The Instigator
Pro (for)
14 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
28 Points

Guaranteed Minimum Income

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 3/4/2015 Category: Economics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 14,504 times Debate No: 70953
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (131)
Votes (6)




Full resolution: The United States should begin conversion of the existing welfare structure into aguaranteed minimum income.

Right now, I've made this debate impossible to accept. If you're interested, comment or PM me.

Some definitions: A guaranteed minimum income is a mechanism to ensure that every citizen has enough income to live on.

The existing welfare structure in the United States consists of various programs, CATO identifying at least 126[1]. It is not my burden to argue that *all* of these must immediately vanish, but rather than the transition to a guaranteed minimum income should begin.

The first round is for acceptance. No new arguments in the last round.



I accept!
Debate Round No. 1


The United States should begin conversion of the existing welfare structure into a guaranteed minimum income. I affirm.

The resolution is beneficial to society as both policy and principle.

I. Policy

The status quo is not working. CATO explains that when the expenditures of the federal government is combined with the efforts of state and local governments, nearly 1 trillion (952 Billion) is spent each year on efforts to fight poverty[1]. Despite this, the Census Bureau estimated 45.3 million Americans living in poverty in 2013[2]. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 24,492,000 households in the bottom quintile of income distribution[3], meaning that foreveryhousehold in the bottom quintile of income distribution, around $39,000 is spent on poverty alleviation efforts. Given that the statistically average household contains 2.54 people[4], this amounts to around $15,354 spent per person in the bottom quintile of income distribution for means-based policies specifically designed to alleviate policy, without factoring in Social Security and Medicare--literally the two largest components of the federal budget other than defense. And yet, we still have 45.3 million people in poverty. This should not be mathematically possible.

Indeed, the disparate state of anti-poverty programs in the United States combined with bizarre policies leads to massive inefficiency and abuse, with many citizens not even being aware of the benefits offered to them. The US welfare system is so broken that a single mother is better off working a $29,000 a year job than a $69,000 a year job when government aid is factored in, according to Pennsylvania's secretary of public welfare Gary Alexander[5]. Poorly constructed phase-out policies cause the poor to often face higher de facto marginal tax rates than the wealthy. When government assistance is factored in, over 20% of low to moderate income tax payers face tax rates of over 40%, according the the Congressional Budget Office[6], with 37% of these tax payers facing down rates of 30-39%. Fraud and error abounds: The Federal government made $98 billion in improper payments in 2009, according to CNN[7] with the vast majority of these improper payments going towards welfare system subsidies to individuals who are ineligible. $98 billion might seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the total US budget, but that's enough to send a check for over $2100 to each of the 45.3 million people living in poverty in this country.

Because there are so many different welfare programs, administrative (read: bureaucracy) costs account for about a quarter of all welfare spending in the United States according to Daily Kos[8]. This alone is sufficient cause to affirm the resolution: it's inconceivable that the administrative costs for a single agency that sends checks to people in lieu of having hundreds of different policies would have overhead costs in the range of 25% of all costs. I'm getting our citizens 25% more in benefits without cutting it anywhere else just by simply sending them a check and letting them decide what to do with the money.

Suffice to say the welfare system in the United States is broken. Governments spend about $15,000 per individual in the bottom income quintile, without factoring in Social Security and Medicare. That's a nice, even number. How much would it cost to guarantee a minimum income of $15,000 per adult? If we implement a sliding scale policy where $15,000 is allocated to each adult and for every dollar in income that individual makes, 20 cents of the $15,000 is lost, about 1.248 trillion a year. Since the poverty line in the United States is $15,930 for a household of 2[9], poverty would essentially be abolished.

The United States can easily implement a policy like this, and it should. Anti-poverty spending is already around a trillion, corporate welfare in the United States is enormous ($63 billion in handouts to the Fortune 500 companies alone[10]) and would swiftly be eliminated if the public demanded it, and most importantly after adjustments are made to exclude individuals with a high net worth who just aren't working working, the cost of the minimum income policy would significantly decrease. The point is, the money can be found, and this is *without touching* Social Security or Medicare. Social Security alone costs $814 billion a year[11], and Social Security benefits could slowly be integrated into a minimum income policy very easily.

The money can be found. Worst case scenario, changing the income guarantee from $15,000 to $13,000 would keep the total cost under 1 trillion and would almost certainly benefit our poor far more than the status quo which already spends the same amount.

II. Principle

The resolution ought to be affirmed on principle for a multitude of reasons.

First, we need to look at the changing face of the labor market. As technology progresses ever forward, there becomes a larger and larger IQ/Education cut off for who can be economically productive. The Bell Curve explains how this process is already occurring, with the increasing cognitive segregation of the American workforce[12].

The days where any American could reasonably expect to get a decent job if they were willing to work hard is but a memory now, and it's only going to get worse. Business Insider[13] reports that 47% of American jobs are at a high risk of becoming automized within two decades. Humanity has dealt with sudden bursts of technology changing the way the labor force functioned before, but this time is truly different because as technology increases exponentially, soon the only jobs humans will be able to perform are those that the machine is unable to do. Moores Law tells us that computing power doubles every 18 months. It won't be very long at all until the machine overtakes us all, and it's in everyone's self interest to establish an economy where those unable to get jobs because their skills are obsolete are taken care of--before your skills become obsolete. Even if my opponent proves that new jobs will be created eventually due to increased productivity which he won't because this time is different from the past, he still loses because the history of the Industrial Revolution is marred with a century long period of misery and exploitation of all those who didn't benefit from it. A minimum income serves as a safety net to keep this from happening to those who's livelihoods are destroyed by the technological revolution.

