Latest Social Liberal Forum publication: Universal Basic Income as a tool for tax and benefit reform

At the recent SLF Annual Conference in July, a well-attended fringe session discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Basic Income.

My contention, as Chair of this session, was that we now need to be looking more closely at Basic Income, given increasing robotisation and technological change that will massively shake up conventional work, and given that our welfare system is creaking and needs modernisation. Basic Income is a policy that seems fundamentally socially liberal, and so it seems to naturally deserve attention from the SLF and all who are socially liberal.

Therefore the SLF is very pleased to be announcing our latest publication on this important subject area, as a way of stimulating more debate, both within the SLF and outside – amongst others who have an interest in this fascinating policy area.

Many readers may be aware that Basic Income trials of varying types and sizes are currently under way in Finland, the Netherlands and Ontario, Canada. In addition, Hawaii made waves in June 2017 when it passed the first piece of legislation aimed at exploring this niche but growing form of wealth distribution.
The bill, HCR 89, directs the Government “to convene a basic economic security working group,” a request that can be seen as the first tangible step toward a US basic income program.

Our thanks go to Tom Holden, the author of our latest publication, who is a lecturer in economics at Surrey University. The SLF is very pleased to be working with him in publishing his work, and we welcome any feedback from interested members of the general public.

* Helen Flynn is chair of the Social Liberal Forum, PPC for Harrogate & Knaresborough and a former Harrogate Borough councillor.

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33 Comments

  • Increasing robotisation, is without doubt a problem for the world of work, but I’m still not clear why Basic Income is always considered the go-to solution?

    Basic Income is one of those ‘looks good on paper’, ideas that don’t take account of human natures ability to abuse it. Bluntly, if a solution gives out ‘free stuff’, without some form of exchange in return, it will be abused. Even the Finish UBI pilot test is deeply flawed, and will show nothing of a real-world test of what happens when human nature meets ‘free stuff’

    Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose we do a pilot UBI test in (say Leeds), and we say if you live in the postcode area starting LS you will get, for every man woman and child, £100 per month, no questions asked.
    Ideally UBI would influence Leeds to become more economically secure, diverse, entrepreneurial, and all the good stuff that comes with it. And whilst there might be pockets of ‘good outcomes’, I suspect it could just as easily ferment a debauched, Hogarthian nightmare.
    If your thing is drugs, then why not spend your free £100 on drugs. If every child is eligible for the £100 per month, then why not have 5-6-7 children, and forget about the need to find work completely?

    And this doesn’t even tackle the boundary issue. What magnetic pull factors would emerge from postcodes outside the Leeds experiment?
    To be fair to the article writer does say, ‘ a well-attended fringe session discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Basic Income.’
    But before we can take Basic Income as a serious solution for anything, we need to see a serious study of those drawbacks and their solutions.

  • Like Oliver Craven I would have liked a link to the “publication”. I even went to the Social Liberal Forum website and couldn’t find it!

    @ Sheila Gee

    It appears you do not share the liberal view of humanity. Liberals believe humans will act in their own interests and they are adult enough to make their own decisions. If a person who received Universal Basic Income decides to give up work, then liberals should accept that that person has the right to make that decision. In a world where there is increased “robotisation” there will be a need for more people to give up work and /or reduce the amount of work they do. A Basic Citizens Income would help with this.

    I think Conference Committee might think we last discussed a Basic Income in autumn 2016 and will apply the two year rule, so we can’t discuss it again until autumn 2018. Joe Bourke posted a link to the RSA website and their report into an Universal Basic Income 9 https://www.libdemvoice.org/basic-rental-income-55014.html). You can download the report at https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/reports/basic-income.

    It deals with some of the criticism (some of the poorest lose out) made by members of the working group into Social Security (Mending the Safety Net) and proposes some Income Tax increases to provide the funds to deal with this, while suggesting that the increase in costs could be dealt with in the same way as the raising of the Income Tax Personal Allowance is being done.

    I am surprised that the RSA think their scheme is nearly cost neutral. I know I was not convinced that the Citizens Income Trust 2012 model was. This is why I would like us to have a policy of introducing a Basic Citizens income to replace the Income Tax Personal Allowance and part of the out of work benefits and then expand it during a Parliament for more people while also increasing its rate and increasing taxes to pay for it.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Aug '17 - 1:07pm

    I’m hoping that Negative Income Tax will also be considered because I expect that Sheila’s reaction will be the most common one. It seems to me that it’s about time the tax and benefits system was reformed to avoid the kind of delay that people often experience. We are talking about robotics taking over people’s jobs but both tax and benefits administration seem to still rely on quill pens. Surely we have the technology to target payments to those who are most in need when they need them and to make tax demands more quickly so people can manage that debt more easily.

