Should we welcome Silicon Valley’s support for basic income?

An excellent recent article in Wired, The Paradox of Universal Basic Income, made several interesting points about, among other things, the impact of political motivation on basic income schemes (principally the decision by a conservative government in Finland to only give basic income to the unemployed). It’s a good read.

But why is a magazine known for its focus on technology talking about social security reform? I feel like since I first discovered basic income back in 2015 the loudest voices on the global stage have been coming from billionaires, especially those in Silicon Valley. This shouldn’t be a surprise given that anything someone of such a profile says or does necessarily generates media attention, but it reflects the fact that the most high profile argument for basic income seems to be the forthcoming automation revolution. In other words, basic income is positioned as a preventative measure against things to come.

This troubles me. Besides ignoring the fact that a basic income is necessary even without automation because of its ability to address the failures of the current system, these tech billionaires are talking about the automation revolution without acknowledging that they are the ones responsible for it. Its like a landlord advocating for more social housing for the tenants they are about to evict. I mean, yeah, thanks for supporting my cause, but would you mind not exacerbating the problem it addresses at the same time?

Whenever I give a talk on basic income, without fail someone will accuse me of Malthusian scaremongering about increased unemployment. Why won’t this tech revolution create new jobs in the same way the industrial revolution did?

For starters, the reason this revolution is different is because it is ‘brainwork’ that is disappearing, rather than physical labour. Technology is not at the point yet where you can speak to an AI without wishing a person could be there to help you, so surely you, the reader, couldn’t be replaced with a software program that could do your job as well as you? The sad answer is that you’re right, and it doesn’t matter. Think about the last time you navigated an automated telephone system. Was that as good or better than speaking to a human being right away? Of course not, but they were replaced anyway, because ‘good enough’ trumps ‘perfect’ whenever the price is right. And this is where Google, Amazon, IBM and a million little start-ups are taking us.

It is a step forward that our leading lights actually care, or profess to care, what happens to the rest of us when they make our work (and by extension, those of us narrowly specialised in this work) unnecessary. All they are doing is asking for a solid floor to society upon which they can widen inequality in their favour, and ensure there is money in the pockets of the population to buy their products. A modern twist on Company Scrip where workers exchange tokens for goods at an employer-operated store in lieu of a cash salary.

On balance, I do believe that the backing of these tech moguls for a basic income helps more than it hurts, but we need to claim the narrative back for the human rights argument for eliminating today’s poverty, and improving the quality of life for all of us right now, and not let basic income become too strongly entwined with a single argument based on a problem that is yet to fully manifest. And let’s not forget the role our would-be patrons play in this crisis of their own making.

Ben Simmons, CBINS Trustee – @vforfive


Ronnie Cowan MSP welcomes Reform Scotland report on Citizen’s Basic Income

On December 5th Ronnie Cowan issued the following press release:


SNP MP Ronnie Cowan has welcomed further debate about a basic income guarantee from ‘Reform Scotland’.

In a briefing published today, the think tank has said it welcomes the Scottish Government’s move to evaluate the benefit of introducing a system in which every citizen is entitled to a basic or minimum income.

Ronnie Cowan has led the debate at Westminster on such a scheme, and was a representative at the recent International Basic Income Congress.

Ronnie Cowan SNP MP for Inverclyde commented:

“The support of Reform Scotland on the proposal and debate around the basic income is welcome and comes at a time when the idea is now receiving widespread attention.

“This is one of the reasons the Scottish Government have committed funding to support the four local authorities as they aim to design a pilot scheme.

“There is a growing awareness and interest in the idea of a basic income, so any debate we can contribute to is worthwhile – we will continue to discuss the concept of a basic income and working with those who also wish to do so.

“We should be hugely proud that Scotland is leading the way in the evolution of this important debate.”
You can read more about the recent developments on with Citizen’s Basic Income below:
Reform Scotland Briefing

Ronnie Cowan’s   Westminster debate on basic income


Is Automation a Man’s Argument for CBI?

The bulk of contemporary political and economic arguments in support of a universal citizen’s basic income recently appears to centre on the threat of automation “Quick the robots are coming, the peasants will revolt – let’s give them a basic income!” or “Quick the robots are coming, we need an alternate income source”

It is a powerful and emotive argument and one that traditionally rests on the mainstream economic premise of something or someone being ‘productive’ as well as the perceived ‘affordability’ of cash transfers.

The current global interest in a C.B.I has seen discussions abound in mixed political and business platforms and taken seriously at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum in the early part of this year. The debate about a recognisable Basic Income has, as we know, been existed for centuries. There have been trials throughout the 20th century in western and eastern economies, and we now have trials in Finland, Utrecht, Canada, India once more and the very real prospect of our own here in Scotland with four councils and the Scottish Government indicating support for looking at the effects a C.B.I could have on our economies, wellbeing and public finances.

But we are still talking about it, in ways in which that create doubt in the minds of those who are hearing about it for the first time:

Will it work? Giving away free money? Won’t everyone just stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women? Who will pay for it?

While a basic income has support from left and right political spectrums, it also poses those same sections challenges to the traditional assumptions each hold about the way in which the world operates.

Yes it works, previous trials have evidenced that those poorest people given basic incomes use the money to better their lives, homes, education, health.

Who says its ‘free’ money? As members of societies that have contributed collectively to rentier incomes, should we not also benefit from those same incomes as the author of The Precariat: Guy Standing argues?

Who is counted as being ‘productive’ in our modern economies? Is it only those who trade their labour for wages? Or is it also the women, men and non-binary people who produce and care for other human beings? Those who support or prepare for our lives in this capitalist economy of ours? Who is ultimately more productive? When am I more productive? When I am sitting at my desk in uni creating a thesis, or when I am at home during what is termed to be my leisure time in economic terms; cooking meals, washing clothes, nurturing my children, spending my studentship in my local shops? The tendency to commodify all human activity in order to give it value in a market based economy results in unduly restrictive social citizenship rights, more-so for those related to income security.

Outlets like the Daily Mail call basic income a lazy charter; freeloaders spending our hard earned taxpayer’s cash. This extension of the strivers and scroungers narrative is the most corrosive, in my view. It gets into the mind-set of ordinary people, voters and workers. Why should I work when so and so down the road with the big flat screen TV and no worries gets it all for free? There’s no evidence for this, this is fear mongering in order to keep the elites in power, so long as ordinary people are fighting each other over the scraps from the table, those at the top can continue to manipulate the economy and political processes to suit themselves. Successive C.B.I trials have demonstrated that for many involved, the freedom to work and choose meaningful work is taken up by those in receipt of a C.B.I. The only groups that have shown to reduce their paid work are those of school age and youths who with a C.B.I can afford to go into further and higher education instead of having to work for pittances that support their family survival.

