I’m making two big deviations from the regular nonsense about swimming and going to the gym. Earlier in the week I wrote about work, and today I’m writing about politics – dangerous ground I know.
At university I did a general social sciences degree which included elements of psychology, philosophy, sociology, and literature and also included modules on logic (to help with the philosophy). The idea was that we would study themes and topics across all these disciplines and interlink them all. Personally, I really enjoyed philosophy and the mixing of sociology and psychology into social psychology.
I can’t remember the exact moment or lecture that it happened, I’m not even sure that it was part of anything that was taught directly, but during my time there I became convinced that the best way forward was to give people – everybody that is – the same basic income. No means testing, no applying or judging whether you are worthy – just a simple payout to all.
I felt that this was the best way to free people up from the stigma of handouts – there’s no stigma if we all get it. It would also free up the state from spending an absolute fortune on judging people’s worthiness. It would be simple, hassle free and given to everyone.
It would then free people up from ‘having’ to work. Those that didn’t want to work wouldn’t have to, they would have just enough to survive, but maybe they’d be happy with that. There certainly wouldn’t be any people that didn’t have enough to survive but didn’t qualify for benefits and so looked for ‘other’ means to find money. That said, for many people the basic income wouldn’t be enough, so they would work and they would enjoy the rewards that the work gave them. But equally there wouldn’t be the same level of anger directed towards them, or guilt felt by them for having luxuries.
Perhaps more importantly though, it would allow people to move fluidly between those two groups. As I’ve got older and worked hard and strived to do ‘better’ and have ‘more’ I’m also aware that there were / are many times that I’d like to have to do less. There are many times when I’d like to spend more time with my family, or achieve a personal goal (like swim the channel), or work for a few months for a charity, or whatever it may be. But by doing that, I’d be able to come back to work refreshed and able to work harder and more creatively.
In some senses that’s the ethos behind Joshua PR – we only work with freelancers so that they [hopefully] feel that they want to do the work and therefore are mentally better able to do it. They can take a break, go off travelling, or choose to retrain and their ‘job’ will always be open for them. Of course the income bit is missing, but the ethos is there.
Anyway, over the years I’ve mentioned this philosophy to a few people, but more in a slightly jokey, “wouldn’t it be great if..” kind of way. I know I’ve not worked out the details and I never really expected many people to agree with me, but I’ve believed it all the same.
The other day I read this article – Why ‘unconditional basic income for all’ fails the ‘splutter test’ but would liberate the world – it’s a little bit aggressive and confrontational, but it is a great summary of this philosophy as it is now something that the Green Party in the UK is talking about. It is something that might become part of the wider political discourse.
And it is discourse that is needed the most. I’m not (nor ever have) said that the idea is perfect, or even is something that *should* be implemented. But I’ve always believed that it is an idea that we should think about. The article says it better:
“…we need to debate the living Christ out of this thing. We need to research and attack it and give it a good kicking and see if it still holds up… is it possible that this obscure fringe idea could gain widespread support in these strange, fevered times?”
7 responses to “Basic income for all”
I always enjoy reading your words Patrick, but when I started to read your blog I decided that you may have been having some crisis. But I read through it, thought, read it again and then read the accompanying article and my “spluttering” has becoming a considered “hmmm, interesting…” . I have long believed that we need some form of thought revolution to slow our speed down the present path of wealth inequality. I will be upsetting many people now, by bringing this idea up in my endless whirl of middle class dinner parties (okay, I know, no one invites me to them anymore because I am an annoying twat). Great stuff, Patrick. Thanks.
Thanks Paul. I’m glad you like the blog and this post in particular. I’m not saying that everyone should agree with this view, but I’d love for it to be discussed more (and I’m happy to listen to counter arguments and more than willing to change my mind if a convincing argument is presented).
PS – maybe we should organise our own quinoa based dinner parties just for the two of us!!
Here in the US that idea would never fly. We can’t even “give” our veterans the care and support they earned. Then there are those welfare mothers – some do actually exist.
In America, the only people who can self-righteously claim they need support from the government are the rich.
The poor can go to hell (please read sarcasm here)
I’m not sure it would ever get chance to ‘fly’ in the UK either, but I’d love to see it debated and discussed more, if only for people to start to move away from the idea of the deserving or undeserving poor and the punishing of those who have less.
I think the Republicans would have their heads blow up debating this idea! Maybe we should start that debate, and soon!
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