Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

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JasonL
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by JasonL » 05 Sep 2019, 15:40

300 million people. Basic income $10k. $3 Trillion per year. That's 75% of the entire federal budget at present levels. So ... cheap?

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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by thoreau » 05 Sep 2019, 16:01

JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:40
300 million people. Basic income $10k. $3 Trillion per year. That's 75% of the entire federal budget at present levels. So ... cheap?
Yeah, I think I'm persuaded. Especially since $30k is not too shitty for a family of 3 in some places.

The only way I'd change my mind is if a whole mess of social welfare programs were eliminated, and the handful that remained had their benefit levels cut by something larger than zero but less than $10k, and the minimum wage were eliminated. And I don't see that happening.

It's a shame, because I was intrigued by Yang's ideas about thorium reactors.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jake » 05 Sep 2019, 16:02

So there's not much in the way of good experiments in UBI out there, but it occurs to me that we have a sort of "natural experiment" that's been going on for years: the prison system.

Prisoners have their (extremely) basic needs met; they have food, water, shelter. They have a place to sleep and a place to poop. And they have some job that pays $0.16 per hour or similar, so they can occasionally buy a minor luxury (like a bag of chips or a candy bar). Let's call that the Prison UBI.

The question, then, is this: how many prisoners are content with that, and how many of them start their own side hustle inside (tattooing, cutting hair, swiping ham from the kitchen and selling it on, etc.)?

This seems like data that could conceivably be collected to try and figure out what percentage of the prison population (which I suspect would have some pretty good correlations with that marginal worker population) will be content to take the Prison UBI and go sit around, and what percentage will go out and try to earn more money.

(My money's on "most of them will try to earn more", but that's from mostly anecdotal evidence... though it's anecdotal from several unconnected sources.)
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 05 Sep 2019, 16:22

Jake wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 16:02
So there's not much in the way of good experiments in UBI out there, but it occurs to me that we have a sort of "natural experiment" that's been going on for years: the prison system.
I can think of another example which might be even better: Moscow and other major Eastern Bloc cities during the last ~10 years or so before the fall of the USSR. I have a Time-Life book about "Life in Today's USSR," written in the mid to late 80s just after Gorbachev took over. (The final chapter of the book discusses various reforms Gorbachev was in the process of implementing.) By then, the government had indeed done a decentish job of making sure everyone had the basic necessities -- the photos of ordinary families in their ordinary Soviet homes showed apartments which were arguably nicer than my own apartments during the first year or two after leaving my parents' house. They had sufficient food, basic home furniture, electricity and indoor plumbing, the collection of books on the wall-unit shelving system which apparently was de rigueur in all Soviet homes of the era, and a few rubles for pocket money every month, too ... yet rather than live down to Jason's low expectations (e.g. "My basic needs are met and I have some entertainment as well -- this is FINE"), they demanded more to such an extent that the entire system came crashing down.

I remember one quote from that book I fund especially haunting -- a Soviet woman who, in reference to her home furnishings and decor, said something to the effect of "Nothing here shows my tastes or preferences -- it only shows what was available at the time."
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by JD » 05 Sep 2019, 17:29

Jake wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 16:02
The question, then, is this: how many prisoners are content with that, and how many of them start their own side hustle inside (tattooing, cutting hair, swiping ham from the kitchen and selling it on, etc.)?
Vegetables, mostly. The prison authorities crack down a lot harder on meat, due to disease concerns. I mean, uh, that's what my friends, uh, I mean, unconnected sources tell me.

(Actually, that's just what I've read in a few places.)
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Hugh Akston » 05 Sep 2019, 17:41

JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:40
300 million people. Basic income $10k. $3 Trillion per year. That's 75% of the entire federal budget at present levels. So ... cheap?
How many of those 300 million are net payers into the system vs net recipients? IOW what's the net expenditure, not the gross?
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by JasonL » 05 Sep 2019, 18:02

Depends how you fund of course. It’s a big number Hugh.

