Instigator / Pro

A Citizen's Dividend


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After not so many votes...

It's a tie!
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Three days
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Two weeks
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Short description again, in case someone clicks on this without having read it:

"We will be arguing over whether it is beneficial to society and moral to have a citizen's dividend, a type of universal basic income, funded by a land value tax. "

For this debate, "beneficial to society" will mean any number of things ranging from whether it promotes more freedom, improves lives, improves the economy, etc. It will be left to voters to decide which of those types of arguments are most convincing in terms of whether it indicates a citizen's dividend is beneficial.

"Moral" will be the standard definition, or "the right thing to do" so to speak.

"Citizen's dividend" is a universal basic income that is funded by a land value tax. A universal basic income is money given to every person in a country, no questions asked, no qualifications, usually on a monthly basis.

A land value tax is a tax on the unimproved value of the land. While similar to a property tax, it differs in that it doesn't tax buildings or other human improvements to the land. It only taxes the value of the resources of the land and the market value of the land itself.

For this debate, round 1 will be used for acceptance, defining terms, and stating one's position clearly. My opponent may define any term they feel would come up in the debate that may raise arguments over semantics. I'm not generally interested in semantics debates, so I will cater to my opponent's definitions of such terms should they define them, just as my opponent is expected to accept the definitions I've provided above.

Round 1
As stipulated in the last paragraph of the description, we are to use this round for defining terms(I've already done mine in the description, so my opponent may further define terms if they feel they need to), and clearly defining our position. I will do so now in the form of a thesis:

A citizen's dividend is the morally correct thing and the economically-sound way of addressing poverty, because the land value tax is the most efficient form of taxation, a UBI is the most efficient form of welfare in terms of running cost, it does not discourage people to work as other welfare systems do, and it gives all of humanity their right to the value of all land. (will explain later why that is a right)

To my opponent, my claims above are purposely left unsubstantiated for now, as should your claims in this round be, since the upcoming rounds will be when we present evidence and supporting arguments for our contentions we present here. This is to give both of us an idea where the other is going, so I turn this to you since I believe I've given you the proper heads up of where I'm taking this debate with what I've stated.

Outline of my case:

  1. UBI assumes everyone is entitled to some money for being born of the human species even if a non-human was suffering more or did more for the society. This irrational assumption has always been a confusing flaw of both pro-lifers and socialists that I never understood so believe me I'll have a lot to say on it in R2.
  2. UBI focuses solely on income. Splitting between many bank accounts, having money in property as opposed to direct cash and a couple of others means of loopholes will lead to complete exploitation of the system that enables the middle class to appear like the working class under it and drain away from the rich, that would severely amplify my point 3.
  3. The rich are very blatantly rich enough to leave the nation. They'd leave...

   4. There's no realistic motive to work under UBI. Boredom, pride and integrity all fall short of the urge to rest and stagnate unless there's negative feedback for doing something as proven by any and all examples of Communism in human history as well the impossibility of that system not turning into tyranny that facades as 'caring Socialists'. 
   5. The system will backfire and drive those who don't want the lazy to get free cash to vote for very right-wing alternatives since almost all nations revolve around a 'this or that' two-party-choice dynamic.

Round 2
1: The land value tax is the most efficient form of taxation
As an award-winning economist, Milton Friedman pointed out in an interview,
"Land is an ideal basis of taxation because you cannot take it away”
So it can be more efficiently taxed than income and wealth, which can be hidden in off-shore accounts or other countries, through crypto-currency, and numerous other ways. Additionally, the black market can also prevent sales from being taxed and such, so that makes consumption and sales taxes less efficient. It’s far harder to sell land on the black market given land is always visible or at least able to be made aware of, and generally easier to find out who owns it than other items. How exactly will one hide from the government the fact they own land? It may be possible, but as anyone will find out, it’s much more difficult than other things people would own. Economist Henry George argues in his best-selling book, Progress, and Poverty, found as a pdf here and as an HTML here, at the beginning of chapter 36, with an instituted land value tax,
Rent, under this system, would promote equality, instead of causing inequality as it does now. To fully understand this effect, let’s review some principles... .Wages and interest are set by the margin of production—what can be made on land with no rent. Labor and capital keep only what is left after rent and taxes. Collecting rent through taxes would virtually abolish private ownership in land, because it would destroy speculative monopolization and reduce the price of land. ... A new equilibrium would be established, with wages and interest much higher

