Discussions of Universal Basic Income

I’ve written several background papers for a series of seminars on Universal Basic Income, and the first of them has been put online by Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland.   The series will include specific discussions about employment, rights and equalities, housing,  care and implementation; I was asked to do papers for three of them (rights, housing and care).  (The seminar series is organised by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute at Strathclyde University; details are available on request.)  In due course, after the seminars are finished, I’ll be revising the papers for an integrated presentation.

I’m still sceptical.  While I’ve always been sympathetic to arguments for more universal benefits and services, there are lots of key problems that need to be thought through before a scheme could be introduced.  Too many of the published schemes either wave those problems aside or try to manage them by making poor people worse off.  As things stand, the best possible schemes would not offer anything like an adequate, secure income.

One thought on “Discussions of Universal Basic Income”

  1. Dear Paul

    Thank you for a really good project.

    In response to your comment – ‘As things stand, the best possible schemes would not offer anything like an adequate, secure income’ – I have to agree with you: but that isn’t all that there is to be said.

    Whether you include the scheme researched in https://www.euromod.ac.uk/publications/update-correction-and-extension-evaluation-illustrative-citizen’s-basic-income-scheme among ‘the best possible schemes’ I don’t know: but if you do, then I agree, £63 per week for working age adults, and the enhanced Child Benefit in the scheme, will not between them offer ‘anything like an adequate secure income’ if by that phrase you mean enough to live on. However, for a family of two adults and two children, enhanced Child Benefit of £74.40 + the Citizen’s Basic Income of £126 for the two adults adds up to £200 per week: not enough to live on, but it would still be what we might call a significant secure income. For the first time, that family would have a substantial secure income that would never be at risk, in a context in which all other income sources, whether wages or means-tested benefits (UC, WTC, CTC, JSA, … ), are constantly at risk.

    As the scheme above ensures almost no losses for low income households at the point of implementation, reduced poverty indices, reduced inequality, Income Tax rates raised by only 3%, revenue neutrality, and lots of households coming off means-tested benefits, and even more within striking distance of coming off them, such a scheme is worth discussing.

    You aren’t the only one who would like to see a larger secure income. The problem is that if I impose the above outcomes as a set of constraints then I can’t get the working age adult Citizen’s Basic Income any higher than £63 per week – and neither would anybody else be able to. If we loosen the constraints then we can of course take the level much higher – but then we would risk infeasibility.

    As I say: Your seminar papers much appreciated. And thank you to the Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland for publishing it.

    Best wishes


    Dr. Malcolm Torry, Director, Citizen’s Basic Income Trust, and Visiting Senior Fellow, London School of Economics

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