Secondly, the moral element. Slate Star Codex[14] makes a compelling argument that we should view a minimum income through the lens of eminent domain. As we know, since employment increasingly requires more intelligence and education as technology progresses, more and more people get left behind. Modernity has taken hundreds of thousands of people who could've lived happy, productive, and fulfilling lives as farmers or craftsmen, and created a society where productivity requires skills these people simply do not have. Advances in technology have benefited everyone by making things thousands of times more productive, but has left behind people who couldn't participate. Thus: "Think of it as the ultimate use of eminent domain; a power beyond your control has seized everything in the world, it had some good economic reasons for doing so, but it at least owes you compensation!" Again, it's in our self interest to establish this principle before we too are left behind.

Thirdly, freedom. With a minimum income, citizens are free to spend their money on whatever they please instead of having their choices dictated by the whim of the state. We should prefer a system that allows for the maximum number of people to act according to their own interests.

The resolution is affirmed.


Here's how I got the numbers I did. A few assumptions were involved.

The Congressional Research Service published a report detailing income brackets in the US and how many households were in each bracket[15]. Taking an assumed average in the center of each bracket (so the assumed average in the 35-40 thousand bracket was 37.5 thousand), I calculated how much of the income subsidy each bracket would get if they lost 20 cents of the subsidy for each dollar of income they made. I then calculated the cost of the policy per household and from that number and derived the cost per adult by estimating the number of adults per household if the average household is 2.54 individuals and adults make up approximately 75.4% of the population[16]. The result was a cost of $1.248 trillion. Not a perfect calculation by any means, but effective enough for an estimation. An actual policy would likely be more complex and phase out the income guarantee at a progressive rate based on how much income is made, rather than a flat one, costing even less.


12. Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles A. Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.
15. See 3



I will be making my case against the resolution within my rebuttals to Pro's arguments.


== Counter-Plan: Reform the System ==

Pro spends a lot of space telling us about how dysfunctional our current welfare system is-- and I agree with him; however, this doesn't actually bring us to the conclusion that the best remedy to the problem is replacing it with a guaranteed minimum income (GMI) program. I propose that instead we simply reform the system. Reform has already been demonstrated to be a realistic and effective option; the 1996 welfare reforms passed under the Clinton administration enforced strict work requirements which were highly effective in increasing employment and reducing poverty, as can clearly be seen in the cited graphs [1]. This is further confirmed by one particularly expansive study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which thoroughly accounted for relevant external variables [2]. On a related note, one of the main reasons that the current welfare system isn't producing tangible impacts is that these work requirements were removed under the Obama administration.

There are also plenty of other opportunities for reform which have yet to be tried out. For example, Pro actually helps my case by pointing out that many potential welfare recipients are unaware of the benefits which are available to them. That is serious problem which is not particularly difficult to overcome (and it's non-unique because GMI is also futile if its intended beneficiaries don"t know it exists); in other words, simply doing a better job of publicizing welfare benefits could substantially improve upon the status quo.

The point of all this is that reforming the system is most certainly a feasible option which can solve for many of the problems with the status quo which Pro has pointed out. And really, Pro is in no place to claim that the system is beyond repair, given his advocacy of a gradual "transition" to the GMI. Surely if the government is capable of transforming the status quo's byzantine bureaucratic monstrosity into something as simple as the GMI, then it is also capable of steadily reforming the system by implementing work requirements, abolishing subsidies which encourage single-parenting, scrapping/merging unnecessary programs, hunting down the various areas which facilitate inefficiency and corruption, placing regulations to prevent improper payments, etc.

With the plausibility of a reformed welfare system established, we are left with the question of why we should prefer that to GMI. Here are a few reasons to prefer welfare reform...

a. Accountability

GMI doesn't include any sort of mechanism for holding recipients accountable for how they spend their money; it just blindly hands out sums of money to everyone who is earning under a certain income threshold, including drug addicts, high school drop-outs, and clients of prostitutes. Given that a substantial portion of tax dollars are going towards the cause of aiding the impoverished, it is only fair to the tax-payers that the government be able to guarantee that their money is actually going to be used to achieve that end. This desire for accountability is the main reason why all the bureaucratic processes involved in the welfare system were originally put in place. A reformed system still keeps the most essential of these processes in order to hold welfare recipients accountable, for the sake of the ones who are funding their paychecks.

b. Dependency

GMI does nothing to avoid creating a vicious cycle of dependency among the poor. While a reformed welfare system can include things like work requirements to discourage dependency and push them along the path to self-sufficiency, GMI allows people to simply live off of government hand-outs for their entire lives. And dependency *is* a real problem; according to CATO institute "only 18.3% of poor people receiving welfare benefits in 1987 moved out of poverty, while 45% of poor people who never received welfare escaped poverty" [3]. GMI can only give the artificial impression of eliminating poverty; welfare reform genuinely alleviates poverty by aiding people in becoming self-sufficient.

c. Cost

By Pro's own admission, GMI is already going to cost more than the current welfare system (about $288 billion more). However, the reformed system would be even *more* inexpensive than the current one. Pro has stated that 25% of welfare costs come from needless bureaucracy; since one of the primary goals of reform is to cut down on that and shut down unnecessary/redundant programs, we can expect to see a huge cut in costs from that aspect. In addition, dependency and a lack of accountability can both translate to financial harms, as they lead to more people feeding off the system for a longer period of time; since welfare reform avoids them, we can expect costs to be significantly cut down in that respect, as well. The cost savings add up, meaning that welfare reform is going to end up being a lot less expensive than GMI.

== Case-Study: Quebec ==

GMI has already been experimented with in Quebec, and the results have been far from "abolishing poverty", as Pro seems to believe. Consider the conclusion reached by the following study on GMI there: "Simulations show that the original recommendation would have strong negative impacts on participation rates of low-earners and that its cost would exceed $ 2 billion... We find that contrary to what is usually assumed, guaranteed income schemes may increase the incidence of low-income rather than decrease it." [4]. This is nothing but empirical confirmation of the theoretical reasoning explained previously-- GMI is expensive, facilitates dependency, and offers no way to ensure that the money is even being used for the right reasons, thus failing to make much substantive progress in mitigating poverty. Rather than adopt such a policy, the US should turn to reforming its current welfare system to reach its full potential.