Who will pay for it? Where will the money come from? This is an interesting question. We have been told repeatedly by government ministers that there is no magic money tree. Our welfare system is already in crisis, how can we afford to just give money to everyone? We spend billions administering a flawed system that seeks to penalise and create anxiety amongst its claimants. The marginal tax rate of between 80 and 90% for income earned on top of benefits and tax credits, means that individuals struggle to escape the poverty trap. And the system does this because the overarching narrative is “Work makes us free”. As a society we tie ourselves in knots examining the best way to redistribute money that will alleviate suffering, we place conditions on the most vulnerable in our society, so that we don’t waste this precious resource on the undeserving or unworthy. Yet, I have yet to see the same handwringing over the state use of Quantitative easing. The UK created £375bn (£6000 for every person in the UK) of new money in its QE programme between 2009 and 2012

Then in August 2016, the Bank of England said it would buy £60bn of UK government bonds and £10bn of corporate bonds, amid uncertainty over the Brexit process and worries about productivity and economic growth.

The Eurozone began its programme of QE in January 2015 and has so far pumped in €570bn of extra money in just two years. Originally the programme was set to run end last September, but it has now been extended until at least March 2017. Without so much as a murmur from the media or even so-called progressive organisations. We can easily afford to create and pass money to ‘productive’ entities such as the banks….and shareholders.

Very little of the money created through QE boosted the real (non-financial) economy. The Bank of England estimates that the £375 billion of QE led to 1.5-2% growth in GDP. In other words, through QE it takes £375 billion of new money just to create £23-28bn of extra spending in the real economy. It’s incredibly ineffective, because it relies on boosting the wealth of the already-wealthy and hoping that they increase their spending. It relies on the assumption that trickle-down economics works…..not based on the evidence that it doesn’t – just 8p of every £1 came back to the real economy, the rest was reinvested in the financial markets to generate greater shareholder profits.

We know that the loans system creates ‘new money’ and that this goes into our real economy at local levels that support jobs and consumption. So why are we so hesitant to create a similar system that removes the risk from lenders and borrowers alike? Because, that would be trickle up economics and there is less control over that for those who currently control the levers.

In terms of our Social Welfare

We are at a pivotal junction in Scotland currently. We are seeing the creation of a social security system, that it is hoped will be different from the current plethora of UK benefits, conditions and administrative hoops that individuals are forced to jump. We have an opportunity to create a system that places the individual in the centre as a person of value to their community and social setting, not just as an economic unit.

How much do we know about those who are designing this new system? The Holyrood Social Security Committee is currently made up of 4 women and 5 men, all white, no disclosed disabilities. Westminster’s Welfare and Pensions committee has three women and 8 men, again all white. How much confidence can we have that those designing and responsible for administering our systems of social welfare spending are representing the interests of the many and not just the privileged classes of our society? What ‘social protection’ might encompass is currently a contested space for ‘framing’ the debate and practice. Who is making the decisions about its nature and the responses? Who controls what ‘social protection’ means?

We know that women are disadvantaged in terms of rights to benefits within a system that is based on paid contributions while in employment. The economic and societal positioning of women leads to inequalities in access to benefits and services which result in unequal outcomes in terms of single parent households, unpaid domestic work, increased female life expectancy. We know that austerity has disproportionately negatively impacted women, and in particular it has impacted on those women from Black and minority ethnic communities even more disproportionately and with harsher consequences as shown by recent research by the UK women’s Budget group and the Runnymede trust.

That’s why it is interesting, and welcome, to see that the Scottish Government has committed itself to exploring and achieving split payments of universal credit. It has set about creating a social security system that hears from those who use, expert user panels have allowed those with first-hand experience of the welfare system in the UK to input at the design stage.  Policies, such as C.B.I that aim to achieve equality, including gender equality, must account for the gender-based social structures of constraint and explicitly recognise the positive social contributions of non-paid work activities such as domestic or care work.

The current flux in global and local economies alongside the debates around what social security ought to look like could be described as our generation’s Beveridge moment. We have general cross party consensus in Glasgow, Fife, North Ayrshire and Edinburgh that basic income trials should take place. Because there appears to be a universal understanding here that the system is not working now and is not fit for purpose.

But, although the advantages a C.B.I could have for women may be realised, they follow from generalized assumptions about patterns of men’s economic behaviour. The androcentric economic bias implicit in those assumptions stems from a failure to properly account for societal structures that constrain women’s choices. Therefore any trials must, take into account the different lived experiences and social constraints of women across the intersections and truly reflect the diversity of our society.

The rise of automation is a powerful argument in support of C.B.I, but it feels like it is a man’s argument for the most part. And is one that is passing many women by as they continue with the day to day drudgery of surviving.

We know that women are most negatively affected by poverty and austerity. Women are twice as likely to give up paid work to take on carer responsibilities; women continue to provide the majority of domestic labour such as care work, child rearing, emotional labour and housework that the robots created from technological advances required by the drive for greater profits tend not to carry out or which remain unaffordable to most. When critics of a basic income state that it would encourage freeloading and laziness, it is men’s behaviour they are speaking of, it is men’s engagement with the paid labour market they refer to.

We also know that those with disabilities face enduring financial hardship and greater anxiety with the removal of lifelong awards, the changing of systems like DLA to PIP and the sustained uncertainty that accompanies their daily existence. This uncertainty and anxiety is at the root of many disabled people’s doubts over whether a C.B.I could offer them the same advantages that it describes for the non-disabled. The Milton Friedman approach to Basic Income sees the sweeping removal of all other forms of welfare, so it is relatively easy to understand the hesitancy from such groups to support a C.B.I. Therefore any trials in Scotland must ensure these fears are accounted for and addressed fully or we risk alienating wide sections of our society and marginalising women further.

There are feminist arguments against a C.B.I too that see it as a means of entrenching gendered stereotypes, by reinforcing the role of women as mothers and care providers in the home. The rationale for which, sees women as only entering the paid labour through financial necessity and not due to personal ambition or achievement. This concept is inherent on the androcentric perspective of mainstream economic thinking. Fixating on economic behaviour models that only reflect men’s economic behaviour is to continue the mistakes of the previous designing of welfare systems.

Feminist economic perspectives seek to transform economic modelling and transcend traditional left & right politics to enact change that supports economic equality, and equality of opportunity. It is important that any discussion of C.B.I moves beyond the automation argument to account for the gendered division of labour and highlight other forms of disadvantage and oppression encountered by women with intersected identities otherwise we run the risk of failing to take those who may benefit most from a C.B.I with us in the call for increased income equality and greater emancipation from the effects of social structures that reinforce inequality at present. Scotland has a unique moment within its grasp just now.

So, while we may not yet have complete gender parity in our elected houses of government, or within our social security and welfare committees, we must ensure by our activism, that we are taking our C.B.I cause to all of Scotland’s communities and enabling the same to share and create new arguments for income equality in the form of basic income.  The proposed trials must ensure that all women, men and non-binary people across all of our society’s intersections are represented within them. And additionally that measurement of the outcomes of trials is comprehensive enough to look beyond the household as a unit and looks at the individuals within them for meaningful analysis. For that to happen we need to be asking the right questions from the start; how do we create a social security system that provides income security for all? – The threat of automation alone is not sufficient to design or call for a C.B.I that does that.

  • Jen Broadhurst, Economist, CBI advocate and CBINS volunteer – @jenmb36

Alternative Economics and UBI from Upstream

Upstream is a podcast about alternative economics and the role it could play in systemic change. The latest episodes focus on Universal Basic Income, the first as an introduction to the topic and the second on whether a basic income could help bring about the end of capitalism as the dominant economic paradigm.

