In Lowrey’s indignant telling, many perplexing problems of the human condition are merely a failure of political will or compassion. 'What we often think of as economic circumstance,' Lowrey explains, 'is largely a product of policy. The way things are is really the way we choose them to be.' She believes that 'poverty in the United States is a choice'-—not for those in poverty, but for the society that allows them to suffer. Guaranteeing that all households receive money in excess of the government-defined poverty threshold 'would, to state the obvious, end poverty.' To state the obvious, it would not.
We have a term for programs in which someone fills out surveys and in return becomes eligible for a cash prize, sometimes paid in installments. The term is not 'basic income'; it's 'promotional contest.' When the government runs the program, we usually charge a fee to participate and call it the lottery.
Some parents do provide their children with a system of automatic support. We call the result a 'trust-fund baby.' The term is not usually synonymous with 'kind, well-adjusted, productive member of society.' The day when parents embrace trust-fundism as a child-rearing ideal is the day when the UBI will gain mainstream traction as a public policy.
You need economic growth to create jobs but I think it's important to realize that economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition. That you can also get an awful lot of economic growth that doesn't create an awful lot of jobs. If you see it as part of the government's mandate to not just maximize GDP but actually make sure that people from their diverse backgrounds with their diverse talents and capabilities can find a place in our economy, then policy needs to do a lot more than just say what maximizes economic growth.
Clearly defined responsibilities, from educating children to caring for the elderly to fighting in wars, are fundamental to a society's character. They establish the terms of relationships, the scope and role of civil society, and the expectations against which people judge one another. And few are as important or pervasive as the responsibility of providing--for oneself, for one's family, and for future generations.
Ensuring that even those with very low human capital enter and remain in the workforce offers one of the highest leverage points for breaking the cycle of social decay. A job provides not just a wage, but also structure, skills and social engagement. It gets someone onto the first rung of the economic ladder, which is the first step to climbing any higher. New policies should aim for this outcome -- making work pay, not paying regardless of work.