What’s Wrong With Free Money?

Left or right, politicians are nothing but scam artists. Since they produce nothing of value themselves, and everything they give away they first had to steal from someone else (via “taxes”), it’s impossible for them to be anything other than scam artists. They are forever trying to come up with some new sales pitch for some scheme that will enrich and empower themselves, but which sounds like it’s intended to help “the people.” What politicians do is wield power—they issue commands, enforced by their army of unthinking mercenaries, which always results in the common people being restricted, controlled and extorted. There is no other way to use threats of violence, which is what all “laws” are. The idea that they do this because that want to help the very people whom they are coercively controlling is patently ridiculous. And yet voters fall for it, over and over again.

One of the scams pushed by the soulless parasites is the notion of “universal basic income” or “UBI”: the idea that, just as a result of existing, everyone is magically entitled to a certain amount of prosperity, income and wealth. Unfortunately, this political Tooth Fairy approach seems to work well on the economically ignorant, which includes most people. After all, it sounds so nice—so caring and generous. What could possibly be destructive or malicious about giving everyone free stuff?

If someone is picturing themselves as the recipient of that free stuff (which is how the slimy politicians want and expect people to think about it), what’s not to like? “Yay, even if I sit on my butt all day doing nothing, I’ll have enough money for food, shelter, and other stuff! That’s awesome!” But even the average economic ignoramus still probably will feel a little twinge, deep inside their soul, saying things like, “Wait, where is it coming from?” But a lot of people will try to stomp on that little voice to silence it. “Shut up! It’s free stuff, and I deserve it!” And when that happens, somewhere a politician chuckles.

Let’s examine some of the levels of deviousness beneath the “basic income” ploy, which is disguised as a benign, altruistic idea.

1 – The most basic—and what should be the most obvious—problem is that, in order for “government” to give wealth to one person, it has to take it from someone else. And mainly it does that through the extortion scheme known as “taxation.” Does anyone think the politicians are giving their own money away? If the politicians were honest, their campaign would say, “I’m going to take some of your neighbor’s stuff and give it to you!” However, most voters don’t want to hear that and don’t want to cheer for that. They’re happy to receive “free” stuff as long as they don’t have to see, or hear about, or even know about, the violence it took to wrestle the loot away from someone else.

2 – But good old-fashioned extortion is not the only thing that is conniving and destructive about the “basic income” bunk. And again, if people would listen to their inner voices, many would instinctively know it. “Wait, if it would be great for everyone to get $3,000 a month for free, just for being alive, then why not $1,000,000 a month? How could that possibly work? Something is fishy!” For this level of deception, a very brief economics lesson is in order:

Having dollars does not, all by itself, make you rich. If you had a million dollars and were alone on an island with no food and water, would you be rich? Dollars are only worth what you can trade them for, what you can buy with them. A simple thought experiment illustrates the point: what happens if we print $7,000,000,000,000,000 in new currency, and give a million dollars to everyone on Earth? Will we then all be rich? Of course not, because the amount of valuable stuff in the world—the amount of actual wealth—won’t have changed at all. Only the supply of currency will have changed, and the result of that is called “inflation.” The short version is, if you have twice as many dollars as you did last week, but each of your dollars only buys half of what they did last week, then you are exactly where you started. You’re basically just changing a unit of measurement, while not adding anything of actual value.

This would be a little like politicians promising to make everyone taller by declaring that ten inches, instead of twelve, now counts as a foot. Yay, now the vast majority of adults are over six feet tall! … Except not really. Obviously. However, while changing how many inches are in a foot would be stupid and problematic, it wouldn’t be downright evil. But when “monetary policy” (a euphemism for fabricating fake money) devalues the dollar, that constitutes theft from everyone in possession of dollars. If you saved up $1,000, and suddenly it was worth half as much, you’ve been robbed. What makes the robbery clever is that most people don’t understand it, and think that “inflation” must be some natural, unavoidable, benign phenomenon. It is none of those.

