From a contributing editor of The Atlantic, an analysis of various programs around the world that have found benefits in providing direct cash payments to people in need and a meditation on how such a policy might fare in the United States.
Now in her book, Lowrey brings first-hand accounts of struggling workers all over the world in a series of chapters that exhaustively highlight all the reasons for basic income, from fears of technological unemployment to the more libertarian dream of replacing bureaucracy with simple cash welfare. What stands out about each story is how hard it is to blame her characters for being anything other than victims of an unfair system. Lowrey makes it easy to empathize with each subject, as they make decisions that seem reasonable and indicative of hard work, yet still can't get themselves out of bad economic circumstances ... At times, I wished Lowrey had cut out much of the laborious work on summarizing all the latest research and opinions on the topic and instead focused more on the personal stories ... What the book excels at, and I suspect will make it a must-read as basic income becomes a more mainstream idea from future presidential candidates, is showing the human side of how so many other welfare alternatives fail ... an enjoyable read.
In such a world, with tens of trillions of dollars of wealth, extreme poverty is a choice, not an inevitability. That’s the compelling and compassionate heart of Annie Lowrey’s new book, Give People Money ... Lowrey doesn’t just document the problem; she also offers a simple and effective solution. If you take very poor people and give them money, they stop being very poor pretty much by definition. They also, it turns out, become healthier, work more, and generally become vastly more productive members of society ... Lowrey seems to know there are no easy fixes, but she forges ahead anyway ... Lowrey is convincing on the need to eradicate poverty, and equally convincing that cash transfers can often be one of the best ways of doing so. But she fails to mirror her passionate rallying cry on the subject of poverty reduction with an equally passionate argument for U.B.I. in particular ... she ultimately doesn’t come close to demonstrating that a universal basic income would be the best way to target cash at the poor ... Lowrey ends up falling uncomfortably between the two stools. Her book is an excellent guide to the issues surrounding a U.B.I. But it won’t cause many people to start advocating for one.
Several recent books have provided good background briefings for what a U.B.I. could be ... To these offerings, Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur, adds his own ... Annie Lowrey, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, provides a similarly upbeat, although more measured, assessment in Give People Money. Both are useful primers on the case for a U.B.I. The two books cover so much of the same terrain that I’m tempted to wonder whether they were written by the same robot, programmed for slightly different levels of giddy enthusiasm ... More troubling is Lowrey’s blurring of the distinction between a U.B.I. that redistributes resources from the superrich to the growing number of vulnerable lower-income Americans and one that merely turns programs for the poor into cash assistance. The latter may be warranted, but it wouldn’t touch America’s growing scourge of inequality and economic insecurity, which will be made worse as robots take over good jobs ... Most basically, we will have to confront the realities of vastly unequal economic and political power. Even if we manage to enact a U.B.I., it will not be nearly enough.