== Libertarian Morality ==

The first objection I can make to Pro's philosophical arguments is that he fails to set forth any sort of ethical framework from which he can make any meaningful moral claims (e.g. that society "owes" us something). Since I am about to put forth an ethical framework of my own (libertarianism), my philosophical case automatically trumps his.

All human beings have ownership over themselves. This is intuitively obvious-- since you are the sole user and occupier of your own body, you are the only one who can exert any sort of authority or control over it. Denying self-ownership results in a performative contradiction because simply the act of speaking/typing to do that requires you to have ownership over yourself. With self-ownership established, it logically follows that one should also be granted the same ownership over material property which they have rightfully acquired, since one's actions are an extension of their person. So we can conclude that all human beings have the rights to life, liberty, and private property ownership; note that these are all negative rights-- entitlements which prevent others from doing certain things to us (i.e. murder, slavery, rape, theft, etc).

Given this, the only plausible role of the government is to accept tax money in order to protect the rights of the tax-payers from being violated. We can't really derive positive rights from self-ownership, since property has to be acquired by virtue of a person's actions (i.e. earned) in order rightfully be their own, and the government can never forcibly redistribute property (i.e. spend tax money on social programs), so all welfare expenditures, including the GMI, should be rejected on an ethical basis.

== Robot Apocalypse ==

Pro argues that as technology advances, automation will continue to rapidly replace human labor and economically displace people, until eventually everyone is displaced. I have several objections to make...

a. Cross-apply: (1) my libertarian moral argument; regardless of the circumstances, redistribution on the part of the government is never morally justified. (2) my entire economic case; a reformed welfare system can serve as a more effective safety net than GMI.

b. Even if technology can really advance to the point which Pro predicts it will (which is a very big "if"), social barriers exist which will still prevent that new technology from replacing human labor much more than it already has. Currently, the technology exists to have a fully-automated fast food restaurant [5]. Yet not a single major fast food chain has made any serious attempt to adopt the new technology. Why? It's because businesses and customers alike don"t *want* everything to become automated; businesses want to keep up their public image by "giving back" to society via employment, and customers want to be able continue interacting with humans rather than machines when they go to buy from these businesses. Everyone gains from utilizing human labor.

c. Even if things really did start going in the direction of full automation, the government could just place restrictions on the businesses' use of automation for the sake of national economic stability. Considering the dire consequences of allowing capitalistic innovation to take its course, it is likely that such a motion would be widely supported by the American people as well as by businesses (because the people want to keep their jobs, and businesses want their customers to have spending money).

d. If all else fails and things do play out as Pro predicts, then we're all screwed anyways regardless of what safety nets we have in place, because as more people have to rely on GMI, there will be fewer people to fund it, until the whole system collapses and all hell breaks loose.

Resolution negated!

Debate Round No. 2


I. Counterplan

Con cites the 1996 Welfare work requirements as an example of what we should do. First, turn this argument. Daily Kos[1] explains that after the work requirement was implemented in 1996 the administrative costs of welfare skyrocketed from around 14% to nearly 30% by the early 2000's. Throughout this entire process, the average benefits stagnated. Follow Cons plan and all you do is put more money into the pockets of bureaucrats.

In addition, Cons argument that the welfare system is failing due to Obama removing the work requirements is false. Factcheck[2] tells us that arguments that Obama "gutted" the work requirement are greatly exaggerated. According to Factcheck, the only real effect of the work requirement was to bog administrations down with paperwork: "The new work-participation rules did have one impact on states: They were time-consuming to comply with and counterproductive to helping people find jobs, as documented by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office in a 2010 report." Obama allowed states to bypass this wasted time if they met certain stringent requirements to gain a waiver. Thus Con gains nothing here because his proposal is already happening and probably isn't good policy anyway. Only 29.4% of people receiving assistance actually met the work requirement in 2009 according to Factcheck so the current system doesn't work anyway.

Obama added flexibility to the welfare system. This is exactly the type of reform Con wants, but according to him it is exactly this reform that's causing our system to not produce results.

Con isn't offering any real solutions except for a work requirement that already exists. It's easy to say that he would "reform" the system if he's not going to be specific. It's not fair for me to have to argue against some amorphous plan of "scrapping/merging unnecessary programs." Part of Cons plan to slim down the welfare system is to throw even more paperwork in it's path by crafting regulations to prevent improper payments, but these improper payments happen precisely because the system is disparate and bogged down in paperwork.

Con says "...if the government is capable of transforming the status quo's byzantine bureaucratic monstrosity into something as simple as the GMI, then it is also capable of steadily reforming the system..." Here's the difference: My policy destroys red tape. Cons plan piles it on. That about sums up the differences between our advocacies.

==My case==

Note first that other than his counterplan, Con has no case of his own. If I take out his counterplan, the only way he can win is to have enough offense coming off of his rebuttals to my arguments to outweigh.

I. Policy

a) Accountability

First, turn this argument. In his article about Appalachia, Kevin Williamson explains how many of the dependent actually spend their food stamp handouts on cases of soda to be bought by drug manufacturers, who give them 50 cents on the dollar[3]. People prefer cash. It's true that much of the money would be used irresponsibly, but it's used irresponsibly in the status quo as well, except in the status quo the poor often don't even get their full share. At least under my system the irresponsible would hopefully have enough money left over to care for their families.

Obviously it's very irking to think that money taken from the pockets of the hardworking will be used by the irresponsible, which is why Cons argument registers so well on an emotional level. The problem is, it's just a trade off we have to make if we want to help the deserving needy, and we should prefer a system that gives everyone more money than one that gives everyone except worthless bureaucrats less. The irresponsible are going to be irresponsible either way. Moreover as irking as this argument is, the idea that 25% of the costs of the welfare system are administrative should inspire equal wrath. Irresponsibility is bad at any level.

