Universal Basic Income: A Case Against?

The concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), also known as a Citizen;s income, deserves serious consideration – and research. As John Kay notes at the end of his post,

As in other areas of policy, it is simply not the case that there are simple solutions to apparently difficult issues which policymakers have hitherto been too stupid or corrupt to implement.

This is a useful contribution to the debate, pointing out some of the flaws in the arguments presented by the advocates for UBI. Either it is simply unaffordable to UBI at a level appropriate for a decent standard of living – or it will remain necessary to supplement the minimal, affordable, level of UBI  for those people in extreme need with no additional income, thus eliminating “simplicity” as a core argument in its favour.

Here is the introduction to his analysis – read it in full:

The basics of basic income – John Kay

Basic income is a fashionable topic. A proposal to introduce one in Switzerland was put to a national referendum in 2016, although it was soundly defeated. Finland has recently introduced a modest experiment for 2,000 households. The current interest is mainly on the political left; for example, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and Britain’s John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Chancellor, have expressed enthusiasm for the concept of unconditional basic income. Benoit Hamon, the Socialist Party’s candidate for the French presidency, has made the proposal a principal plank in his platform. The Scottish National Party, which recently announced plans for a second independence referendum, is also strongly in favour. Basic income, at its roots, is a plan to replace all or most existing state benefits by a single payment, made unconditionally to all citizens (or perhaps residents) of a country. There are three principal strands of argument for such a proposal. The first deduces an entitlement to such income from some a priori moral principle. Such an assertion of rights goes back at least to Thomas Paine (1737-1809), and it has also attracted other philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell. More recently, the case has been put forward most vehemently by Philippe Van Parijs.

Source: The basics of basic income – John Kay

“Pilot project to introduce a basic income in Ontario gets strong public support” | Toronto Star

A proposed provincial pilot project to give some people struggling on poverty-level welfare payments and low-wage jobs a basic income with no strings attached, received a thumbs-up during recent online and public consultations.

Ontarians are also keen to know whether this type of support would impact health, housing, food and work habits, according to a report summarizing public feedback on the initiative.

“There was strong agreement that the basic income amount should be set at a level that will lift recipients out of poverty,” says the report, released Thursday.

The three-year pilot project, announced in the 2016 budget, is expected to be launched this spring.

Source:  Toronto Star

Review: Basic Income, by Philippe van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght | THE Books

This is a book about multiple emancipations. What would it take for all women to be free – by unshackling the countless numbers who are financially dependent on men? What action would free up enough people, men and women, to care for others who might otherwise live in fear, especially in countries where much more social care will be needed in the very near future?

Philippe van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, an economist and a political scientist, respectively, explain how the academic arguments for a basic income have been growing in strength since they were first made in the late 1700s. Since then, it has become clear to a still small (but growing) group of people that with so many of us no longer able to earn a subsistence income from the land, and with growing automation and ecological limits to sensible consumption, social progress without a basic income cannot be sustainable. Today the vast majority of our food is grown and harvested through automation, and robots make more and more of our goods; but we cannot use machines to care for each other. Not yet – and, if we are to stay sane, hopefully never. A concern with sanity in a book on economics is refreshing

Source:  THE Books

“Utopian thinking: the easy way to eradicate poverty”| Rutger Bregman | The Guardian

It’s an incredibly simple idea: universal basic income – a monthly allowance of enough to pay for your basic needs: food, shelter, education. And it’s completely unconditional: not a favour, but a right.

But could it really be that simple? In the three years that followed, I read all I could find about basic income. I researched dozens of experiments that have been conducted across the globe. And it didn’t take long before I stumbled upon the story of a town that had done it, had eradicated poverty – after which nearly everyone forgot about it.

‘Everybody in Dauphin was guaranteed a basic income ensuring that no one fell below the poverty line.’ Photograph: Barrett & MacKay/Getty Images/All Canada Photos

This story starts in Winnipeg, Canada. Imagine a warehouse attic where nearly 2,000 boxes lie gathering dust. They are filled with data – graphs, tables, interviews – about one of the most fascinating social experiments ever conducted. Evelyn Forget, an economics professor at the University of Manitoba, first heard about the records in 2009. Stepping into the attic, she could hardly believe her eyes. It was a treasure trove of information on basic income.

When Forget found them, 30 years later, no one knew what, if anything, the experiment had demonstrated. For three years she subjected the data to all manner of statistical analysis. And no matter what she tried, the results were the same every time. The experiment – the longest and best of its kind – had been a resounding success.

Source:The Guardian