George doesn’t seem to clearly state why wages and interest would go up, so I'll try to fill in the gaps. Henry George argues that a land value tax can’t effectively be passed onto other people. A reason I propose why that’s the case is because it would reduce the price of the thing it is taxing, unlike other taxes. A land value tax would discourage land speculation. If a bank has to pay a hefty land value tax monthly on land they hold, they will no longer have incentive to speculate. Speculating increases land price since the bank is specifically waiting for land price to go up before deciding to sell. If they want to avoid paying a land value tax every month, they will have to sell the land fast. The easiest way to sell land quick is to sell cheap. It would mean for others to compete in selling their land, they must follow suit by dropping their prices. This means the price of land for everyone will drop, and thus raw materials drop in price since land value is economically connected to the resources on the land. One can sell products at a cheaper price since those products’ raw materials are cheaper. It is a fairly well-known economic principle that when prices go down, so does the demand of the product go up. If demand goes up, one needs to encourage productivity and to do that, increasing wages is a way to do so.

I understand someone can argue a land value tax would discourage someone from buying the land from the bank. I remind us, however, that people generally have low time preference. Doug French, who had economists Ludwig Von Mises and Hans-Herman Hoppe as mentors during his studying for a Master’s degree in Economics, points out, in this Mises article, many people are subject to high time preference. He mentions how millions go to Vegas and want to have immediate gratification. I would argue it’s primarily bankers and business owners who have lower time preference since they entered into careers that generally require low time preference in order to make a living. Since I posit most people have higher time preference, they’ll likely overlook the higher land value tax in favor of the cheaper, upfront cost of the land.

2/3: UBI is the most efficient welfare system and doesn’t discourage people from working as much as current welfare systems
As I began considering these two points, I’ve found them related enough to be combined.

As even the U.S. Senate Committee On the Budgetadmitted in 2012,
As more people have become eligible for increasingly larger benefits, the “penalty” for working—lost benefits due to increased income—has steepened and been described by analysts as the “welfare cliff.” This has been especially true for workers near the poverty line who are eligible for multiple programs (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, the EITC, TANF, and subsidized public housing), as workers reach a point where every additional dollar earned can result in a more than 50 percent reduction in benefits.”
This is only the case because current welfare systems care about what people earn, whether they are married, they have children, etc. A UBI is non-discriminatory, with the possible exceptions of requiring people to be at least a legal adult or a citizen. There are no other requirements. The current welfare system encourages people to work less or not at all so that they can continue to qualify. A UBI that replaces the current welfare system would mean that incentive is gone, as no welfare cliff would exist. It would mean putting more people back into the labor force, thus increasing gross domestic product since more people would be working more.

Additionally, since a UBI doesn’t have the myriad of requirements current welfare systems do, it makes it simpler. Making it simpler means not as many government bureaucrats are needed to determine if someone qualifies. That means less money will be spent on government bureaucrats’ salaries and more money will be spent on the public as a whole.

Another reason UBI is more efficient is that it can be used to replace the minimum wage. I would say the main argument for a minimum wage is to make sure people can have a basic standard of living. That argument is weakened if everyone is given a UBI that covers one’s cost of living. I believe it is undeniable the potential effects on a business that a minimum wage has. If the business has a very low revenue-to-expenses ratio, increasing the minimum wage could mean undesirable consquences. The website, Faces of 15 chronicles the businesses that claim they either went out of business, had to increase their prices, lay off employees, or lower the hours each employee works, due to increases in minimum wage in their state in the USA. A UBI would not have such an effect, as it doesn’t require businesses to pay for it, particularly with the points I raised about a land value tax actually doing the opposite of most other taxes where it would help most businesses at the expenses of banks’ land speculation.