  • Laurence Cox 10th Aug '17 - 1:20pm

    @Michael BG

    I think that the original CIT proposal was described as “revenue neutral” not “cost neutral”. To be “cost neutral” it would not have to cost more than the costs of the personal income tax allowance plus the National Insurance Lower Earning limit (both being reduced to zero under the Basic Income proposal). Because some adults do not reach the threshold for paying income tax, this means that everyone above this threshold would be worse off because the Basic Income payment would be shared amongst more people.

    The CIT proposal advocated increasing all rates of income tax by 3p in the £ plus removing the upper earning limit on NI (equivalent to a 10p in the £ increase on higher and addtional rate taxpayers). This provided the additional income to avoid making low-earning adults worse off, and why CIT described their scheme as “revenue neutral” as it did not require an increase in borrowing. You can find links to various proposals in my review of Richard Murphy’s “The Joy of Tax” on this site: https://www.libdemvoice.org/review-of-the-joy-of-tax-by-richard-murphy-53361.html#comment-431938

    I did offer to help Helen Flynn in the role of a “critical friend” when analysing Basic Income, but have had no response from her, so I am rather concerned that SLF are going ahead with this. I have found Tom Holden’s web site (http://www.tholden.org/) and he does not seem to have any prior work in the area of Basic Income; his research interests are described as “Macroeconomic Theory, Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) Modeling”.

  • Helen,

    very pleased to see the SLF pushing this up the agenda. I would echo the comment from Michael BG and urge you to review the study completed by the RSA, which I think is a good piece of work that builds on the CIT peer reviewed study.

    I am particularly interested in the Hawaii trials, as I lived in the state for six years in the 1980’s and 1990’s working in the Hotel Industry. A not insignificant number of indigenous Hawaiians think their lives were better before Captain Cook and the Europeans turned up in their islands in the 18th century. There is even a group dedicated to restoring Hawaiian Independence from the USA. Hawaii is experiencing a significant problem with homelessness, not just among indigenous Hawaiians but from US mainlander’s coming into the state. I guess if you are going to be sleeping rough, camping out on the beaches of Hawaii is preferable to the windy streets of Chicago.

    One of the key concerns of ALTER (which i currently chair) is the impact of welfare benefit reforms on the rental market i.e. ensuring that benefit increases are not absorbed by increased rents for accommodation, particularly at the lower end of the market, as tends to happen at present. For this reason, ALTER believes that funding of welfare benefits should be anchored in a Land Value Tax and the available supply of land available for development (both social and private) must keep pace with increases in local demand.

  • Laurence,

    this is an extract from a letter from Dr. Holden on his blog:

    “… UBI, if properly constructed, increases labour supply, particularly amongst low income households.

    The existing system creates a “benefits trap” where the removal/tapering of benefits means that the effective marginal tax rate can be astronomical on low incomes. While Universal Credit aims to smooth this, the tapering still leads to high effective marginal tax rates for some low earners. Indeed, IFS research suggests that around 700,000 still face effective marginal rates over 70% even under Universal Credit. By making benefits payments unconditional on income or employment status, a UBI solves this problem, bringing people back into the labour force.

    The complications of the existing tax and benefit system both make it hard to administer, and mean that individuals cannot readily calculate how a change in their situation will change their tax liability. UBI would enable … a switch to a flat income tax that would also replace National Insurance. The system would still be progressive overall, thanks to the UBI payment being far more significant for people at the bottom of the income scale.

    UBI would also enable us to increase VAT in a progressive way. In particular, a rise in the UBI level funded by a rise in VAT would leave those at the bottom of the distribution unambiguously better off. While reporting often focusses on wealth or income inequality, these are undesirable only to the extent to which they lead to consumption inequality, which VAT tackles directly.

