The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

The United States should adopt a negative income tax.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 9/28/2016 Category: Economics
Updated: 1 week ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 361 times Debate No: 95700
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




This is a debate for the second round of the DDOlympics Team Tournament. Bob13 and ShabShoral are on the instigating team, with TN05 and warren42 on the opposing side.

The first round is acceptance. The next two rounds will be for arguments, rebuttals, and defense, then conclusions in the final round.

Since TN05 and Warren will be be arguing for a negative income tax, they will post a definition in the first round.

Additional rules

No unfair semantics.
No kritiks.
Use sources to support your arguments, not to be your arguments.

Good luck to our opponents and I look forward to an interesting debate.


We accept.
Negative income tax - A tax system where people earning below a certain amount receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes to the government.
Best of luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for the definition. You can be more specific about what plan for a negative income tax you support in your argument, so I will use this round to argue against the tax in general.

Contention #1: A negative income tax decreases incentive to work.

Experiments in Seatle and Denver tested the effectiveness of a negative income tax. The Stanford Research Institute analyzed the results and found a 9-18% reduction in productivity, and that 50-60% of those recieving the tax used it to replace wages they would have otherwise earned themselves. [1]

The same study also found that the tax decreased family stability because families no longer relied on wage-earners.

Contention #2: A negative income tax would be expensive to implement.

Even proponents of the tax estimate a cost of $38 billion a year, and that is underestimated:

"And if once the main principle of either proposal were accepted, the minimum subsidy or guarantee demanded would be bound constantly to increase. Anyone who doubts this need merely consult the history of unemployment insurance and Social Security benefits since those plans were initiated in the 1930s."

Implementing this system would be very expensive, possibly reaching trillions of dollars.


A negative income tax would be ineffective because it decreases incentive to work and causes family instability, and it would also be costly.

I will not have access to my computer this weekend, so I would appreciate it if you could take your time to respond.




In this debate, we will be presenting support for a negative income tax (NIT). As defined in R1, a negative income tax is "A tax system where people earning below a certain amount receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes to the government". We will be proposing the negative income tax as being an essential part of overall tax and welfare reform, to ensure that government assistance is traceable, limited, and easily found as part of the overall tax system. Our case explicitly assumes a negative income tax as being a replacement for most, if not all, welfare programs and as one part of a broad simplification and reform of the tax system.

Contention 1 - Negative income tax would reduce the size of bureaucracy
Our insanely complex tax and welfare system is virtually unworkable outside of a small class of tax lawyers. Welfare payments are virtually untraceable, or at the very least requiring a massive bureaucracy to do so. To put it bluntly: our modern welfare and tax systems are broken. The negative income tax seeks to rectify a major problem: it simplies the welfare system and works broadly within the tax system. In other words, it isn't a separate bureaucracy, but rather a part of the tax system. To give an example, let's look at what noted libertarian economist and NIT proponent Milton Freidman proposed. The Economic Library sums his view up as follows:

"The NIT would thus be a mirror image of the regular tax system. Instead of tax liabilities varying positively with income according to a tax rate schedule, benefits would vary inversely with income according to a negative tax rate (or benefit-reduction) schedule. If, for example, the threshold for positive tax liability for a family of four was, say, $10,000, a family with only $8,000 of annual income would, given a negative tax rate of 25 percent, receive a check from the Treasury worth $500 (25 percent of the $2,000 difference between its $8,000 income and the $10,000 threshold). A family with zero income would receive $2,500."[1]

By being a mirror, or extension, of tax system, we reduce bureaucratic expenses. Rather than having hundreds of separate welfare programs, we have but a single program.

Contention 2 - A negative income tax is better for the economy
A major problem with modern welfare programs is their use of money. People are given welfare money, and it is limited to a single category: housing, food, education, etc. In effect, welfare implicitly assumes that it understands the needs of most, if not all, individuals who might need government assistance. The negative income tax opposes this view. The NIT is implicitly individualist; that is, it assumes people know best how to spend money, not the government.[2] The NIT is a superior method because it allows people to spend welfare in the way that works best for them and their families - it shifts accountability from government back to individuals, where it should be. Not only does it do that, however, it also allows businesses to benefit; rather than going to government to spend, or businesses having to send their food stamp or WIC vouchers to the government for redemption, the businesses get money. Again: we reduce costs, reduce waste, and increase individual accountability.

Contention 3- The negative income tax allows better working conditions
Knowing that workers have a guaranteed income to fall back on empowers workers when negotiating contracts with employers. Workers know that if negotiations fail, they have a back-up plan and will not be forsaken. Employers know this also, forcing them to be more accomodating to worker demands, since workers can afford to quit. [3] All told, it is a unique way to benefit the workforce that no current welfare program offers.

