Vox Political on the Basic Income Guarantee

Also on Thursday Mike put up another fascinating piece about the growing support for the Basic Income Guarantee. A non-party thinktank, Reform Scotland, has recommended replacing the current system of in-work benefits with a guaranteed basic income, in other words, a citizen wage. The report Mike quotes states that it would combat wage-slavery, by releasing employees from having to work for their living. Instead,

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.”

Mike in his comment on the piece states that if this was carried through, it could destroy 40 years of Tory employment policies. These are, after all, about getting the maximum amount of work from a cowed and impoverished workforce.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/19/the-basic-income-guarantee-and-why-it-would-destroy-40-years-of-conservative-policy/

Something like it has already been done in a town in Canada. Even Sarah Palin when she was governor of Alaska did something very similar. She used the profits from the rights the oil industry had to pay to the Alaskan state to give a portion of them to Alaskan voters.

In fact, this is merely a modern form of a very, very old idea. The Utopian quasi-Socialist, Thomas Spence, in the early 19th century recommended breaking Britain up into a federation of autonomous parishes. These parishes would own the land around them, the rents from which would be used to give each man, woman and child a basic income. If you like, a citizen wage.

A similar idea was advocated in the 1920s by Major C.H. Douglas and his Social Credit Movement. This was before the Keynsian revolution supposedly made his ideas obsolete. Douglas noted that plenty of goods were available; it was just that the workers were unable to afford them. He therefore recommended that the government should issue a system of voucher so that people could purchase the items they needed.

A friend of mine with a background in economics also told me that there has been support for similar ideas for a citizen wage by the Social Democrats in Germany and elsewhere on the continent. Part of the argument here is that although relatively few people are employed in the manufacturing sector, nevertheless it is still extremely important to the economy. In order to stimulate consumption, and thus production, people should be given the means to purchase more consumer goods. And so the unemployed and working people should be given greater benefits, so they can buy the articles on which the economy depends.

You can imagine the screaming from the Tories and the Daily Heil from here, if this ever was proposed down here in England. There would be more bluster and ranting about the ‘squeezed’ middle classes, and punishing hard-working people in order to subsidize the lifestyle of welfare scroungers and chavs. Which doesn’t mean it should be done by any means. In fact, our economy and social welfare as an industrial and civilised nation may depend on it.

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9 Responses to “Vox Political on the Basic Income Guarantee”

  1. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. Florence Says:

    The similar Universal Basic Income is being considered by John McDonnell for the Labour party.

  3. Florence Says:

    Oh yes, and it is also implicit in the Stephen Hawkins comment on the post-industrial, robotic future:-

    “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”

    • beastrabban Says:

      The Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, makes exactly the same point in one of his short stories, where the human hero lands on a planet where everyone was made unemployed through mechanisation. He makes the point that the profits could have been shared if the various companies had been nationalised. The inhabitants, however, decided against that, and instead commission a mad scientist to find a solution to the problem. He creates a legion of deranged robots instead to turn everyone into carbon garden ornaments, which is Lem being satirical.

      • Florence Says:

        I haven’t come across that particular piece, but it sounds very much the type of political satire that might need to become the norm if we have any more restrictions affecting the MSM (and Facebook) on reporting “truthfully”!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Which would be very ironic in itself. That kind of satirical SF developed in the Soviet Union as the ‘Aesopian Mode’, to make criticisms about society and the Soviet government, which couldn’t be made openly. More proof of the increasingly totalitarian nature of Conservatism.

  4. joanna Says:

    Hi Beast, My best friend worked for 17 years for the NHS as an IT expert, he was made redundant in 2010, and since then he has been on month to month contracts, always being laid off before the firm he was with would be compelled to give him a permanent contract.

    He has now been told that he has to spend 30 hours a week at the job centre for 3 months.

    He has had to turn down a job in Wales because it would cost more in travel and living cost than he would be paid, the job is only for 3 weeks.

    I feel so bad for him because he has lots of skills that no-one will pay fair money for, If BIG was to come in, the world would really be bigger for him and much fairer!

    • beastrabban Says:

      And your friend isn’t the only one, Joanna. Years ago when this system was introduced there were various noises about how wonderful this would be, and that you could put to together a ‘job portfolio’ to impress prospective employers. It’s rubbish. There are so many people like your friend that Guy Standing, a politics lecturer, has called them the precariat and described them as a new, exploited social class.

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