Basic Income for All: the closest thing to a silver bullet

Neal Lawson

Monday, 18 March 2019

There is no single silver bullet policy to create a Good Society – but basic income is the closest there is. It opens up some big questions: what is a good society and what is a good life; how much should we work and what kind of work should we do; what else should we do; and, how we can be fully human?

The gap between the rich and poor is widening, children go to school hungry and dirty and – incredibly – life expectancy rates are falling. More people are in work, but work doesn’t pay and the so-called ‘social security’ system provides nothing of the sort.

All these reasons and more are why people are turning to Basic Income as an idea whose time has come. An unconditional guaranteed weekly payment to everyone – it is as transformative as ideas get.

In our increasingly liquid modern world of the gig economy, there are no job guarantees and sadly, unions are often too weak to bargain effectively for workers. A welfare system that humiliates the weakest in our society – to dragoon them into work they would otherwise not do, for pay that won’t keep their heads above water is simply the most horrendous of indignities.

Today we launch our new report Basic Income For All: from desirability to feasibility.

Authors Stewart Lansley and Howard Reed, with support from Friends Provident Foundation, have done the modelling and research to demonstrate how a Basic Income could be introduced right now, and how it would transform our economy and our society.

Their findings show how it would be possible to pay a weekly Basic Income to adults (up to 64) of £60, to children of £40 and to adults over 65 of £175. Even at these modest rates, the proposed Basic Income scheme would be transformative.

It would:

  • Pay, for example, a significant, no-questions-asked, £10,400 a year to a family of four
  • Cut child poverty by more than a third and pensioner poverty by almost a third
  • Narrow the inequality gap
  • Lead to gains for three-quarters of all households, with the largest gains among the poorest households
  • Strengthen the universal element of the benefits system and reduce dependency on means testing
  • It would take the UK back to the level of social security spending of 2010, but with much more progressive and universal outcomes.

For the first time, there would be a guaranteed income floor below which no individual would fall, and that would gradually rise over time.

Any post-Brexit (or indeed post-May) agenda has to deal with the economic and therefore social insecurities that fostered the biggest disruption to our society since the Second World War. The aftermath of that war saw the creation of 20th-century social security; the aftermath of (attempts at) Brexit must be the creation of a 21st-century system of social security with Basic Income at its beating heart.

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  1. Posted by Elisa Brady

    Combined with a reduced maximum working week, society could benefit from allowing people to volunteer in community projects, to meet caring responsibilities, to study, to extend their social network or to be creative. However what systems would be needed to stop rapid inflation of basic living costs, including housing wiping out any increased benefit.

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  2. Posted by TOMMAS GRAVES

    Unfortunately there is a snag, a rather large one. We charge each other for the rent of land, which of course is absolutely free! This rent has no maximum except the most that can be paid. So the almost certain result of a basic income for all would be an increase in rents. Much better to collect location value for the community and abolish taxation. This would reduce inequality, and reduce the value of land, and enable the reward for work to rise much nearer the added value created by work.

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