Tag Archives: universal basic income

Don’t Despair!

To begin with a conclusion:

There is a final thought for collective reflection, reiterating a point made earlier. Conservative governments, and some previous Labour governments, have used the power of the state to control people’s lives – treating lower-income individuals and families as supplicants to be reformed or ‘sanctioned’. A progressive government should use the power of the state to empower people, to have agency and greater security and control over their own lives and an ability to forge communities of their own volition. A basic income would help in doing just that.

That is the conclusion to a very recent report by Professor Guy Standing, of the Progressive  Economic Forum, a foremost exponent and proponent of the idea of Universal Basic Income. And surely it exactly expresses what Lib Dems would wish to achieve somehow? THIS is how. And we should do it – and get on with it before we are left behind.

The Report (for Labour’s Shadow Chancellor) is very readable, and not at all clogged with percentages. It would be “transformative” – and that transformation would be more Liberal than socialist, I consider. I believe it could be implemented progressively in five years.

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments

Minimum income: From Finnish trial to Lib Dem policy?

The Finnish Basic Income experiment ended at the start of the year, and preliminary results have now been reported publicly. Certain sections of the press blared out that the trial, which paid 2000 unemployed people an unconditional €560/month income for two years, was a “failure” – but was it? It is true that the experiment did not lead to significant increases in the experiment group finding work, but should we be judging the success or failure of a benefits system solely by whether it pushes people into any job that can be found? Our values and policy as Liberal Democrats should lead us toward different analyses.

Looking at the results closely tells a different, important, and encouraging story from a liberal perspective. Despite those opposed to guaranteed incomes claiming that a basic income would lead to nobody wanting to work, the data shows no drop in work-seeking among Finland’s experiment group. The fact that there was no rise either suggests that marginal income effects may be less important in influencing work-seeking than some had imagined; a lack of suitable jobs and retraining opportunities is not something for which any social security system will provide magic bullets. Other potential positive economic effects of a guaranteed income are, however, likely to have been invisible in this sparse study – increasing the spending power of the worst off and building a labour market that can be more flexible in retraining are significant potential positives that would only be effectively visible at scale.

The most important results from Finland’s trial, in any case, are the effects on wellbeing. The experiment group reported lower stress levels and better health outcomes than their counterparts in the control group. This is where we should be getting excited about the possibilities of a minimum income – freeing people from the psychological strain caused by income insecurity, freeing people to make the most of opportunities and build stronger communities, freeing people to live happier lives. Not only that, but consider the strain on other public services, the NHS in particular, caused by health issues that are largely down to poverty. Taking steps towards eradicating those ills is both smart and compassionate politics.

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LibLink Jane Dodds: Why the Welsh Lib Dems want to trial Universal Basic Income in Wales

Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds supports the Universal Basic Income as a means to tackle poverty and inequality.

She explains why in an article for Nation Cymru:

In Wales, like the rest of the UK, we are seeing increasing homelessness and food bank use.

We need to look for progressive solutions and to continue to oppose government policies that demonise the poor.

One possible solution is Universal Basic Income (UBI), an idea that has been the subject of much debate across the political spectrum, including within my own party.

UBI is rooted in the idea that people seek purpose and, if given the opportunity and freedom to do so, will make the best decisions about their lives. As a Liberal I strongly believe everyone should be able to make decisions about their own lives and live a life they are proud of.

UBI would give people a guaranteed minimum income, giving them the freedom to live their lives and make decisions of their own free will, not on the basis of where their next paycheque comes from.

Opponents of UBI argue that it would damage economic growth and lead to fewer people in work, but I think this view underestimates people. Money is only one factor driving us to work and I suspect that most people would take the freedom UBI would give them to pursue the job they’ve always wanted to do, not quit work altogether.

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Looking beyond Brexit

The sense of things going horribly wrong is likely to get much worse as 2019 gets under way and #BrexitShambles becomes #BrexitFarce.

In the probable chaos of the coming months the country needs us to articulate our hope for the future.