    …under a well-constructed UBI, average unemployment durations will be shorter due to increased incentives to work, and the net income of those on the minimum wage will be higher. Both facts mean self-insurance through savings will be more feasible, hence it is appropriate that the unemployed have lower income under a UBI than at present. (To support this, by default UBI payments should be paid into a government provided current account paying the market interest rate.) Secondly, the introduction of a UBI gives an opportunity to wipe clean the old inconsistencies of the tax system, which should not be wasted. Finally, there is no good reason why the cost of introducing a UBI should fall only on those with the very highest incomes. UBI is about protecting the very poorest in our society. It is only fair that these costs should be borne by those with middle incomes as well.

  • The above letter was published by the Guardian among a round-up of letters/responses to UBI in the wake of the Swiss referendum on the issue https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/10/potential-benefits-and-pitfalls-of-a-universal-basic-income?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter.

  • Laurence Cox 10th Aug '17 - 6:18pm

    Joe, I appreciate your comment but when Tom Holden says:

    “UBI would enable … a switch to a flat income tax that would also replace National Insurance.”
    “UBI is about protecting the very poorest in our society. It is only fair that these costs should be borne by those with middle incomes as well.” [median income in 2016-17 was £27k].

    Does he mean 50% Standard rate of income tax (as Richard Murphy advocates). Otherwise, the wealthiest in society would be better off. As I have said before, I do not think that income tax at that level on the majority of the population is sellable to the voters.

    And:

    “UBI would also enable us to increase VAT in a progressive way.”

    Is he talking of paying progressively higher rates of VAT, the more you spend (which is one sense in which VAT could become progressive, but would be a nightmare to police) or does he want to introduce extra VAT levels for items regarded as luxuries – which is going back to the purchase tax regime of the 1960s.

    None of this is clear from his blog. I’ve no complaint with his identification of the Benefit trap, or a desire to simplify the tax system, but I want to see hard figures, because that is the only way that anyone can check if they add up. Ideally, his proposals need to be independently audited by someone like the RSA running it through their econometric model before anyone in the Party goes public on this.

  • Laurence Cox 10th Aug '17 - 6:27pm

    One of the other letters to The Guardian makes a sensible point. I quote it in full:

    So, John McDonnell has admitted to finding attraction in a citizen’s income. The Guardian’s editorial response is that he deserves credit for daring to dance with big ideas, that he should proceed with caution and get the details right. I suggest that a better Guardian response might have been to point out that if we were to return to an effective progressive taxation regime such that there is an extra £50 per person per week, on average, being fed into the system, then instead of simply doling it back out to everybody we might be able use it to fund a proper and accessible public transport system, abolish student tuition fees and restore maintenance grants, stop closing down libraries and swimming pools, maintain our public parks and sweep the streets, employ more nurses in the NHS, give teachers a better deal, build council houses, properly fund a supportive police service, employ more coastguard personnel, care for the mentally ill, etc. There is potential employment in a fully functioning supportive and civilised society, all could work and all could be paid for doing so. The citizen’s income should never be considered seriously as a Labour party manifesto item. The party doesn’t need to “dream big”: it shouldn’t be dreaming at all, it needs to wake up and look at the real issues.
    Peter Dunne

  • At the risk of being dismissed as a neoliberal protofascist I confess I find this concept morally difficult.
    I have always readily accepted that some of the money I have earned has to handed over to support and protect those who are incapable of providing for themselves.
    What is difficult is the concept of handing over more to those who have no physical or mental impediment at all and could well be fitter, more intelligent and younger than me.
    I have done jobs I very much didn’t like to pay off the mortgage and put shoes on the childrens’ feet.
    I don’t know who is going to pay for all these Chinese robots that are putting us out of work. I can’t think of any British manufacturer. This is a path to some Utopia of idleness for the British which foreigners have to fund. Can’t see them agreeing, myself.

  • Palehorse,

    the robots will pay the tax https://qz.com/911968/bill-gates-the-robot-that-takes-your-job-should-pay-taxes/. Bill Gates says “You will need to retrain for jobs financed by the robot tax – taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited.”

  • So…. a country that has a big productivity problem taxes any introduction of automation so it can pay its citizens to watch box sets.
    But it’s all right because it could never afford to buy the robots from the Chinese in the first place and all the manufacturers have moved to countries where robots aren’t taxed.
    So revenues from the robot tax are pretty thin.

    I must have inadvertently stepped through the back of a wardrobe.

  • Palehorse,

    productivity is a measure of output per labour unit (hours or labour costs). Productivity is enhanced by automation/innovation that generates increased output for less labour units – the very purpose of robots/automation.

