Home Society 'Universal Basic Income' Gains Popularity Across The Political Spectrum

‘Universal Basic Income’ Gains Popularity Across The Political Spectrum

Supporters of a 'Universal Basic Income', or 'Basic Income Guarantee', argue that it would alleviate absolute poverty and would also motivate people to work.

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Basic income (which is sometimes called “citizen’s income” or “universal income”) is the idea that absolute poverty can be alleviated by providing every member of a society with an unconditional subsistence income.

Supporters of a ‘Universal Basic Income’, or ‘Basis Income Guarantee’, argue that it would alleviate absolute poverty and would also motivate people to work because they would always better off, as work-related income would be additional to their subsistence income.

Earlier this year I wrote  about the Labour Party’s consideration of the universal basic income as a part of its new policy, during their talk at the London School of Economics.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP said: “It’s an idea we want to look at. Child benefit was a form of basic income so it’s not something that I would rule out.”

At the very least, this indicates the idea of universal provision has regained some credence in the face of a longstanding and seemingly unchallengeable political norm of increasing means-testing and welfare conditionality, established by the Thatcher administration, and radically extended by the current government.

Although basic income is a feature in many proposed models of market socialism, and has been particularly popular with the Green Party, support for basic income has also been expressed by several people associated with right-wing political views.

While adherents of such views generally favour minimization or abolition of the public provision of welfare services, some have cited basic income as a viable strategy to reduce the amount of bureaucratic administration that is prevalent in many contemporary welfare systems. Others have contended that it could also act as a form of compensation for fiat currency inflation.

Though the details vary, the basic income model has been advocated by Right-wing thinkers such as Charles Murray, Milton Friedman and the Adam Smith Institute, among others.

Libertarians who object to income redistribution in principle usually concede that a Negative Income Tax is the least controversial form of welfare, because it is administratively simple and “perverts incentives” less than most welfare schemes. It is particularly appealing to many liberals and libertarians because it is unpaternalistic – it’s highly compatible with laissez faire and neo-liberal economic models.

However, the current government are libertarian paternalists, blending a small state ideology with a psychocratic approach to governing, using behavioural change techniques (“Nudge“) to fulfill ideologically-driven policy outcomes.

Last year, the Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT), which has given advice to the Green Party and often cited by the Greens, has modelled the party’s scheme and discovered a major design flaw. It was revealed that that 35.15% of households would lose money, with many of the biggest losers among the poorest households.

At the time, Malcolm Torry, director of the CIT, which is a small charitable research body, said: “I am not sure the Green party has yet taken on our new research or the need to retain a means-tested element. We have only just published the new work.”

The criticisms of the scheme, as well as doubts about costings, led the Greens to make a temporary tactical retreat on the issue, with the party’s leader, Natalie Bennett (pictured below), saying detailed costings for the policy would not be available in the manifesto last March. The Greens had proposed a citizen’s income of around £72 to every adult in Britain regardless of wealth and existing income, which would cost the Treasury around £280bn.

One longstanding criticism of basic income is that it would provide  payments to citizens that are already very wealthy, perpetuating social inequality, and wasting resources.

The CIT added that if the policy was applied without a means-tested component, then poorer households would end up receiving far less in state benefits than they would under the existing system.

However, one of the strongest arguments for basic income is that people would no longer be compelled to work in order to meet their basic needs. This means that employers would find it difficult to exploit workers, and would be pushed to offer decent wages, good terms and employment conditions in order to attract workers. People would have greater freedom to pursue meaningful, suitable and appropriate employment rather than having to take any job to avoid poverty and destitution.

De-commodifying labor by decoupling work from income liberates people from the “tyranny of wage slavery” and leaves a space for innovation, creativitity and rebalances power relationships between wealthy, profit-motivated employers and employees.

It seems that the idea of basic income is gaining support. Reform Scotland, an independent non-party think tank, also propose in their recent report – The Basic Income Guaranteethat  the current work-related benefits system is replaced with a new Basic Income Guarantee (BIG).

