Tag Archives: ubi

Leadership candidates could and should set out what they mean by UBI

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Universal Basic Income (UBI) has many attractions as a policy. It is radical, an easy concept to explain and – depending how it is implemented – may be progressive.

Both our leadership candidates are backing it. Neither has been as specific as they could and should be about what they are proposing. There is enough economic analysis available for it to be perfectly feasible for them both to be more specific.

The fundamental question is whether we can afford a level of UBI which is worth having and does not create lots of losers, particularly at the bottom end of the income distribution if means tested benefits are withdrawn or modified.

On the economics, our candidates refer mainly to analysis completed by Compass, a think tank promoting UBI.  This is the most detailed recent economic work that is publicly available on a UBI for the UK.  The work has some gaps (which it acknowledges) but it does us a big service by showing the relationships between costs and benefits, and by considering properly how different income groups are affected.

It is not honest to say blandly that the Compass analysis shows that ‘UBI works’.  But it does show what the constraints are, and means our candidates could say more precisely what they are proposing.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 58 Comments

How to make a just society – Justice Capitalism then UBI

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UBI (Universal or Unconditional Basic Income) is a brilliant idea. A majority of people support it. Let’s implement it worldwide. But to pay for it, we first must enact Justice Capitalism, that is, Capitalism that is fair, equal, and balanced for everyone.

But how will UBI be funded? The Tax system is broken and cannot be fixed to pay for UBI. Governments have been trying to fix the tax code forever, but it just gets more complicated with more and more loopholes. Corporations, criminals, corrupt politicians, and the 1%, hide money in Tax Havens or they game the tax rules to pay little or no taxes. Actions such as tax increases and eliminating tax havens will contribute to funding UBI but this will not be enough for the long term. Printing money, as is happening now, is also not a good solution to fund UBI as it just creates inflation which has too many negative consequences.

The best way to fund UBI is by Justice Capitalism.

The money should not come from taxation, but a dividend, financed from the returns on all our human capital; a “public” percentage of companies’ profits. Also, we will eliminate tax havens and the estimated $32 trillion hidden there. We will institute a tax on extreme wealth, a speculation tax (i.e HFT High-Frequency Trading), and a robot tax on firms that eliminate jobs by AI/automation. With this start to funding UBI, we will implement it.

Watch economist and former Greek Finance Minister @yanisvaroufakis explain it in a 4-minute video: #JusticeCapThenUBI

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The social justice argument for a Universal Basic Income

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Recently, there has been much discussion regarding the desirability of a Universal Basic Income. Arguments used to justify it range from providing security, to alleviating poverty, to increasing freedom, to nurturing a sense of social cohesion. However, one of the most persuasive arguments is that based on justice: on each getting what is their due.

Historically, liberals have tended to be most familiar with, and sympathetic to, John Locke’s justification of property ownership. For Locke, the world initially belonged to everyone, but by individuals mixing their labour with land they came to own it (the possibility that such individuals should simply lose their labour seems not to have occurred to Locke). As long as those who do not possess land, including their descendants, are better off than they would have otherwise been (those who, for example, own no land and work the land of others have, Lockeans would suggest, avoided the ‘tragedy of the commons’ and are thus better off) then the distribution of property, including to later generations via inheritance or sale, is justified.

However, another liberal tradition, one we might call a ‘left-libertarian’ one, and including Henry George, a proponent of a Land Valuation Tax, takes a different view. The world was, and remains, commonly owned; we are all joint heirs to the world. For the left-libertarian, those who claimed ownership of land deprived the community of its assets and, as a result, those who benefit from land ownership today, whether by inheritance or sale, may be likened to the recipients of stolen goods; the passage of time does not turn a wrong into a right. As the Victorian thinker Herbert Spencer wrote in 1851, “The original deeds were written with the sword, rather than with the pen: not lawyers, but soldiers, were the conveyancers: blows were the current coin given in payment; and for seals, blood was used in preference to wax” (Spencer would later adopt a much more conservative attitude towards land ownership; some time ago I purchased a letter by Spencer in which he made clear his refusal to permit the republication of the above and other similarly offending passages). Essentially, for such left-libertarians, much wealth today rests on illegitimate grounds.