    Surely an advanced manufacturer like the UK has the technical knowledge and capability of producing robots and/or making machines that can produce robots. The issue then becomes how to distribute the goods and services that are produced, among the populus. That’s where concepts like universal basic income and Land Value tax come in.

    To make robot and machine tools you need both the technical know-how and the raw materials. In this kind of economic environment (where much of the goods and services are produced by machines) manual labour is not a limiting factor, fertile land and commodities are the key. Agricultural land, Iron ore, oil, minerals, rare earth materials etc. and the technical skills to use them efficiently become the wealth producing factors, not the size of the working population.

    Just as people moved from agriculture to manufacturing industry in the nineteenth century and increasingly into service oriented activities in the late 20th century,I expect we will see a shift away from factories, shops, warehouses and office work towards creative industries and life sciences as the 21st century progresses.

    We will still need to be able to acquire the food and raw materials needed for manufacturing so will need to continually develop and maintain a comparative advantage in the UK to pay our way in the world i.e. the skills based economy.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Aug '17 - 11:29pm

    Joe

    How was Hawaii? My wife is born and bred in the US , but from NYC so I have never been to that area and neither has she , and we’d like to, it looks amazing in many ways ?

    Have you kept contacts and been since ?

  • Lorenzo,

    I would recommend anyone to visit Hawaii if you can. It’s not cheap but its worth the effort to see the Islands. I haven’t been back for about 20 years now and most of the people I knew there moved back to the US mainland.

    When I first arrived in Hawaii there was a typhoon that blew down one of the hotels my company was managing. We lost electricity on the Island for ten days. A few years later there was a tidal wave but it didn’t do much damage. Just before I left there was a volcanic eruption on the big island.

    That was over a space of about ten years. Most years the weather is warm and balmy all year round. It’s truly amazing place to see, especially Hawaii (the big Island) and Kauai.

  • Laurence,
    The RSA report references the economist, Robert Frank. “He proposes a system of supplementing Basic Income cash payments with offers of sub-minimum wage employment in publicly useful roles. The work would have to be new roles rather than replacement of current roles. The logic behind this idea is that the state is providing a Basic Income so it is reasonable that it should be able to supplement that to provide useful work that it wouldn’t otherwise be able to fund at a higher level. The individual benefits, the community benefits, and public agencies and local authorities benefit. As Frank states:
    “Experiments have demonstrated the existence of many useful tasks that can be performed by unskilled workers with proper supervision. (Some examples: landscaping and maintenance in parks; transporting the elderly and handicapped (sic); filling potholes in city streets; replacing burned out street lamps; transplanting seedlings in erosion control projects; removing graffiti from public places; painting government buildings; recycling newspapers and aluminium and glass containers; and staffing day care centres). In combination, the Basic Income grant and the sub- minimum wage of the public sponsored job would be just enough to clear the poverty threshold.”
    These various design features bring the system into even greater alignment with prevailing moral and political norms. In fact, with the design features above, there is little reason to see this system as any less affordable or morally and politically aligned than the current system. And the strength of Basic Income is the very strong work incentives it provides compared with the current system. Furthermore, it either corrects or mitigates other defects of the current system that we have identified: arbitrary punishment, state interference, and perpetual insecurity. In other words, it is a system that provides a stronger underpinning for contribution alongside powerful freedom.”

    This proposal fits well with the employer of last resort function of the state in ensuring full employment as more socially acceptable approach to fiscal and monetary policy than inflation targeting.

  • @ Laurence Cox

    I think the claim was cost neutral. That the savings from scraping benefits and the people to administrator them would equal the amount paid out. The CIT and RSA scheme give costs and savings which are meant to be equal to each other. I have read a Malcolm Torry Euromod paper (2015) with its three cost neutral schemes, which I think is very different from the CIT and RSA schemes.

    @ Palehorse

    After the Second World War until the late 1970’s the economy was run to provide full employment and people therefore were not out of work for long periods of time. Since then the economy is run so that there is often more than 4% of the working population unemployed. Therefore if we don’t want these “necessary” unemployed people to starve then those in work have to pay towards keeping these people alive.

    The argument goes that with automation there will be a greater requirement for more people to work less and so these people need a basic income to live on.

  • @Joe
    “Surely an advanced manufacturer like the UK has the technical knowledge and capability of producing robots and/or making machines that can produce robots.”

