Is a Basic Income affordable?

Phrased in this very general way, the question makes no sense. Let us bear in mind that it is not part of the definition of a basic income that it should be sufficient to satisfy the beneficiaries’ basic needs: consistently with its definition, the level of the basic income could be more and it could be less. Nor is it part of the definition of a basic income that it should replace all other cash benefits: a universal benefit need not be a single benefit. A meaningful answer can only start being given to the question of affordability if one specifies the level at which the basic income is to be pitched and stipulates which benefits, if any, it is to replace. Under some specifications – for example «abolish all existing benefits and redistribute the corresponding revenues in the form of an equal low benefit for all» -, the answer is trivially yes. Under other specifications – for example «keep all existing benefits and supplement them with an equal benefit for all citizens at a level sufficient for a single person to live comfortably» -, the answer is obviously «no». Each of these absurd extreme proposals is sometimes equated, by definition, with basic income. But neither has, to my knowledge, been proposed by anyone. Every serious proposal lies somewhere in between, and whether some basic income proposal is affordable must therefore be assessed case by case.