Contention 4 - The negative income tax encoruages and rewards work
Our current welfare system haas been dubbed a "trap".[2] Because people get caught in it and can never get out. Why? Because there often is either no reason or in fact a downside to finding well-paying work. In our current system, increased pay can lead to ineligibility for benefits - more work can cause a net loss in income. Gradual income growth is often impossible.[2] In contrast, the negative income tax rewards work; working does not cause nearly as sever a penalty. Once one crosses the NIT threshold, of course, they lose those benefits, but they don't lose any net money.

Contention 5 - The current welfare system defies logic; the negative income tax embraces logic
People in poverty have different issues, but they all share a single, overarching concern: a lack of money. Our current welfare model assumes the best way to address this problem is to create a vast, inefficient bureaucracy that provides specific needs, spread out over dozens of organizations with different elgibility levels, costs, and methods of aid. To put it bluntly, this sytem is insane. It makes no sense. If the issue is that people need money, why on earth are we creating such a complex solution - and one that, simply put, hasn't eliminated the problem?

The negative income tax, in contrast, operates logically. If the issue is that poor people don't have money, and we presume the government has an obligation to address this problem, why not just give people money?[4] Rather than having a virtual army of bureaucrats providing different services, offer one service designed to specifically address the problem? That's the brilliance of the negative income tax: a simple solution to a complex problem.

We look forward to the opposing team's next round.

Debate Round No. 2


This round was written by Shab, and I will write the next round.

Contention 1 - Negative income tax would reduce the size of bureaucracy

Are we willing to be optimistic enough to believe that, without specifying what welfare money must be spent on, the poor will choose wisely? (More in Contention 2)

The issue is not “that people need money” – or, at least, not the one the Government ought to try and solve. The issue is that people are going without certain necessities and are unable to live securely. To ensure that these needs are met, there is nothing wrong with complicated systems. The current system is elaborate, there is no question. It has to be. In order to ensure that welfare goes only to those who need it, and is spent only on those things that they need, there is no solution other than a complex series of rules, regulations, and agencies. This is not a bad thing.

The aeroplane is not disadvantaged compared to the horse because it is more complex. Each part plays its purpose, and the whole is indisputably better at fulfilling its function.

This point is, therefore, completely irrelevant; unless our opponents can show that NIT does what it sets out to do better than any other system, not just that it is simpler, they have not fulfilled their BOP.

Contention 2 - A negative income tax is better for the economy

Accountability is not “shifted to individuals” when a government imposes a NIT. In fact, the opposite happens: individuals are less accountable. Under a normal welfare system, there is no incentive to waste money, since the money is bound to particular necessities. One can’t (easily) spend food stamps on televisions. When the government gives people money, however, that money is very easy to squander. What must be done when someone, after having blown their cheque on liquor, is in danger of starvation? Would the government not be obligated to help them further and make sure that they don’t… die? If so, there would be no negative repercussions to spending the money in senseless ways, since there would always be a traditional welfare safety net underneath the people. Unless our opponents advocate eliminating such safety nets altogether, in which case I find it hard to believe that they’re for any welfare whatsoever, then he must admit that granting people money with no strings attached and no accountability makes them more prone to act foolishly.

On the topic of businesses, our opponents do not explain why it’s better for a business to be paid by individuals who are paid by the government rather than by the government itself. This step is necessary.

Contention 3- The negative income tax allows better working conditions

Here, our opponents assume two things:

1.) That the NIT uniquely grants workers leverage;

2.) That granting workers such leverage is beneficial.

1.) is very hard for Pro to prove. It stands to reason that, under even as inefficient a system as our current one, most workers will not have to live in fear of starvation. The point of a welfare system is to provide workers with their basic needs, such that they will never go unfulfilled. What else would Pro want?

2.) is even more of a problem for our opponents. Having the ability to essentially quit at any time and not only survive (for anyone can survive under the current system, so Pro must have something more in mind) but live at a standard that is acceptable is exactly the kind of incentive that causes people to refuse to work. If a worker can just stop working and be fine, why work at all?

Contention 4 - The negative income tax encoruages and rewards work

This contention is flat-out false. Our opponents claim that someone who earns enough to no longer receive the benefits from NIT wouldn’t “lose any net money”. This is absurd; even if the new income earned precisely covers the amount that would have otherwise been granted by the government, the person is still massively disadvantaged by losing said benefits, for now they also have to factor in labour. “Earning more” is not the same as “being granted more money”, for the former, in almost all cases, implies an incredible investment of time/capital.

Note that we do not have to advocate for the current welfare system – in fact, we don’t have to affirm the existence of welfare at all. All we must do here is show that the NIT would be, at best, equal to, or, at worst, more detrimental than, any alternatives. If equality is established, any additional arguments we win against NIT would be enough to fulfill our BOP. Therefore, our opponents must show how NIT is uniquely beneficial.