However, despite claims that the think tank is independent of political parties, Reform Scotland is a public policy institute which works to promote increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the libertarian paternalist notions and Conservative principles of limited government and personal responsibility. Reform Scotland is funded by donations from private individuals, charitable trusts and corporate organisations.

The calculations used in the report imply that a Basic Income Guarantee would cost more initially to implement, but the think tank argue that there are strong arguments (which are couched in Conservative terms) to suggest that it would lead to “changed behaviour” and “a bigger workforce.”

The think tank proposes that there remains a “disincentive” to work (the so-called “welfare trap”) which is caused by the high level of marginal taxes faced by those moving into work or increasing their hours.

In their report, Reform Scotland say: “Our conclusion is that the benefits system should protect the unemployed and under-employed but at the same time must reduce – and ideally remove – any disincentives to take work, particularly part-time work. The manifest failing of the present system is the cash penalty many face when they take a job.”

Reform Scotland is proposing a Basic Income Guarantee which is paid to all working-age adults and children, whether in or out of work. All earnings would be taxed, but the basic income would never be withdrawn, meaning that “work would always pay.”

The think tank argues that radical reform of the current welfare system is required and that a Basic Income Guarantee is the best way forward. This would give every working-age person a basic income from the state of £5,200 per year, and every child £2,600.

The income would be a right of citizenship and would be the same regardless of income or gender. It would be non-means tested and would not increase or decrease as someone’s income changes, thereby removing the need for the associated bureaucracy.

The Basic Income Guarantee would replace a number of means-tested work related benefits, as well as child benefit, and would be a new way of providing a social safety net.

Welfare spending on working-age people has decreased since 2010, and the report highlights a context of the rising costs of pensions, and of£207.6 billion spent on welfare in 2014/15, £114 billion was in relation to pensioners. Of this, about £93 billion is made up by the state pension and pensioner credit. The Reform Scotland proposals therefore relate to the remaining  £93.6 billion, spent on working-age adults and children.

The report, written by former Scottish Green Party Head of Media, James Mackenzie, and former Scottish Liberal Democrat Policy Convener, Siobhan Mathers, in conjunction with Geoff Mawdsley and Alison Payne of Reform Scotland, seeks to promote informed debate of this idea by examining what the level of the basic income might be and how much implementing it would cost.

Reform Scotland’s report also calls for a single department to be responsible for welfare payments, ending the current split between HMRC and the DWP.

Commenting on the report, author James Mackenzie, former Scottish Green Party Head of Media, said: “Basic income is one of those ideas that should appeal right across the political spectrum.

“When I was unemployed I remember having to think hard about whether to accept part time or short-term work because of the impact on my income.

“We should be making it easier for people to work who can and who want to, not penalising them. Basic income does just that, as well as helping those who have caring responsibilities, or who want to volunteer or study.

“There’s a resurgence of interest in the idea around the world, especially in Europe, with proposals being considered in Switzerland, Holland, France and elsewhere. The principle is the same everywhere, but policy makers need to know more about the practicalities.

“Now, for the first time, we are providing some detailed information about how it could work in Scotland, either after independence or after the devolution of the necessary powers.”

Co-author Siobhan Mathers, Reform Scotland advisory board member and former Scottish Liberal Democrat Policy Convener said: “There is a great opportunity for Scotland to design a welfare system that best suits its needs in the 21st Century.

“We could leave behind the unnecessary complexity of the UK system and provide a fair Basic Income Guarantee for all. This would make any transitions in and out of work more manageable and provide a clear, fair safety net for all.”

We have seen an unprecedented increase in a dark, unaccountable bureacracy this past five years, with private companies such as Atos, Maximus, and the likes of A4E and other private welfare-for-work providers marking the increased conditionality of welfare support – for both out of work support, and soon, for support paid to those in low paid and part-time work.

Conservative inclination has been towards substantially raising the (increasingly privatised and for profit) administrative costs of welfare, whilst at the same time radically reducing the lifeline benefits for people needing support for meeting basic needs.

