In a comment here, Rohan asks how I reconcile my support for a citizens’ income with support for free migration. He’s echoing Milton Friedman’s claim that “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.”
The reason for this is simple. If you pay generous benefits to all comers, so many will come that we won’t be able to afford it.
But this is why I put the “citizens” into citizens’ income - to stress that the payment should only be to British citizens. Immigrants, whilst having full freedom to enter the UK, and other rights (say to other benefits, conditional upon paying tax), wouldn’t be entitled to it unless they become citizens. Immigrants would then be like Athenian metics, though with more rights.
Is such a two-tier arrangement cruel? It’s certainly more humane than this, so supporters of current arrangements can’t complain.
And in one sense, such a scheme actually makes free migration more feasible. If people realize that immigrants can’t get generous benefits, they’ll have less reason to oppose their coming.
Another question - though again not one that troubles supporters of our existing system - is: why should any piece of trash born in Britain get higher benefits than those unlucky enough to be born elsewhere?
A possible answer to this comes from Herbert Simon. 90% of the income of Britons is the result merely of being British. We are richer than, say, Nigerians because we have a lot of inherited social capital that they don’t have. It’s reasonable to share this capital among ourselves. It is also reasonable (more so, I suspect) to recognize that this difference between the present generation of Britons and Nigerians is mere luck, and should be pooled through global redistribution. But it‘s not obvious why a Nigerian should get more welfare benefits simply by moving from Nigeria to Britain; he is, of course, getting more opportunities for earned income.
Now, I’m not mega-happy with this answer myself; it’s a rough solution to some awkward issues. But it’s inadequate relative to an ideal position, but surely better than our present one.