Resolved: The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.

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Resolved: The United States should replace means-tested welfare programs with a universal basic income.

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The problem with this topic is that there isn’t really enough evidence out there to weigh the two option. UBI hasn’t been tried enough, and we don’t have data to compare it with means-tested welfare programs. That being said, the theoretical debate here is still pretty interesting, so let’s talk about it.


Means-tested welfare programs – These are current welfare programs that provide specific assistance to people of low income, such as housing assistance, food assistance, etc… Robert Rector’s testimony before Congress explains it better than I can:

The means-tested welfare system consists of 79 federal programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training, and targeted education aid to poor and low-income Americans. Means-tested welfare programs differ from general government programs in two ways. First, they provide aid exclusively to persons (or communities) with low incomes; second, individuals do not need to earn eligibility for benefits through prior fiscal contributions. Means-tested welfare therefore does not include Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, or worker’s compensation.

Universal Basic Income – A universal basic income is a cash payment provided to people each month that is intended to cover their basic needs. The important different that the resolution calls on you to evaluate is that a UBI has no restrictions. While it’s intended for basic needs, it’s just a cash payment, so the recipient can use it for anything they want. Importantly, you shouldn’t get caught up in the amount. The actual amount of the payment is irrelevant to the discussion of whether a UBI should replace means-tested welfare programs.


1. Means-tested welfare hasn’t worked. It’s time to try something you. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We’ve tried means-tested welfare, and while it may help some people, the programs are an administrative nightmare and do little to alleviate actual poverty. Let’s try something new.

2. Individual needs are not static. We like to think that you can plan a fixed monthly budget with fixed expenses. Means-tested welfare seeks to take care of individual line items on this monthly budget. The issue is that life happens, and things change. Therefore, it’s better to leave it up to the welfare recipient to determine how to use their money, rather than creating programs with restrictions.

3. Utilitarianism – A UBI works for everyone, not just some people. It also accounts for needs like dental care, for which it’s nearly impossible to create an effective welfare program. Since UBI casts the widest net, it’s a better option.


1. Money needs to be used wisely to be effective. You can’t just give people who otherwise don’t have financial literacy or other life skills a sum of money and expect it to have positive results. They need to be taught skills and how to use the money wisely. Many people in poverty don’t have access to or knowledge of basic financial management tools, so the UBI will likely just lead to waste.

2. Why do we need to replace? There’s no reason we can’t do both to see how it works. Or, we can create a program that takes an exclusive either/or approach where a recipient can choose to get a cash payment or have access to a portfolio of specific means-tested welfare programs available to them. We don’t have to choose, so the resolution is posing a false dichotomy.

3. We have evidence that means-tested programs at least have a nominal positive impact. We have no evidence that a UBI works. Replacement would be hasty. We need more data and more evidence to test the efficacy of a universal basic income. Only then can we make an accurate determine.

That should help you get started. Good luck!

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Resolved: The United States ought to provide a universal basic income.

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Resolved: The United States ought to provide a universal basic income.

This is a good topic. It’s phrased how topics should actually be phrased, and it isn’t weighted heavily toward one side. There is actually a debate to be had here. So let’s talk about it!


Universal basic income – A UBI is an unconditional amount of money guaranteed to people designed to cover their cost of living. The money is given without any additional requirements placed on it.

Ought – Remember that your job is to explain how we decide what the U.S. government ought to do, id god,so you need to make sure your framework accounts for that.


1. Veil of Ignorance – Rawls developed a model of evaluating social distributions known as the original position or veil of ignorance. He argues that all such decisions should be made by a body which has no biases. Basically, you must pretend like you could wake up tomorrow and be anyone in society, with any socioeconomic fake id, From behind this veil, a universal basic income seems like a great idea. Who wouldn’t vote for that?

2. Utilitarianism – There’s a pretty obvious utility argument to be made. A UBI provides the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people because it takes care of those who are most in need.

3. Aristotelian Virtue Ethics – Aristotle described cultivating virtue as central to having a just society. Virtues exist as the mean between two extremes. One could easily contend that a UBI is the virtuous course of action, lying between the extremes of providing people nothing or a lot.


1. Economic Justice – All types of justice rely on the idea that people get what they deserve, or ought to of. Contending that people deserve an income just because they exist is difficult. What gives them the right to a universal basic income?

2. Property Rights – The UBI needs to come from somewhere; money doesn’t just materialize. It would likely require higher taxes on everyone else to provide for this. This is a direct violation of property rights. Unlike other things which taxes are spent on,id chief. most taxpayers will not see a benefit from the UBI. It’s also tough to claim that a UBI can function as a claim on others.

3. Moral Conflict – This is more of a complicated position. Basically, the argument here is the only way to get U.S. society to provide a UBI is to not provide a UBI. It will force the necessary moral conflict to get society into a place where a UBI becomes acceptable. Providing a UBI does not allow for the development of society’s morality to be able to accept the change. Moral conflict is good for moral progress, and income gaps increase moral conflict.