2017 NHSDLC National Championship & Novice Nationals Topic Introduction

· Topics

The topic that will be debated at our camps in Beijing, Shanghai, and at the national tournament is:

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should implement a universal basic income. 美国联邦政府应施行全民基本收入。

In this introduction to the topic, we will give you some background information and suggest potential areas of argument on each side. Remember that as with any debate topic the arguments we mention are not the only arguments you can make, or indeed necessarily the best. It is always important that you think about the issues yourself and come up with your own ideas.

What is the UBI

The universal basic income (UBI) is an allotted amount of money given by the government to everyone in the state, either fixed or scaled, with its purpose being to help people stay above the poverty line [贫困线:指维持基本生存和社会公认标准所必须消费所需的最低费用,是衡量家人或家庭是否处于贫困状态的数量界线]. A notion old enough to be found in a pamphlet written in 1797 by Thomas Paine, UBI has often been discussed, but has only been tested in a few countries around the world.

What actually is a welfare state?[福利国家:福利国家是一种国家形态,政府在保障其国民的社会经济生活水平中扮演重要的角色。福利国家涉及到国家对一系列社会服务的资助,例如医疗保险、教育等,同时也包括对个人的直接资助。]

At their most basic level, welfare states try and make sure that everyone will have enough to eat and a place to live. The Government provides this by paying for at least part of a citizen's necessary goods, including food and housing, usually using taxes on other resources to fund such safety nets for its poorest citizens.

However this support is not always in the form of food hand outs or paying rent, it can also be more encompassing ranging from running youth centres for at-risk teens [问题青少年:多用于形容美国社会中需要外界帮助才能够顺利完成学业、相对更难在成年后取得经济自足的青少年群体] in order to prevent them from turning to crime, or to providing single mothers with a monthly allowance in order to support their children. In advanced economies, this can even include things like paying for workers to learn in demand skills. In short, a welfare state helps those who need it, allowing them to enjoy a decent quality of life that would otherwise not be available.

Why would we give out Money to everyone anyway?

UBI can only exist within the framework of a welfare state. Often, welfare states recognise a need to support those who cannot support themselves. Most countries support a capitalist economic structure [资本主义经济结构:指基于资本主义意识形态的经济结构,其特点为私人拥有资本财产(生产资料),投资活动基于个人决策而非国家控制,经济行为以寻求利润为目标,借雇佣或劳动的手段以生产资料创造利润,商品和服务借货币在自由市场中流通,生产和销售主要由公司和工商业控制并相互竞争。], where the market determines how much money someone makes for a job. However the market can sometimes be cruel and leave some people who have worked hard without enough money to feed themselves and their families. In addition some people simply cannot get a job, such as those with disabilities or skills that are not needed, for example coal miners when a country uses solar power. The welfare state evolved to solve this cruelty and make sure that if the economy cannot provide for someone the state will.

The question that confronts policymakers is what is the best way to support the poorest in a society? Some say that any intervention at all from the government incentivises people to not find their own jobs and help themselves, of those that agree that the poorest need some help the type of help people receive is the fundamental question.

Throughout history the poorest in our society have been viewed as not being able to make the best choices about their own lives, pointing to the number of the poorest in our society addicted to drugs. Some have argued If poor people could make smart choices, then they wouldn't be poor at all, this system of thought is called paternalism [家长式领导:指个人、组织或国家意图为其下属的一些人或群体所谓的最大利益着想,而限制其自由与自主权的行为。]. The the state will act as a parent directly provide housing, food and medicine. UBI, in contrast to this idea, supposes that everyone is the best at deciding what they need to spend money on and that we can save on administration and run the welfare state more efficiently if we simply assign everyone the lowest level of income necessary to survive and let individuals figure out the rest.

The debate is far from settled and many different countries have had different levels of state allowances. In the past forty years the focus on basic income has been renewed as people fear that living wages are not keeping up with inflation and daily expenses. People who are working a full time job are no longer guaranteed a middle class lifestyle. Not only that, but in the past twenty years automation in the workforce has accelerated rapidly causing many to speculate that low- skilled earners may not be able to find work in the next several decades.

Where does the money come from?

To establish a national basic income scheme inside the United States, such as $10,000 per year, would require a lot of work both in enforcement and funding. There are several ways to pay for a UBI, however at its core it would still require governments to both freeze existing welfare systems and direct those funds to provide the UBI, and probably to to raise the amount of GDP collected by tax upwards of ten points at least.

Those actions would only account for a minimum UBI, which does not guarantee people a living wage. A larger income could be provided if the U.S. chose to be more generous in their allocation of funds, but since UBI has never been implemented before on such a large-scale, any movement away from the current model of means-tested social welfare [经过经济状况调查的社会福利:指在接受社会福利之前,政府或福利发放机构要求接受者进行特定经济状况调查的福利系统] is somewhat unpredictable. However this is not to say that it has never been tested before in countries, or even in certain states inside the United States.

