What’s So Libertarian About A Basic Income?

I think McMegan and I will be able to agree on something:

As libertarians go, I’m close-ish to a “left libertarian”; among other things, I think there’s a role for government in guaranteeing a decent life for the needy, and intervening to right environmental problems that stem from unpriced negative externalities.
So what’s different from liberalism? To the extent that the problems of the poor are inadequate money, I think that we should solve this problem by . . . giving them money. Not giving them food, shelter, or health care; just giving them money, and letting them decide what they want to buy. If they want to eat cornmeal mush for a month while watching cable television, let ’em. I think the government’s job is to make sure people have the ingredients of a decent life, not to tell them what that decent life is.

It seems that she’s hinting at replacing most of the welfare state (Social Security, food stamps, housing vouchers) with a basic income; she’s endorsed a negative income tax before, which effectively creates a basic income, so I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising. And, as loyal blog readers know, I’m completely on board with implementing a basic income. Come to think of it, I’m a big fan of Megan’s previously proposed health care plan, which would provide very generous catastrophic coverage and pay for all health expenditures of people under 200% of the poverty line.
My question, then, would be, “What so libertarian about this?” Funding Megan’s health plan and a meaningful basic income would cost a considerable amount of money; even if we got rid of Social Security, welfare, and all existing government health care programs in the process, we’d probably end up with a budget equivalent to or slightly larger than what we have today. I’d be fine with that, but I doubt most libertarians (or, for that matter, Megan) would be. I think Megan’s answer, that no specific spending is encouraged, isn’t enough; believing in limited government means more than saying that government should tax the hell out of you and then let you spend the benefits however you like, it means believing we should limit spending and taxation period. Sure, if this is what mainstream libertarians believe, then mark me down as a libertarian. But I really think it’s closer to mainstream liberalism than to mainstream libertarianism.

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