The current system does nothing for accountability, either. Con says that we should only support welfare programs if we are assured that all of the money actually helps the poor, in which case we should reject his entire case because we know that overhead costs are jaw dropping and the status quo isn't forcing responsibility. Less than a third of people actually met the so called "work requirement".

b) Dependency

Dependency or death is inevitable. As technology marches forward, jobs are lost. Historian Yuval Harari tells us[4]: " the 21st century, there is a good chance that most humans will lose, they are losing, their military and economic value...the biggest question of 21st century economics is what will be the need in the economy for most people in the year 2050...this is where we have to take seriously, the possibility that even though computers will still be far behind humans in many different things, as far as the tasks that the system needs from us are concerned, most of the time computers will be able to do better than us."

Times are changing. Even if Harari is wrong and most humans will still be economically useful, it's going to take a long time before the economy adjusts to accommodate everyone. As policymakers we should establish the principle of GMI now, before it's too late. As humans, we are losing are economic value--let's not lose our moral value as well.

Con cites CATO as if it's surprising that people who literally refuse to take handouts when they are in poverty are less likely to end up depending on the government their entire lives.

c) Cost/Quebec

I do not concede that GMI will cost more than the current system. It's far cheaper because we can almost afford it without even *touching* Social Security, the biggest component of the federal budget which can easily be worked into a GMI. There really is not much to say here except that Con concedes that much of the cost of the status quo comes from a complicated system that he claims he can fix without giving many solutions. I gave a detailed explanation of my system and the math used to reach my cost estimates. Con can't even give you his "savings". Moreover, Con argues that we should engage in a publicity campaign to get more people more benefits, which will eat into any savings he manages to procure.

Ignore the Quebec evidence--Quebec didn't try a GMI as my opponent claims, rather they *proposed* it and the paper is analyzing the viability of a proposed GMI that didn't accompany any changes in the existing welfare structure. It's classic apples to oranges.

II. Principle


Con doesn't get to argue that we should keep the welfare system while also arguing that "the only plausible role of the government is to accept tax money in order to protect the rights of the tax-payers from being violated." If extreme libertarian ethics are true, we should prefer them and just abolish the welfare system totally.

But hardcore libertarian ethics aren't true--or at least, you can't run a society with them. Let's examine libertarian societies of the past. It will surprise many to learn that there was a nearly 1000 year period in Western history where government was limited and decentralized. Where much of sovereignty was derived from a a personal rather than territorial tie. Where property owners could essentially do whatever they wanted and where ties were typically "private, personal and contractual"[5]. It was called Feudalism and was the dominant political and economic system in medieval times.

We can see the effects of technology on these people living in a libertarian society. Lynn Nelson[6] explains how increases in farming productivity drove millions of peasants out of work and forced them into destitution. How did medieval society react? The state, at the request of the church, commanded a 10% tithe of all production to help the poor. Parts of feudal Europe were probably the most libertarian societies in history, and even they realized that you can't just leave people to die for reasons both ethical and practical. It's immoral to let the pauper starve so the aristocrat can buy a new robe, just as it's impractical to tell the starving masses to "eat cake", or else they'll rise up and chop off your head. The best way to protect private property from the destitute is to treat them with kindness and respect by guaranteeing them the means to survive. The parallels to our current situation are on point.

Con says I don't establish an "ethical framework", but all I'm doing is following basic intuitions that it's probably not a good idea to let people starve to death just because the economy has left them behind.

Even if you think my opponent is right about libertarianism, let's follow the example of the most libertarian society in history and protect private property by having a fair and efficient welfare system.

b) Automization

I've already hit on this under dependency, so cross apply.

Con says that new technology doesn't axe jobs, but his source *literally* ends by saying: "
What happens after that should be clear to everyone: more unemployment, lower wages for the remaining employees, worse worker morale, but even higher profits to holders of capital. And so on. Because in a world in which technology makes the unqualified worker utterly irrelevant, this is what is known as 'progress.'" Remember, 47% of jobs are about to become obsolete. Businesses may keep some token workers for good PR, but not enough. Contra Con, this process is already happening and has been for some time. This nation is littered with hundreds of former mill towns as proof.

Con makes the very libertarian argument that the state should stop companies from adopting new technology, but this is the worst of both worlds as it decreases productivity. Let the companies be more productive and redistribute some of the profits.


5. Robert Nisbet. Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary. Pp 125-131



I'll start off by clarifying some issues on case structure. My main negative case against the resolution is the libertarian ethical argument against all forms of government-funded welfare; everything else, including the counter-plan, is in rebuttal to my opponent's case. Since my rebuttals function independently of the neg case and of each other, Pro's claims that my advocacy is inconsistent are false. Apologies for not making that clear from the outset.

== Libertarian Ethics ==

In response to my ethical justification of a libertarian government, Pro has only attempted to show that a society based on libertarian principles is untenable. The biggest problem with this response is that it is irrelevant to the actual truth value of libertarian ethics. Pro cannot use a consequentialist moral standard to condemn libertarianism without first warranting and demonstrating the superiority of that standard.

Pro's observation about Feudalism and the Catholic Church actually supports my case on two levels. Firstly, reading further into his source, it goes on to describe how the Church's attempts at helping the poor through redistribution eventually failed due to being unable to keep up with increasing poverty rates; this feeds directly into my main objection to Pro's automation argument (i.e. that poverty will reign regardless of social safety nets). Secondly, the Church's efforts aren't really comparable to state-sponsored welfare programs, as there was no real coercion involved-- the Church was a private organization which used the power of religion to move people set aside a part of their savings for charity. That did not violate any libertarian principles, thus showing that even in a libertarian society, a social safety net of sorts can be established via voluntary means (especially since minimal taxes = much more money in the hands of citizens = more generosity & charity).