These docu-episodes are well worth a listen. They discuss core concepts such as what a ‘basic income’ should cover, reframing the value we attach to paid and unpaid work, and different ideological frameworks behind support for a UBI. They also look at what a basic income could achieve, both for individuals (including segments asking members of the public what difference it would make to their lives) and at a systemic level.

For instance, participants argue that in addition to addressing poverty, it would free up individuals to engage politically with other major challenges such as climate change. It might rebalance the social value of jobs, by allowing those providing vital services to demand better wages, and create space to ‘say no’ to the current imperatives of capitalist markets. The staggering statistic cited that up to 37% of people in the UK think that their job is unnecessary, supports this idea that a financial safety net would enable workplace bargaining and other forms of non-capitalist economic activity: co-operatives, caring, ‘solidarity economies’, creative endeavours and so on. Linked to this, it could also help to address gender and racial inequality.

Other key points of interest revolve around existing guaranteed income schemes, such as the Alaska Permanent Fund, and relevant experiments or surveys. For example, Manitoba’s ‘Mincome’ scheme showed that only two demographic groups stopped waged work when given a basic income: women after having children, who were essentially buying themselves more maternity leave, and young men who returned to finish high school. When 13 long-term homeless men in London were given £3000 with no conditions attached, a year later seven of them had a roof over their head. These and other examples back up research which shows that people believe that they would put a basic income to good use. What is needed, then, is a shift in the mindset that others wouldn’t do the same.

The second episode includes a detailed discussion on why UBI has inched from the fringes towards mainstream circles in recent years, and some risks that this might entail. Some experts fear that if a UBI was introduced within the ‘welfare frame’, as a form of social security to ward off growing unrest and economic insecurity, then it could prop up capitalism and its inequalities. In this sense, it would reform rather than transform the system, by softening its edges without tackling root causes of poverty and violence.

Some radical thinkers, such as activists at The Rules, believe that basic income would be a useful step on the path to system change, but that we need to fundamentally steer the conversation away from welfare and charity, towards freedom and rights. Alone, it would be a policy measure that doesn’t challenge the growth imperative, private property or core power relations. It could therefore complement capitalism and simply be eroded once the current crises faced by elites have waned.

Overall, there was clear consensus that a UBI cannot be a panacea for our social and economic ills, but that it would be a hugely significant step in the right direction towards social justice. How significant will depend on the social movements that accompany any introductory schemes and how new spaces that emerge are filled.

Roll your sleeves up! In light of Scottish Government’s commitment to create some pilot schemes here in Scotland, and work in several local authorities to make this happen, we’ve therefore got our work cut out for us. Please get in touch with CBINS if you want to get involved.

  • Jill Wood, Trustee, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland

Stubborn over Modern

I’m 32. Born 1984.

Margaret Thatcher was my Prime Minister (Scotland had no parliament).  I was only allowed to experience free school milk up until the age of seven, after that my mother was expected to pay. My mother brought me up as a single parent (therefore unemployed and forced to become dependent on state welfare); my biological father was absent and never paid any Child Maintenance.  Yes, the man-made cost of living, maintenance of my being had and required a price. I still have no idea what my market value was then or now?

Poverty for myself and my mother was our new future.

Looking back now during the 1980’s, the decisions Thatcher made on every social policy were to affect not only how my mother was to bring me up into this world, but how the devastating consequences were to affect my own future as an adult. My economic future was being planned out alongside my statistical place within it…now I have to transcend it myself, alone. I am now a Carer. History is today repeating itself. I am like a single parent; I am reliving my mother’s own situation whilst I have to see her endure it twice.

My mother was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis (her immune system is attacking her live); she has ME, fibromyalgia and is clinically depressed. Recently in the last few months she has also had to endure the horrible side-effects of weaning herself off the dangerous prescription drug Tramadol. On and on her suffering continues…no support for myself or her, no knowledge or leaflet as to what to expect, what to do if this or that happens, warning signs, nothing.

I have been caring for my mother now for the last 5 years, during that time I worked full-time, struggling to cope, I went part-time (zero hour contract). And then until recently this year when we suffered a Retaliatory Eviction, once again uprooted on the fringe of destitution, I once again considered claiming Carers Allowance (I applied three times, the first and second I decided to stop claiming because I wanted to be an independent carer). I now claim Carers Allowance to help sustain my existence and my duty to my mother. Where I live now there are no jobs. But we had to move here to keep a roof over our heads, through lack of affordable housing. Now saving to move again, in our attempt to survive, and rebuild an actual future. Historical facts about my mother that you need to know: sexually abused from the age of 5 until she was 10 by her brother (her mother knew about it but did nothing, mental cruelty). In and out of Care, whilst still suffering from the continuous neglect from her mother. Left home at the age of 16 with no qualifications. And then spent the next 20 years fighting for survival, her actual life. In and out of poverty, not ‘just about managing’ rather just about living.

I want you to think about: the stress.  Now think about: the toll on her body.

Year after year of having to accept a reality of not just widespread economic injustice but with no one actually looking out for her, no serious voice representing the absurdity of what she had and still is enduring. Consequence doesn’t just happen, nor does it go away it must be healed. She worked full-time, once myself and my brother began to get older and held numerous jobs alongside voluntary work. Yes, she “contributed to society”. She was in fact a Drug & Alcohol Support worker and committed her entire adult life to family homelessness prevention.

Yesterday a woman said to me, “it’s about security” when I mentioned the illusion of buying a house. And I replied “if you want security you’ve got to want it for everybody else”.

I am a witness to the serious consequences of child sexual abuse, and I am a witness to my mother’s life of what she has had to endure and how it has impacted upon her family life. But more importantly, whilst she was going through of all these life changing situations, no real financial or mental health support was offered. Often today we speak about survival as though it is down to the individual, yet we cannot ignore and carry on ignoring the fact, that my mother like so many of us are affected not only by Government decisions (today’s Westminster-rule) in which we often don’t have a say in at all, but by Capitalists who have huge a monopoly within our economy.  Another external factor (out of her control) in which my mother has had to deal with alone. Another human atrocity.

Definitely living in the Modern world.

And apart from my mother having to transcend her own situation within the endless confines of the corrupted political elite of Westminster, it has now become my duty to transcend over 40 years of Government policy that had and still has only one aim : profiting. How to fit a life time of injustice within a few pages for this blog? The more I write, the more I can’t stop in this moment.

mothers alone

Mothers Alone published 1969. Began reading it and then realised the book was 48 years old. Two years younger than my mother and still such a political situation exists for mothers today all over Britain. Father’s or rather so-called fathers just still keep getting away it.

Billions and billions of unpaid child maintenance. “Get a lawyer” a friend of my said, listen I said “no one can afford a lawyer today that’s the whole madness of it all”. CBI would transcend this situation for single mothers or fathers for good, lifting the social stigma of lone parent, allowing them the freedom in which to support themselves and their children’s future of creating something else without the constant worry of just survival. Let’s look at the facts we already have, rethink, wasn’t such a reality something we had already overcome in the Neolithic period?

