For WAMBI, a locally-adjusted UBI is almost a necessity. If you’re guaranteeing people a basic standard of living, then you can either say, “No, we only guarantee that contingent on you living in the cheapest place in America,” or you can adjust for local prices.
I think this is a false dichotomy you have presented. There are other options besides A and B in this case. Another reader pointed out the option of using the median (I guess national?) basic income, but that probably doesn’t work very well either. You could simply set the national UBI at an arbitrarily high threshold based on census tracts, counties, zip codes, or whatever method of assessment you want to use.
Using census tracts, for instance, you could calculate a basic income for the 1st percentile (last entry of the top 1%), which would, in theory, let people live in their choice of roughly 73,260 out of 74,000 census tracts in the United States (as of the 2010 census, there were that many). If they chose to live somewhere cheaper, they would have extra money. In the case of poor communities, this means that people who stay there are effectively seeding their communities with surplus cash.
If they want to live in an even richer area than the 1% line, they will have to work or cut costs to afford it. If 1% seems excessively generous, you could make the case for a lower threshold, but you might be surprised how fast the cost of living drops off as you get out of the highest echelons of census tract median wealth.
The main reason I would be against adjusting for local UBI, even though I agree that, in principle, it may be the optimal solution (or approximative of the optimal solution) is that, in practice, it also has the least chance of ever manifesting. The more complexity you add to UBI, the more difficult it becomes to comprehend, and the lower chance you have of ever selling it to politicians or the public. I’d rather just present people with a number, and they can take that number and choose where to live with it.
If I’m guaranteed $12,000 a year, and I either do not want to work, or do not believe it is likely that I will obtain employment, then I can maximize my real income by living in the cheapest possible areas. I will stick with known networks, inherited assets, low-risk ventures, etc. In other words, a fixed dollar UBI encourages recipients to live in cheap, rural areas where they have extensive social networks. Fixed-dollar UBIs encourage poor people to locate in areas of high poverty and low opportunity.
You have taken a conditional and made a general statement out of it, which I do not think you can scientifically justify. If you have evidence to support your final statement in this paragraph, I would be interested in seeing it, but I suspect you have merely made a conjecture. Consider that you started with the conditionals of “either I do not want to work or do not believe it is likely I will obtain employment,” but how universal are those? How many people really don’t want to work, and how many people are going to stay home just because they believe obtaining employment is unlikely? Also, how immutable are these two conditions? The same person who doesn’t want to work this week may want to work next week. It’s hard to justify general statements on the hypothetical preferences of a subset of people of unknown size.
I think the opposite could be true. Maybe a safety net (a little extra cash) is all it takes to get someone to take a shot that he or she would otherwise be afraid to take. That might mean a move to the big city, a gamble at an entrepreneurial endeavor, taking extra time to land a good job instead of settling for a bad job, or many other things. I don’t think it necessarily encourages paralysis but, without any hard data, it’s really hard to meaningfully speculate either way.
Admittedly, no UBI is ever going to become law because it’s a bunch of namby-pampy commie codswallop, but its fun to use these hypothetical arguments to explore different policy options.
People used to say that about minimum wage. Minimum wage was first introduced at a national level in New Zealand in 1894. It didn’t show up in the United States until 44 years later, in 1938, after it had been passed and overturned at the state level over and over for 26 years. Even though there is no clear path to basic income in the United States right now, it apparently polls at about 65% favorability in Europe as of 2016, and there is a lot of rumbling about experimental basic income programs in various European countries. Nothing solid yet, but pressures to adopt basic income are only going to get stronger.