Things that don’t make sense to me about ‘Guaranteed Basic Income will lead to crime’

I’m currently in the middle of reading a thread where some people are coming out with the  ‘guaranteed basic income will lead to crime’ idea.

The one that tipped me over into going and writing about this has two branches: 1) people will be idle, and thus turn to crime, and 2) people will want more money than GBI, and thus turn to crime.

The second one I just can’t make heads or tails of at all. ‘People wanting more money’ is a situation that clearly exists in our society right now. Let’s say that X% of people deal with this by trying to make money legally, and Y% deal with it by trying to make money through crime. For 2 to make sense, you have to accept ‘if we give people some money to start with, Y will increase’. I can see no reason to assume that would be the case.

The first one is also weird. Let’s say my idea is ‘right now people’s job’s are keeping them occupied, but if they had GBI they would stop doing those jobs, be bored, and commit crimes’. Well, why wouldn’t they just go and do those same jobs? Again, we’re coming from assuming that without GBI, those people are working jobs rather than committing crimes. Thus they presumably have some reason for that, whether it be ‘morals’ or ‘committing crimes is risky’ or ‘normalization’, etc. Introducing GBI shouldn’t change any of that. The only thing GBI changes is that these people have more money to begin with. So concluding that they would then start preferring crime only makes sense if we believe that people’s current reasons for working jobs rather than committing crimes are financial ones. In other words, people are thinking ‘I’d actually rather go be a criminal, but my job makes me more money, so I’ll do that instead’. Given that a pretty common moral take about crime is ‘yes, you could secure yourself personal advantage by committing crimes, but don’t‘, it really doesn’t seem to me that this is the case.

There are two possible responses to this I can think of. One is that people won’t go do the same jobs because they won’t want to. However, since we’ve established that people prefer doing the job to doing crime, if they prefer something else to doing the job then they transitively also prefer it to crime, so there is no problem on that end.

The other is that GBI comes with those jobs not being available anymore, probably due to the various links between GBI and automation (either ‘we need GBI because of automation’ or ‘people on GBI will be able to demand more from employers, which will lead to automation being preferred’). (Now, for whatever reason, a lot of people just seem to take for granted the GBI->can’t have old job connection without discussing the automation angle, but since the angle is there I’ll just go ahead and bring it in myself).

This, I think, is in fact the good point hidden all this – the point being that opportunity to do things is also important to people and we can’t focus entirely on income and ignore this factor. And, I agree with this entirely! However, in my opinion the rather clear answer to this is ‘opportunities to do things being available (and facilitation thereof) is also important to deal with’ not ‘coerce people into doing things through resource control’.

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