Also, let's note that the libertarianesque system of feudalism *did* successfully grant Europe stability and security for centuries. Most medieval Europeans' hardships came from environmental factors rather than anything to do with their political/social structures. In fact, it was only after the decline of feudalism and the rise of the state that political turmoil became a big problem. Pro has inadvertently provided us a case-study showing that a functioning society *can* be run on libertarian principles!

As for Pro's claim that his ethical framework is based on "intuition"... my libertarian framework is easily shown to be superior; it is based in objective concepts such as self-ownership and personal autonomy, whereas intuitions are completely subjective. We cannot rely on Pro's framework to make meaningful moral claims because different people have different intuitions, which results in contradictory moral judgments. Libertarian ethics are clearly preferable.

In conclusion, Pro has not refuted libertarianism at all; I have shown that we are morally obligated to reject all forms of welfare including GMI, thus negating the resolution regardless of how the rest of the debate plays out.

== Reform vs. GMI ==

As expected, Pro attacks the feasibility of welfare reform. Firstly, he is utterly mistaken in his claim that 'GMI destroys the red tape while reform piles it on' ; sure, some reforms, such as work requirements and anti-corruption regs, would involve added complexity, but other reforms, such as scrapping redundant programs, would result in huge reductions in complexity. According to Pro's 1st source from R2, there are currently over 100 separate welfare programs in existence, with 33 of them being for housing alone, and another 22 being for food distribution. We could easily eliminate many of these programs, which would greatly decrease administrative costs while also increasing efficiency. Overall, reforms would result in a simplification of the system, while still keeping the red tapes which help to more effectively alleviate poverty.

Pro also attacks work requirements by characterizing them as counter-productive, yet that is flatly contradicted by the graphs and the NBER study provided last round, both of which clearly show that poverty rates declined substantially after 1996 reforms. Pro claims that Obama did not actually hinder the use of work requirements, but quickly proves himself wrong by observing that only 30% of recipients even meet the work requirements anymore. The lax enforcement of work requirements *is* a major factor in the failure of the status quo, along with unnecessary bureaucracy, corruption, and a lack of awareness among potential benefactors.

Pro claims that I am not being specific enough about which reforms I am advocating, but I have already named several potential areas for reform... I can't really be expected to put forth highly specific proposals, as that would require a detailed background knowledge of the workings of the current system, which neither I nor my opponent nor the majority of the voters have. Ultimately, there is no reason to accept that welfare reform is unfeasible; it is certainly a viable option, and if the government is willing to take the initiative to implement GMI, then they can do the same to make welfare reform happen.

Again, we are now faced with the question of why we should prefer reform over GMI...

ACCOUNTABILITY: Pro cites an isolated instance of people abusing food stamps; obviously there will always be people who find and exploit loopholes, but the point is that abuse is far, far easier with the completely unregulated GMI. This point is not about emotion; it is about 1) the government's obligation to make sure tax money is being used properly, and 2) the overall efficacy of welfare being jeopardized by widespread irresponsibility.

DEPENDENCY: Pro basically just ties this to his automation argument to show that dependency is inevitable. I will address this point in-depth in the section entitled "Robot Apocalypse".

COST: Pro says GMI is cheaper because it doesn't touch social security, but that is a non-unique... Pro's own estimates clearly showed a $228 Billion difference, so I'm not sure why he's going back on that now... It is true that I am not taking the effort Pro took to try giving numerical estimates of cost savings (mostly out of fear of inaccuracy), but my logic stands nonetheless-- the current system is already cheaper than GMI, and a reformed system would be at least as cheap, if not much cheaper.

CASE-STUDY: Pro is correct; I was mistaken-- the cited paper is actually just an evaluation of a GMI proposal. However, it still should be considered as Con evidence because it is the only formal, academic study of GMI that I could find, and the fact that it condemned the policy as being detrimental is still empirical confirmation of the above points.

== Robot Apocalypse ==

Pro conveniently ignores my most fatal objection to this argument-- that full-scale automation is going to result in widespread poverty regardless of what social safety net we have in place. Any welfare system relies on a large population of self-sufficient tax-payers in order to continue supporting a relatively small population of dependents. However, Pro is telling us that as a result of technological advancement, the majority of those tax-payers are going to be put out of work and turned into dependents. That's like taking a mule which is already carrying its maximum capacity, breaking three of its legs, and then forcing it to carry an additional 500 pounds-- the mule is going to collapse and drop all its weight. So by making total automatization seem inevitable, Pro is basically admitting that GMI is unsustainable and doomed to fail...

Fortunately, technology is probably *not* going to replace human labor to that extent, due to the social factors described last round. In response, Pro just quotes a line from my source which affirms his position; however, the only reason that source was included was to show that the technology to build a fully-automated fast food restaurant exists. In reality, the article's conclusion does not follow from its content, because no major fast food chain has actually made any serious attempt at adopting this new technology. Simply put, most businesses are not willing to go that far to maximize profits; the social benefits of primarily utilizing human labor outweigh the potential increase in productivity.

I also argued that the government could simply place restrictions on businesses to stop them from engaging in full-scale automation. Pro responds by saying "let the companies be more productive and redistribute some of the profits." But this is completely misguided because "some of the profits" of automated companies is not *nearly* enough to guarantee a minimum income for the number of unemployed people which Pro anticipates (i.e. most of the population). This is especially true since people would at most be earning $15000 a year, which obviously means a lot less spending and way lower profits for businesses in general. The loss of potential productivity looks negligible in comparison to the widespread and incorrigible poverty which would result from full-scale automation.