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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Hugh Akston » 05 Sep 2019, 18:20

In 2018 the average SS payout was $1,353/month or $16,236/year. Times 300 million people that's $4.8 trillion or 117% of the entire federal expenditures for that year. I can put my thumb over the lens to make a big number too. Jason.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Eric the .5b » 05 Sep 2019, 18:53

Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:35
JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:29
generates an adequate life that significant efforts to improve are not worth it to lots of people.
Except -- human nature and the "hedonic treadmill" being what they are -- has there ever been a time before when large numbers of people said "I'm so content with how things are, I'll be content with this forever. This is ALL I need"?
Has there ever been a time before where large numbers of people didn't need to do anything in order to survive? The closest I can think of is the height of bread-and-circuses in the Roman Empire. I'm not sure how much striving and innovating those citizens were up to.
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Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by JasonL » 05 Sep 2019, 19:05

Hugh Akston wrote:In 2018 the average SS payout was $1,353/month or $16,236/year. Times 300 million people that's $4.8 trillion or 117% of the entire federal expenditures for that year. I can put my thumb over the lens to make a big number too. Jason.
But that’s nonsense because SSI isn’t a nation wide simultaneous “universal” if you will benefit paid every year. Take a reasonable cut at the number if you want to and explain who isn’t getting money. You can argue it has big benefits to give every breathing human money for no productive activity but you can’t say it’s inexpensive.

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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Eric the .5b » 05 Sep 2019, 19:07

Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 16:22
I can think of another example which might be even better: Moscow and other major Eastern Bloc cities during the last ~10 years or so before the fall of the USSR. I have a Time-Life book about "Life in Today's USSR," written in the mid to late 80s just after Gorbachev took over. (The final chapter of the book discusses various reforms Gorbachev was in the process of implementing.) By then, the government had indeed done a decentish job of making sure everyone had the basic necessities -- the photos of ordinary families in their ordinary Soviet homes showed apartments which were arguably nicer than my own apartments during the first year or two after leaving my parents' house. They had sufficient food, basic home furniture, electricity and indoor plumbing, the collection of books on the wall-unit shelving system which apparently was de rigueur in all Soviet homes of the era, and a few rubles for pocket money every month, too ... yet rather than live down to Jason's low expectations (e.g. "My basic needs are met and I have some entertainment as well -- this is FINE"), they demanded more to such an extent that the entire system came crashing down.
To my knowledge, this doesn't apply, though. The USSR had unemployment benefits, but not for everyone, and they were at a small fraction of the salaries for the workers' prior jobs. You may have gotten a free apartment after spending a while on the waiting list, but you'd better work if you wanted to eat more than mayonez and buterbrod, comrade.

Moreover, the problem was that the USSR in the 80s became unable to provide food and other consumer goods at the levels it had previously provided. There was no legal non-rationed food to be had with your extra rubles, and you had to wait longer and longer in line for bread. It was a failure of the system in supplying, not people demanding more.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 05 Sep 2019, 19:30

Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 18:53
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:35
JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:29
generates an adequate life that significant efforts to improve are not worth it to lots of people.
Except -- human nature and the "hedonic treadmill" being what they are -- has there ever been a time before when large numbers of people said "I'm so content with how things are, I'll be content with this forever. This is ALL I need"?
Has there ever been a time before where large numbers of people didn't need to do anything in order to survive?
This might sound like a semantic nitpick, but I'm very serious: what do you mean by "survive?" Because if you're talking about bare-minimum biological reductionism -- sufficient food and water, plus clothing and shelter to protect you from local climate conditions -- America and various of the richer First World nations have been like that for most of the post-World War Two era. I don't know if you recall when I saw still newish to Atlanta and would sometimes post and discuss various articles about the large homeless population here ... but for all those case studies of, like, single moms plus kids living in one room of that homeless shelter show standards of living which any member of the Gryll, I presume, would consider horrifying poverty and a huge step down from our current standard (even me, in my slum-neighborhood apartment which, though quite large, is otherwise probably the single worst-quality residence of any current gryllperson) ... but of course, compared to even a comfortably middle-class person of a century ago, that woman in the shelter enjoys several nice technological advantages in addition to food, clothing, shelter and so on. In states with more generous safety nets than here, there's people in even better situations -- subsidized flophouses still better than the homeless shelter, say -- and yet, for the most part**, you do NOT see people in these situations content enough to stay there. There's always something more to want -- maybe more living space than your current small room, or more cool stuff to put IN your living space, or more clothes or toys and the kids want to visit the amusement park and ....