Oh well…not to worry.

Today I searched online for the actual meaning of Modernity:

‘the quality or condition of being modern’ (Oxford dictionary).

We often think of today’s caring role as a physical task only. Let me tell you now its a lot more than that. You have to support your family member mentally too, for they are going through a psychological conflict of having to be dependent on others (for the first time) her son, the state and the ‘public purse’. We also have the self-awareness campaign of ‘caring for carers’ which we should not forget (I acknowledge the Scottish Government is taking responsibility) is a reminder of political decisions both past and present that have affected and resulted in my mother’s situation, Austerity being the continuous and prime example today. NHS waiting lists, etc. etc. etc. etc. Waiting to get better….waste, too much waste, wasting life. At present Scotland is projected to spend £13.2 Billion on the NHS in 2018, CBI would reduce this figure.

We have to start thinking long-term not short.

Because the majority of health conditions today are the direct result of economic inequality, the evidence for this today is everywhere. I have zero savings. So far my mother has worked for the last 20 years and myself the last 14 years….will I ever be in a position to save?

Definitely not.

Possible future projected in 20 years: my mother will be 70 years old, and myself 52. Will I still be caring by then? Or rather will I have to return to such a role? Yes I will, and what will my financial situation look like then?

Whilst caring I’m also subject to a lot of social prejudice remarks. People look at me with resentment and contempt, “why is he not in work, he’s young?” And this makes it worse when we consider our economic situation today (since the financial crisis of 2008) which as we all know has been blamed on the poor and the disabled. The right-wing media has made it fundamentally clear to everyone, that anyone on benefits is a waste of space, fraudulent and slowing down economic Progress. It is disgusting and sad that we are in this situation.

CBI would allow me to be socially free from such social prejudice and discrimination. Inequality to equality. And more powerful from a human ethical perspective for example, if I was on CBI now I would have the ultimate freedom in which to choose to care for my mother without depending on the state, because everyone would be claiming CBI. Yes I would be one a low income, but that would be my choice (through my own free will). Therefore no one could judge me for being out of work. If I needed or wanted to work for whatever reason, I wouldn’t have to worry about earning too much, or going over the present limit (claiming Carers Allowance you can only earn a maximum of £116 per week).

CBI would give me much more flexibility in my life (as life keeps on becoming more complex), and be actually independent, allowing me to make stronger decisions for myself now and in the future.

Also within today’s economic inequality I dislike the socio-economic distinction that has been made between paid or unpaid Carer; the truth is that we would all like to be in position to care for our loved ones for free. CBI would change this; it would also free my mother from feeling such a burden, a life without meaning…a chance for her to rebuild her life slowly without the economic pressure of “you should be working now” now, now. Conservatives will fear this and try to challenge this with all their might, for the widespread equality it would bring would make them feel sick with hatred for such a reality to exist. People flourishing, less divided more together. A genuinely healthy economy with healthier people.

Government deficit reducing rapidly, rapidly.

Today I’ve read numerous media reports regarding the fear mongering of how much it would cost. But the fact of this political issue is this: if we don’t start doing something now about the serious economic inequality today we will all experience the cost of living and it will rise to appoint where no one can afford to live. NHS Budget will increase disastrously as more and more people find that the stress of trying to survive cannot compete with Automation. Death will become our only comfort.

What the Conservatives won’t tell you (see below) 2017 The Equality Trust.

Last year the wealth of the richest 1,000 people increased by £82.476 billion, or:

  • 14.3 per cent, or
  • £2,615 per second, or
  • £226 million per day.

The wealth of the 100 richest people in Britain is now £380.336 billion, an increase of

£57.446 billion in the last year. This is an increase of:

  • 17.8 per cent, or
  • £1,822 per second, or
  • £157 million per day.

The richest 10 people saw their wealth increase by £19.832 billion to a total of £121.682 billion.

Economic inequality doesn’t happen over a period of time, it is happening now every second.

Let’s PUSH for CBI now.


Basic Income changed my life

By Anne van Dalen, first woman to receive a BI in the Netherlands @vanDalenAnne

How did my BI come about

It all started in 2014 after donating €5 to a crowdfunding initiative called OnsBasisinkomen.nl (transl. our basic income) which aims to raise funds to provide someone a basic income in order to gain insight in what it means to actually live on a BI. It turned out to be feasable and the first ever experimental guinea pig, Frans Kerver, kicked off in July 2015. The moment the call for a second BI sounded I again donated €5 and in addition I put my name down as a possible recipient not thinking I’d ever be so lucky.

Before and after

I was all but surviving in a dried-up relationship in a menial part-time job in a rented flat in a social housing estate plagued by noisy anti-social neighbours. Life at 53 was stiflingly average, depressingly boring and at the same time indisputably stressfull. When on Monday the 25th of April 2016 I opened a message in my mailbox reading “Hello Anne, you are the lucky recipient of the 2nd BI. Should you choose to accept you shall receive an unconditional €1000 a month for 12 months”.

I jumped at the chance! I immediately ditched the part-time job, the partner and the flat. I am now working as an autonomous artist, occupying a classroom in a former primary school (EDM) which serves both as my art studio and living quarters. I couldn’t be happier.

Having basic needs taken care of makes all the difference in the world. Living on €1000 a month covers the rent, fixed costs, food, art supplies and not much else. It suits me just fine. As for my work as an artist BI allows me to focus on the actual producing of art. Not having to consider saleability, not having to waste creative energy has freed me up no end. BI allows me to create without limitations. Not having to occupy myself with money-matters is a huge relief. Having (enough) money does not by itself create happiness but the opposite, not having enough money, does result in anxiety and feelings of depression. I have now regained a great deal of independence. It’s huge!

Resistance is futile

The majority of response has been positive. On discussing BI’s merit or detriment some people focus on economic issues like government expenditure, taxation, costs vs profit. Others ask themselves who’s going to want to do the dirty jobs, won’t the world grind to a halt? Some resort to personal attacks telling me “You’re nothing but a scrounger. I’m not paying taxes for you to sit on your arse all day. Get a fucking job”. Such comments signal fear of change and lack of factual information. Misgivings prevent people from considering the idea of UBI let alone embracing it. Whenever I am given the chance to sit people down, talk to them face to face and explain BI’s tenets these objections tend to vanish.

Confronting silliness

Basic income confronts us with the ridiculousness of the current system of job-slavery, any system that ties existence and self-worth to having a job is nothing but silly. Everybody knows it but admitting it equals calling yourself an idiot. This is one of many reasons why this BI experiment by OnsBasisinkomen.nl is valuable. It needs real people to experience day-to-day living on a basic income to grasp the extent in which the current system has taken hold. To those who have convinced themselves being a wage slave is the only way of life, I say: you’ve no idea. Honestly, you’ve no idea. In experiencing the difference lies the change. That is why I would like every single person on the planet to be given the opportunity to live it. To coin a shitty phrase: “because we’re worth it”.


Basic income has greatly improved my life. It empowers me as a woman, as an artist and as a human being. Therefore I say “Go for it!”