Conservatives may well raise the “something for nothing” objection to basic income, which is founded on the absurd idea that the only way people may contribute to society is through paid labor.

Yet non-remunerated activities such as bringing up children, caring for elderly or sick and disabled relatives, supporting vulnerable neighbours, community work, volunteering for charities or investing time and effort in other voluntary endeavors such as contributions to the arts, sharing knowledge, education, writing, are all clearly valuable contributions to society.

But these skills and activities have been steadily devalued, whilst providing an increasingly disposable (“flexible”) labor force is seen by the Conservatives as somehow fulfilling the best of our potential.

Reform Scotland has previously argued, when putting forward its Devolution Plus proposals, that there is plenty of logic behind bringing together the policy areas associated with alleviating poverty that are currently devolved, such as social inclusion and housing, with benefit provision, which remains reserved. This would help to provide a more coherent approach to tackling poverty and inequality.

The debate on this issue will, no doubt, continue in the years to come.


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54 COMMENTS

  1. Dear moderator I don’t know if you retain the posts that lean wolfson has removed, but if you can perhaps you could return them to the thread so that the totally untrue claims of bullying can be exposed for what they are.

    • Ah yes, demanding that your hate campaign, your spam of accusations and accusations of Fachism be not only tolerated but endorsed, as you prove my claims of bullying and indeed I ask moderators to examine the possibility of a false flag.

      He’s turned this discussion into his hate tirade at me, rather than it being about the UBC.

      • I have only asked you to support everything you have said which you have proven totally incapable of doing and not made any rational post to support removing the only lifeline most disable sick and unemployed people have. I have no rational emotional feelings towards you whatsoever, although your continual claims of hate and being a liar are a minor irritation, I only want to debate the item this thread is about not your insecurities

      • Moderators… the over-20 post hate campaigh, which needs to be investigated as a false flag for it’s constant and non-ending barrage of lies and insults (including an accusation of Fascism)…continues to clog up this disqus :/

        The goal seems clearly to be blocking any discussion.

      • Well as you clearly did no answer any pertinent questions and continually used abusive language you removed the posts and then started to make untrue hysterical allegations, discussion is between different points of view you thought you were the only one who had anything to say that mattered although I proved time after time it was incorrect, now you are just pretending you were chased off, well perhaps you can explain why if your posts were correct you felt the need to remove them, surely a rational approach would have been to leave them there so that you had at least some evidence to show your claims have credence, however as they would not have proven your claims you felt the need to remove them then to make unsubstantiated claims of bullying, because replied to your posts, something apparently you do not like, and because I pointed out the glaring inconsistencies in your far right ideations concerning what you continually referred to as welfare payments.

      • Moderators… the over-20 post hate campaign, which needs to be
        investigated as a false flag for it’s constant and non-ending barrage of lies and insults (including an accusation of Fascism)…continues to
        clog up this disqus :/

        The goal seems clearly to be blocking any discussion.

        As he spews defamation about “hysteria”, “allegations”, “rational”, “bullying”, “far right”, etc. – he seems to be straight from Guido!

        edit: And well done, he’s got the comment section removed from current posts. You’re doing fine, censorcensor.

  2. Can the bully, whose hate and lies campaign against me continues… he has called me a Fachist …can the moderators PLEASE deal with him. 17 attacks now, and counting.

    I’d really like to discuss a UBI here :/

    • Oh please replying to your posts and asking you to either prove the content, or giving examples of where your opinion is incorrect is not bullying, but consistently lying and asking moderators for help certainly falls into that category.

      • That excuse for your hate campaign, and calling this Jew a Fachist? Right.

        Your lying attacks continue, I’m sure you’ll be defaming me in future here no matter what article I post on, given your determination to destroy any possible discussion.

        Your determination to make it all about your hate of me is working, of course.

  3. Can the bully who keeps lying in new ways about what I type and has called me a Fascist please be dealt with by the moderators?

    He’s even denying welfare traps exist now!

