UFA instead of UBI

by Serban V.C. Enache

UFA stands for Unconditional Food-stamps for All. For the past few years, while considering pro and contra arguments vis-a-vis UBI [Unconditional Basic Income], I came up with UFA as an alternative program. The logic behind it?

Easier to introduce as a nation-wide pilot test, with fewer complaints from across the [skeptical] political spectrum. UFA would allow citizens to better manage their finances and secure their food basket every month. We have an astronomical overproduction of food relative to effective demand at global scale. About 1.4 billion tons per year of unsold food gets wasted, enough to feed 2 billion people. Given this context, food price inflation should not occur under UFA – at least, not as a result of demand-pull. Note: effective demand means the real intention to purchase by people with the means to pay.

Those who don’t wish to use these ‘unconditional food stamps,’ like the rich and upper middle class, can donate them to charities, or just sit on them [until they expire]. UFA would have a great and swift effect on sector specific economic activity & alleviate poverty [with all the good social and psychological effects that come with it], while allowing previous purchasing power designated for the monthly basket to be redirected somewhere else. Unlike cash, you can’t use these food stamps to gamble, buy drugs or alcohol, video games or what not.

To give the UK as an example of how much the UFA would cost the National Government in money terms, I used numbeo’s minimum amount of money for food per person, which is 171,55 pounds, and multiplied it with 66 million [total UK population from 2017 census]. The cost figure comes down to 11,32 billion pounds per month. Multiplying that to 12 months we get 135,86 billion per year. For the sake of keeping the math simple, this means I categorized 1/4 of the population [being children] as adults. So the true nominal figure will be smaller than 135,86 billion annual.

For those concerned with UBI [unconditional cash payments] causing big and harmful distortions to business planning, to the labor market, and to the general price level, and for those concerned with the size and nature of the spending cuts required to accompany such a program, then the UFA [Unconditional Food-stamps for All] would be far more palatable & easier for activists [on the left, right, and center] to sell it to the public. At least, to test it out nation-wide and see its effects on labor force participation, crime rate, birth rate, school abandonment, hospitalization rate etc. Many people say that the time for UBI hasn’t arrived yet. But I don’t think we can find so many to say that we can’t have enough effective demand to feed every soul, because reality [year after year] says otherwise.