2018, Books, Non-Fiction

Give People Money (2018) by Annie Lowrey

Full disclosure: I’ve already drunk the UBI Kool-Aid so this book is preaching to the choir. I think I must have added this book to my list before I had been completely converted to the position. You’ve been warned.

This is a very “journalistic” book, in that it is presented, at least partially, as a personal journey through the landscape of UBI. Of course, it’s also presented as a weighing of the arguments (albeit a personal one).
It works much better in the first sense than the second. Though Lowrey presents herself as a bit of a skeptic, or a dispassionate observer, it’s clear she was convinced pretty early in the process. She clearly agrees UBI is worth a try and often her attempts to present the other side feel anemic. It reminds me of a documentary about UBI I just watched. That film had the same issue, but even more clearly: it’s a piece of advocacy, that lamely attempts to present the other side.

Lowrey is better than that film at presenting the other side, but I still don’t believe her. Moreover, she’s not an economist. And I’m pretty damn sure there must be some economists out there who actually think cash transfer are bad. It would have been nice to hear from them.

It would have been nice because I already know I want this policy to happen. What I am looking for, right now, is an argument against UBI, so I can at least have some idea as to whether or not my support of this idea is reasonable. (I am not an economist.) Obviously Lowrey doesn’t know that. But I do feel like the book would have benefitted by entertaining critics more than it does. Maybe she just couldn’t find many?

But it’s extremely easy to read. And so, as a primer as to why this idea is now popular, it works. It is too focused on the US, but basically every book like this written by an American is too focused on the US. What are you gonna do?


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