I just finished reading Robert Heinlein's first novel, For Us, the Living, published posthumously in 2004. The novel is about a man from 1938 who travels to the future and sees a better utopian society.
In this society every person gets a guaranteed income from the government. Society is so wealthy, people only have to work if they want to.
I think the United States in the year 2006 has reached a level of wealth where we too can do the same thing. Give every adult an income, equivalent to the minimum wage or maybe even higher, for doing nothing at all. People would then be free to work at a job and earn more, or just be a slacker and live off the free income.
Our current welfare and social security systems are a big mess, so this could in one fell swoop replace social security, public housing, food stamps, AFDC, and everything else.
The character from 1938 didn't approve of the system. He said it was morally wrong to let lazy people live without working. But the economist from the future explained that it's no different than a rich child living off of his lucky inheritance, and in fact we are all living off an inheritance left by our ancestors, because our work today wouldn't be so financially rewarding if we were not lucky enough to be born in the United States in the 21st century. Why should only people who work get to enjoy the bounty?
Leftists probably wouldn't like the idea because it wouldn't promote egalitarianism that they like so much. Most people would still work so they can be in a higher social class, and the non-workers would still comprise an underclass.
But the free income for doing nothing model provides much better incentives, than our current social programs because (1) there is no punishment for working, you don't lose your welfare or unemployment income; (2) there's no reward for having children so this should lower the birthrate among the poor; and (3) there's no punishment for marriage--two non-working slackers can marry and combine their incomes.