Putting some flesh on those bones, in no particular order:

  • Improve Benefits. Universal Credit could have been a good idea, but under-funding has hit it hard and people are suffering. Improving the funding is a good place to start. We also need to go further. It is a scandal to have people needing to use food banks or losing the roof over their head because of the way the system works. I’ve spoken with people struggling to live on benefits, who voted Leave in the desperate hope that things would improve.
  • Wealth inequality. Back in the autumn, Vince Cable put forward a raft of tax reforms to make the system fairer, especially around inheritance and investment income and pensions. Univeral Basic Income has been on the edge of discussions for a long time. It is time to take it seriously — it can’t be done overnight, but it is time to start the conversation as a way to pick up where we are, and fears around the way in which technology is reshaping the world.
  • Brexit has pushed climate change from the top of the agenda. People have every reason to be worried. That means is that it is high time to turn that worry into action — around renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, zero carbon housing, improved public transport, and more.
  • The Blair government had some good ideas on devolution, with elected regional assemblies and pulling government offices and development to the same boundaries. The imbalances around devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland and particularly to Scotland would look very different if there was meaningful devolution in England.
  • It’s time to talk openly about federalism. Too often it’s a dirty word in British (or at least, English) politics. It’s time to dispatch the myth that it is about centralising power and put the case for doing centrally only what needs to be done there and pushing decisions as close as possible to the people they affect. That applies as much to devolving power from Westminster as it does devolving it from Brussels.
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A radical, liberal safety net

Two polls since the last General Election have investigated people’s views on introducing a Universal Basic Income. Populus found at the end of July this year that 41% of those surveyed supported the idea with only 17% opposed. The rest were either neutral or didn’t know. This polling also helped illuminate what the public feel would be the costs and benefits, with 49% agreeing it would reduce the stigma of claiming welfare but 45% being concerned about it being unaffordable. If the Liberal Democrats are to back a UBI it is therefore vital that we set out how we will …

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In full: Vince Cable’s speech on universal credit – how the Lib Dems would tackle poverty

Yesterday Vince Cable gave a speech on tackling poverty to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He addressed the growing poverty faced by working families and called for changes to Universal Credit – including putting back the £3 billion a year that George Osborne took out with indecent haste the minute we Lib Dems were out of the picture.

He said that the principles behind UC were right, but the implementation was wrong and called for its rollout to be halted until the problems were fixed.

Universal Credit hits Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen at the end of November. This means that thousands of people face a miserable Christmas as the first payments will be made (or not) the week before the holidays.To put people in the position where they can’t afford to pay their rent, heat their homes or put food on the table at the coldest time of the year is cruel.

Vince addressed the issue of a Universal Basic Income. He is sceptical although he can see the attractions. This is something I really want to believe in as so many people that I normally agree with are big fans of the idea. My worry is that it might entrench other forms of inequality as it doesn’t take into account needs of sick and disabled people and couldn’t be set at a high enough level to properly get everyone out of poverty. If someone can show me how that can be done, then I’d be really open to it.

Anyway, here is Vince’s speech in full:

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Inequality – it’s getting worse

The Office for National Statistics published data yesterday on economic well being. One of the main points from the ONS report was on household property wealth. This data shows that we now have even more inequality between generations. The report reads

The gap in net household property wealth between those aged 30 to 32 and 60 to 62 years has widened in the last 10 years; the net household property wealth of those aged 60 to 62 years was six times that of those aged 30 to 32 years during July 2006 to June 2008, however, this difference increased to 17 times by July 2014 to June 2016.

Also, research showed that consumers’ perceptions of their own financial situation has worsened for three consecutive quarters.

In Quarter 4 2017, the average aggregate balance was negative 1.6 – a decrease from positive 0.7 recorded in Quarter 4 2016. The chart shows a steady drop over the last two years.

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Why the Liberal Democrats must adopt Universal Basic Income

To be quite blunt, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about where it’s all gone wrong for the Liberal Democrats. I’ve been a member of the party for seven years now, three-quarters of a decade no less, and in that time we have scarcely polled into the double digits.

