Free money!

I have been an advocate for some form of universal basic income (UBI ) for many years. But I’m not at all sure I’d want any scheme that might be introduced by the British government. I seriously doubt that there is anyone in the ranks of the British political elite who is capable of the change of attitude which is the first prerequisite of such a bold reform. Far more important than either the mechanics or the economics of UBI is the worldview of those entrusted with implementing the reforms.

Those lacking the appropriate perspective will insist that UBI is too complicated to work and too costly to afford. Faux concerns which are easily dealt with. It is difficult to fathom how even an incompetently implemented UBI scheme might be more labyrinthine and cumbersome than the existing tax/benefit system. And the economic argument against UBI is even weaker as the only way it might be more expensive to run is if it was succeeding in directing resources to people who are currently left in need. Paying out money to those who don’t need it is only a net cost if the tax system is not truly progressive. While getting money to more of those who need it can be expected to produce significant savings in terms of healthcare etc. as well as the more massive and immediate reduction in administration costs.

The benefits of UBI will, however, be quite invisible to those who are convinced that insecurity is essential to a functioning economy. If you are convinced that an economy derives all its energy from imbalances, then you will obviously tend to regard as self-destructive any measures designed to correct those imbalances. If you see people as mere production/consumption units solely motivated by the basest human urges, then it’s going to be difficult in the extreme for you to comprehend how people might be persuaded to produce other than by fear of the consequences of not toiling to order or why they might consume to order absent various pressures to consume more than they need.

Economic orthodoxy leaves no room for doubt about UBI being neither practical nor affordable. If such orthodoxy is the sole perspective, then the potential of UBI cannot be discerned, never mind appreciated. The greatest obstacle to introduction of a universal basic income is not the need for UBI to be better better understood, but the need for society to be differently understood.

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2 thoughts on “Free money!

  1. We are a smallish country well able, if we get organised, to begin the process needed to bring in an UBI scheme.

    It really needs someone to have the balls to get this going. In fact I had hoped there was work going on now.

    With a major recession in the foreground and no end to this pandemic it’s a neccessary rather than esoteric exercise.


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