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Does fear drive economic progress?

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When stockbroker Peter Hargreaves donated £3.2 million to the Leave.eu campaign, he explained his enthusiasm for Brexit as follows: “It would be the biggest stimulus to get our butts in gear that we have ever had… We will get out there and we will become incredibly successful because we will be insecure again. And insecurity is fantastic.” Intel co-founder Andrew Grove similarly argued in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive, that fear is essential for our political economy to function, spurring the pace of productivity and progress.Claims of this kind are often heard and used to argue against the introduction of a Universal Basic Income—the welfare reform initiative that would replace our current means-tested benefit systems (and their unwieldy administration) with an unconditional, automatic payment to each member of the political community. There is a diverse range of models of a UBI, some more plausible than others, but the general idea is still pretty straightforward, something lik...

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