Major religious leaders have denounced growing income inequality and poverty. Pope Francis has criticized “the economy of exclusion and inequality”, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori embraced the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of goals that include ending poverty.
Comparing a universal basic income to vaccines, writer Scott Santens asks if a universal basic income wouldn’t cost society less in the same way that vaccines save money on treatment. The piece is one of the most popular on blogging platform Medium right now, and makes a compelling argument that poverty should be viewed as an easily-preventable illness. Santens tries to appeal to people who fret over cost by noting that many vaccines have a return on investment several magnitudes higher than their initial cost; citing a report by the Chief Public Health official in Canada, Santens notes that investing $1 in the early years of childhood provides a cost saving between $3 and $9 in future spending on the health and criminal justice system.
Santens outlines some of the costs he associates with poverty, arguing that it would be better to prevent these costs by investing in eliminating poverty through a direct distribution of money.
From the essay:
It costs real money for us to look the other way on poverty. Unlike smallpox and other diseases we can vaccinate ourselves against, the costs of poverty can be more invisible. We don’t get bills in the mail from Poverty, Inc. telling us each month how much we owe, but we still pay these bills because they are included in our many other bills.
When we pay $10,000 in taxes instead of $7,000 because of welfare and health care, that’s in large part a $3,000 poverty bill. When we pay $500 a month instead $400 on our private health insurance premiums, that’s a $100 poverty bill. When we pay $50 on a shirt instead of $45 because of theft, that’s a $5 poverty bill. When we’re taxed a percentage of our homes to pay for prisons, that’s a poverty bill. What other examples can you think of personally? What might we all be spending on poverty every day?
Do you find his argument compelling? While he ignores the moral arguments of Pope Francis and other faith leaders, do you think his mathematical argument has merit in its potential to convince people who are not moved by conscience alone?