4: Humanity has a right as a species to the value of all land

As far as I'm aware, Thomas Paine was the first to make this argument, in his work Agrarian Justice. To summarize the work, he argues it is Justice for people to receive basically a UBI due to that land is a zero-sum game, while he didn’t use this term, it can be surmised. Meaning, simply due to the fact that you were born in a time, which makes up a tiny percentage of human history, where humans decided to have landed property not only as a concept but a right, one can be disadvantaged far more in life than a hunter-gatherer would have some tens of thousands of years ago. Obviously, land is a necessity for people to at least merely exist on in order to just live and survive. The more that is taken up, the less opportunity there are future generations and current generations of people unfortunate to be born into a family owning no land, have at merely living. People die today merely because they don't have access to life-giving resources they otherwise would have for 99% of human history where people didn't just decide "This land is mine, and I'll kill anyone who tries to acquire life-saving resources on it by trespassing".

At any rate, the Lockean Proviso even offers a condition where land ought not to be considered private property. When there's not enough to go around, then it can't be anymore. Given people are dying of poverty, I argue there isn't enough. One can argue "how is that the case, there are billions of acres of land on earth!". Follow the spirit, not the word of the proviso. First, we should scratch off at least half of those acres due to that they are not habitable for humans unless one has the technology. I consider it unreasonable to require that someone have an air conditioner or a heater in order to have their right to life fulfilled. Why should that be required of people to merely live? Thus, we can dismiss half of the land on the earth as being applicable here. Next, people need to have access to that land. Given in my area, for over 100 miles in any direction, all the land is already taken up, I don't think there's plenty to go around. Sure, in some areas there might be plenty of available land, but most people don't have access to those areas easily -  they're national parks, the person simply doesn't have the means to travel there without having some huge burden on them, possibly even death, etc. The source I provided above discussing the Lockean proviso, from an organization that discusses constitutional law, argues that Locke could not have foreseen the consequences and the speed at which world population would increase, and thus argues that it also ought to include future generations even though likely Locke did not considere this. 

So, where I'm leading with all this, is that yes, it is moral to tax people who are taking up land, particularly for an unjustified reason like land speculation. To learn a little more on the topic, this Article talks  about land speculation and private property rights from a comparative study between China and the United States. Land is a necessity for humans to live due to the value it provides for food to exist on it, which all humans need. We have a right to life. Therefore, we have a right to the value of land as a species. A citizen’s Dividend is thus justified, efficient, and beneficial to society.


The 'humans are entitled' assumption

You're irrationally entitled to some rights just because you're species is human. The usual reasoning behind all welfare and benefits that compete with UBI as poor/vulnerable-provision systems, is that you will give back to society in some way (even just bringing joy to your family and/or neighbours) no matter how weak and/or desperate you are. UBI takes naivety to the absolute extreme; it gives you the same welfare no matter what your situation even is. Have kids? No scaled bonus towards that. Have zero kids and live in a cheaper area? Nothing's scaled there either. You are encouraged to leech off of the State as much as you can for as little effort as possible.

This is a fundamental issue with UBI on a moral level, period/full-stop.


UBI's blindspot

The poor in UBI are not the only recipients of it at all. No matter what you set the UBI to be, it's either so low it's toxic for the poor or so high that the middle class begin to abuse it as well as working-middle class inbetweeners who can otherwise cope. It literally goes by income alone, I don't even think I need to use a source to prove this. It doesn't calculate how much you have in property, estate etc. It just says 'if you lack this directly in your bank at this time, we'll top it up'. Actually everyone is topped up but the richer are paying more than they're gaining back so the surplus is how it's funded tax-wise.

As soon as the medium and medium-low earners learn this loophole, they will minimise their income bracket to just below whatever staggered levels there are to calculate the amount you owe in tax to the UBI system (which has to be progressively taxed to make any sense at all). There is no reason at all to push yourself up above the line of an income bracket because you will pay more and gain less relatively (you don't get more, the more you put in etc). People will even take out cash in hand to ensure that on 'payday' for UBI they are scoring very low. What they have in their account when the UBI is delivered on its monthly basis or whatever, is able to be as much as possible, they'll get the same UBI physically put into their account regardless of income, let alone true worth in assets.

This is completely and utterly going to drive the rich away from the land, there is no reason for them to want the middle-to-lower classes (as opposed to truly low working class) scamming the system so that the only ones honestly pitching in (and having to pitch in more money therefore, thanks to the cheating) are the rich.


The rich are very blatantly rich enough to leave the nation. They'd leave...



There's no realistic motive to work under UBI.

People need both negative and positive feedback to truly enjoy life while working hard in some way. If there is no negative feedback for laziness, why will they work hard? 

