Author Archives: Darren Martin

Funding a Basic Income- A Universal Transaction Micro-Tax

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is again being widely discussed as a radical policy to tackle inequality and provide us all with a new level of freedom in an uncertain future. I will leave aside the moral arguments in favour and against for this article and instead look solely at how we could pay for a UBI at a meaningful level using a new micro-tax on all electronic transactions.

Preceding the 2016 Swiss referendum on introducing a UBI BIEN-CH the non-profit organisation behind the vote proposed introducing a micro-tax on all of Switzerland’s electronic transactions. This would be levied on financial institutions like the Tobin-Tax, but crucially it would also include all electronic transactions made by everyone in the country. A sort of Super Tobin-Tax that the University of Zurich estimated when applied at a rate of 0.2% would generate 200 billion Swiss francs, more than enough to pay for a UBI in the country.

It is quite difficult to find complete data on the true value of electronic transactions in the UK, but looking at the most reliable data available, the potential taxable amounts are mammoth.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

Social distancing: the rise of social media snitching

Looking through the posts on my local mutual aid Facebook group in Hackney, I once again came across a person enraged by the amount of people she came across on her daily walk through her local park. We’ve all seen these posts on social media, candid pics of people sitting down on the grass to enjoy a moment of sun with comments condemning them for jeopardising everybody’s health.

“So, you are angry at them for doing the same thing as you.” quipped one commenter.

With social distancing not going anywhere soon, is there something more sinister going on with people willing to judge and snitch on their neighbours so freely that we should be guarding against?

“Guten Tag. I would like to make a report,” says a voice in a telephone recording. “It’s about Mr. …. He is constantly receiving visitors in his apartment, often different women, likely also some from the West.”

Everyone knows about the East German Stasi and the extent to which it spied on the East German populace. But that was only a small part of the informing that went on. Research shows that snitching was vastly more common than previously thought and that the East German grassing machine went far beyond the Stazi. The state relied on people to snitch on each other, leading to an atmosphere of suspicion and fear.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Reverse Swiss Opportunity for the Pro-European Campaign

In 1992 the Swiss rejected EEA membership by 50.3% to 49.7% in a referendum. It was a vote that highlighted deeper cultural divisions in the country.

It’s quite difficult not to look at the result and draw parallels with our own 2016 referendum, and the subsequent 28 years in Switzerland could hold the answer to the ‘what next?’ question for the Liberal Democrats’ future position on Europe.

Following the 1992 referendum the Swiss suspended their application to join the EEA and in 1997 withdrew it altogether. However, through a series of bilateral agreements Switzerland is essentially a member of the Single Market …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 7 Comments

Can we afford NOT to have a shorter working week?

One of the policies that got the most attention during the Labour conference was the idea of a 4 day working week. Of course, this set off the barrage of accusations of fantasy politics, but what is now seen as a bit of a mad idea was once a mainstream view of the inevitable.

After the Industrial Revolution, workers found themselves working seven days a week and leisure time was seen as a virtue of the rich not to be wasted on the immoral poor. But, as technology and political will evolved, the working week shortened. Great industrialists like Henry Ford, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments


Imagine waking up one morning in the not so distant future. You reach for your phone and none of your apps work, you can’t access your email, all your social media accounts have been deleted.

You can’t get any money out at the bank because your facial recognition is not working and you have no way of hailing an autonomous taxi.

You find out you have no job because you can no longer access the app that gives you shifts on a flexible basis.

People on the street avoid you, they all know you have been blocked.

Maybe you criticised the big monopoly tech …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Wisdom of the Crowd

e voting screenDuring the Article 50 vote, I found myself tweeting quotes from a famous speech made by Edmund Burke, who was a Whig MP and Political Philosopher in the 1700’s, on representative democracy.

In his speech to the electors of Bristol in 1774, he said that government and legislation are matters of reason and judgement and must not be decided by opinion and inclination. The quote I used to underline the point that MPs who believe Brexit is wrong should not vote to trigger Article 50 was, “Your representative

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution- The need for a full social and economic strategy to thrive in an age of accelerations.

At the Labour conference the Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, announced a review into the effects of automation and disruption on our future economy.

What made this interesting is that in her speech she mentioned the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” which is the title of a book written by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

In his book Schwab argues that the Fourth Industrial Revolution we are entering is fundamentally different from previous ones because it is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries simultaneously. Driven by the exponential increase in computing power, we are on the cusp of a period of great promise but also great peril.

I’m going to avoid speculating on how the future could look due to this dizzying rate of advancement. You may believe that automation will lead to mass unemployment or you may be of the opinion that the economy will diversify enough as it has done during previous eras of change. But it would be difficult to argue against a need to better formulate government policy to ensure we are able to deal with the challenges.

In his book ‘Thank You for Being Late- An Optimists Guide to Thriving in an Age of Accelerations’, Thomas Friedman quotes Eric “Astro” Teller, CEO of Google’s X research and development lab:

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

What you see and what you don’t see. Time to ditch GDP and measure our progress differently

The yardstick for the success of an economy is the measure of its Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is essentially the sum of all goods and services that a country produces, corrected for seasonal fluctuations and inflation.

The modern concept of GDP was developed by Simon Kuznets for a U.S congress report in 1934. President Herbert Hoover had the challenge of tackling the Great Depression with only a mixed bag of numbers that were extremely ineffectual when trying to answer the question, “how is the economy doing?”

Over the next 80 years the GDP not only became the way in which politicians, journalists and the public measure the economy, it actually defined what the modern economy is.

So what’s the problem?

The problem with the GDP is that it pretty good at measuring the things that you can see but is terrible at measuring things that you can’t see. Therefore things that are easily measured like manufacturing and monetary transactions push the number up whilst advancement of knowledge, community service, clean air, are all pretty much ignored. Even worse, the social damage caused by an activity is not factored in negatively, in fact the transactions that relate to poor health, depression, pollution, societal breakdown like divorce lawyers etc. actually push the GDP up.

In his book Utopia For Realists, Rutger Bregman highlights this point humourously but with a large dose of dark truth.

“If you were the GDP, your ideal citizen would be a compulsive gambler with cancer who’s going through a drawn-out divorce that he copes with by popping fistfuls of Prozac and going berserk on Black Friday.”

The fact that a huge chunk of government policy is formed on the drive for growth at all costs based on a measure that rewards things like carbon polluting manufacturing, deforestation, over-fishing etc. goes a long way to explaining why we live in such an unequal society.

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