So we have three ways to look at this argument: either (1) businesses are going to voluntarily abstain from fully automating because it isn't practical, (2) the government will place restrictions on automatization in order to avoid a virtual apocalypse, or (3) virtual apocalypse. In any case, GMI doesn't seem to be particularly helpful, and thus the argument doesn't affirm the resolution. Especially not since welfare reform is preferable to GMI as a social safety net anyways.


The resolution is negated!
Debate Round No. 3


This debate is a clear Pro win as most of my case stands unrefuted.

I. Policy

Con is hinging his hopes of winning the debate on the libertarianism argument because never responds to most of my damning indictments of the welfare system. Unfortunately, this is a policy debate, not an ethical one; we have to look to whichever plan best solves human problems--the purpose of state policy is to benefit its citizens. His "reforms" are vague and dubious, at best. Con says we can just combine similar programs and slim the system down in other ways, but if it were that easy, we would already be doing it. The vast amounts of regulations and precedent make working within the system incredibly hard, it's better to just work outside the system by abolishing it and implementing a system of cash payments.

You can vote Pro off of the overhead costs alone. Again, 25% of the systems cost are administrative. Abolish the system and just send people checks and you have 25% more money to work with, right off the bat. Con totally misunderstands the purpose of objecting to the work requirement--it required so much paperwork that overhead costs *skyrocketed* and since the government is so incompetent at enforcing rules, less than a third of people even met the requirement according to the nonpartisan GAO. Obama reformed the system by maintaining the work requirement but letting states opt out *if* they met certain stringent requirements. This is exactly what Con wants, and yet he's arguing that reforms like this don't work. Even if you think Obama made the wrong choice, to pin the failure of the system on this tiny reform as Con does is beyond absurd.

Again, Con pretends that he can wave a magic wand and do away with the nonsense of the bureaucrats, but he doesn't have this ability. My plan destroys red tape and minimizes administrative costs.

Con says that it's not fair to expect him to come up with a comprehensive plan, but all I really asked for was something to rival my own plan where I gave an analysis on what we should do and how to do it. Cons entire "plan" basically boils down to "make the welfare system better". In addition, Con never even shows these reforms to be possible. They seem like no brainers, if they were possible they would've already happened. The bureaucracy in the United States has made such a mess that something as simple as a work requirement almost doubled overhead costs and wasn't even enforced. It's time to take power out of the hands of such people.

Once more, Con argues that the government has an "obligation to make sure tax money is being used properly"--if this is true, then his entire case falls because the government is simply incapable of doing this under the current system. 25% of the system goes into the pockets of administrators. $98 billion was paid to people who were ineligible for benefits. People sell their food stamps, anyway. It's dubious to say the least that the common man is so ignorant that his mismanagement of funds allocated to him would come even close to outweighing these costs.

Con tries to argue about cost, but you need to reject this argument for three reasons: First, I said in my opening that if we couldn't find the money for a $15,000 GMI we could just scale it down to, say, $13,000 and we would have enough--$15,000 was just a general ballpark number. The point is, converting all of the money in the current system into cash and just sending people checks would be far more beneficial. Maybe Quebec's proposed system would cost more. I've explained mine, Con should've attacked it, not Quebec's. Second, Cons reforms are going to cost, too. He wants to pretend that he's saving money but he won't even say by how much, not even a general ballpark estimate. The welfare system in the US is so broken that fixing it is probably not even be possible or, if it was, would cost so much in administrative costs to make the venture not worthwhile. Third, I'm not even touching Social Security. Social Security is a cash payment to elderly individuals. It doesn't take an Economics Ph.D. to understand how easy it would be to reform this to join a GMI.

At the end of the day, what we're looking at is a system so broken that it's better to do away with it entirely and pay the poor in cash. It really is that simple. Since this is a policy debate, you can affirm right here.

II. Principle

I'm grouping libertarianism and the economy of the future here.

a) Ethics

Cons libertarian argument is unpersuasive. He claims that he doesn't have to explain how it's possible to turn the US into a Randian paradise because his argument is about ethical truth value, but this is a policy debate. I think it would be nice if we abolished rape, but unless I can explain how it's possible to do so I gain no impact. Con says I don't establish an ethical framework, but I really don't have to. Not only am I showing that the resolution should be affirmed because it provides more benefits than the status quo, but I've shown that my way is the best way to maintain a libertarian society, so if you want to go with Cons ethical framework in the real world, you affirm.

Con agrees that medieval feudalism is as close to a libertarian society as humanity has ever gotten. Thus, we can see why exactly Cons ideas don't work--the Church (which at the time was closely linked with the State, not a private entity like Con characterizes) demanded a tithe, and enough people were willing to pay it because they knew that if they didn't, the poor would rise up and kill them. Starving people don't just say "Oh, well, I respect the nonaggression principle so my family and I can just die because those aristocrats are paying for their 15 course meals with private money". They go straight to the nearest farmhouse or manor and take what they need. People don't just quietly die, they go down trying to do what hundreds of millions of years of evolution have taught us to do--survive at all costs. Even from a purely cold hearted, capitalist, non altruistic viewpoint we have no choice but to ensure that people have the means to survive, lest they rise up. The historical landscape is littered with the bodies of hundreds of rulers who failed to understand this concept. As policymakers, we do. Even if you buy that we should be libertarian, the only way to maintain libertarianism is to support the poor and the most libertarian way to support the poor is a cash payment rather than a labyrinth system supporting thousands of government workers in over 100 different agencies. There's a reason that a GMI is mostly advocated for by real world libertarians trying to craft policy.

Con thinks that the fact that there were still poor people in the Middle Ages supports his case. It doesn't. The government of today has a quite a bit more coordination power than feudal kings did, and the tithe was *certainly* better for the poor than *nothing*. Con says that we could just have welfare through private organizations, but we know this isn't true because if it was, the state would never have needed to help the poor to begin with. Nothing is stopping private organizations from helping people, but you can't rely on altruism.