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In debating UBI, we need to be clear what we’re talking about

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In Stephen O’Brien’s recent post on this website entitled “Why we shouldn’t just jump on the UBI bandwagon”, he makes a series of points in opposition to a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The difficulty with his criticisms is that he argues against a version of UBI almost nobody is proposing. If we are to have a constructive discussion about UBI as a party, we need to make sure that both supporters and detractors are talking about the same thing.

First, the £830-a-month proposal Stephen critiques appears to be plucked out of nowhere. There has been no substantive proposal along these lines made. If we were to agree on the principle of UBI, we would of course need to work out precisely how it would work and the exact level it would be set at. In order to be a “basic” income, however, it is likely that it would need to be higher than this, neutralising any objection that Universal Credit currently provides more than UBI would.

Stephen also makes an assumption that UBI would totally replace all existing welfare benefits full stop. So, in the example he sets up to criticise UBI, he implies that it would abolish all disability benefits. This is a proposal I have never heard being made by anyone who supports the policy. Almost all its major supporters agree that there would have to be uplifts for those with disabilities, and in other categories. Nobody would lose out.

In general, it should be noted that the primary point of UBI is to eradicate economic insecurity. A key cause of economic insecurity is the waiting period for welfare payments, inherent in our current system: the Trussell Trust views it as the reason for a significant proportion of food bank usage, for example. This delay is an in-built feature of the current welfare system, and other programmes like a negative income tax (NIT). UBI abolishes it entirely by giving all people unconditional payments. Under it, nobody ever has to wait to be assessed and processed when they suddenly fall on hard times.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 57 Comments

Jane Dodds writes: Why UBI is the only way forward

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the spread of Corona Virus continue at a frightening pace. Countries around the world are taking increasingly more authoritarian steps to try and contain the spread before it is too late to stop it.

A consequence of this has been millions of people left in limbo, unsure of what they’re going to do as the lockdown increases. Across the UK schools have closed and many businesses are slowly shutting down due to concerns over staff/customer safety and lack of custom.

But as the UK grinds to a halt, people’s lives simply do not stop. People still have bills coming in, they still have a mortgage/rent to pay and they still need to be able to put food on their table. However, for many even funding these bare essentials will be difficult.

Many small and independent shops are having to lay off staff or close outright, this means for many thousands of people their source of income and livelihood disappears overnight. I welcome the recent moves by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments to support small businesses, but they simply haven’t gone far enough to support people themselves.

So, what happens if you lose your job due to Covid-19? You’re either forced to try and find a new job very quickly (almost impossible given the economic standstill) or apply for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is an abhorrent system, one which lacks any compassion or grounding in reality. How is someone supposed to go five weeks without any support? How are they supposed to feed their families and keep up with their bills on just £80 a week?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 100 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMarco 14th Jul - 4:52pm
    John Marriott depends how you define lockdown - I would say it is legally requiring people to stay at home unless they have a valid...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 14th Jul - 4:51pm
    So we have a Director of Strategy who apparently has no experience of politics. It seems we have learned nothing from the mistakes of the...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 14th Jul - 4:48pm
    Peter Martin, 1. Since the end of the last recession, UK unemployment has more than halved at a time when the total economically-active labour force...
  • User AvatarMarco 14th Jul - 4:46pm
    Paul Walter uses the classic tactic of “I know that but I still think XYZ”. However such tactic does not actually neutralise the argument that...
  • User AvatarNonconformistradical 14th Jul - 4:01pm
    @Glenn If we could reply on people not behaving like this https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/14/video-of-drunken-brits-maskless-in-magaluf-appals-spaniards you might (only might) be able to make a better case.
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 14th Jul - 3:54pm
    @Glenn So, give us the figures. How many countries did NOT perform any form of lockdown? Even your mates in Sweden didn’t indulge in a...