Amongst the young, the people who you may think would be the natural supporters of an anti-Brexit, progressive party, the outlook is especially bleak. In the latest Times tracker conducted by YouGov, a mere 4% of 18-24-year-olds plan to vote Liberal Democrat at the next election. The number shoots up to a comparatively lofty 7% of 25-49-year-olds but it’s still nowhere near good enough for a party such as ours.

It’s time to face a stomach-churning truth. The Liberal Democrats are not a party that speaks to modern Britain, and we most certainly do not represent Britain’s future. Not the way things stand, anyway.

As someone who is (just about) inside that 18-24 bracket, I think I’ve got a decent idea about why the party has haemorrhaged youth support so drastically (and no, it’s not just about tuition fees – although that is a huge factor as I wrote for the New Statesman in 2015.)

In my view, it comes down to this. When my generation was growing up, we were all sold a story, the same story our parents were sold. Specifically, the story that if you work hard, apply yourself and ‘get on’, then you’ll do well. Our parents bought into that story because it was broadly true for them. But we aren’t buying into it because it’s a lie for us. Millennials are the first generation set to earn less than our parents, so I think we can be forgiven for thinking that the system has not worked.

And it is this broken system that, to me, explains my generation’s disinterest in the Liberal Democrats and our collective adoration for Jeremy Corbyn. The Liberal Democrats want to make the system fairer. But Corbyn wants to tear the system down. That is his appeal, and it’s why we are falling by the wayside.

But we can beat Jeremy Corbyn at his own game. Liberals can remake the system too, and liberalism can provide a much more empowering and inspiring future than socialism ever can.

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Lessons from Finland on Universal Basic Income

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Aditya Chakrabortty, a Guardian Columnist, recently travelled to Finland to interview a man who’s been part of a Universal Basic Income trial. The scheme gives 2,000 randomly chosen people, who were already receiving unemployment benefits, £493 a month unconditionally. The scheme will finish properly at the end of 2018 and no official results will be published until then, but there is anecdotal evidence from a number of interviews conducted with people chosen to take part.

One such person is Juha Jarvinen. When asked by …

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Universal Basic Services – an alternative to Universal Basic Income?

While Universal Basic Income is popular in principle, support for it falls sharply once increases in taxation or reductions in benefits to pay for it are included as this IPSOS Mori survey shows. UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity has just published a report, proposing what they call Universal Basic Services as a less costly alternative.

The first point to make about their proposals is that only some of them are truly universal, with others targeted at the lowest two deciles. The Royal Society of Arts, who have their own Basic Income model, have already criticised it.

The Universal Basic Services proposal concentrates on four areas:

Shelter,

Food,

Communications,

and Transport.

Shelter

They propose building 1.5 million new social housing units over seven years, funded by selling long-term Gilts. This is not really contentious, but they then advocate allocating them on the basis of need to people at nil rent and Council Tax and with an allowance for utilities costs. Potentially, there is a problem of inequity here with existing Council tenants who are paying rent, Council Tax and utility bills while receiving Housing Benefit and this does not seem to have been fully worked out in the proposals – they only look at overall costs.

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What party members think about a universal basic income and benefits sanctions

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. 741 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

The social security debate at Conference this afternoon will be dominated by two major arguments. George Potter recommended rejection of the motion as a whole because it chose not to endorse a universal basic income and because it supports the use, albeit much restricted, of sanctions. Supporters of the UBI may well support an amendment calling for a negative income tax from Calderdale while an amendment signed by members opposes the use of benefits sanctions in any circumstances. We asked our members what they thought of the idea of UBI and sanctions.

Are you in favour of a universal basic income?

Yes 60.32%

No  39.68%

Here are some of the comments made:

It would be a clear, distinct policy and place the Party firmly on the “Left” (which, as Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown proved) is the only place it can survive.

The nature of work is changing and society needs to catch up. The markets can no longer be a funnel for the rich to build up their wealth. Redistribution needs to be far more aggressive.

No. It is fundementally wrong as it discriminates against the most vulnerable in society. Common denominators always end up being the lowest.

Posted in Conference and LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 31 Comments
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