    No we can’t Joe. Nowhere near it.
    We are rapidly de-industrialising not the other way round. Read the business newspapers. Look at our deficit in the manufacturing sector . Sometimes I think I’m the last person left who can read a graph. All we get is some spark saying “Yes, but we are world leaders in Formula One” or some other hopeless straw to cling to or “We need an industrial strategy” without ever having set foot in any industrial premises in their lives.

    We are overrun with economists, political scientists, management consultants, special advisers and a political elite who declare that we must train more scientists and engineers when hardly any of the HoC has so lowered themselves actually to become one.

    Sorry to be so irritable Joe, on this beautiful Friday morning, but I am retired now but am a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and through my career have watched the fabric of our engineering capability systematically eradicated.

    I do get irritable when I see our politicians standing in one of the few remaining factories in hi-vis and hard hat. . Why don’t they get photographed outside a derelict factory? There are far more of them and that’s where the messages are.

    So, no we won’t make robots and we won’t be able to afford to buy them either. We are in the economic equivalent of “Dunkirk” and need a massive change in national attitudes to the scale of our problem and not just the usual, “we must invest in skills and infrastructure” piffle.

  • @Michael
    “The argument goes that with automation there will be a greater requirement for more people to work less and so these people need a basic income to live on.”

    Only in science fiction novels and in an imaginary world where there is one government and one economic system. On this earth-like planet the people making the robots and the people enjoying the leisure are in the same economic frame.
    However, on our planet, we are divided into what are called “countries” and those who make the robots will demand something from us in exchange. As we now only produce graduates in PPE and Media Studies in any great numbers, it’s hard to see how we pay.

    I try and follow the links posted by others to help me understand their point of view. I don’t know how to post a link but search “List of semiconducter fabrication plants” and have a look how dear old Blighty is getting on in the advanced manufacturing stakes.

    This might be instructive when devising schemes to distribute money we haven’t earned.

  • Dean Crofts 11th Aug '17 - 9:17am

    @ HelenFlynn

    Hi Helen

    Where can I get a copy from?

  • Palehorse,

    this is the chair of the British Automation and Robot Association writing in 2012 https://www.raconteur.net/business/automation-will-work-for-uk-manufacturers. He notes:

    “The most automated countries in the world, according to the IFR, are Korea, Japan and Germany.”

    The UK automotive factories are following this trend … However, our manufacturing is still a long way behind its overseas competitors.
    There are many more companies who should be looking to use appropriate automation
    We are strong at product innovation and have developed efficient manufacturing processes. However, we are poor at investment in advanced manufacturing technologies. We have too many manufacturing companies struggling with old and inefficient equipment. There is one benefit in our current position; the technologies, particularly robotics and vision, are well developed and proven, and solutions for many manufacturing problems exist and are already in operation. Therefore we do not have to lead the development of automation solutions, with the associated risk and cost. We can select appropriate solutions from proven applications.
    The most significant problem within UK manufacturing lies in the lack of knowledge regarding automation, particularly what competitors are doing, as well as the benefits. There is often a perceived risk, but the result of doing nothing is certain – decreasing business due to a growing reduction in competitiveness.
    The more forward-thinking UK companies have already applied automation solutions. There are many examples of successful businesses that have made automation a cornerstone of their manufacturing strategies. These range from very small companies producing low-cost items, such as fridge magnets, to larger companies making high-quality, electrical connectors. Automation is in use across all sectors from construction materials through to food. However, there are many more companies who should be looking to use appropriate automation”

  • Since then the economy is run so that there is often more than 4% of the working population unemployed. Therefore if we don’t want these “necessary” unemployed people to starve then those in work have to pay towards keeping these people alive

    This is based on a misunderstanding of the statistics. Yes, at any point in time there are 4% of the working population unemployed; but mostly it’s a different 4%. Each month some of the employed become unemployed, and some of the unemployed get jobs. They don’t starve because you don’t starve when you’re unemployed for a month or two between jobs. you only starve if you’re unemployed long-term, and that’s a far smaller number of people than 4%.

  • It makes sense in an increasingly uncertain jobs market as long as the incentives for employment, retraining and continuing education remain.