Moreover, Con never really disputed that modernity has destroyed the possibility of many people to live meaningful lives for the benefit of everyone else. Those people are owed compensation for what was taken from them, just as the farmer is owed compensation when we pave over his land to make a road.

b) The economy of the future

Con continually misunderstands this point. As technology increases, the jobs humans can compete with technology in steadily diminish. Remember, in a mere two decades, about half of the jobs that currently exist are likely to be obsolete. Con argues that since fast food restaurants haven't immediately automized, they aren't going to, as if it isn't a gradual process. Frey and Osborne of the University of Oxford predict a 92% chance that fast food labor will become automized in the coming decades[1], along with a myriad of other jobs. Remember, nearly half of jobs are about to become obsolete. It's pretty indisputable that advances in technology are going to push people out of work like it has innumerable times in the past. The reason this time is different and more jobs won't be created is due to what Harari tells us: computers are simply becoming *better* than humans at the tasks the market needs us to perform. The age of the masses is over. Even if I'm wrong about this (and Con hasn't proven so), history still shows that it takes a long time for society to adjust, and we should give people a helping hand. Remember that even if you buy Cons ethical arguments you still have to help the poor.

Thus, it's obvious that we need to establish a GMI because it's the best welfare policy. It's in the self interest of pretty much everyone reading this to affirm, because there is a significant chance that our skills too will be overtaken by the machine.

Con calls the argument that we're done for anyway his most "fatal" objection, but it relies on a very simplistic viewpoint where the existing tax structure doesn't change at all even when most of the population isn't working. Like I said, let the companies innovate and redistribute a part of the profits. Jobs aren't going to disappear overnight, but we should begin facing the problem as soon as we can by creating a more efficient and fair welfare system, tax changes can occur as necessary.

In conclusion, throughout this debate I've proven that a simpler system is preferable, ethical, and necessary. My case stands almost entirely unrefuted and all of Cons arguments demonstrate the necessity of establishing a minimum income as welfare reform is entirely unfeasible and a libertarian society demands a guaranteed minimum income. It's in the best interest of us all to ensure a simple and effective welfare system, lest we come to rely on it.

Vote Pro.




Thanks for the debate, Thett.

== Libertarian Ethics ==

Pro states that this is a "policy" debate in an attempt to reject my libertarian ethical argument off-hand, yet nowhere in the opening round is this stated. There is nothing in the resolution implying that we are strictly limited to "pragmatic" utilitarian arguments. The resolution simply states that the US *should* adopt GMI-- what exactly "should" implies is up for debate. This argument shows that what the US government *should* do is determined by libertarian ethical principles; yet Pro has still made absolutely no attempt at refuting said principles, instead deferring to an unsubstantiated consequentialist standard to judge libertarian policies. For that reason alone, this argument succeeds in negating the resolution and warrants a Con vote. Because it is categorically immoral for the government to use its force to redistribute property, the government should not implement GMI or any other form of welfare-spending.

Pro tells us that there are substantial utilitarian harms in allowing the poor to starve. I agree. However, that doesn't mean that the government should be allowed to force people to support the poor via redistribution-- it simply means that it is in our self-interest to voluntarily choose to be altruistic. That does nothing to support GMI. Pro says that we can't rely on altruism to support the poor, yet he contradicts himself by noting that the whole tithe business from medieval Europe was *voluntary*, and that it *did* do an adequate job of supporting the poor (for a while). In addition, he never responds to my point that super-low taxes = a wealthier populace = much more altruism.

Pro also never responds to my observation that "the most libertarian society on Earth" was successful and stable for nearly a millennium, which blatantly contradicts his claim that a society cannot be run on libertarian principles; so even under a consequentialist standard, libertarianism passes the buck. This contention is a resounding Con win.

== Reform vs. GMI ==

Pro ignores all my arguments in favor of the feasibility of welfare reform, simply dismissing them with the logic that "if it were that easy, we would already be doing it". But that reasoning is ridiculous-- it can pretty much be used to argue against making any sort of progress at all. I can use the same fallacious reasoning to say that "if it were that easy to implement GMI, then we already would have implemented something like it."

Pro is blatantly contradicting himself by suggesting that the government is capable of scrapping everything and setting up an entirely new system but incapable of merely changing up the current system a bit. Publicizing welfare benefits, scrapping redundant programs, re-establishing work requirements, and hunting down the sources of corruption and inefficiency within the system-- I have demonstrated that all of these would have a huge positive impact on the overall efficacy of the welfare system, and that they can easily be accomplished if the government were to make a concentrated effort at it (which would be necessary to implement GMI as well). The bottom line is that welfare reform is just as feasible as implementing the GMI, if not *more* feasible.

Pro keeps talking about the administrative costs of a reformed system, but really, such costs don't matter if they are allowing the system to do its job (alleviating poverty) better than it otherwise would. Pro has not even attempted to contest my evidence that the work requirements substantially reduced poverty and increased employment rates; instead he has just railed against the higher administrative costs they incurred. What Pro fails to realize is that not all bureaucracy is inherently bad; if used properly, government regulation can be quite effective, as is the case with work requirements, and efficacy is ultimately more important than simplicity.

And on the subject of efficacy, Pro keeps citing the 30% stat to show how bad the government is at enforcing rules, but he neglects to notice that number came from *after* Obama stopped strictly enforcing work requirements. Obviously, very few people are going to bother to continue working if they can receive the same benefits without doing anything. This just shows that having strict work requirements in place does have a profound effect on dependency rates.

Anyways, the point is irrelevant because, on balance, reforms *would* reduce complexity-- scrapping/merging the many, many redundant programs out there would result in enormous administrative cost-savings, and in conjunction with the cost-savings that would come from reducing dependency, it would easily outweigh the costs of re-establishing work requirements. Pro claims that GMI is less expensive because it doesn't touch social security, but again, neither does the welfare system, so I really have no idea what he's trying to get at here... furthermore, he commits the same sin of vagueness he's been accusing me of by saying that social security can "easily" be incorporated into GMI, without actually proposing how that could be done.