Link to website: MIESlab.nl non-profit for development of socio-economic experiments such as OnsBasisinkomen.nl


Taxing Questions

Let’s look at how the UK can pay for UBI in the future. Any stats quoted are from UK government sources, or quoted as such by various publications/reports. Some figures are obviously guesstimates – even official figures. The UK migration figures are a very good example of this, as they are collated via an International Passenger Survey, applied at major UK air, rail and seaports, so they do not accurately portray actual migration. There are similar problems with unemployment, long-term sickness figures, or average wages/rents/costs of living by UK region etc.

Those who wish to pull apart this post based on rubbishing the statistics should bear this in mind: You need a stronger argument against UBI than simply maths, because nobody knows the exact sums involved. That said, we have to do some cost/benefit analysis, so let’s get on with it.

UK Tax Take vs Harsh Future Reality

In the previous two posts we looked at the ever-increasing impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation on the global jobs market, plus the need to incorporate UBI as a building block in a type of Roosevelt style New Deal. In a world where work isn’t necessary to your survival, we all have to re-think how we value ourselves and others.

What we do, is no longer who we are. That is our collective future.

Now, we already have a UK Benefits budget of around £270billion, or about 35% of all UK government spending. By far the biggest chunk of welfare spending goes on pensions and schemes like Pension Credit. This will inevitably rise in future, as we keep on living longer. Here’s another stat worth noting from the Office of Budget Responsibility; at £182bn Income Tax raises 25% of all government spending. This is set to shrink, as AI and robots begin to cull jobs, so there will be a shortfall in that source of revenue.

There’s another crucial nugget of data; £126bn is raised by NI contributions. That’s about 20% of the government’s total tax take. So it means that the relatively low paid, are bearing a much bigger burden than those high earners on 50K and more, as the NI slice of the typical salary slip is far lower than Income Tax, taken as an overall percentage of deductions from wages. So, as AI decimates jobs, the Income Tax and NI take – from both employees and employers, will fall, rapidly. That is a huge drop in revenue.

These harsh financial facts of modern life link back to the point made in blog post two, regarding the Victorian idea of `deserving vs undeserving poor’ having any relevance to the debate on Universal Basic Income (UBI). The system is already skewed towards taxing the `working poor’ at a higher rate in overall percentage terms, than any contribution demanded from wealthy individuals, or global companies, busily playing Catch-Me-If-You-Can on the carousel of tax avoidance.

In short, if you cannot radically alter the existing methods of primarily raising tax from those who work, then you have no hope of funding UBI. Once the jobs are gone, so too is a huge chunk of revenue.

The Rich Cannot Hide From This

Over the last 30 years or so, all governments of developed economies have agreed tax avoidance schemes so that high net worth (HNW) individuals and large companies, can dodge tax. The rich are not paying their fair share towards roads, schools, hospitals, pensions and everything else modern societies need to function. It’s hard to believe now that George Harrison wrote a protest song about paying 98% income tax.

Yes, that level of income tax actually happened in 1960s Britain – you couldn’t dodge it – and yet John Lennon still bought a mansion in Berkshire and a Bentley on his 2%. So the idea that the wealthy cannot afford to pay more tax is stupid and patronising – they did so in the past, and if they want to survive on their private islands, they will in future.

The reason the rich must contribute is that UBI must also be funded by general taxation on goods and services, to replace the lost tax take from NI and Income Tax. The poor cannot be expected to foot the UBI bill on their own, or the result will be civil unrest, riots, looting and so on.

A UBI Funding Strategy

In blog post one we established that the jobs shrinkage has begun, certain sectors of our working lives will be hit harder than others and that AI and automation will become more commonplace, with the deployment of AI in particular offering the greatest challenge to humanity since the Industrial Revolution. Losing our `job title’ identity will be a defining moment in history.

So, assuming there should be a strategy for deploying UBI across the UK, what is the timetable likely to look like, and how will we pay for it?

Here are some core ideas and target areas:

AI Levy replaces Employers National Insurance

Companies stand to gain hugely from firing humans and replacing them with machines and software. Those who do so, should pay the same amount in AI Levy, as they would in Employers NI. This should be applied very soon, as the jobs cull has already begun.
Phased-in Job Sharing Across Public Sector

As the number of full-time jobs overall decreases, it is unfair and unreasonable to allow public sector workers to maintain a higher paid income, than those thrown on the scrapheap by large companies. Where AI software replaces admin staff job sharing should become the de facto norm, from around 2022 onwards, backed up by legislation. Also, we need a `blind’ recruitment, no CVs policy too. This is essential to prevent a `chumocracy’ factor, where existing senior managers effectively ring-fence the remaining highly paid public sector jobs in a cosy cartel.

Protection of Jobs That Require a Human Touch

Many healthcare, teaching, counselling, criminal justice etc. roles obviously benefit from the human touch. Even if AI, or robots can replace humans, we should think about `reserved’ occupations, which should be protected by law from automation. There is a greater imperative than simply saving money via AI, and this needs to be recognised. Reserved jobs will still be subject to job sharing however and this, to an extent, will offer part-time employment to those left redundant from sectors like manufacturing, distribution, insurance, finance, admin etc.

Increasing Tax Take on Consumption

There’s no point in fighting to dismantle capitalism, it won’t go away. But everyone should accept that extra taxes on goods and services are necessary to pay for UBI, which should be deployed in `rolling phases’ over no more than five years. As UBI is increased to around the £750pm level, taxation also rises.

Food, heat and shelter – the basics necessary to survive – must NOT be taxed. The whole point of UBI is to give everyone that chance to live, just above the poverty line, in a two-income household. Or receive the cash and work part-time, if they choose to live alone.
Products that should be taxed higher include; alcohol, tobacco, vehicles, electronic gadgets, land & property, long distance travel and luxury brands.

Estimated Revenue and Savings

In 2016 just 2% of all total tax receipts came from alcohol. This was 4% back in 1980 and although people – especially men – probably drink less than they did in the 80s, the revenue percentage target should be 4% again. Supermarket booze in particular needs to be aligned to the retail costs seen in pubs, clubs and High Street gin shops.

Estimated extra alcohol tax raised: £10.7 billion

Tobacco tax has also halved from 4% to 2% over the last 35 years or so and again, it needs to rise to help pay for UBI. Nobody needs tobacco to live. E-cigs/liquids need to be taxed too, but at a lower level.

Estimated extra tobacco tax raised: £10 billion

We abolish VED vehicle tax and add on another 10p per litre in fuel tax. Ending VED and replacing it with a simple, online, automated vehicle ownership document, which costs say £20-£50 per year would reduce the overall VED tax take slightly, but shift the burden of tax onto those who drive the most miles, in cars with the biggest engines. As UBI means LESS commuting, more job-sharing and more people simply not working, few will object to a 10p fuel duty rise, with an 0.5% VAT rise on that extra fuel tax, as we do not have to drive to work every day.

Estimated extra fuel/vehicle tax raised: £5 billion

Air Passenger Duty to double, to around £140 per long haul flight, via an Escalator Scheme. This would begin in 2020 and the higher rate would apply from 2025.

Estimated extra revenue raised: £2 billion

Cancel Trident nuclear submarine programme. Who are we planning a nuclear war against? Some of the Trident savings would be better invested in a small fleet of fast, coastal patrol boats, but a large annual overall saving can be made by shutting down this 1960s willy-waving exercise.