  • Joe,
    Do you think Mr Wilson might rewrite his piece when he hears about your tax on all these robots which you called for yesterday to pay for the British people to watch box sets?
    I have diligently followed your links and have found out how to put one in myself
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_semiconductor_fabrication_plants
    If you study that list you will get an inkling of how far away from being an advanced manufacturing nation we are.
    Pointing at bright spots is misleading, because that’s what they are = spots.
    If you are prepared to look at trends they are the opposite to one on which you have built your plans.
    Last week Delphi (they make diesel engines) announced they were moving from Sudbury to Romania.
    The British economy has red lights and alarms blaring all across the panel but instead of a frantic national emergency we have this ludicrous idea of paying healthy, intelligent people to do nothing with money sourced from God knows where. Even the Finnish scheme seems moribund after only a few months.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Aug '17 - 1:29pm

    @Joe Bourke
    Offering sub-minimum pay jobs on the basis that the workers in them are already receiving Basic Income is an attack on the whole principle of the Minimum Wage. Go back and read Peter Dunne’s letter, which I quoted above, and ask yourself is it better to use the additional tax raised to fund well-paid jobs in the public sector or to fund Basic Income and offer work at a pittance which will only serve to drag down public sector wages as people in well-paid jobs are made redundant and replaced by people doing these McJobs. I have been around too long to swallow the line that people on these new jobs will not replace anyone in an existing job.

    We both see the need for the public sector to provide more jobs as the manufacturing sector becomes more automated and the service sector cannot expand much further, but the important question for advocates of Basic Income to answer is “Given the level of increase in taxation required, is introducing Basic Income best way to spend the money raised by it?” Unless that question can be answered in a way that will convince the voters, we are wasting our time devising new schemes of Basic Income.

  • @ Dav

    In the 1960’s and early 1970’s it was rare for someone to be unemployed for long periods. Ask people who were employed then, many will tell you that they could walk out of a job one week and be in another the next. It takes much longer to find a job today. You are of course correct most the those unemployed find employment eventually, I imagine those who don’t are part of the 2 million people (4.6%) who claim a benefit because they are not fit for work long term.

    According to tradingeconomics.com, “Long Term Unemployment Rate in the United Kingdom decreased to 1.20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from 1.30 percent in the third quarter of 2016. Long Term Unemployment Rate in the United Kingdom averaged 2.11 percent from 1992 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 4.30 percent in the second quarter of 1993 and a record low of 0.90 percent in the third quarter of 2004” (https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/long-term-unemployment-rate). (Rates for Spain and Italy are a lot worse than in the UK.)

    0.9% is over 300,000 people and 1.2% is over 500,000 people.

    My point was that those in work need to pay something towards those not in work no matter how long they are not in work for or without any money they would starve. It appears it takes between 45 and 61 days without food to starve to death (http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2011/05/13/the-science-of-starvation-how-long-can-humans-survive-without-food-or-water/).

  • Laurence Cox 11th Aug '17 - 2:13pm

    @Michael BG
    Malcolm Torry’s latest analysis for ICAEW is here:

    http://www.icaew.com/-/media/corporate/files/technical/sustainability/outside-insights/citizens-income-web—final.ashx?la=en

    Essentially, the only options that he considers possible at present are the two progressive options, either by paying citizen’s income to each cohort of 16 year-olds with corresponding changes to their income tax and NI thresholds, or recognising that older workers below retirement age find it more difficult to get jobs, so offering them the opportunity to accept a citizen’s income in return for losing their income tax personal allowance and NI LEL. Neither would bring any administrative savings as it could take up to 40-odd years for the whole working-age population to be receiving citizen’s income.

  • Michael BG
    “ @Sheila Gee – It appears you do not share the liberal view of humanity.”

    I think you have a very valid point there.

    My active dalliance with Liberal politics was in the 80’s when lots of things seemed possible with just the right political approach. I’ve since then grown up, grown older, and grown more observant of the variegated hues of human nature,
    Sadly, much political discourse and policy planning is still based on the naïve notion that the public will ‘play nice’, and stick to using a policy idea as it was intended. After my years of being a naïve (L)liberal, but now older and wiser, what I find astonishing is that some liberals still churn out poorly thought through policy ideas full of holes. Worse than that, so many ‘pilot studies’ are so ‘thin’ and abstract, that they never really result in any worthwhile conclusions.
    Is it too much to ask of politics, that in the same way that computer engineers ‘beta test’ software to destruction, that policy developers at least make some attempt to ‘beta test’, their policies in the crucible which calls itself human nature?