3 – But in the long run, one of the most destructive aspects of “free stuff from government”—seen most obviously in outright communism—is that it automatically makes people overall less prosperous, by paying people to not be productive. Again, a simple example illustrates the point. Suppose tomorrow “government” printed and handed out a million dollars to every man, woman and child in the country. Even ignoring the aspect of “inflation,” what would happen? Well, since we’d all be (supposedly) rich, no one would have any incentive to do anything they didn’t want to do. The vast majority of people would quit their jobs, and “retire,” knowingly they could afford an easy life for the rest of their days.

But they would be wrong. Fatally wrong. With no one producing anything—no farming, no manufacturing, no products, no services—there would quickly be nothing to buy (including food) with all of those excess, worthless dollars.

Again, if the actual stuff that people want and need doesn’t exist (because no one is producing it), then the people are poor, regardless of how many pieces of paper they have in their pockets. And having the state giving everyone “free money” would literally amount to paying people to not be productive, thus pushing society as a whole towards poverty. We could all sit around counting our dollars as we starve to death. Hooray for socialism!

4 – Ironically, if politicians were merely selfish and greedy for unearned wealth, they would do a lot less damage than they currently do. It is their love of power and their desire for control and dominion that makes them so vile, and so dangerous. If Congress just directly robbed the people enough to give every politician a billion dollars, and did nothing else, “government” would be far less destructive, and less expensive, than it is now. Now it’s time to look at what makes the “charity by government” racket truly anti-humanity (as if mass extortion wasn’t bad enough).

The reason ruling classes push for “welfare” programs, or things like Social Security, or Medicare and Medicaid, or public housing projects—and the reason some push the “universal basic income” nonsense—is not because they give a crap about you, or anyone else. It is because they are trying to create a class of helpless, dependent people who are incapable, mentally and physically, of taking care of themselves. Every ruling class, as an excuse to even exist, has to convince its victims that they need it, that they could not survive without it. And one of the best ways to do that is to make it more and more difficult to be self-sufficient. It is the equivalent of caging a wild animal and feeding it until it is fat, weak, and has forgotten how to take care of itself.

There are countless examples of intrusive and restrictive “legislation” that were sold as ways to “protect the public,” which are actually intended to make it harder and harder for people to survive and thrive without “government” assistance. A few examples are: a) regulations and licensing requirements making it more and more difficult and expensive for normal people to make and run their own businesses; b) higher taxes and more kinds of taxes, on all sorts of things, designed to forever keep people in debt and/or barely treading water financially; c) zoning and occupancy regulations making it ridiculously expensive to have a “legal” residence; d) regulations and restrictions making things like food and transportation far more expensive; e) “laws” which specifically forbid people from doing or producing a lot of things for themselves (including things as absurd as collecting their own rain water).

Then, after making life so expensive, inconvenient and complicated, the same crooked bastards who intentionally created that situation pretend to be all loving and caring by giving away “free” stuff, in order to make the people dependent on them. Or, as Harry Browne put it, “Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, ‘See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.’

5 – Lastly, and perhaps most despicably, the real motivation behind scams like “universal basic income” is politicians trying to buy the blind loyalty of as many peasants as possible. As George Bernard Shaw put it, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” If the politicians can get a large segment of society—a majority of their victims—loudly demanding such wealth redistribution schemes, and condemning any who oppose the idea, the political crooks can act as if they are just doing the “will of the people,” just representing what the majority wants. What those in power most want to see is throngs of entitlement-mentality dependents of the state talking about how they deserve more free stuff, and how they and the candidates they vote for are compassionate and caring for condoning mass extortion.

Whether it’s the elderly demanding their Social Security, or the sick demanding “free healthcare,” or the poor demanding bigger “welfare” checks, what serves tyrants best is to have the people themselves demanding mass extortion and authoritarian domination. Politicians love nothing more than to manipulate and deceive people into being divided, and bitter, and envious, and forever begging a ruling class to make things “fair.” In the end, the politicians always win such games, and everyone else—including those silly enough to have cheered for it—loses. “Universal basic income” is just the latest label and packaging for the same old destructive and profoundly evil scam.

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Larken Rose is an anarchist author best known for challenging the IRS to answer questions about the federal tax liability of citizens, and being put in prison with no questions answered. He is the author of The Most Dangerous Superstition.