Opinion from Keiran Goddard, written as a response to discussions at the recent BIEN Congress 2018 in Tampere, Finland
It has been said that universal basic income (UBI) is an idea in search of an ideology.
In many ways, that’s a fair enough claim; when a policy provision excites actors from across the political spectrum, it necessarily raises questions about intent, clarity and execution.
If a single policy is seen as a transitional demand by Marxists and as a libertarian utopia by dead-eyed silicon valley types, it is right that rather than asking whether UBI is a good idea, advocates should instead be asking “which UBI, for whom and to what ends?”
What does seem certain is that current interest in UBI can function as a barometer of crisis. An admission from all sides that, as presently instantiated, the system/s we have are not working for enough people enough of the time.
It points to a collective realisation that our economic grand narrative (extractive, perpetual, expanding, nominally redistributive) has been utterly stripped of credibility.
We flogged that dead horse until the whip gave out.
As such, any radical demand for UBI should be set firmly against this background of crisis. If UBI is introduced in a form that reanimates, reproduces or extends the structures of neoliberalism, then frankly, what is the point?
We can (and should) ask then, how the emerging coalition of advocates, academics, policy-makers and campaigners can take steps to ensure that the demand for UBI remains emancipatory and liberatory at heart.
Here are ten thoughts, starting with the most obvious and working out from there…
In June 2017 I stood as an independent protest candidate in the general election. I never seriously expected to win or even to particularly worry the front runners. My aim was to raise awareness of a £10M public sector fraud which I blew the whistle on, which I have been trying without success to bring to public notice since Jan 2014. When I first submitted my nomination papers along with my £500 nomination fee, I had no expectation other than the embarrassment of the officers and councillors at Leeds City Council who were behind the fraud I sought to expose. However, as the process developed, I began to realise that the political process afforded opportunities to address core issues underlying the fraud and corruption I had experienced, and that the election in particular allowed me to raise those issues in ways not normally available to the ordinary citizen.
After Thomas Paine published Agrarian Justice in 1795, for a long time thought to contain one of the earliest proposals for a form of basic income. He proposed a grant for young households and pensions for all over 50. But Thomas Spence went the whole way and proposed an unconditional stipend for all. The next year, in a dialogue between a ‘mother of children’ and an aristocrat called The Rights of Infants he wrote:
“WOMAN: ‘...Is not this earth our common also, as well as it is the common of brutes? Nay, does nature provide a luxuriant and abundant feast for all her numerous tribes of animals except us?”
Love and Basic Income
When it comes to discussing public policy it is strange that we find it to so hard to talk about love. We all know that love matters. You do not need to have any particular faith or religious belief to notice that the world is full of people seeking love, making love, finding love and losing love. Films, books, tv and even the smallest attention to our own thought processes must leave most of us aware that love matters.Read more
Dr Simon Duffy of The Centre for Welfare Reform
Although the idea of Basic Income has been around for at least two and a half thousand years, it is still unfamiliar to most people in modern Britain. However it is an idea whose time has come. Currently only the Green Party is officially championing it, but it will come to dominate debate about what a fair and sensible system of income security should look like; for it is ideally suited to the modern world and it brings with it significant economic advantages.
The ReCivitas project has paid an unconditional basic income to members of a small community in Quatinga Velho, in the state of São Paulo in southern Brazil, since 2008. In early February Basic Income Oxford hosted a talk by the NGO’s co-founder Marcus Brancaglione, at an event introduced by Oxford University professor of geography Danny Dorling. Brancaglione spoke about the history of the project and its significance for basic income trials in Brazil and around the world.Read more
Event with Brian Eno, David Graeber, Frances Coppola will be leading a discussion facilitated by Becca Kirkpatrick from Unison
The connections between supply, demand and inflation are well-known. However, when a great deal of the work performed by a population is not obviously productive in any way and still gets paid for, shouldn’t this result in inflation? If a lot of the work we do really isn’t productive, i.e. does not do much for the supply-side of things, then if UBI is going to drive inflation we should probably already be experiencing it.Read more