Even if a modest Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) were possible to fund within the current government budget (see previous posts where I performed this trick), hence not requiring a tax increase, there are still potential problems. Some working age adults (especially young men with limited education and skill sets) may prefer to manage on a BIG rather than get a job. Or they may choose a “career” of part-time or intermittent work, which would undermine real career-building. A reliable, unconditional and generous BIG would probably encourage procrastination and discourage self-sacrifice in the service of long-term goals, especially in those for whom school and full-time work aren’t exactly enticing prospects. Live with mom or a bunch of roommates, work part-time in food service or take an occasional gig, and prolong adolescence a few more years – and before you know it, the ol’ brain is past its optimal age for learning and skill acquisition, and the prospect of nose to the grindstone is even less appealing. I’m not saying that with a generous BIG a huge number of people would succumb to the temptation of lifelong slackerdom, but some will - but many more will succumb to delaying entry into responsible adulthood (that’s shorthand for acquiring resources for family, home, and retirement). How many? Enough to put a real dent into the labor supply, productivity growth, GDP, and tax receipts.

A too-generous BIG would disincentivize work for enough people that it would trigger an economic death spiral. The basic causal chain: reduced labor supply/tax receipts --> higher taxes -->more tax payers at the margins opt out of labor market --> tax receipts go down even more --> less money to fund BIG….

Bottom line here: a successful BIG has to achieve a sort of homeostasis: enough to eliminate abject poverty and provide resources/options for a better life while not being so much that too many people opt out of work and tax paying. This isn’t a matter of To-BIG or Not-To-BIG – but how big BIG should be.