Let’s cut to the chase, Republicans haven’t shrunk the federal government since Calvin Coolidge. With progressive Republicans Richard Nixon and George W. Bush alone, the federal government expanded into areas that made progressive Democrats jittery with excitement. The issue is this, the Republican Party isn’t a conservative party, it is an anti-Democrat party that wants to get behind the wheel of the vessel that is government.
With our national debt still out of control and the coming age of automation rearing its forceful head, when the next recession hits Republicans will cave to Democrats and pass more resolutions, bailouts, stimuli, and other forms of economic intervention in order to make things seem like they aren’t getting too out of hand. Republicans have some major contradictions, they are said to be the party of free markets, slashing government, and anti-welfare state, but their actions and record show they are anything but that.
The Newt Gingrich-led Contract with America from the Clinton era showed this, it was a essentially a plan that would maintain and protect Social Security and other entitlement programs. This type of Republican Party seems distant from the image of a voting bloc Democrats seem to think is entirely made up of Ted Cruz clones. The issue at hand is this – how do you maintain a level of trust among those whose benefits you claim to protect while also shrinking government to please conservative voters? The answer and current economic buzzword is something that garners mixed reactions, a universal basic income (UBI).
As I have written about previously, UBI isn’t an inherently left- or right-wing issue, it has received praise and extensive thought from progressives and even libertarian scholars. According to libertarian political philosopher Matt Zwolinski, “each one of those anti-poverty programs comes with its own bureaucracy and its own Byzantine set of rules. If you want to shrink the size and scope of government, eliminating those departments and replacing them with a program so simple it could virtually be administered with a computer seems like a good place to start.” Zwolinski continues to elaborate that with an anti-welfare mindset in place, the welfare state can be completely eliminated and replaced with a smaller, cheaper, less argumentative UBI system.
As good as that one libertarian argument may sound to Republican voters, it isn’t without libertarian criticism either. Mises Institute contributor Ash Navabi rebutted Zwolinski’s pro-UBI stance by saying “There are many economic costs associated whenever the government purloins the public, of course; but there are also moral issues involved with theft [taxation]. Just because a BIG [“basic income guarantee” which is the same as UBI] may be less paternalistic and condescending to the poor than the current welfare paradigm, as Zwolinski suggests, does not mean that it is just and ethical to do in the first place.”
The philosophy behind UBI aside, I think most right-wing voters will admit that while government’s legalized plunder is wrong on its face, most voters just won’t go from our current welfare state to nothing, no average voter would want such momentous shock therapy. All Zwolinski states is that while it is a flaw in society to have any form of tax or income redistribution, UBI is better than the hydra of a mess we have now, and I don’t know many Republicans who could disagree with that statement at all.
While there may be no Republican consensus, UBI will without a doubt be brought up in some way during the 2020 general election. The only caveat is that Democrats will want to add UBI onto the already existing welfare state as just another feature, while Republicans can propose a conservative solution to the Democrats’ add-on UBI by showing a willingness to kill the currently wasteful and damaged welfare system we currently have to live with.