Oooh, lots to unpack here.
Yeah, I'm concerned about cash being discouraged. "Just use a card" is all well and good, but our kids don't have cards for pocket money to spend at the shop on the way home from school, and the card payments system restricts trade to people who are big enough businesses to be worth getting a card payment thing, or transactions big enough to wait for bank transfers - putting burdens on the little guy, as usual.
As for UBI - well, there's two different things to think about here.
Firstly, is some kind of welfare payment a good or bad thing?
The argument against is that people should be responsible for their own upkeep, and that welfare systems reward people for slobbing around at home rather than bothering to work, encouraging selfishness. I'm sure SOME people are like that, but most people on benefits I see are either disabled and can't work, or can't work enough hours, or struggling with caring responsibilities or something along those lines, and are generally (a) really stressed because they're barely covering the rent and bills and food and (b) ashamed about being on benefits. I'm sure there IS some piss-taking, but taking away the benefit system because of that just makes life a lot harder for the people who really need it. When we (this account is shared between a married couple, husband is writing this) had just had our first child, my wife was recovering from a bad labour and couldn't walk without crutches, I was self employed and working from home as an IT contractor - and our home was made uninhabitable for a year by a flood. We had insurance, but not for business interruption, and while it paid for repairs to the house and new furniture, it didn't cover the many extra costs of suddenly looking after a sick wife and a small baby without a house - and it was a year before the works were done and we could move back in. Our savings were gone pretty quickly, and we came out of it with massive credit card debts as the banks wouldn't give us a loan under those circumstances, and if we'd applied for benefits we'd have had to somehow make ends meet for months before we got anything - I didn't realise how long the trouble we got into would last for and thought it wasn't worth applying because I hoped we'd be back on our feet before it started to pay out, especially given the paltry amounts we'd have gotten, so never bothered, although in hindsight I should have...
So, the welfare system we have is still pretty miserly, and really didn't support us when we really could have done with it. I am happy that my taxes go towards supporting people who have had bad luck, both because I want people to be happy, and because I think that if you don't provide for poor people, they will be driven to rob you out of desperation, they won't have money to spend in shops to drive the economy, they won't be able to afford to look after themselves so diseases will spread through their population and then infect the rest of us, we'll just end up with ghettos/slums etc etc - it is not only *nice* but in our *selfish best interests* to look out for each other! Trials of UBI around the world have resulted in more people working in the long run, which seems to suggest that the "It encourages laziness" effect is outweighed by factors like making it practical for people to get more training and then go for jobs that were previously out of their reach, etc.
Secondly, is UBI a better kind of welfare payment than the current means-tested system?
Well, if we'd had a UBI when our house had flooded and I couldn't work for months, then we would have still had some income, without needing to argue that we're eligible or wait for it to come through or anything, which would certainly have been nice. A UBI funded from increased income tax is a net positive for people below some income threshold where the tax increase matches the UBI they get, and a tax increase for people above that, so it would do something to close the rich/poor divide, which I'd say is a good thing. The current welfare system is quite expensive to administer, with all the paperwork involved, and a UBI would cut that out, thereby being more "efficient" in the cost of the system turning into actual cash in recipient's hands.
As to whether it would just cause rents and food prices and so on to rise - I am not enough of an economist to predict that. Apparently that's not been seen in trials, but the trials are limited. I think it's worth doing larger trials to find ou!