Why don’t people on disability spend their time volunteering?

As a general principle, the idea that UBI is going to solve the work crisis is incorrect. That is not what Andrew Yang is saying. He’s saying that UBI provides a path forward.

Losing one’s job is a crisis because of the threat of starvation. With a UBI, you can survive and have a little padding that will help you on your way to your next opportunity. This is already the case for millions of upper-middle class Americans with thousands of dollars in savings. But there are millions of other Americans who do not have savings, and for them, a UBI is a lifesaver.

As Yang points out in his book, the number of people on disability has been rising dramatically. And most of them are getting a check from the government. But are they happy? Are they volunteering? Are they spending time at the local waystation helping people? Or are they taking drugs?

The reason they’re not volunteering is that they are signing up for disability out of desperation—they don’t have a few dollars to keep their heads above water, so they need it just to subsist.

Whether they were truly disabled or not, after signing up, they have to play up the negative self-talk and start believing that they are truly disabled. They must do this in order to morally justify their disability check. It’s a psychological block for millions of people.

The government forces them to feel like they cannot do anything. At the margins, people are literally not allowed to work because the government would take away their benefits.

Worse yet, they can’t even try, even though the attempt would be a step on the path to recovery. The welfare cliff ensures that they are trapped, often for the rest of their lives.

They can’t even volunteer because then the government case worker would notice that they are able-bodied and take away their benefits.

That’s the problem UBI solves.

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