Contention 5 - The current welfare system defies logic; the negative income tax embraces logic

This is not a unique contention. It’s essentially a wholesale combination of contentions 1 and 2. As such, we refer the readers to our responses to those points individually.


In the interests of fairness, in this round we will only be rebutting our opponent's R2.

The opposing teams makes two arguments. First, they claim that a study showed an NIT was ineffective in that it reduced productivity and only replaced existing wages. However, the study they cite had multiple errors - first, it didn't replace welfare, but only supplemented it. Professor Glen G. Cain disputed the findings. Actual productivity losses were far lower than expected by NIT opponents, and the wage replacement was only "suggested" - not actually found.[1] In other words - this limited study was disputed by other researchers, not really applicable to our argument (which is to replace most, if not all welfare), made less damage than NIT opponents expected, and didn't really show wage replacement.

The opposing team also claims the study reduced family stability. We want to say two things here: first, this study was conducted so long ago (the 60s) that the results here are less relevant - family stability has reduced anyway as women earn more money. Second, this seems mostly to correlate with women having increased economic opportunity, and thus being able to escape from marriages that they were only staying in because of money. Is that really a bad thing?

The opposing team also argues an NIT would cost a lot of money - $38 billion per year, in fact. This claim is almost laughable. Since we are proposing to replace most, if not all welfare, $38 billion is far lower than the current amount we spend - over $1 trillion.[2] Given our current deficit of $503 billion, that would be suffiicient to grant us a massive surplus.[3] Of course, $38 billion is a bit lower - greater benefits would be expected. But even if we spent 13 times that much, we'd still have a surplus. To get around this obvious point, our opponents claim that the negative income tax will be increased often, comprably to Social Security or unemployment - they claim this will mean it will cost "Trillions of dollars". I contest this claim. As part of overall tax reform, the negative income tax would be tied to tax reform - either a flat tax, simplified tax, or sales tax. Increasing NIT would throw the system out of whack. Since the NIT is so different from other welfare, and costs are fairly obvious rather than spread among 100+ organizations, it simply isn't as easy to increase it.

Debate Round No. 3


Our team has demonstrated throughout the debate that a negative income tax would be less effective than any alternatives such as a welfare system.

A negative income tax decreases incentive to work.

The study discussed in round two found productivity loss and wage replacement as a result of the system being using used in the experiment. This is also supported by the fact that the tax supplies money instead of providing for individual needs. A normal welfare system uses programs such as food stamps to make sure recipients have only what they need, which prevents productivity loss.

It is necessary for the welfare system to be more complex than a negative income tax.

In order to make sure welfare is used only for what recipients need, it is necessary to have a relatively complex system. A negative income tax is simple, but it isn't an effective system because it gives money to those who don't need it, which decreases incentive to work.


Our opponent's argument rests on the assumption that a negative income tax would encourage workers to be productive, but the opposite is true. It has been proven to lead to productivity loss and wage replacement, so it is necessary to have a complex welfare system that provides for what people really need.

Thanks to our opponents for a good debate, and thanks to Bsh1 for hosting the tournament.
Vote Con!


Thank you to Bob and Shab for the debate. Good luck if you advance.

Just a general note to the voters: please recognize Con didn't offer a shred of evidence to attack our case. Prefer our evidence-based case to our opponents' logic-based rebuttal. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with logic - but if the evidence proves the contrary, which it does here, we have to side with the evidence. Vote Pro on this alone.

We're going to provide key voting issues on which the debate should be decided.

1. Reduction of Bureaucracy
Con concedes this to be true. It's just a matter of whether it's a benefit. We showed that this reduces cost (more in Voting Issue 2) and also reduces unnecessary government control on our lives. It is safe to say that individuals will, on balance, make wise decisions with their money. The opponents make a distinction between this belief and the belief that the poor will spend money wisely. However, just like the rest of the population, the majority of the poor will utilize their finances properly. Therefore, the reduction of bureaucracy is a good thing due to the reduction of cost and unnecessary oversight.

2. Reduction of Costs
We proved that this system is significantly cheaper. This is an obvious benefit that goes Pro. While the opposition claims costs would increase (again, with no evidence), we demonstrated an NIT would cost less than 1/13th the current welfare system. It is safe to say we won here.

3. Incentive to Work
Our opponents' idea of decreased incentive to work is ridiculous, based on information that is outdated at best or incorrect at worst. We completely refuted their study in the third round. Don't let them pull this through.

4. Empowerment of Women
Remember, we turned this against our opponents. Women gain financial independence and can break free from troubled relationships. Our opponents' have no response here.

Therefore, we have four key arguments in our favor and our opponents have none, as their summary is disproven by our voting issues 1 & 3. Since Pro is the only side with arguments still standing, we can see no other vote than Pro. Thank you!
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by ThinkBig 4 weeks ago
Please let me know when this is finished
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Hayd 1 week ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
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