Murray makes the case for the Plan, which is known as the Universal Basic Income (UBI). He explains the Plan in detail and goes through a number of potential issues with it. In general, the Plan would give everyone a certain amount of money per year (possibly $10,000) that would increase annually based on the cost of living. This would replace all other government transfer (welfare) programs.
Although the book provides a brief overview that hits on multiple key topics, I'm not sold on the idea. There was much throughout the book that Murray did some handwaiving to avoid calculating what the costs and benefits would be.
Ultimately, I think if we could end all government transfer programs and replace it with a UBI, then it would be of value and possibly a much better system. Economic research has shown for a long time that an individual maximizes their desires when they receive cash compared with in-kind benefits like food stamps.
However, I think it is practically impossible in the political sphere to eliminate all transfer programs because of the public choice argument that politicians are rent-seeking to be reelected. There are too many lobbyists and votes at stake in the current system to end it.
Regardless, there are many government transfer programs that should be privatized, like Social Security, and reformed to give cash instead of in-kind benefits, like food stamps.
I also think that the disincentives to work with the Plan would be high and there are other economic distortions in place from this Plan that could be more costly than the failed welfare system we have today. What I like about the Plan, and the book, is that it thinks outside the box. Too often we are stuck trying to reform current failed programs without considering other alternatives.
With that in mind, another issue I have with the Plan, is that it assumes that individuals need some sort of government support. I would not make that argument, whether technology substitutes labor. As long as free market capitalism is practiced, human ingenuity can accomplish amazing things. There is so much that we can't imagine that will happen in the future. Why would we turn to government, which is really turning to taxpayers, that will simply be a redistribution of income. Moreover, consumer prices will rise at a similar pace as the amount of increase in the Plan's amount because of artificially increased demand from products just because the government determines an arbitrary initial amount and increase over time.
Bottom line, I enjoyed reading the short book that provides a nice overview of the Plan (UBI). However, I'm not sold on the plan and think we should expend our resources on reducing the size and scope of government rather than putting in place another government program such as this.
Ph.D. Economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Blog posts are publications by the author.