Estimated tax revenue raised: £1 billion

New empty property/undeveloped land tax, levied per square metre. This would free up housing space, plus tax overseas investors who are simply sitting on land and investments, waiting to cash in when the local demand is high.

Estimated tax raised: £2 billion

A new gambling transaction tax of 15% across the board; levied at source, via betting shops, race courses, online – everything. The time is right for radical reform of the piecemeal gambling tax system. Large companies are dodging the tax by laundering profits offshore, so a simple 15% tax at the point of play, collected automatically by AI software would be a much easier system to administrate and tax revenues would soar. Those companies who choose to HQ offshore pay a 10% tax levy, based on estimated turnover, not profits. This would a clear incentive to HQ in UK and pay Corporation Tax on profits instead, thus creating UK jobs.

Estimated extra gambling tax revenue raised: £1 billion

Luxury Goods and Online Transaction Tax

Global brands have successfully transferred the burden of paying tax onto consumers during the last 20-30 years. Large companies such as ebay, Amazon, Apple, Google and many more have also raised billions in the UK, without paying more than a token 1%-3% of those profits back, in the form of Corporation Tax.

To fund UBI, schools, roads, hospitals and more, a simple 5% online Transaction Tax will help to level the playing field and force big companies to make a contribution. Again, as with the Gambling sector, those companies who HQ for tax purposes within the UK will be EXEMPT from paying the Transaction Tax.

Additionally, a special Luxury Goods Tax, (LGT) is a useful way of generating UBI income from the wealthy, as they spend their cash on cars/boats/second homes etc. Cars costing over 50K will have a 15% LGT applied, likewise boats, caravans, wristwatches, second/holiday homes, fine art, jewellery, clothing etc. costing above 50K would attract the same LGT levy.

Estimated Luxury Tax raised: £1.2 billion

A Final But Crucial Note On Public Spending Savings

One thing to note about AI’s application – and the introduction of UBI – is that it will inevitably cut public sector spending, by a huge amount, as the headcount reduces. Plus the equipment, office space, heating, electricity, insurance costs, pensions contributions etc. will also be cut from public sector departments.

The savings are potentially immense. Sectors like the NHS, education admin, courts, tax gathering and many other departments will all be able to introduce job sharing, and a rolling programme of many thousands of job losses would be inevitable. Just streamlining our ridiculously complex and judgemental benefits system, will result in thousands of jobs being cut, plus the massive savings in desk space, rents, utilities, maintenance, paperclips – every damn thing.

It won’t be an easy sell. People dislike losing the security of a public sector job. But it must happen, and this is because those in the private sector will feel the chill wind of AI much sooner.

It’s difficult to estimate actual savings, as governments and other agencies are notoriously good as spending any savings on grandiose/political pet projects as soon as they have the cash. But let’s assume a jobs cull of around 10,000-12,000 positions per year from about 2025 onwards, across the UK.

Total savings per year from AI deployment in public sector: £10billion-£12 billion


OK then, we have a potential £45 billion to invest in UBI from around 2025 onwards. It sounds a great deal, but it isn’t. If you assume a unilateral payment to every working age adult, (aged 17-65) it equates to just £500 per month or so, for everyone. You can’t live on that, but it would allow you to get by, with part-time work, in the same way that women with children get by under the existing Tax Credits system. Once UBI is introduced it will be easier to get public support for more revenue-raising schemes to boost the citizen income to around £750pm.

The great thing about UBI is that it will not be means tested, so all those dads pretending to live at their mums/brothers/nans place, can actually front up and say they’re living with their partners and their children. Better still, one – or both – of those adults can find part-time work, so everyone can afford a holiday, run a car, or start a micro business from home perhaps? The point is that a small subsidy per month offers a great boost in percentage terms at the lowest end of the economic scale. Because the poor don’t have savings, property or other assets, they won’t save the money, it will be spent and re-circulate within the economy.

UBI for the majority of people offers hope, a chance of betterment and the freedom to choose how to spend the majority of your waking hours. It is a financially viable, and moral alternative to the kind of slavery that globalist corporations would sentence us too, once the machines have taken away everything human from the workplace.


A New Social Contract

In the previous blog post, I highlighted how rapidly our world of work is being automated and radically changed by the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From China’s iPhone factories, to the giant retail warehouses of the UK, jobs are being lost – and they’re never coming back. In the same way that the Luddites of the 19th century failed to stop the rise of cotton mills, those who try to oppose the changes wrought by AI via local tariffs or protectionist measures, are doomed to fail. Capitalism is like a shark, it must go forward to feed and survive. And it will.

So in this second post, I’m sketching out a case to insist that Universal Basic Income (UBI) is exactly that – universal and applied without restrictions or the sort of judgemental criteria that underpins the existing UK benefits system. It is, in essence, the foundation stone of a new social contract between individual and State.

Politicians: Stop Shaming The Jobless – You Will Soon Be Joining Us

The first thing to note is that the rise of AI and automation means the Victorian notion of `Deserving vs Undeserving Poor’ must be consigned to the history books. The Calvinist idea that work, in itself, has an almost religious value, and therefore a citizen has a moral obligation to work, is going to become utterly outdated – very soon. How can politicians, pundits or irate callers to local radio phone-ins, continue to `shame’ those `lazy-arses’ who cannot find a job, when machines and AI have taken away millions of jobs? This will be the position from about 2025 onwards, as AI and automation really begin to eradicate millions of jobs.

This is the greatest sea change in human history; for the very first time it will NOT be necessary to go out and work to provide for yourself, or your dependents. Basic Income will do exactly what it says on the tin; take care of basic needs. It simply must be applied equally, without bitter slanging matches over `scroungers,’ or the `fat cats at the top.’ There is no point in debating such nonsense because, as I already noted in my earlier post, heart surgeons, barristers and most public sector managers/admin staff are also going to face redundancy, as machines and AI can do their jobs better, and far cheaper. No single sector of society is immune, or exempt from these changes, and the idea that some gilded elite can hold onto their cushy jobs at the top, whilst the rest of us beg for part-time scraps from the table, will only lead to unrest, sectarianism and violent disorder.

That’s not to say that the wealthy elite will not fight to defend their fabulous tax-free lifestyle of course, for that is human nature. But everyone must accept that UBI is a cohesive glue, sticking together a wider society. The Lily Allens and Vladimir Putins of this world will not find a private island 100% safe from the mob, once it is unleashed, and so rich and poor alike must reach a kind of truce, an acceptance of the new, essentially workless, reality.

The Dangers of an Unequal Basic Income

Some politicians may throw fuel on the fire of xenophobia or religious and political sectarianism, by urging governments choose to apply UBI in specific areas, ethnic groups, or zones of high unemployment and perceived `social exclusion.’ Within these laudable aims by politicians to salve the wounds of grievance – often rightly held – there are always the base motives of touting for votes, exploiting social divisions so that one party may win power.