    • • Edit• Reply•Share ›

      Avatar

      Leon Wolfeson • 13 minutes ago

      Anyway, if the bully will stop lying and getting me to remove posts (as he’s accused me of being a Fascist), I would just like to say that even right wingers like Tim Worstall support it for ending welfare traps

      (As it, of course, factually means no marginal withdrawal effects occur.) How does questioning your claims make me a bully and how can you claim no marginal effects of the vicious troy removal of benefits to the needy ?

  4. I’d love to participate, but a liar and a bully who has made plenty of wild accusations against me – including that I am a Fascist – keeps spewing unconnected garbage at my posts. Can the moderators please deal with this.

    He’s determined to shut me down, to make this all about his hate.
    He is repeatedly posting wilder and wilder accusations at me, in fact.

    (Oh and incidentally I’m disabled per UK law, but that won’t stop the defamation either)

    • I think it is you who is lying, it is you who made claims to be an expert, if you are disabled then you will have the experience of ATOS miracles, the DWP sanctions and the idea that removing you from the so called welfare trap, and american term, will encourage you to work even when you can’t would be an anathema to you, not a good and rational approach.

  5. Anyway, if the bully will stop lying and getting me to remove posts (as he’s accused me of being a Fascist), I would just like to say that even right wingers like Tim Worstall support it for ending welfare traps

    (As it, of course, factually means no marginal withdrawal effects occur.)

    There is indeed support across the political spectrum for a number of reasons. I support it from the left.

    • To Leon Wolfson, I’m a disabled person, I am having to use my life savings to live on because of having my benefits stopped, I am in no way “encouraged” to work by this occurrence, I have been plunged into the trap of having no benefits that is the reality I wasn’t in a trap whilst I was receiving the benefit. I have a permanent disability that starvation and freezing will not cure. Now tell me where in any of your posts you accepted that there are people such as myself that are suffering because of this nonsensical approach which you prove of, you removed your posts because I called you out on it.

  6. Heck, some right wingers – Tim Worstall for example – support it because it eliminates welfare traps.

    • Heck it does not remove any welfare trap it just takes away the only support those who are unemployed because of there being not enough jobs, sickness disability and even those who because the health provision has been slashed have to stay at home to look after sick/disabled relatives.

      • The whole point is that it creates a poverty trap, because people who can not work still can’t work after having benefits removed

  7. It would appear that Leon Wolfson having been show to be a tory supporter and anti disabled doesn’t want people to see what he wrote on this thread, it is a shame as he appears to be a moderator on it

    • No, your defaming me is just that, as you make wild, nasty claims and ignore the fact you ignored my posts, repeatedly claimed you were not doing something and turned and repeatedly have claimed I said and believed things I do not, things entirely invented by you.

      I am not a “moderator”, either.

      All this because I a. blame the Tories for their economic incompetence b. have read some scientific studies.

      You are deliberately, it seems, trying to muddy the discussion around a UBI. You will now proceed to further defame me – you’ve called me a Fascist, for example, and I am reporting your posts on that basis.

      • You have removed your posts which show you are not being honest at all, your posts supported the tories you did not at any point blame their economic incompetence, if you had I would have agreed with you. I have read many scientific studies, but not necessarily on this subject, as you see it is a pointless thing to claim without actually specifying or providing an example of any scientific report which proves that removing benefits encourages people to work or cures their condition.

      • No, your defaming me is just that, as you make wild, nasty claims and ignore the fact you ignored my posts, repeatedly claimed you were not doing something and turned and repeatedly have claimed I said and believed things I do not, things entirely invented by you. Now you are claiming I did not say things I did.

        I am not a “moderator”, either.

        All this because I a. blame the Tories for their economic incompetence b. have read some scientific studies.

        You are deliberately, it seems, trying to muddy the discussion around and my support for a UBI. You will now proceed to further defame me – you’ve called me a Fascist, for example, and I am reporting your posts on that basis.