Pro's central thesis is that the welfare system is so broken that it would be better to just replace it, but he's given *no* reason to believe it can't be fixed other than an elaborate description of the sorry state of the status quo. Meanwhile, I have provided several different general approaches the government could take to reform the current system, many of which have been empirically shown to be highly effective in the past, and none of which would take more effort on the part of the government than implementing GMI would. A reformed system is preferable to GMI because 1) it does a far better job of ensuring accountability on the part of recipients, 2) it actually has a mechanism for reducing dependency and getting people to become self-sufficient, 3) it costs roughly the same as GMI even in the worst-case scenario, and 4) the *only* academic evaluation of a GMI proposal thus far has turned out decidedly negative results. Thus, a pragmatic analysis of things leads us to the conclusion that we should reject GMI in favor of a welfare reform bill.

== Robot Apocalypse ==

First of all, remember that both the libertarian argument and the counter-plan defeat this case.

Pro notes that the reason this next wave of technological advancement is fundamentally different from all the ones before it is because there is literally no chance of humanity as a whole ever regaining its economic value-- and that is *precisely* why technology will *not* be replacing human labor on the scale that Pro predicts. No one wants that to happen; the people want to keep their jobs, the businesses want consumers to have spending money, and the government wants to avoid having society's economic structure decimated. Everyone loses if automation replaces human labor, and for that reason, either voluntarily or as a result of government regulation, businesses will not be adopting the new technology to the extent that Pro claims. The productivity boost would be completely and utterly outweighed by the effects of widespread poverty; even if GMI worked out, it would still mean that the vast majority of the population would be restricted to a subsistence-level wage, which would be an enormous blow to an economy based in mass-consumerism.

But the GMI *won't* work in such a situation. As explained last round, there would be no way for the GMI to remain functional when the population of dependents it has to support vastly outnumbers the population of tax-payers which fund it. Pro says we can "change the tax structure", but he never explains how. If it is at all possible, we would literally have to raise corporate and income tax rates to near 100% in order to continue supporting the rest of the dependent population, which would completely erase any incentive to continue being economically productive. Simply changing the tax structure isn't going to work. Trying to financially support hundreds of millions of people with the earnings of a couple million is beyond absurd.

So no, it is not in our self-interest to support GMI because either 1) the mass-automatization Pro speaks of is not really going to occur, or 2) mass-automatization will occur within the next two decades and any social safety net we have in place is going to collapse almost immediately afterwards. GMI barely does anything to help in either case.


Some reasons to vote Con in today's debate:
1. GMI is unethical, in accordance with libertarian ethical principles which I fully warranted and Pro did not even attempt to refute
2. Reforming the current welfare system is a viable option which has numerous advantages over GMI
3. GMI is practically useless regardless of how the impending wave of technological advancement ends up affecting our lives

The resolution is negated!
Debate Round No. 4
131 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by kasmic 5 years ago
Posted by Genghis_Khan 5 years ago
No way. I just skimmed some of Jifpop's debates. They're nothing like this one.
Posted by Wylted 5 years ago
Yes he is. He told me so in a PM
Posted by ResponsiblyIrresponsible 5 years ago
WYMM isn't jifpop.
Posted by Wylted 5 years ago
Jifpop can hold his own in a debate, despite how annoying his debates are to both read and participate in.
Posted by Genghis_Khan 5 years ago
I thought Jifpop sucked
Posted by Wylted 5 years ago
WYMM is Jifpop.
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
Haha it's not my place to say. He isn't exactly hiding it, though
Posted by Genghis_Khan 5 years ago
He isn't?
Who is he?
Posted by thett3 5 years ago
lol it's not a big deal. WYMM isn't actually a noob, and if I had responded better I would've won
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 5 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.
Vote Placed by Wylted 5 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. Very tough debate for me to judge, because I didn't really know how to aproach the libertarian arguments. I'd like to see people's opinions on how to properly weigh those
Vote Placed by bluesteel 5 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in Google Doc:
Vote Placed by YYW 5 years ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: The fact that it's a policy debate implies it's also a debate of ethics, though I agree with PRO's criticism of CON's reforms in that they're nebulous. I'm not persuaded by PRO's argument that if reform efforts purposed to consolidation of social welfare programs is impossible because it's not being done, but his point that regulation as it exists now hinders progress is well received. That point is strengthened by the cost of administering huge bureaucracies. CON has no alternative to what PRO is proposing, and does not show that the status quo is alright either, and the argument from fiscal responsibility he articulated reasonably supports PRO's case before it supports his own. To the ethics issue, while I think that the libertarianism theme is well articulated it's not enough to overbear what PRO says. This was a stronger area of CON's case, nonetheless, although there were issues with re/ discussion of feudalism, and history generally. All I didn't mention was irrelevant. PRO Wins.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Comments. Good debate.
Vote Placed by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 5 years ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Con wins on both the Libertarian refutation and he trumps the regular plan with the CP. The main arguments that I saw were these: Robot Apocalypse, Counter Plan, Quebec case study, Moral responsibility, and then of course the very case itself. I'd like to start off by saying that calling it Robot Apocalypse was exactly what I was thinking when I read this because he uses stats that sound so existential, its very policy if you will lol. But ya, right off the bat, I think pro losses this argument, it is simply unreasonable and Pro doesnt even come close to proving it is, con's most convincing points were on this.
The CP was awesome, I think con wins all points except Quebec study, Pro, there is a good argument for a permutation which would have given you the win. On moral responsibility Pro is also majorly victorious, Con, you must justify your framework and thus you couldn't win until you did. Con turns your points anyhow. Con could have been specific and I like pros case overall

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