Instead of reading sources saying it will or won't work out and motivate people, how about we look at a place that actually tried it and realised how stupid and dysfunctional it is:

But the Finnish government's enthusiasm for a pilot scheme, a European first which garnered worldwide attention, is petering out. Calls for extra funding for it were rejected and the two year trial will not be extended after next year. 

The scheme saw 2,000 unemployed Finns, picked at random, receive a flat monthly payment of €560 (£490). The government will now look at other ideas to reform its social security system.

Supporters argue that a universal basic income would provide a safety net and boost innovation, creativity and personal well-being, as well as helping the unemployed find temporary work.

It would counteract the insecurity of increasing number of short term contracts offered employees and boost labour mobility by encouraging workers to take the risk of moving jobs.

“The eagerness of the government is evaporating,” Olli Kangas, one of the experiment's designers told the BBC.

Professor Kangas said the government had turned down a request to expand the scheme to pay up to £61 million to fund the basic income for employed Finns rather than the group of 2,000 unemployed people.
- Crisp, J. (2018). Finland ends universal basic income experiment. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2019].

Thanks to for helping me format the citation.

This is the only nation that I can find that genuinely has tried out proper state-funded UBI (Kenya is trying a Privately funded Charity one but that's also going terrible).

If the only real world example is a failure where the government is clearly still trying to do what it can to somehow make it work (albeit refusing to expand it), it is very blatant that UBI is a burden, a 'patching of a problem' demanding permanent solution later on that will replace that patching.

Whatever articles you find won't matter, this is the only genuine real-world example on UBI. Finland genuinely got rid of a lot of their welfare and benefits to try UBI and already are struggling to justify expanding it even one bit more.

Prove me wrong, I look forward to it if you can.


The system will backfire and drive those who don't want the lazy to get free cash to vote for very right-wing alternatives since almost all nations revolve around a 'this or that' two-party-choice dynamic.

Speaks for itself.

Round 3
I'll use this round as a rebuttal round against my opponent's arguments.

RE: The "humans are entitled" assumption

You're irrationally entitled to some rights just because you're species is human.
If one doesn't believe humans deserve rights, then as a species it's hard to argue we'd thrive. If we can just go kill people because they have no right to life, it doesn't take much thought to realize this isn't helpful for the survival of our species. It seems self-evident we should be concerned about the survival of our species. I've already made the case why the concept of landed property, and that it's a right, can lead to harm to a person's life. Given humans need access to resources on land to survive, the more that's taken up, the less there is for others. I would say my argument above has already made a rational argument for this.

RE: UBI's Blindspot

The poor in UBI are not the only recipients of it at all. No matter what you set the UBI to be, it's either so low it's toxic for the poor or so high that the middle class begin to abuse it as well as working-middle class inbetweeners who can otherwise cope. It literally goes by income alone, I don't even think I need to use a source to prove this. It doesn't calculate how much you have in property, estate etc. It just says 'if you lack this directly in your bank at this time, we'll top it up'. Actually everyone is topped up but the richer are paying more than they're gaining back so the surplus is how it's funded tax-wise.
I've made the case already why every person deserves the value of land, given that I've argued it ought not to be considered private property. So, the rich, middle-class, and poor are all entitled to its value. You're arguing that middle-class people would abuse it somehow. What do you mean they would abuse it? You don't seem to define what that means and how it happens. So yes, a source would be nice.

RE: The rich are very blatantly rich enough to leave the nation. They'd leave...
That doesn't occur currently with the hefty taxes that are already on the rich. Additionally, I would say this is irrelevant since this can be addressed by getting rid of all other taxes(which I personally hold the view we should get rid of all taxes except the Land Value Tax and perhaps some sort of environmental tax for the same reason it's harming the common property of humanity: the earth/land) Overall, given all of the other 100 or so taxes I'd want to get rid of, such as the sales tax, gas tax, income tax, etc, It's easily the case this would be an overall tax decrease. Regardless, this is irrelevant since this is something easily solved as I just pointed it out.

