"This book is a great idea - brilliantly stated. Some may think it's ultra-liberal, as they did when I proposed a similar idea in 1972. I see it as true conservatism - the right of income for all Americans sufficient for food, shelter, and basic necessities. Or, what Jefferson referred to as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - U.S. Senator George McGovern, 1972 Democratic Party Presidential Candidate
"Sheahen and I are as far apart on political philosophy and the causes of the nation's current mess as two people can be, but we both think that a basic income guarantee has to be part of the solution. That says something about the potential of this important idea whose time, as we both hope, is coming. Basic Income Guarantee will help make that happen." - Charles Murray, author of In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State
"Basic Income Guarantee is a fascinating, lucid presentation of a complex subject. Sheahen asks and answers the questions of what a just society should and could do to overcome income insecurity. Given our prolonged economic malaise, everyone in America should be thinking about it." - Theresa Funiciello, author of Tyranny of Kindness and head of Social Agenda
"Absent as an issue for almost fifty years, Allan Sheahen places the idea of a basic income for all Americans squarely back on the national agenda. In plain English, this radical idea is not only clearly explained but answers even the toughest objections that can be raised. This book should make sense even to my most dysfunctional colleagues in Congress." - Bob Filner, U.S. Congressman of San Diego and former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee
"There are a myriad of issues surrounding the concept of a guaranteed income. Sheahen deals with each of these issues logically, rationally, and, perhaps most importantly, succinctly.
For a BIG to become reality there needs to be a paradigm shift in the thinking of Americans. (That's the reason my book advocating for it is subtitled 'Welfare Reform for the 21st Century'). When one unfamiliar with the BIG concept is first presented with the idea, a common reaction is to close discussion with a comment such as 'But you can't pay people to not work.' When the counter-arguments are begun, the 'newcomer' metaphorically covers his or her ears and chants 'Na, na, na I can't hear you.' If the presenter can get by this stage, they would do well to recommend Sheahen's book. It should make a significant contribution to bringing about the needed sea change. In a discussion of the work ethic, Sheahen notes 'This is where the emotion is. . . .Logic won't work. We believe what we want to believe.' Once we get to the point where the emotions are sufficiently overcome, the logic presented in this book will contribute greatly to the process of bringing about the most significant socio-economic change in the modern history of civilization.
Sheahen writes in a conversational style which should make the book accessible to a wide range of readers. In addition, he has sprinkled in numerous facts and calculations to support his case.
My only editorial criticism relates to his use of the term 'Workmen's compensation.' Upon reflection, I'm sure Sheahen would change this.
One area I wish he had expanded is the discussion on pp.142-143 of why conservatives should favor a guaranteed income. There are additional reasons, such as the elimination of the wasteful bureaucracy in our current 'worthiness' based system.
Appendix Table 1 is a great additional to the literature. Most of us talks about 'loopholes' but few have any idea what all they are." - Michael L. Murray, Professor Emeritus, Drake University, Author, . . .and Economic Justice For All (Welfare Reform for the 21st Century)
"There is a crying need for a place to read a short approachable account of a Basic Income Guarantee which lays out what it is, what it would cost, gives some reasons for supporting it, and rebuts common concerns. There is some excellent literature out there but it is often embedded in philosophical and theoretical concerns. I teach philosophy and think theory is important but want to be able to refer people to a book that is as approachable as possible while also being thorough. Sheahen has written that book.
This is an updated version of Sheahen's work 1983 book of a similar title. Alongside new numbers, charts, and quotes, there has been more time with the Alaskan Dividend, which was only started in 1980. Sheahen shows how a much larger grant could be funded with a combination of cuts and an elimination of tax loopholes. He lays these out in an appendix that alone offers a good launch pad for any discussion of public priorities. For instance, I would not want to cut provisions for veterans in order to shore up a grant for all given what we have put veterans through. But I can see through Sheahen's charts that leaving veterans' benefits alone would only mean a somewhat smaller grant for everyon, including veterans. Sheahen also acknowledges that these numbers may prove to be oversimplified but the cuts and new revenue that he lists go beyond the costs of a substantial program.
Sheahen has seen the obstacles that block many people from supporting a BIG. It can be frustrating to talk about BIG because so much gets presumed. There are many different proposals out there but respondents often object to a particular version they consider implausible. Some imagine cuts in every government program they like with but tiny grants as a replacement. Some believe we have an extensive welfare state (even though we never really did.) Some insist the extra income would disqualify all the disabled from their current benefit schemes. Some assume huge grants that would wreck public budgets. Given the existence of the Alaskan dividend, I am struck by how many presume such a grant is impossible. Other issues arise. Some do not think poverty is real. Some believe government spending always causes more harm than good. Some do not want to talk about any issue before they know what their favorite political party or pundit thinks. Others only want to hear about job promotion. As I think about the times I've presented BIG, I grow more impressed that there is a book like this and I wish more people would have read it.
The strongest obstacles are ethical ones. Should anyone get money for nothing? Will anyone take on terrible jobs if the threat of deprivation is removed? Sheahen answers these point for point. His recurring strategy is to remind the reader that most people aspire to achieve something and he sees a grant promoting those aspirations. Sheahen's optimism about most people is merited. The only change I might put in place is a chapter for pessimists. After all, BIG seems like the right move to me if one has a low view of bureaucracy and of human nature.
This book has chapters that stand alone. This means that sometimes similar points are re-iterated a few times. The tone is a friendly conversational one and this prevents the book from seeming repetitive. Quotes range from scriptures to Milton Friedman to Martin Luther King to Papal documents to contemporary advocates. Sheahen centers on a few proposals, the Alaska Permanent Fund (between $1,000 and $2,000 for every Alaskan), Robert Filmer's 'Tax Cut for the Rest of Us Act' ($2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child), and a larger BIG that would add up to $10,000 per year. I would have liked to see a little more time for Green BIG proposals that tax poisonous practices but provide funding that make living well without polluting easier. Those proposals will be better understood after reading this book.
A couple of chapters set BIG aside for a moment in order to give strong indicators that poverty is a real problem and just how much wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. Most Americans would benefit from learning the unegalitarian effects of US tax policy. For instance, very few people know that we do not have a payroll tax in place above $106,800. Sheahen shows the reader that we could just remove that cap and use whatever comes in to lower the deficit and help fund a BIG. The low administrative costs and affordability of these BIG proposals are illustrated very thoroughly. Some readers would want more coverage of philosophical and theoretical issues. They will be well served by other literature, especially after getting a grasp of these stipulated facts.
If you want to 'convert' someone to becoming a BIG supporter, there may be better books if your special someone has an ideological direction. A libertarian should look at Milton Friedman or Charles Murray. A leftie should look at Guy Standing or Erik Olin Wright. There still needs to be a book that speaks to a more moderate American. Sheahen is clearly sympathetic to US center left sources but puts in enough from the center right to offer the widest range of readers I've seen among contemporary book length treatments.
Basic Income discussions can be exciting. I've often been impressed with the way that discussing BIG breaks up other lines of thought. Many conservatives like the sound of it once they see that such a program is not very bureaucratic. Many liberals see it as a threat to policies they want to see expanded or as a distraction from full employment. When BIG is up for debate, participants begin to figure out what they really want from politics, instead of repeating the power points issued by the political tendencies they trust. When teaching the issue, I have seen students pose the question of why there is poverty given the existence of BIG and alternative options. I love where these discussions go and I'm planning on using Sheahen's book to take them there." - Jason Burke Murphy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Elms College, USA