Economic Disagreements about Government Spending

There will always be economic disagreements about government spending, between taxpayers and the beneficiaries of public services and benefits

To take just one instance of disagreement, there has recently been an upsurge of interest in the idea of having a Universal Basic Income (UBI), as advocated in RSA Basic Income publications for example: “It is a basic platform on which people can build their lives – whether they want to earn, learn, care or set up a business.”  The idea was put forward because there is an increasing case for enabling people to take time off to retrain, or look after relatives, as automation replaces traditional jobs and ageing populations need to be looked after.  UBI has numerous opponents, though, including Oren Cass in a National Review article: Why a Universal Basic Income Is a Terrible Idea:

“A UBI would redefine the relationship between individuals, families, communities, and the state by giving government the role of provider. It would make work optional and render self-reliance moot. An underclass dependent on government handouts would no longer be one of society’s greatest challenges but instead would be recast as one of its proudest achievements.”

Similar arguments can be put forward for any public service funded by the State.  Specific economic disagreements about government spending are highlighted later in this chapter:

·      There can be differences of opinion about whether governments are behaving responsibly in managing their spend to ensure that it can be funded by taxation ( 

·      There is disagreement about who should pay most tax, to fund government spending (3.5.1).

·      Individualists and collectivists can put forward economic arguments to support their sharply differing views about tax and spending (3.5.2).

·      There are disagreements on the economic legitimacy of economic management: achieving a balance between conflicting interests and freedoms (3.5.9).

Later chapters review the political mechanisms for reaching agreement on the magnitude and scope of government spending (6.7.1), and the moral justifications for State funding of socio-economic rights (, both of which are highly contentious.

(This is an archive of a page intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  The latest versions are at book contents).