Consider: a lot of people are expressing concern about how, with a UBI, too many people will say "Fuck it, I have the basics of living PLUS my XBox and Netflix -- that's all I need!" If we were having this same conversation in the 1980s, they instead would have worried about those who say "Fuck it, I have the basics of living PLUS my Atari and Betamax -- that's all I need!"

And yeah, there were people who, back in like 1983 or something, would have been perfectly content if they had "the basic necessities of life, plus my Atari, Betamax and a collection of tapes and game cartridges for both." They'd have been perfectly content to do nothing but get buzzed, play their Atari games and watch their Betamax videos all day ... for a couple years, until those game and video-watching systems were made obsolete by newer and better options. So Atari/Betamax slacker might never be motivated to work for self-improvement or the betterment of humanity or other noble "Star Trek TNG when Roddenberry ran the show" ideals ... but I bet there would come a time when they're motivated to work at least enough to upgrade to a Nintendo plus a VHS player and games and videos for both, and later still to a PlayStation or XBox plus a DVD player ... and of course, I haven't even mentioned all the upgrades this guy has made to his home music player and collection, compared to the vinyl records and stereo system to play them he had back in 1983, and the time he finally decided to join the growing number of American cell phone owners, and the time he decided he wants to upgrade to a smartphone....

**EDIT: Except for people like "mentally challenged wards of the state" who genuinely CAN'T care for themselves no matter WHAT incentives there are.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Eric the .5b » 05 Sep 2019, 19:36

Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 19:30
Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 18:53
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:35
JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:29
generates an adequate life that significant efforts to improve are not worth it to lots of people.
Except -- human nature and the "hedonic treadmill" being what they are -- has there ever been a time before when large numbers of people said "I'm so content with how things are, I'll be content with this forever. This is ALL I need"?
Has there ever been a time before where large numbers of people didn't need to do anything in order to survive?
This might sound like a semantic nitpick, but I'm very serious: what do you mean by "survive?
I think you're underestimating the effort needed to survive while homeless, but yes, I mean comfortably survive without having to go to effort to get acceptable food, housing, utilities, and entertainment.

I mean, if you're reaching for well, there are soup kitchens and shelters, I think you're speaking completely out of scope for UBI or anything like it.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 05 Sep 2019, 20:05

Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 19:36
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 19:30
Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 18:53
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:35
JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:29
generates an adequate life that significant efforts to improve are not worth it to lots of people.
Except -- human nature and the "hedonic treadmill" being what they are -- has there ever been a time before when large numbers of people said "I'm so content with how things are, I'll be content with this forever. This is ALL I need"?
Has there ever been a time before where large numbers of people didn't need to do anything in order to survive?
This might sound like a semantic nitpick, but I'm very serious: what do you mean by "survive?
I think you're underestimating the effort needed to survive while homeless, but yes, I mean comfortably survive without having to go to effort to get acceptable food, housing, utilities, and entertainment.

I mean, if you're reaching for well, there are soup kitchens and shelters, I think you're speaking completely out of scope for UBI or anything like it.
Homeless with your own room in a shelter, not homeless on the street (or in a tent, your car, etc.).

The obvious problem with looking specifically at America (except for exceptional cases such as the North Carolina Cherokees with their casino-funded UBI) is that the only people who qualify for the closest thing we have to a BI minus the U -- "we'll cover your bare necessities plus a pittance for pocket money" is people on disability, and they are not allowed to strive for more because if they earn money they risk being booted off the disability rolls. (Ditto recipients of other forms of what we call "welfare": as I understand it, the general cutoff rules are NOT something like "For every dollar you make over X amount, we'll cut your benefits by a half-dollar" -- instead, they're "If you make anything over X amount, you lose ALL benefits because fuck you.")

