A Letter to Y Combinator Basic Income Researchers

Dear Researchers,

Thank you for posting: http://blog.ycombinator.com/moving-forward-on-basic-income

The main challenge to your undertaking comes down to stating exactly will constitute a useful study. What criteria are you using to define an effective deployment of basic income vs a defective deployment? Who is evaluating this?

I do not think such an assessment is even possible. Any judgment about the “effective” use of funds by a person is ultimately an ethical and political judgement that comes down exclusively to the judgement of those providing the funds. If those funding people aren’t held accountable to the people receiving the funds there is no point. That is, the study has no real meaning because there are no consequences for the study experimenters — was the study reasonable? Fairly executed? Scientific? — in this case only the subjects can be judged and rewarded or punished.

As such why bother with the study at all? Why not just offer basic income to the the entire US population and let it go? (Silicon Valley could easily do that for at least a year) This is the only course of action for any concept that relies on a notion of human rights that one isn’t going to subject to a democratic vote.

Now it’s quite possible this is just marketing to sway a larger electorate to consider the idea. That’s fine but it should be stated as such. Again there is no scientific way to test via a small scale study that by its nature will be anything but a confusion between control and experimental group results and methodology and data science. Worse it would take more than a generation to evaluate any useful effects.

Sometimes we just have to go for things without the science or religion to back it up. Because, well, it “makes sense.”


Russell Foltz-Smith


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I be doing stuff. and other stuff. More stuff. http://www.worksonbecoming.com/about/ I believe in infinite regression of doing stuff.

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