      • Please do and make sure that you also have everyone of your unedited posts so that it can be seen I was replying to what you posted. perhaps you can show me exactly where I blamed migrants specifically being the problem. You claimed that this is a good way to make people work and ignored everything I said about those unable to work even to the point of trying to make out there are scientific reports to support your stance which is in line with the tory party.

      • No, your defaming me is just that, as you make wild, nasty claims and
        ignore the fact you ignored my posts, repeatedly claimed you were not doing something and turned and repeatedly have claimed I said and believed things I do not, things entirely invented by you. Now you are claiming I did not say things I did.

        I am not a “moderator”, either. Neither do the Tories magically agree with me, quite the opposite in fact.

        All this because I a. blame the Tories for their economic incompetence b. have read some scientific studies.

        You are deliberately, it seems, trying to muddy the discussion around and my support for a UBI. You will now proceed to further defame me – you’ve called me a Fascist, for example, and I am reporting your posts on that basis.

        You are a bully.

  8. “Supporters of a ‘Universal Basic Income’, or ‘Basis Income Guarantee’, argue that it would alleviate absolute poverty and would also motivate people to work because they would always better off, as work-related income would be additional to their subsistence income.” Well we have the so called living wage and minimum wage but you have to work to get them, with those who can not work already being sanctioned and getting nothing the idea of motivating by starving the sick and disabled to work has been shown not to work, as it does not improve their conditions whatsoever. Only right wing fascists could come up with a stupid premise that if you have no money you will magically become able to work and compete in a jobs market that is currently being flooded with mass immigration form eastern europe.

    • “fascists”

      No. Neo-Liberals.
      And blaming the Other means you’re well to the right yourself, as there’s no evidence for your claims when the studies are done.

      • Well as someone who has had two consultants, who examined, 5 G.P.’s who examined me, and even two ATOs Doctors who examined me have said I am not capable of working. A single nurse who has never met me decided I was fit for work, so my permanent incapacity benefit payment was stopped, an di was told I had to work, I asked the DWP employee to help me get my benefits back, and was sanctioned on the grounds that when speaking to me the employee became scared for his life, this was a telephone call and all I did was ask him to do his job, which was to assist me with my claim no threats or anything. So now having worked hard to pay off my mortgage before becoming unable to work I am living off my savings when they are gone I will have to sell my home that I worked hard to get, when that money is used up I will have to die. If that makes me a right winger then so be it, that is my evidence as regards what happened to me and I know I am not alone in this position what evidence are you referring to? They are acting the same as 1930’s Germany when the sick and disabled were abandoned because they were not hardworking and useful to society.

      • That was only a small part of what I wrote, and are you saying that there are no migrants and that all of those none are not working and none of those none migrants who aren’t here ands are not working are likely to be young fit and able to work, if they were actually here which of course they are not in your opinion, unlike the disabled in this country who can’t work?

      • That’s, frankly, what undermines your argument. You’re ignoring the studies on this, in favor of the very same blame game which has lead to disabled people being sidelined by this government!

      • I’m not making any blame game whatsoever except for the ludicrous idea that by starving someone they will magically recover and be able to work, the studies do not show that anyone recovers by freezing and starving to death after losing their home, the disabled have not been sidelined they have been abandoned they are expected to a, suddenly not be disabled and unable to work, and find a job, against b, a jobs market that does not have enough jobs for able bodied people, and c, a jobs market that is being further flooded with migrants so you have 1 job with 50 or so able bodied people with local and migrants after it and 1 disabled person who can;t guarantee being able to turn up on a specific day or work the necessary hours, now who as an employer with that sort of choice would you prefer to employ able bodied and consistently available, or disabled and unable to guarantee availability ?

      • So you’re doubling down on the blame game. Sigh.

        Your c. is, again, proving the very fodder for the arguments made against the disabled by the government! Divide and conquer, turn people against each other…

      • Well you seem to think that saying studies prove it is a good thing, that is divisive because every single person who is suffering through this stupidity, and there are thousands, would argue that it does not work, if it did we wouldn’t have any unemployed at all, and we do have, because you can’t squeeze a quart into a pint pot. So just where are these studies that prove starving and freezing people to death under a bush helps them into work?