UBI in other places

UBI has been experimented with in countries across the globe, with Brazil and India implementing an experimental form of a guaranteed minimum income to mixed success. Some pilot projects took place in Manitoba, Canada as well as Ontario [安大略:加拿大一东部省份] and in the United States state governments have experimented with a negative income tax (NIT) [负所得税:负所得税是政府对于低收入者,按照其实际收入与维持一定社会生活水平需要的差额,运用税收形式,依率计算给予低收入者补助的一种方法]. The largest scale pilot program for UBI started in January, 2017 in Finland [芬兰:北欧国家]. Their guarantee was that 2,000 unemployed Finns would be receiving an unconditional monthly sum with the income replacing all social benefits, which will continue even if they were to become gainfully employed again. So far the results have shown that adjusted income is still not enough to keep many recipients out of poverty, however there seems to be a negligible effect of having a guaranteed income dissuading someone from seeking employment. [到目前为止的结果显示,调整后的收入仍不足以让很多接受者脱离贫困,但是确定基本收入对人们寻求就业积极性的影响几乎是可以忽视的。]


The United States has had an especially difficult time agreeing on whether to adopt a UBI as the issue often falls along party lines. America is a federalized system containing a national government that holds sway over fifty local state governments. The constitution of the United States reins in much of the power the national government has over the lives of everyday citizens and instead delegates much of the responsibility for daily governing to the states. This means that taxation, employment opportunity, welfare benefits, etc. are dictated by which state a citizen lives in. This decentralized system seemingly makes sense in a country which is large, in terms of land area, and has a wide range of different industries and workforce opportunities depending on location.

If the Federal Government were to implement a national basic income for everyone, that could upset the federal balance that has developed over the course of one hundred and fifty years. Someone who lives in New York City would find that their income goes much less further than someone living in rural Montana. The UBI might lead to capital flight [资本逃避:在经济学中,资本逃避指一种由于经济危机、政治动荡、战争等经济因素,导致本国资本迅速流到国外,从而规避可能发生的风险的现象] from urban areas and from one state to another. This level of uncertainty with regards to implementation makes a lot of lawmakers and economists nervous about the possibility of passing a UBI in the United States.

The UBI, in the United States, tends to be portrayed as an argument which democrats [民主党人:在美国的两党制政治体系中,民主党是两大政党之一,其意识形态为美国自由主义,通常被认为偏左翼]primarily support. The problem in the political environment of the United States, is that passing a national UBI is extremely complicated and very unlikely to happen with the republican controlled congress and White House. This should not stop someone from making arguments either for, or against a UBI as the word should in the resolution implies the debate should center on the implications of if it would pass rather than the feasibility of its implementation. Nevertheless, in debate it will be an interesting point to raise as there could potentially be political ramifications that could stem from passing a UBI in an environment which is generally politically hostile to it.

Potential arguments in debate:

There are many potential arguments to a UBI debate that might not seem immediately obvious, but are extremely helpful to consider when constructing a case or debate blocks. The pro side of the topic has a lot of interesting avenues that could be explored when putting together a list of different contentions.

One of the main pro arguments for implementing a UBI has to deal with job flexibility [工作的灵活性] and entrepreneurship [创业]. If a person were to have a UBI they might be willing to take more chances instead of working strictly for a paycheck and invest in some more risky business ventures. This could lead to diversity in the workplace and a bevy of new start-ups [初创企业:指在创业中刚刚起步的公司] that could sprout up as people start realizing they have a social safety-net to fall back on. Looking at the pilot project in Kenya [肯尼亚], the UBI that was implemented there showed an increase in entrepreneurship. Statistics have also shown that employees have more leverage when it comes to arguing for increased labor rights and it puts the onus on employers to try harder to retain more workers as the labor pool becomes more fluid.

One of the main areas for Con is the concept of an economic tradeoff, in order to pay to provide the UBI the government will need to stop funding other forms of welfare. This could be good as it will streamline the delivery of resources. For example instead of someone getting one check towards their housing, and one for their groceries, everyone who just get one combined amount of money to use as they like. Although this could save the government money (it's much easier to organise one allocation of money then several small allocations), it will still cost more than the current system. According to a CATO institute report from 2014 about 3 times more than the current welfare provision. Additionally, getting rid of the safety net and forcing people to rely on themselves and the cash payment means if someone misspends their UBI and doesn't have enough money for food or rent they could become homeless or starve. With separate pools of money their is a much lower risk of individuals ending up in this difficulty.


1.Lowrey, Annie. "The Future of Not Working." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 June 2017. a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/magazine/universal-income-global-inequality.html>">https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/magazine/universal-income-global...;.

2.Michael D. Tanner. "The Basic Income Guarantee: Simplicity, but at What Cost?" Cato Unbound. N.p., 26 Aug. 2014. Web. 13 June 2017.



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