Re: There's no realistic motive to work under a UBI

My opponent seems to be ignoring a lot of important facts here. First, we are not arguing over simply UBI, which it seems my opponent so far is doing. We are debating over a Citizen’s Dividend specifically, which was defined above as being a type of UBI funded by a land value tax, which my opponent has not addressed the latter. This is important, because first-of-all, Finland didn’t fund their UBI experiment with a land value tax. Second, Finland also had other welfare programs going on simultaneously with the UBI, as this source talks about. Third, as this source titled The basic income experiment 2017-2018 in Finland points out on page 8, only “Two thousand persons aged 25-58 who received an unemployment benefit from Kela in November 2016 were selected for the actual experiment.” That’s not universal whatsoever, as it didn’t include everyone. These facts are important to consider when deciding the effects a UBI, specifically a Citizen’s Dividend, would have. These are very important variables to consider as they may be confounding variables and thus weaken the “experiment”s results. That said, the UBI, according to those sources I listed above, didn’t have any effect on unemployment and how much people worked. So it’s misleading for my opponent to list this experiment in contention where they are arguing “there’s no realistic motive to work under a UBI”. That line implies it would decrease employment levels, and the experiment my opponent referred to, did nothing of the sort. Additionally, according to those aforementioned sources, it had a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of those receiving UBI. Of course there are issues with this experiment, as I pointed out, but if we assumed this experiment is as good of evidence as my opponent insinuates, then this should be seen as a point for me, as the experiment they pointed to neither proves their point, nor indicates it’s immoral(quite the opposite if it improved those people’s well-being).

Furthermore, given my opponent cites the telegraph for this info, a media source is not as convincing as the peer-reviewed studies I've provided, It should be known that media doesn't often report facts in a way that is representative of the situation.

Lastly, since UBI doesn't have welfare cliffs as I previously pointed out, it obviously won't have as much incentive to encourage people not to work. My opponent seems to be ignoring that current welfare systems are likely much worse in this regard. (see C2/3)
It doesn't make any sense that you owe the nation more just because you are on land that happens to have better minerals and what-not hidden beneath it. If anything the government should pay you more, not make you pay more, if they want to give the value to the people and convince you to give up your land resources.

Pro is literally saying that you need to pay more because your land happens to be unlucky enough to be lucky... To have rich minerals and resources beneath/within it. That's literally the basis of Pro's entire case, I don't understand it and I don't care if I lose this. 
Round 4
This seems like a little bit of over-simplification here. It's not simply because you're "on" the land. If everyone merely was "on" land, they would owe nothing. We would be back to what humanity was like thousands of years ago with no concept of landed property. I've made a case on how owning land is harmful to the rest of society, that it is a zero sums game, so the more is taken up, the less there is to go around. Land is a necessity for people to exist. Humans can't live in water, space, or anywhere else but on land. To ensure people are not at a loss for land being taken up, that's why it makes sense.

Now, I suppose perhaps my opponent means that it wouldn't make sense for the average homeowner to owe a greater sum of tax dollars than another simply because their house sits on diamonds, oil, and other more valuable resources than another person. I agree. This is something that can be accommodated though by having a land value tax that is further progressive. It can be used to affect those who are not making good use of land, such as banks doing land speculation, and have a smaller amount of people who are making good use of lands, such as farmers and homeowners. We can have a tier where the first X amount of dollars of land is tax-free for homeowners and farmers or something. This is not exactly a critique of a Citizen's dividend my opponent offers here, as it would be a Citizen's dividend wherein a land value tax is completely flat. We can solve the issue my opponent brings up here with such tiers or "brackets" for land value. So, while I concede these points would be applicable to specifically a flat land value tax, it doesn't change my overall argument that a land value tax is better since it can be executed in a way that accounts for these problems my opponent brings up, through it being progressive with brackets much like income tax has brackets.

Out of fairness, i'll keep this round short for myself, since my opponent did so last round. I turn the final round over to them.

So because others are greedy, you suddenly should suspend all belief and moral value invested in property rights, the law and anti-tyranny ethos and say 'here people and government, take me for my land's worth, it's your right'... well, then why not give it to the other nations and make a one world government? Why not just give up to Zeus and say we all deserve nothing?

"Deserve the rights to this land" is the entire problem with Israel vs Palestine actually. No one has any right to any land in true objective reality, it's about negotiating, maintaining peace and getting on with life rather than being bitter and vicious to each other forever. I don't understand why humans are so cruel to one another but I do understand why in a world that's like that, one becomes defensive and wants some land for themselves, especially if they earned the cash for it.