A Guaranteed Basic Income? A Proven Failure!

Welfare programs throughout the Western world have never been able to avoid the moral hazard that arises from the fact that when you keep giving people something for nothing, they stop trying to earn it for themselves.

The classic examples are such as welfare programs that immediately create dependency on government handouts – a dependency that all too often becomes inter-generational.  Another is the American AFDC program – Aid to Families With Dependent Children – which aimed to help young mothers by giving them a monthly payment per-child.

The result? One of the rules was that if there was a father/husband living in the home, the money was cut off. So … guess what? Poor people are not so stupid. They soon realized that they could get more money by having more babies out of wedlock, and by ensuring their boyfriends were not caught living with them. The unintended, but disastrous consequence was that the AFDC program created more fatherless babies and more dependency on government.

But many Western governments could not – still cannot –  resist flirting with the idea of a so-called Universal Basic Income, or a Negative Income Tax (NIT), or what is sometimes coyly called a “basic income supplement.” That’s a fancy expression for a graduated subsidy, by which recipients receive a cash payment to bring them up to a specified average income level. Theoretically, this is designed to replace all other welfare benefits – as well as the considerable load of bureaucracy that comes along with it. What toying with this idea amounts to is a recognition by governments that welfare doesn’t work – “so let’s just give them the money!”


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Background To Our Divided World

What follows is drawn from the very first part of The Great Divide: Why Liberals And Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree (Encounter 2015), and is an attempt to contrast the way we are today, with how we began.

Seems like almost every news item today is an echo of these underlying contrasts and themes.


Not so long ago it was common at a dinner party with family and friends to find ourselves drawn into discussion and debate over the political and moral topics of the day. There was usually a lot of strong feeling, praise for good arguments, some good-natured ridicule for bad ones, and of course heated support of one’s own ideas. But I cannot remember any violent personal attacks, tears, or “outrage” over someone else’s point of view, however wacky it may have seemed, and that was because no one interpreted disagreement as offensive. Most striking of all, I think most people then were unafraid to state their own views, even happy to volunteer them. There wasn’t the slightest hint of “political correctness” in the air. We assumed that was a moral disease of the Red Chinese, a million of whom I remember seeing displayed on a center-fold of Life magazine in Tiananmen Square, all in black communist uniforms, all waving Chairman Mao’s Red Book fanatically in the air. The mere notion of “Human Rights Tribunals” (such as we have now in most Western nations) set up by governments to “re-educate” and to control or punish thought and speech in a free country, was simply unthinkable. We were quite aware that many post-war immigrants fled from the disease of totalitarianism to the “free” world to escape that very thing. But the disease followed them.

A similar dinner party today is a very different story, almost certain to illustrate The Great Divide that is the topic of this book. The elephant in the room, as the saying goes, will almost certainly be an unspoken awareness that there are a lot of political, social, and moral “issues” that most are afraid to mention. The silence – who has not felt it? — tells everyone to keep their true thoughts to themselves. Share only unimportant, or even insincere thoughts. This may be typical in the company of complete strangers, about whom we may care nothing. But to find it true among family, friends, and in our own close communities is very new and very sad, for it tells us that civil society, if not quite at an end, is comatose; that we are becoming strangers to each other. This book is one man’s effort to change this situation; to help people become unafraid once again.

I hasten to add that it is not a book about politics or political parties — fickle things at the best of times. For I believe that the political history of the West (which we assume is being decided by all the party, policy, and election language with which we get bombarded), is in fact an outcome of a much deeper and less obvious ideological warfare. Volcanoes and earthquakes are a surface sign of invisible geological forces, just as shifts in the political, social, and moral world are surface signs of invisible ideological forces.

The Clash within Western Civilization

In his bestselling book The Clash of Civilizations (1996) Samuel Huntington warned us about the clashes to come between the West and other, incompatible civilizations. The attacks by puritanical Islamists on our deeply-secularized, overly-sexualized, highly-materialistic culture on “9/11” and since, have borne out his predictions.

This book, however, is more concerned about a much less obvious, but more pervasive war of moral and political ideals within Western civilization itself, because from Pittsburgh to Paris, Buenos Aires to Buffalo, Vancouver to Venice, we have been engaged in a civil war of values and principles for a very long time. At bottom, it is a war between two incompatible political cultures, or enemy ideologies concerning the best way to live that I suspect with a little effort may be found simmering beneath the surface of all civilizations, waxing or waning as historical circumstances allow.


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The “Wage Gap” Between Men and Women Is Phony

It is simply astonishing to realize how very gullible Western publics are, and how dunned by “progressives” into falsely believing there is some kind of systemic plot afoot to pay women less than men.

What follows is drawn from The Trouble With Canada … Still! (2010). It is a discussion of the false reasoning and even more false numbers underlying the male-female “Wage Gap” and also the reasons for the “Bachelor Wage Gap” and the “Ethnic Wage Gap” (which will likely never be brought to public attention because they undermine the radical case for “discrimination.”


