THE CASE FOR BASIC INCOME

Jesus Christ said that the poor are always with us (part of society). Whether that be accepted or not in absolute terms, the fact remains that, in practice, there is always the necessity to deal with “the submerged tenth”. In Soviet Russia, the solution was make-work jobs and, if that failed, part of the GULAG system. In finance-capitalist “Western” societies, there is the illusion of “aspiration” and “opportunity”: people need not be without (sufficient) income if they work. This theory or ideology leaves aside those who cannot work, whether because sick, disabled or unable to find remunerative or sufficiently remunerative employment.

Robotics and computerization are advancing. Some studies say that a third of present jobs in countries such as the UK will disappear by about 2030 (some say “only” 25%). It may well be that other jobs will not appear to take up the slack. Millions may be left unemployed. At present, lack of income means that unemployed people (as well as the sick and disabled) have to jump through hoops in a degrading and largely pointless bureaucratic exercise in order to receive often very modest State-provided benefit payments. The system is not only expensive because of those payments, but because of the huge bureaucratic machinery that is built in to the process. There is a better way. Basic Income.

The Basic Income idea is that all citizens receive a regular payment, regardless of circumstances. In short, the payment is unconditional, meaning not withheld if the recipient does not have a job, look for a job, can do a job. Basic Income replaces all (or, in some versions, some) existing social welfare payments.

Basic Income is being trialled in some areas of Europe: in parts of Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands. In Alaska, all permanent residents receive a small Basic Income payment annually (at present, about $2,500), monies routed from oil revenues.

Basic Income could be tweaked, so that persons on incomes above a certain level have an equivalent amount taken via the tax system; another idea would be to give a higher-tier Basic Income to the disabled (though that would mean some form of assessment and judgment). Alternatively, Basic Income could be paid only to those without income or capital, topping up income to a certain or decided level. That is, in fact, more or less what happens now in the UK, but without the present system’s bureaucracy, unpleasantness, snooping, harassing etc (made far worse since the Iain Duncan Smith regime of 2010-2016).

It is objected that Basic Income would mean that people would just be unwilling to work. Is that so? First of all it might depend on the level of Basic Income. Economic realities would probably limit Basic Income to no more than about £15,000 p.a. It might be as little as £10,000 (either per person or per household). Many will, at that level, find plenty of incentive to work if they can. Also, it is rarely heard that people should not receive inheritances or trust incomes because they might be made lazy thereby. Lottery winners in the UK usually start businesses, carry on working for pay or do charity work.

In fact, in the UK, there are already payments somewhat analogous to Basic Income. State Pensions are already paid to all person over a decided age, with extra “State Pension Guarantee Credit” money paid to those whose income and capital is below a certain level. Child Benefit was formerly paid to all persons who have children (regardless of income) and still is paid, though now with a (quite high) income cutoff point.

The cost of Basic Income is lessened by the removal of large numbers of pointless jobs in the (UK) Department of Work and Pensions etc and by the elimination of the need for large numbers of “Jobcentres” and other buildings and their upkeep. Housing Benefit will not exist, so greedy buy-to-let parasites will not be subsidized by taxpayers via taxation revenues). That alone will save billions of pounds.

A person receiving Basic Income will be able to look for work honestly (rather than in order to tick a Jobcentre box) and with confidence, will have money for transport, clothing, food. The disabled will not have to undergo degrading tests in order to receive the “basic level” of Basic Income (medical report from GP should be sufficient anyway). The more fortunate, who have income or capital anyway, will (if receiving Basic Income), will be able to spend more (stimulating the economy) and/or start their own businesses.

In short, it will become clear in time that Basic Income is the way forward in the UK.

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