What is a citizens basic income?

What is a citizens basic income?


For young hungry entrepreneurs, the
future of work seems bright indeed. The internet of things is gonna allow us to
do things faster, smarter and more efficiently. But for the rest of us, the idea of not having a job can seem absolutely terrifying. It raises serious questions about ‘how will I pay my rent?’ ‘How will I pay my mortgage?’ ‘How will I even pay for my next meal?’ Malcolm Torry seems to think he has the answer to these questions. We asked Charles Barthold to go talk to him about his promotion of a citizen’s basic income. What is basic income? Basic income is a very simple idea, it’s sometimes called by the name ‘citizen’s income’, ‘universal
basic income’ now some times ‘citizen’s basic income’, they all mean the same thing, they mean an unconditional income for every individual. An unconditional
means that the amount you get wouldn’t depend on your income, or your wealth, or
your employment status, or your relationships with anybody else, it will
be exactly the same amount of money for everyone of the same age. It could vary
with somebody’s age, so somebody who’s older might get more, somebody who’s
younger might get less, a child would get less, but otherwise it remains entirely
unconditional. how much are we talking about in there in this country in the UK? That’s a very interesting question because all kinds of different suggestions have, of course, been made. The research that we’ve done suggests
this, if you had a large citizen’s basic income, the tax rates required to pay for
it would be quite high. That might not be politically feasible. What we have proved
is that a citizen’s basic income of 61 pounds a week can be paid for by
reducing to zero your income tax person allowance and the
lower earnings threshold for national insurance contributions and raising all
national insurance contributions to 12% and income tax rates would only need to
rise by 3%. By doing that we could provide every single working age adult with a citizens basic income a 61 pounds
a week. Why is it important for you and
why is it important in general? After I left university, I worked for two years on the public counter in a means-tested benefits office, it was called the
supplementary benefit office then, and it was part of what was then called the
Department for Health and Social Security. So for two years I was facing
some quite often angry members of the public and some quite stressed members
of staff behind me trying to manage a really difficult means-tested benefit system. And the system was clearly bad for everybody. It was bad for the claimants in front of me, it was bad for people behind me, and, at the same
time, I realised just how useful child benefit was, because the child benefit is
an unconditional income for every child it goes to the child’s carer and it just
kept on coming for everyone who was in front of me complaining about mistakes in their means-tested benefits. And so back then, I’d begun to think, well why can’t we do things generally rather differently, so that it all looks a bit more like child benefit. You mentioned in basically a number of problems connected to administering benefits and that this basic income would sort out, but
there are probably as well benefits for people and not only from the perspective
of the government. Perhaps you could mention a few things about this. Although ministrative problems affect the
claimants of benefits just as much as they affect the government and the
administrative simplicity of a citizen’s basic income is one of the most
important things about it. Because of its simplicity, you could completely
computerise it, so it would start at your birth, it would end at your death and
nothing would need to be done to it between those two points in time, it
would just keep on coming. Very unlike our present means-tested benefits system, which is complex, it requires constant administration, it requires vast amounts
of time and effort being put in by claimants and by the staff administering
it, and it’s full of errors, their error rates are huge and fraught as well, and
because fraud can happen within such a means-tested benefits system. Sometimes the difference between error and fraud is quite a difficult line to find,
because what is simply an error can in fact legally be a fraud and so both the staff and public suffer a great deal from the
administration means-tested benefits and none of that would
apply to a citizen’s basic income. For 400 years we’ve been means testing benefits, and therefore, we intuitively believe that if the poor need money you should give
money to the poor, which means that you then take it away from them if they
become less poor, which means it’s quite difficult for them to earn their way out
of poverty. So that’s something that’s deeply embedded in our
minds and it means that an unconditional income sometimes finds it quite
difficult to lodge in our minds as a sensible idea, because it’s not something
we’re used to, it’s counterintuitive giving money to everybody, because people say ‘the rich don’t need it, why give it to the rich, the poor need the money’, but unfortunately, if you give money just to the poor
it becomes an inefficient means-tested benefit. It is far more sensible to
give money to everybody and then you’re taxing the rich more than they receiving
in their citizens basic income anyway, so what’s the problem? Especially if it’s
very efficient to give everyone the money. But there is still a problem with
psychological feasibility. It seems to me that this is connected, this
psychological feasibility is related to the fact that we tend to associate
income with work and then this basic income would be huge cultural and
perhaps even anthropological change, because then people would have to start
realising that income is not necessarily connected to work. One of the reasons why opinion may start, may now be shifting, and it does seem to be, is that the
employment market is becoming much more problematic for more people. And so it’s
beginning to be understood. How could basic income empower people? How could it be an opportunity for people? One of the important effects of
citizen’s basic income would be to increase people’s choices. And
that is an empowering thing of course, so if you’ve got more choices in the
employment market you might decide that if you’re in a couple one of you who’s currently working full-time may well work
part-time or you may both get part-time jobs instead of one of you getting a
full-time job, for instance, you would have choices to make. And, it’s when people have choices that they start to look at what they’re doing with their
lives, and so, yes you may well find that people with caring responsibilities can
put more time into them. You might also find that because your marginal
deduction rates have reduced, some people might seek more paid employment, so it
could go either way and the way it went would be actually largely up to you,
again so what I’m saying is that the choices would be there, and we may see an increase in voluntary activity in the community, I hope we would and there will be the option the opportunity for that, we may see more people putting more
effort and time into caring responsibilities in relation to children,
older parents, and so on, and there would be people more able to make those
choices. How they make choices, of course, we don’t know. It’s up to them,
that’s the whole point of a citizen’s basic income, it gives people choices. Get more from the Open University, check out the links on screen now

Comments

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    Lyno 12

    A basic income would not only be a huge (perhaps bankrupting) burden on taxpayers but also just cause huge inflation. Also you’re wrong that every person would get the same thing or that the system could be automated cause people would keep voting to raise or change the basic income every year. This is a bad socialist idea.

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    Mr. Manifesto

    If a basic income didn’t require people to work, there wouldn’t be enough wealth generated to supply that basic income

  4. Post
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    Marko Kraguljac

    Revolutionary measure that, if implemented properly, is the future.
    Everyone should be free to say no, be free to think, to live, without fear of marginalization and starvation.
    Problem is, our current, feudal system (and thus feudal mentality) is deeply dependant on exploiting permanent flow of incredibly desperate people. Can we fix this disgusting mess without crashing everything?

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