Because one community will see another prosper and effectively become wealthier via the subsidy of UBI, we risk the same divisions as we saw in 1960s Ulster, where a Catholic community were deliberately denied access to decent housing and jobs, enshrined in a local political strategy. The same tribalism can already be seen within the UK, as London continues to pull itself apart from the rest of the country and becomes ever more resentful of `supporting’ the lower wage, `backward’ hinterlands. It would be a social disaster if different bands of UBI were applied in the UK, effectively imprisoning the regional population forever in areas of low growth, infrastructure investment and opportunities. The case for true equality via UBI, irrespective of faith, skin colour, age or geographical location must be made repeatedly, for so much depends upon it.

Debate Now, Apply UBI When The Time Is Right

When we ride on a driverless bus to the town centre, or a robot doctor diagnoses our health problems online, then a machine adeptly performs an operation, the ONLY option will be UBI. But it will be too late to apply it then, when millions are forced into unemployment, lose their homes and feel embittered that the system has utterly failed them. The time to deploy UBI is before the machines take away millions of jobs, not after, when riots have broken out. Without Basic Income, society will fail to glue itself together, as those who are the most cunning, or physically strong, ring-fence the last `human’ jobs for themselves, their chums and family. We cannot let that happen. Every citizen, from aged 18 to 88, should have the same amount.

Young people will be able to start an independent life together. Two persons sharing a joint income of around £1200 per month, is just enough to rent a small flat or house (outside London of course). Those able to work will be able to do so part-time, and use the extra cash to pay for cars, holidays, XBOX, smartphones and everything else that keeps the global economy ticking over. Some job-sharing by law is going to have to be applied, to act as a transition phase and this is especially true in the public sector.

Basic Income will replace most existing means-tested benefits schemes. The State pension, which simply cannot be funded by an ever-shrinking full-time workforce, must be phased out, as UBI is applied. The most socially enhancing feature of UBI is that it frees up people to volunteer, because for the first time ever in history, most people will have the freedom to CHOOSE what kind of work they want to do, as robots and AI take away so many dull, repetitive jobs. Previously, only the rich had the luxury of free time, but in a decade or so, most of us will have that precious time.
These are all parts of the same new contract, a New Deal if you will, that will re-define our way of life.

We have the opportunity to build a much fairer, more equitable and rewarding society. We must face reality and start preparing right now. Politicians are – in the main – still reluctant to discuss how our new AI and automated world will work, but we must hold them to account and demand detailed plans and workable ideas.


The AI Curve and Why Universal Basic Income is The Only Solution

You’ve probably heard of a `tick’ or hockey stick curve. It’s a device statistics experts often use to show how a trend starts slowly, and then rapidly accelerates upwards, as people buy a product, change jobs, search online for something etc.

Right now, we are in the little dip in that hockey stick curve when it comes to the impact that AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation are having on the global jobs market. Certain sectors, like package distribution, driverless vehicles or product assembly are already seeing a huge variety of changes due to automation and use of robots. But the real structural shift in ALL our lives is the deeper impact of AI. When algorithms can replace a day’s work in a few seconds, then millions of us will no longer be required.

From barristers to journalists, architects to heart surgeons, IT coders to University lecturers, every single well paid profession in developed/Western economies is going to be profoundly affected within the next decade.

The Jobs Cull Has Begun

Here are some stats for you to ponder upon, which highlight where we are right now in terms of automation affecting the jobs market.

The new Aston Martin 4X4 car factory in Wales will create just 750 assembly line jobs. Robots will do most of the work. Compare that to the 3600 jobs currently located at Bentley’s factory in Crewe, where an older, 1990s plant exists, or the 6700 workers still busy at Nissan in Sunderland.

Once robots are deployed on mainstream car production, in the same way that Aston Martin is obviously planning to do in Wales, how many workers do you think it will take to assemble a Qashqai? Yep, about the same, say 750-1000 max. Now extrapolate that job loss across the entire UK car manufacturing industry.

Here’s another case study; Hachette Filipacchi are closing their UK book distribution centre with the loss of 230 jobs. Penguin are doing the same, with 255 jobs vanishing. We can only guesstimate how many humans will be required in the new automated plants but let’s assume it’s roughly the same reduction as the car industry, say 70-80%.

Maybe those warehouse pickers and packers could get jobs in call centres? Nope, think again. RBS Scotland announced in 2016 that 230 jobs would go, as AI software replaced humans at its call centre in Edinburgh. LV Insurance has a new `Robo-adviser’ program that offers retirement advice for just £199 – guaranteed no human bullshit involved!

This rush to automate jobs isn’t just an EU/USA thing, where wages are still relatively high compared to say India, China, Africa or South America. Foxconn in China – who assemble iPhones for Apple laid off 60,000 staff last year.

Other electronics giants plan to do the same. They must, or their wage bills will bankrupt their companies.

Ask yourself why Amazon paid $775 million to acquire the Kiva robotics company, for Robot Wars type fun? No, they plan to replace a huge swathe of their workforce one day with machines. Then they will hire out their Kiva robots to their warehousing and distribution rivals. A perfect storm of jobs decimation is coming and its impact will irreversible – unlike Brexit or an Indy Ref. The jobs are NEVER coming back.

It Must Be Universal Basic Income; All Or Nothing

I’m a proponent of Universal Income for the UK, probably of around £750-£850 per individual, per month, and I’m going to explain why a phased-in, or gradual UBI scheme, which is being trialled in Finland, cannot work.

First, as described above, the jobs impact is across the board. It isn’t just going to be working class men losing van driving or taxi jobs, or young people kissing goodbye to the modern day headset-slave camp, also known as the call centre. Politicians who think that AI will only affect low-skilled workers are living in a dream world, because AI IS a learning program. That intelligence is fluid, adaptable and obviously can’t be contained, bargained or reasoned with. Like the Terminator, it will never stop dreaming up new ways to cut costs for governments in their public sector budgets, or save private companies money. This is especially true of global corporations, who stand to save the most cash by binning off workers en masse, and thereby gaining a marketplace advantage over smaller rivals who lack the financial resources to develop their own AI solutions.

Large companies will need fewer supply chain staff as AI monitors sales, market regulations, consumer feedback and localised demand 24/7. No supermarket buyer can match that level of detailed data mining and instant adaptability. Big corporations will be able use AI to design a product, making it compliant for its sector before it’s even tested. Machines will assemble it, pack it, ship worldwide and assess the success, or failure, in real time. If something isn’t quite working right, AI will detect it and build in upgrades on the production line within weeks of a launch.

So we should accept that the pace of change will accelerate, as AI gets ever-more clever at reading our human desires and preferences. The tipping point, where full-time employment collapses as AI and automation dominate the supply of goods and services, may be closer than we think. Sadly, it is human nature not to recognise such historic turning points and we can see examples such as the Luddites in the past, where those who cannot deal with the destruction of their livelihood seek violent revenge against the machines, or the people who enable them. This danger of civil unrest is another good reason why Basic Income must be universal, not piecemeal.

This isn’t just a recession, a dip, or an annoying blip. The application of AI globally will destroy about 47% of ALL USA jobs, and possibly 77% in China, according to a study by Oxford University, so its impact is enormous. This is the greatest change in human society since the Industrial Revolution in fact. It makes Brexit look like a Teddy Bears picnic.