Feminists argue that there is a wage gap between the earnings of men and women (which is true, and always has been), and that much of this difference is proof of wage discrimination based on sex. But that is a plainly misleading and dishonest thing to say, because the biggest reason for the difference in male/female earnings today, is marriage. That is because marital status has an asymmetrical effect on earnings by sex, as the economists say.

In plain English: let’s suppose a man and a woman are working side by side and earning the same wage. They fall in love and decide to get married and raise a family. Suddenly something absolutely normal happens. Visions of children dance in their heads, along with simultaneous worries. If both think even the best daycare is impersonal—“there’s no way a stranger’s going to raise our kids.”—then they worry immediately about how in the world they are going to give their children personal attention and both work full time as well. Will her boss still keep her on if she asks for part-time work? He worries about mortgages, university education, clothing, food, and thinks: “Good Lord—I’m going to need a better job.” The result of this totally predictable equation is that she reduces her work hours, or quits altogether, or quits and then takes a part-time job. And he? Well, the pressure is on. He arranges an appointment with his boss and lets him know in no uncertain terms that the promotion he wasn’t so sure about last month . . . well, he’s had a serious change of heart. In fact, given a chance, he’d love to run the whole department. When this occurs millions of times over, and you average their respective earnings, you have the makings of a “wage gap.” But the crucial factor is not sex discrimination. It’s the laudable preferential choices made by both parties in favour of marriage and their children.

Read on to learn about the surprising “Bachelor” wage gap, and the “Ethnic” wage gap.


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The Rich Get Richer … And So Do The Poor!

Here is a 5-minute video from PragerU on the best-kept secret of the Western world, which is the dramatic drop in world-wide poverty rates that has occurred over the last half-century. Generally speaking, if you want to know the doubling-rate in the wealth of any nation, just take the average rate of national economic growth and divide it into the number 72. So, if a country grows at an average rate of 2% annually, say, its wealth will double in 36 years.


The message is that “all boats go up in a rising tide.” Okay, maybe not every single boat. Some just have too many holes, and they sink. And in a decent society, we don’t let them sink. But generally speaking, the rise in wealth in the free – and free-enterprise – countries of the world over the last half-century, is simply astonishing.  But why is this such a well-kept secret?


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How Ideology Perverts the Teaching of Law

This article, by Professor Bruce Pardy of Queen’s University Law School, is a must read, as they say. In it, he clearly explains the difference between a School teaching the principles of the Law, and a School teaching the Law as a weapon advancing the teacher’s personal political and moral ideology.
The article has a certain ring for me, because in 1990, the year my book The Trouble With Canada was published (and to my surprise became #1 in Canada in a few months time), I was invited by the Queen’s University Grad Students’ Law Society to participate in a public debate with Professor Sheila MacIntyre, then a prominent radical feminist law professor. 
I put “teaching” in quotes, because you cannot say someone is really teaching if she advances only her own preferences and biases in the readings and lectures she provides to her students.  
When I was teaching at York University in the 1970s, some of the courses I taught included segments on ideological topics such as Marxism, Existentialism, Psychology, and so on. I always tried to present all sides of each question. But some of the students would protest, and on whatever the issue of the day may have been, would ask plaintively: “But Sir … What do you think?”  
I always answered: “I am not telling you until after the course has ended. It’s my job to explain all sides as best I can. It is your job to think deeply about these things and then make up your own mind as to the best answer(s) to these questions.” This response always upset them a little. But by the end of the course, they could see why it was the best for their own intellectual development. 
Now, back to my visit to Queen’s University, and my public debate with Sheila. 


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Darwin Was Wrong!

I have just finished reading a wonderful biography of Charles Darwin by the illustrious British historian and biographer A.N, Wilson, entitled Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (London: Harper Collins, 2017).The moment I saw the cover I was intrigued, because Wilson is such a thorough researcher and writer I knew this was going to be a wonderful read.

So … Imagine the jolt with respect to this still- controversial topic when I flipped to the first page and read Wilson’s opening sentence: “Darwin was wrong” – a sentence one would have expected to find at the very end of such a book, rather than at the beginning.

But he spends the next 500+ pages peeking very closely into Darwin’s personal, intellectual, religious, family, and working life, explaining in exquisite detail why he came to the conclusion that Darwin was quite wrong.

Wilson is entirely aware of the massive pro-Darwinian world in which we now live. Nevertheless, he quietly goes about the business of taking the ideological building of Darwinian ideas, the architecture of his thought, so to speak, apart, brick by brick. By the end, there is mostly rubble.

And there is a classic ad hominem scene described in the book, the moment when a debater tries to undermine an opponent’s arguments by attacking him personally, rather than sticking to the arguments put forth. The scene went as follows.


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