At first blush, universal basic income (UBI) seems a very attractive idea, especially to a progressive. Yet it suffers from two serious problems. First, the odds are very high that an effort to secure UBI would prove quixotic. Second, and more disconcerting, any possibility of overcoming the formidable obstacles to UBI will almost certainly require a left-right coalition that has significant conservative support — and conservative support for UBI rests on an approach that would increase poverty, rather than reduce it.
The key issues related to UBI include what it would cost, how it would be paid for, and the risks it poses. Let’s take these one at a time.