Discussions of the advantages of a universal unconditional and nonwithdrawable benefits will generally list both the lower marginal deduction rates that individuals would experience compared with those imposed by means-tested benefits, and such social benefits as a greater social cohesion generated by everyone receiving the same Citizen’s Income. What is not always recognised is that changes experienced by one individual might cause changes for another.
The purchase of Oculus by Facebook for $2 billion is the new best example of the growing inequality inherent in 21st century capitalism – what Paul Mason describes as the The Fourth Wave. A few people just got really rich, while the thousands of people who helped build the company from nothing, through $2.5 million of crowdsourced capital and a thriving open-source developer community didn’t.
The increasing use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) has perhaps been one of the most significant additions to the social development agenda of late. CCTs are now key components of many governments’ poverty elimination programmes and feature centrally in the UN’s current Social Protection Floor initiative. The mainstream media has also taken note and lent support in favour of their adoption.
This essay begins and ends with a genuine question: Given the proven desirability and financial feasibility of a Citizen’s Income, why does a Citizen’s Income not appear to be politically feasible?
It must be exceedingly frustrating for ministers and civil servants that every attempt that the Government makes to simplify the UK’s benefits system results in increasing complexity. Take the example of Universal Credit: One of its aims is to ensure that payments will be permanently accurate because based on real-time information about wages being passed seamlessly from employers to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and then on to the Department for Work and Pensions, thus alleviating claimants of the need to declare changes in earnings.
The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) recently became a part of a flurry of discussion on the internet and in the media, when Jesse A. Myerson, of Rolling Stone Magazine, included it in a list of “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For.” This ensuing discussion reveals a lot about the many different ways people see BIG.
Today, January 20th, is recognized annually in the U.S. as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If still alive, Reverend King, Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday five days ago. Yet in so many ways this monumental man remains with us, in words, imagery and most of all, wisdom and inspiration.
Max Sawicky’s post on the liberal case against a universal basic income (UBI) characterizes the rationale for UBI as poverty elimination at low overhead cost. While he’s right that this is one of UBI’s benefits, he misses its much larger goal. What distinguishes UBI from the anti-poverty programs we already have in the US is that it eliminates poverty through redistribution that is explicitly unconditional and universal—it goes to everyone, whether or not they work or are looking for work. Low overhead costs are simply a bonus of abandoning the means-testing and monitoring of work effort that are the foundation of all the programs Sawicky wants to expand.
We read the recent article by Philippe Van Parijs suggesting a Euro-dividend for the EU. That would represent about 200 Euros monthly to each and everyone, unconditionally. And, he points out, this minimum basic income or citizen’s income can be supplemented with income from labor, capital or social benefits. The author calculated that the total expenses amount to 10% of the EU’s GDP.
FORWARD: The following article is nonfiction story by Diane Pagen, a Basic Income activist and social worker from the New York area. It chronicles an attempt to give a Christmas basket to families of students at a school in an underprivileged neighborhood in the Bronx. The article doesn’t mention basic income directly; yet, the story makes the need for some form of basic income guarantee extremely clear. The attempt to do good is filled with all that is wrong with both contemporary charity and the contemporary welfare system. People want to help, but they end up wasting most of what they give, humiliating the people they want to help, giving people things they don’t need, and inspiring feelings of resentment in those left out. The author even discusses how much more effective they could have been buy simply giving cash to every family at the school without attempting to judge them or imposing the desires of the givers on the receivers.