What did you think of the analogy I made in the rest of my post -- how today's "All I need is my XBox and Netflix" was yesterday's "All I need is my Atari and Betamax -- until they're not good enough anymore?" Even the old Onion stoner Jim Anchower worked as much as he needed to buy video games and new systems when his old ones crapped out. Even if the bare minimum necessities are guaranteed to everyone, without them even having to jump through hoops or meet "conditions" to qualify, there's a LOT more-than-minimum stuff people will still want.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Shem » 05 Sep 2019, 20:08

Jake wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 16:02
So there's not much in the way of good experiments in UBI out there, but it occurs to me that we have a sort of "natural experiment" that's been going on for years: the prison system.
This is satire, right?
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Aresen » 05 Sep 2019, 20:14

Shem wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 20:08
Jake wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 16:02
So there's not much in the way of good experiments in UBI out there, but it occurs to me that we have a sort of "natural experiment" that's been going on for years: the prison system.
This is satire, right?
It may be satire, but it's WAY too close to the truth.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Eric the .5b » 05 Sep 2019, 20:26

Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 20:05
Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 19:36
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 19:30
Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 18:53
Jennifer wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:35
JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:29
generates an adequate life that significant efforts to improve are not worth it to lots of people.
Except -- human nature and the "hedonic treadmill" being what they are -- has there ever been a time before when large numbers of people said "I'm so content with how things are, I'll be content with this forever. This is ALL I need"?
Has there ever been a time before where large numbers of people didn't need to do anything in order to survive?
This might sound like a semantic nitpick, but I'm very serious: what do you mean by "survive?
I think you're underestimating the effort needed to survive while homeless, but yes, I mean comfortably survive without having to go to effort to get acceptable food, housing, utilities, and entertainment.

I mean, if you're reaching for well, there are soup kitchens and shelters, I think you're speaking completely out of scope for UBI or anything like it.
Homeless with your own room in a shelter, not homeless on the street (or in a tent, your car, etc.).
Which is still a tenuous existence. It's not like they have even renters' guarantees to those rooms; next week they can be sleeping in a back-alley.

However, I really don't see the point of well-actuallying me about the existence of the welfare state when I already explicitly clarified what I meant in the context of the discussion. If you want to equate UBI to the welfare state we already have, then what's to talk about? If you want to say it's completely unlike anything we have had, then why are we talking about homeless shelters? In any case, it's not worth engaging.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 06 Sep 2019, 01:12

Eric the .5b wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 20:26
If you want to equate UBI to the welfare state we already have, then what's to talk about?
For starters, why (IMO) a UBI would be far better than the precarious patchwork state-by-state welfare programs plus federal disability we have now, especially since it would eliminate the disincentives for recipients to earn more.

If you want to say it's completely unlike anything we have had, then why are we talking about homeless shelters?
I mentioned them in the specific context of answering a question about mere survival. Harkening back to an oft-repeated debate on this forum: "How can Americans today say things were 'better' than a generation or two ago, or they are 'worse off' now, given all our advances in technology and lower food and clothing costs and etc.?" Yes, if you compare people now to standards of the past, by many measures we are all better off -- however, I maintain, by other measures some people are worse off. However -- forgetting about the homeless for a moment, and going back to UBI in general -- people today are wont to ignore the ways they're better off than they'd be in times past (better appliances, cheaper food, vastly more entertainment options, etc.), and focus on the ways they're worse off (can't afford a house, expensive college, giant student debt, etc.), for much the same reason I think people with a UBI guaranteeing the bare minimum won't settle for that and never strive for anything more.

Or, for the same reason that, if we had had a UBI since the start of the Reagan era, I think the slackers who originally were content with the basics plus their Atari and Betamax would eventually have got off their butts and found some paid work, if for no other reason than to take advantage of the many awesome technological upgrades since then. I think most of the Silicon Valley people still would've done all the things leading to today's internet rather than slack off on their UBI payments.