      • No, I am saying that there isn’t the negative effect claimed by people who blame immigration.

        You are making up things I never said, too, which is plain dishonest.
        The reality is the problem is *Torynomics*.

      • Did you not post “And blaming the Other means you’re well to the right yourself, as there’s no evidence for your claims when the studies are done.” does that or does that not refer to studies which apparently in your view say that my statement of facts was wrong? did I make that up no.

      • Tell me in simple mathematical terms how increasing the number of people wanting a job does not increase the number of people wanting a job.

      • You stated a view that migrants were to blame. This is not a fact.
        That you view studies as being “apparently”… oh dear.

        You then lied about what I said. I don’t support the Tories, or what they do to disabled people. And I am trying to point out you are playing into their divide-and-conquer game of scapegoats for their poor economic policy.

      • I did not state that a t all I actually said they add to the problem which as they add to the number of job seekers they clearly do You used the word blame I did not, you seem to think accusing people of the blame game somehow makes you right and the people whose arguments are stronger than yours wrong having looked at there post from yourself. how am I playing divide and conquer exactly be precise in your answer not just the normal accusations you seem to apply.

      • So you are not interested in discussion and just blame immigrants. Okay, fine, I’ll just remove my posts as you’re talking to yourself.

      • I have not blamed immigrants try to read what others say before going off on a pc holier than thou trip I said they added to the problem. Please tell me how the mass immigration from eastern europe is having no effect on the jobs market and availability of jobs in the UK

      • Look, lie at someone else. I’m going to just remove all posts of mine you reply to.

      • How am I lying I am asking you to answer how having unemployment because there are not enough jobs does not have an effect on disabled people who are told they have to work but you seem to think that ignoring facts and answering with nonsense will improve matter you refer to none existent reports you ignore the fact that there is a huge amount of local unemployment and can’t see that adding to the number makes that a bigger problem now you want to flounce off without answering a single point rationally, now you accuse me of lying because you haven’t answered a single question

      • Look, lie at someone else. I’m going to just remove all posts of mine you reply to. You keep claiming one thing, then immediately go back to blaming immigrants in the same post. They’re the “bigger problem” now, right, thanks for that Tory view.

      • Look you removed all the posts that showed it was you not me that was lying I HAVE NOT BLAMED MIGRANTS just pointing out they add to the problem Thanks for your fascist tory views that disabled people have to work or die.

      • If your posts didn’t blame migrants, then they wouldn’t …as you blame them right there.

        Your defaming me like that for holding a mainstream left-wing view…shows I’m right not to engage with you.

      • I haven’t blamed migrants I said they add to the problem which clearly adding extra people to the already stretched jobs market is an obvious outcome, you do not hold a mainstream left wing view you support the right wing idea that everyone has to work and shouldn’t get any help, you even made a claim that there are reports that say this is better for the disabled although most are totally unable to work you did not answer a single question which did not fit you warped right wing viewpoint

  9. I have written to my MP Amber Rudd saying I cannot manage on Universal Credit. I want to go permanently back on Job Seekers Allowance. I am almost 60 I do not think I will ever get another permanent Job. I can’t manage another 6 years on Universal Credit. I was paid £600 two days ago my rent is £550. I have £50 to live on until the 5th June. I am Living on Jam Sandwiches for at least 10 days every month.

  10. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about this idea. But as usual there will always be some kind of unintended consequences, what I’m not sure.

      • But dead bodies are turning up in mortuaries of people who can not afford to live because of loss of their only income.

      • …And that has absolutely nothing to do with a UBI. In fact, a UBI would mitigate heavily against that.

  11. Pensions are a form of it as well.

    I also note right wingers like Tim Worstall who support it as a way of removing welfare traps.

    • They are removing benefits, not welfare traps, the trap is being left with no means of support and not having any means of making a living.

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