Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Universal Basic Income

Flaxen Sackson in repose

Below represents a ‘Guest Post’ from an ex-student of mine. He normally comments under the name, Flaxen Sackson. The implication being that he is my actual biological son. This may be the case as I recall meeting his mother one dark Tipton night 26 years ago. Please note, the paternity test is pending.

Anyway, he has decided to offer the following article for publication on this esteemed site- may Woden forgive him, for he shall receive no forgiveness from my readers.

Needless to say, what follows is solely the considered opinion of my bastard seed and in no way represents my own viewpoint. This prose piece is proffered in the spirit of ‘freedom of speech’ and therefore I expect well thought out and polite responses. Be gentle and play nice. Arse.    

Money is the root of all evil.  It also happens to make the world go around, which is a rather unfortunate design oversight.  It is necessary for survival, if you don’t have a plot of land, adequate shelter (that you don’t have to pay exorbitant rent for), a steady source of fresh water, and the wherewithal to grow and cook your own food.  So what would happen if the government gave out free, unconditional money to every citizen or permanent resident of their country?

1 Yeah, never going to happen
Universal basic income (hereforthwith referred to as UBI because I’m lazy) is often thought of as an alternative to welfare – but there is still considerable indecision over what it is, or how to implement it.  The two most common camps are UBI as a replacement for all forms of welfare, versus UBI that can be supplemented by welfare.  In both these cases, the income is just enough to keep you over the poverty line – i.e. a barely liveable wage.  Ideally, this would be supplemented by an additional income, but it would be enough to keep you fed if you were out of work.   Some entitled millenials think UBI should provide enough income that seeking employment should be unnecessary, which just sounds like a pipe dream.

The idea of a basic income was raised as early as the 18th century by English radicals, because who wouldn’t want free money?  The discussion has become a lot more heated since the 2010s, mostly because the robotic uprising means many jobs have been lost to automation.  The idea of Saxon’s 15-hour work week seems less sweet when the mortgage payments aren’t getting any lower.  The main argument for UBI is that it would lower, or entirely eradicate, poverty in a way that our current welfare systems do not.  This is because current welfare systems come with a lot of hoops to jump through, all of which are designed to make unemployment figures look a little less bad.  They are also susceptible to the poverty trap – if you have welfare plus a job, then any raise in salary can often be taken out of your welfare, meaning you make the same (or occasionally less) amount of money than before.  This disincentivises effort, and gives way to the “lazy welfare” stereotype.  Because its amount is static per person, it also prevents breeding simply to receive more welfare – the downstream impact of this could quite literally save humanity.  The fact that everybody receives this income could have a positive effect on how people view those on welfare – one established gentleman I talked to complained about how their money was going to buy cigarettes for the lower class.  Of course, if the baby boomers hadn’t ruined the world’s economy, bought up all the decent land, and are just refusing to die, maybe there would be enough to go around.

   2 Not that I'm bitter or anything
The biggest question that is raised when UBI is involved is “where will the money come from?”.  The first solution is to dissolve other forms of welfare, and combine all their funding into UBI.  While this helps, the number often falls far short of what is necessary.  Increasing the tax rate is a less popular, but effective idea.  A basic income has been trialled in Finland, with potentially positive initial results, but over there the tax rate is above 50%.  Of course, raising the tax rate is always a pleasant experience, and is generally well-received by the populace (please note – this is sarcasm).  On a side note, raising taxes for the “rich” could be a plausible alternative.  Or it could be, if not for the failures of capitalism placing the power of the government in the hands of said individuals (easy, Sack’s Son).  In any case, taking money from those with too much and giving it to everybody else sounds familiar… 

All in all, the Universal Basic Income is an idea.  Whether good or bad, we don’t know yet.  It needs to be experimented upon, implemented in different ways, and thoroughly tested before it can either be widely used or completely discarded.  In this age of automation and increasing unemployment, people need something they can fall back on.  Personally, I think it’s a hopeful idea.  Once the previous generation eventually carks it, we millenials can finally focus on increasing automation and lowering costs, repairing the damage to the ecosystems, and bringing the world into a new Golden Age for the next baby boomers to destroy (arse).


  1. Tut, tut! Misquote!!

    "The love of money is the root of all evil"

  2. This ambitious plan could only be funded by the tax base and the money required to pay everyone an above poverty income would be prohibitively high. On that basis alone UBI is totally unworkable.

    1. So the government will immediately bring it in....