In other words: I do NOT think most people will be content with just "the bare minimum and nothing more, without working," not when they live in a society where there is SO much more than the minimum for people to want.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 06 Sep 2019, 01:35

JasonL wrote:
05 Sep 2019, 15:40
300 million people. Basic income $10k. $3 Trillion per year. That's 75% of the entire federal budget at present levels. So ... cheap?
FWIW, the UBI proposal I support would not pay out to ALL American citizens, only those over 18 (to reduce the obvious perverse incentive of "having kids" being a moneymaking endeavor). And I suppose there would have to be residency requirements as well.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by JD » 06 Sep 2019, 08:26

Jennifer wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 01:35
FWIW, the UBI proposal I support would not pay out to ALL American citizens, only those over 18 (to reduce the obvious perverse incentive of "having kids" being a moneymaking endeavor). And I suppose there would have to be residency requirements as well.
I think you would have to have the strong residency requirement, because if you think anti-immigrant sentiment is running high now, imagine what it would be like if Mexican immigrant families were literally handed cash for being here.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Painboy » 06 Sep 2019, 12:08

JD wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 08:26
Jennifer wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 01:35
FWIW, the UBI proposal I support would not pay out to ALL American citizens, only those over 18 (to reduce the obvious perverse incentive of "having kids" being a moneymaking endeavor). And I suppose there would have to be residency requirements as well.
I think you would have to have the strong residency requirement, because if you think anti-immigrant sentiment is running high now, imagine what it would be like if Mexican immigrant families were literally handed cash for being here.
Which is another thing I don't like about the UBI. It heavily discourages immigration. In fact I'm not even entirely sure how that would work if you were a non-citizen trying to find an entry level job.

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Jennifer
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 06 Sep 2019, 14:56

JD wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 08:26
Jennifer wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 01:35
FWIW, the UBI proposal I support would not pay out to ALL American citizens, only those over 18 (to reduce the obvious perverse incentive of "having kids" being a moneymaking endeavor). And I suppose there would have to be residency requirements as well.
I think you would have to have the strong residency requirement, because if you think anti-immigrant sentiment is running high now, imagine what it would be like if Mexican immigrant families were literally handed cash for being here.
Indeed; at minimum something like "In addition to being a citizen over 18, you must have lived here for at least X years before getting your first payment, AND if you are out of the country for more than Y consecutive months (not counting military/government personnel) your payments are suspended for the duration, though you resume collecting them once you come back.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Highway » 06 Sep 2019, 15:03

I want to point out a big disconnect between the ideas thrown around here of "If there is a UBI, it would have to replace all of the other types of welfare and assistance to be acceptable as a tradeoff" and "We couldn't allow payments for children, because then it would be just incentive to have kids." There's going to have to be SOMETHING for children, whether it's given to the parents or administered some other way that I haven't thought of.

To my mind, one of the better end cases for UBI would be the single mom with 2 kids who would now have the opportunity to just be a parent, with the combined income, rather than having to scrimp up money for childcare and spend time working two minimum wage jobs with jacked up schedules. Maybe work some extra when the kids go to school or something, but not be on that treadmill of never enough time to parent and provide.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Hugh Akston » 06 Sep 2019, 15:40

Yeah I assume kids would get the benefit paid to parents, transitioning to the kids either entirely at 18 or gradually from 14-15 on. It might be worth rethinking if people started popping out kids like pez just to live high on the UBI hog, but Hungary (among others) throwing benefits at fertile wombs doesn't seem to be reversing the general fertility decline, so I think it's a risk worth taking.
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Re: Money for Nothing: the Universal Basic Income

Post by Jennifer » 06 Sep 2019, 15:46

Hugh Akston wrote:
06 Sep 2019, 15:40
Yeah I assume kids would get the benefit paid to parents, transitioning to the kids either entirely at 18 or gradually from 14-15 on. It might be worth rethinking if people started popping out kids like pez just to live high on the UBI hog, but Hungary (among others) throwing benefits at fertile wombs doesn't seem to be reversing the general fertility decline, so I think it's a risk worth taking.
I just-now did a quick Google of Hungary's benefits for parents -- it's not enough to make parenthood actually PROFITABLE, merely enough to somewhat offset the higher costs parents face compared to non-parents. If your only metric is "How much money do I have left each month after paying the basics for myself and any family members I have," a childfree Hungarian is financially still better off than a Hungarian parent with those benefits, all else being equal.
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