s social-insurance obligations.


In fact, getting government out of the business of providing beneficial services and instead cutting a flat check would mimic the corporate cost-control tactic of moving workers from defined benefit packages to defined contributions. This would complete the decades-long conservative push to reform our social insurance institutions by shifting risk on to individuals in order to promote personal responsibility, as Murray aspires to do with a UBI.

From how you describe Andrew Yang's proposal, it sounds a lot like those conservative (substitution) proposals. On the other hand, you may have misrepresented it somewhat, since some of the comments argue that he is planning to raise new taxes to pay for it... which wouldn't make a lot of sense for a pure substitution. I don't feel inclined to dig into his platform, but you now know what traits to pay attention to in terms of conservative vs liberal UBI proposals.


Conservatives (even I dare say those famous conservatives mentioned in other answers) wouldn't support UBI in addition to current welfare policies, but there is a very good conservative case to be made for replacing current welfare (including related programs like social security) with UBI. It would replace a very complex and disjoint set of rules that is difficult and expensive to administer with a very simple set of rules with much less overhead.

A similar situation happened with cap and trade. Conservatives thought a market-based solution would be better, but then liberals wanted to add cap and trade on top of the existing regulatory burden.

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    Can you add some context/evidence for the second paragraph? I'm not sure what you're talking about here.
    – gerrit
    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:49

I was just listening to an interview with someone who wrote a book about this. Universal basic income nearly passed under Nixon. It was passed by the conservative senate and the liberal house didn't pass it because they were holding out for a higher wage.

In parallel we were doing research where we gave groups of people a basic income to see what happened. One of the outcomes was that they were no less productive (Somewhat more I think), but one of the "Outcomes" of the test was (it turns out incorrectly) interpreted as women with the financial freedom had more of a tendency to divorce their husbands and strike out on their own.

This result caused major concern among conservatives. The story persisted for years even though they quickly figured out that this had just been a misinterpretation of the results.

I'll try to find the name of that book and add it to this message.


Googled it and Wikipedia had this:

Guaranteed minimum income (GMI), also called minimum income, is a system[1] of social welfare provision that guarantees that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. Eligibility is typically determined by citizenship, a means test, and either availability for the labour market or a willingness to perform community services. The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is to reduce poverty. If citizenship is the only requirement, the system turns into a universal basic income.

Nixon's proposal was a GMI (I believe he called it GAI, Guaranteed Annual Income) which probably excluded some people that would have been involved in a UBI. Also the article mentioned that I got it backwards, the house passed it but it hung in the senate.

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    Can you add some details about the scheme nearly passed under Nixon? Does it meet the characteristics of how current proponents of UBI actually define it?
    – gerrit
    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:42
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    Guaranteed minimum income is means-tested, meaning it has more complex eligibility criteria and associated bureaucracy. Basic income is not means tested, and usually criteria are limited to citizenship or residency. They have significantly different economic effects and political considerations. Mar 22, 2019 at 20:22

Conservatives want less government intervention when it comes to economic policies. Administering this program would create more government and would require funding of some sort.

I have pulled information from https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-ubi/ as I am not completely informed.

  1. You say that current welfare beneficiaries that receive $1500 a month would continue receive $1500 if universal basic income is rolled out. Could you provide a source for that because I doubt a democrat would advocate a policy that does not benefit somebody currently on welfare. All I see is they cannot claim the full $1000, so maybe they will receive $2300 a month instead of $2500? Overall if the amount of money they get has increased, it will require more government administrative funding to process that money.

  2. They propose to fund this program by putting a value added tax. It is really not much different from just straight up increasing taxes on businesses; end result is the same. Possibly businesses will just pay their workers less and justify it by saying their income is supplemented by universal basic income. It would also require government bureaucracy to collect this tax.

Overall, it is very clear that universal basic income is only a left wing platform. It is wealth redistribution that increases government. He could have simply said increase taxes on businesses and give it to poorer people and the end result is exactly the same.

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    Left and Right are not universal agreed conventions and even defining them cannot be done without some controversy. A common generalization is: Right defends income concentration in the belief the "better" among us will lead the way to prosperity. Left defends income distribution in the belief spreading prosperity to a bigger number of people is the right thing to do (prosperity generates prosperity).
    – jean
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:36
  • Administering this program would create more government, this is a misunderstanding. Replacing conditional money transfers by unconditional money transfers would mean less government, not more. I've even seen this used as an argument against UBI by labour unions representing government civil servants. Your final paragraph is also factually incorrect.
    – gerrit
    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:46
  • @gerrit Unless you plan to get rid of welfare entirely, which he is not proposing, it would most definitely create more government as they will keep all the administrative staff for all current welfare programs and will create new agencies to send money for universal basic income. Not to mention you would need to create additional agencies to collect the new tax. There is also nothing actually incorrect about my last paragraph. The net cash flow is literally the same as if you tax wealthier people and gave it to the poor. Mar 22, 2019 at 16:24

Because doing so would be bad identity politics.

I mean, it's not like there haven't been prominent conservatives espousing guaranteed income: Milton "any tax cut is a good tax cut" Friedman was in favor.

But in the modern era, regardless of affiliation, it's all about the image you portray to your constituency. Leftists are loudly and conspicuously in favor of UBI: Conservatives don't want to be accused of selling out, and to distance themselves from the hated Other they oppose policies Leftists support regardless of the merits or lack thereof. N.B. this isn't just a problem on the Right.

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    The term "identity politics" usually refers to immutable characteristics such as race or nationality, not political beliefs. Aside from terminology, the answer is also factually incorrect; conservatives have been part of the initial proponents of this idea in the United States.
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2019 at 16:53
  • @Joe you can critique me about the meaning of "identity politics", I'm not going to argue semantics. But you're claiming I'm factually incorrect while agreeing with me? I specifically mentioned Milton Friedman supporting the idea. It doesn't get more conservative than that. I'm explaining why no conservative wants to touch it with a 10 foot pole in the Trump era. Mar 21, 2019 at 18:38
  • Yes, because Milton Friedman would probably object to being described as conservative, and even if he was, there are a set of conservatives who favor redistributing income through the tax system. Marco Rubio is definitely a proponent of expanded EITCs; idk what he thinks about the UBI but he and several other consevative senators have no aversion to spending money on poor people (and for that matter, neither does Trump; he was the one GOP candidate who made no promise for reforming benefits for fiscal reasons).
    – Joe
    Mar 21, 2019 at 19:08

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