    Maybe I have fallen foul of that old adage that a liberal is really a closet conservative who simply hasn’t yet been punched to the ground and robbed?

    Truth is I still believe in people, but I now glance over my ‘metaphorical’ shoulder more frequently, because I now grasp that if ‘The Grand Liberal Utopia’, CAN be screwed up, some nutter out there, is already working on a devilish plan to do that very thing.
    My starting point to a solution, for most things, is, keep it simple, and I should also point out that it’s possible to be radical and still keep it simple
    And frankly UBI is not a simple solution to anything. To be honest, even before my coffee has gone cold, I can think of at least two dozen ways a devious public could use-and-abuse UBI, in ways never contemplated by well-meaning policy makers.

  • @ Laurence Cox

    In Malcolm Torry’s report he states, “A scheme that left the whole of the current means-tested benefits structure in place, and recalculated every household’s means-tested benefits (including tax credits) to take account of household members’ citizen’s incomes, would be easy to implement, and, because fewer households would then find themselves on means-tested benefits, the administrative costs of the benefits system as a whole would fall.”

    This is what I would like the Liberal Democrats to support, and I think it should be at the Income Tax Personal Allowance rate (currently £44.23 per week).

    He also states, “granting a citizen’s income to the non-earning spouse of a high earner might prove to be generally unpopular”. It is this aspect which I find most problematic and therefore a means need to be found to recover this extra income from most of this household type. This is why I wonder if expanding the scheme to these people should only be implemented when taxation is increased.

    @ Sheila Gee
    “To be honest, even before my coffee has gone cold, I can think of at least two dozen ways a devious public could use-and-abuse UBI, in ways never contemplated by well-meaning policy makers.”

    I am not sure anyone could abuse a UBI. The question is how far will it change behaviour and will this change be seen as good or bad. There are lots of examples of good examples, mothers working less, people doing more training, more people starting their own businesses. As a liberal it would increase choice and is therefore a good thing. There are likely to be what some would consider bad examples, people not working at all, but I don’t consider it a bad thing if someone does not work. Millions of people are retired. Many people would give up work if they won millions. I expect there are some rich people who don’t work and no one thinks this is a bad thing. If the UBI was set high for children then there might be an incentive to have more children and live on the UBIs. It is often seen as a bad thing that a nation has an aging population because not enough children are being born.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Aug '17 - 10:34am

    @Michael BG

    “Liberals believe humans will act in their own interests and they are adult enough to make their own decisions. If a person who received Universal Basic Income decides to give up work, then liberals should accept that that person has the right to make that decision.”

    John Stuart Mill in his essay “On Liberty” talks about not doing harm to others as a limitation on individual freedom.

    A situation where someone receiving UBI – paid for out of public funds – chooses not to work and where there is work available (could be voluntary for a charity) which needs doing and which that person is capable of doing could be interpreted as doing harm to others. That person is living at the expense of their fellow members of society. If someone expects society to support them without giving anything in return (provided they are capable of giving something in return) that seems to be doing harm to others.

  • @ Nonconformistradical

    I think being a slave causes harm to the individual enslaved. While it is possible that not having enough doctors, nurses and care workers can cause harm to others it is market forces that are supposed to provide enough people to do these jobs if the salary and rewards are high enough. Using force to make someone to work as a doctor, nurse or care worker does not seem in any way liberal as it would cause harm by enslaving the individual. In a communist society I suppose these things are acceptable because all individuals are directed and have their liberty restricted.

    If someone was working and earning less than £8,160 they are not giving something to society, unless their work was a giving role.

    Not all work reduces harm in society, much is neutral. If society really thought a voluntary role was needed to stop a harm it would provide public money to pay the person doing the role. Most charities do have some paid employees.

    A much better solution would be for the government to be the employer of last resort paying a living wage for those jobs which society thinks are optional.

    There are many people who do not work where they are supported by others without carry out any work. The retired are one example and so are children. Under your idea of harm I should have started to work as soon as I was able and when I was doing my A levels I was causing harm by reducing my weekly hours to only 7.5 because no one did my other 7.5 hours a week and no one should retire if they are still capable working.

    Paying someone an UBI may well reduce harm to society even where the person does no work. The harm caused by unsuccessfully seeking work is ended; the harm caused by sanctions is ended. The costs of administering sanctions is abolished and the costs of appeals and tribunals would be reduced and people wouldn’t suffer the stress caused.

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