Where do you think those jobless people in India, China, South America or Africa will be heading when the iPhone, shoe, clothing, or car parts factories are staffed by robots, or the call centres are all run by software, not people? That’s right, millions will head for Europe and the USA, where there are social welfare systems that are far more generous than anything on offer locally. It is human nature to seek security, freedom from hunger and destitution, and find a place where your children have a better chance in life. The great migration from poor countries to richer ones is just beginning and only fools would ignore that reality.

So politicians need to start planning NOW, running UBI trials as soon as possible. Again, these need to be universally applied – no selective trial groups – such as the one in Finland where 2000 long term unemployed people have been chosen. That will not help us learn anything about how UBI changes people’s lives. Most of us are going to be long term unemployed, or at least under-employed soon, so there’s no point in assessing the impact of UBI on a sample group who – for various reasons – are already OUT of the jobs marketplace.

UBI offers freedom from drudgery, a chance to be creative, start a small business, or be a carer, retrain as a nurse, a counsellor, a watchmaker – all kinds of things. But we will need a new social contract, a new way of taxing goods and services to pay for our collective enforced leisure time.

Most of all, we will have to redefine our value as humans, putting aside the old snobbery of job titles, of defining our social status through our work. Just think about that revolution.


Individualism has had its day

A Citizen’s Basic Income (BI) is an idea I’ve believed in for many years, without necessarily ever knowing of any particular name for it – but believing in the principle of having a minimum quality of life made possible through the application of a basic income; until during the Scottish Indyref when I learned about it as a well defined concept through The Common Weal and Scottish Greens.

As the world changes on a seemingly daily basis so the conversation around BI shifts its focus, today much of the debate concerns automation: the suggestion being that the automation of jobs has a negative impact on the jobs market, particularly as it pertains to low wage / low skill jobs, thus leading to mass unemployment in the near future; a BI it is argued would go someway to minimising that impact given that the low wage / low employment economy driven by increasing automation is exacerbated by neoliberal government policy that doesn’t look like addressing its vast shortcomings anytime soon.

BI was briefly discussed in an interview with Elon Musk (CEO SpaceX & Tesla) in November of last year, Musk is a CEO who embraces automation but who, by all accounts takes it as an opportunity to move workers into “more interesting” roles as an alternative to making them unemployed; this however is not a typical experience of the average worker, the actions or intentions of typical CEOs, nor is it even a possibility in many companies; therefore we have to take responsibility as a society where none is accepted (generally speaking) in the corporate world.

However, to get to my point and while I acknowledge large scale automation as an inevitable product of technological advancement – I do not see it as a negative but as an opportunity; automation itself isn’t the threat, it’s the fight against it, the unwillingness to embrace a changing world and the lack of ability and adaptability with regards to our current economic and political systems to deal with it that’s the problem. There’s a serious lack of ideas and in many cases any acknowledgment at all of the need for radical new ideas at a government level required to enact the changes which would enable us to allow automation to work to its full potential, whilst freeing ourselves up to do more worthwhile, interesting things: obtain better paid, high skilled, fulfilling employment for instance and to generally enjoy our lives without the worries inherent in our monetary based neoliberal, capitalist system.

A world of full employment is no longer a realistic prospect and anyway why should we cling onto a world where we work unfulfilling, low wage, precarious jobs? Who are we trying to please and who is benefiting from having us believe that inherent inequality is an unfortunate circumstance / necessity of existence, that value placed on us depending on our job is an essential and / or inevitable aspect of having the aim of being a respected participant in society and not merely an indicator of the inadequacies of this version of society? Moreover, why should we continue to create inferior products and limit the true potential of technology to enhance all our lives in order to perpetuate the use of a system that has us competing for jobs that don’t so much define us but distract us from being able to fully realise who we truly are?

It is argued that a BI will encourage people to be / become idle, in fact quite the opposite is true; people are intrinsically motivated to work, particularly if that work (paid / voluntary) is meaningful – we are extrinsically motivated to make more and more money which at a certain point no longer benefits us but in fact adversely affects others, such is evidenced by the ever growing inequality we see in this country as well as across the world.

The same argument is made against a Resource Based Economy, that people will simply not work without payment (in the form of money) – but what actually gets stuff done? Is it money or is it human need, want and endeavour? Regardless of its original intention, a financial transaction is a mechanism not used for the simple purpose of making possible the transfer of goods and services but manipulated to create division and therefore power / lack of power; fairness is an impossibility in a system which bases value on nothing more than perceived worth determined evermore by a privileged few. However, a BI would breed confidence in a social security support system which unlike our current benefits system will genuinely and instantaneously support when the worst happens, increase quality of life by giving all recipients (everyone) peace of mind that they’ll never be without, the ability to eat well / better, access better accommodation or indeed upgrade current accommodation, access leisure / entertainment facilities, participate in the arts etc thus increasing both physical and mental health. This would allow people to better engage with the wider world in

which they understand themselves to have importance; they may choose to do so by seeking employment that best suits their life, where they can work with others to achieve a shared goal that they are intrinsically motivated to achieve. For me, the idea of fully embracing technological advances, a BI and the eventual adoption of a resource based economy style model go hand in hand and in that order.

Short-term, I support a BI as it’s the only mechanism that can be incorporated into the current system by which we can bridge the gap between the low wage / zero hour contract jobs, growing scarcity of jobs / inevitability of large scale unemployment through a continuously expanding swathe of jobs and lack of determination to seek new ways of creating opportunities – and a move towards something like a resource based economy. In that regard, BI must come with or at the very least initiate a move towards a package of social reform; it must work hand in hand with a system of progressive taxation and investment in our future: the BI itself may also enable a minimum overall income for those in employment by having a break even point where taxes paid are reimbursed through BI, further establishing a principle of parity and a move away from the divisive nature of a profit driven society.

Therefore, to create a world free from the desire to hoard money, which holds equality as a fundamental principle you must first establish a universal equilibrium norm such as a BI would help achieve; a generally agreeable and easily implementable idea that everyone is entitled to a minimum quality of life and is therefore equal as an individual to everyone else in every respect. This idea of a minimum quality of life does currently exist of course, however, I would argue that there are no true examples of it in action here (UK) – in fact the government measures the success of our economy based on GDP growth and not quality of life; there’s certainly no universally agreed standard in action. The UK for example is a country where homelessness and use of food banks is increasing (overall levels of homelessness have fallen in Scotland, however there has been a rise in the number of children in temporary accommodation); if there is such a lower limit in action here it is so low as to be imperceptible and is without doubt one of the supreme embarrassments of our civilisation.

I believe that eventually profit over all else will become an idea we look back on with bemusement, if not disgust.

Individualism has had its day, it’s unsustainability is all too clear to see; Capitalism has outlived its usefulness (and you must concede it has been useful) – it’s about time we embraced Universalism. A Citizen’s Basic Income is a fundamental in the pursuit for ever greater equality, interconnectedness and ability of human-kind to work together for common good; it is a true projection of a desire to live in a world of shared responsibility for everyone and everything we live alongside; for me, it is upon this principle that I believe an Independent Scotland can be successfully built.

  • Mark Anthony Burgoyne, @maburgoyne