A couple of days ago I spoke to Anas Hassan, a journalist for Common Weal, about Basic Income. His article is on Common Space. He recorded the conversation, and what’s presented, while it looks a bit like I’ve written a contribution, is actually a selection of the things I said over the phone. Part of my comment, which is about the distributive problems of Basic Income, is stuff I’ve already covered in this blog, so I won’t repeat it now. The other part is something I think I haven’t tackled elsewhere, which is about the idea that Basic Income can make up for the loss of jobs in an automated age. What I told Anas, more or less, is this:
There are ways of absorbing the loss of jobs. As it happens, I think that there are lots of jobs that we ought to be providing and we ought to be doing. Many of those jobs are public in one sense or another – either they are paid for publicly or they are directly employed in the public sector. Examples might be police, nurses, people involved in fire and rescue, gardeners. We need a massive number of carers both for older people and for younger people. We need more road menders [My correction: Anas has written ‘members’]. We need more people protecting the civic environment. … We also have countries that simply employ more people doing things that are socially useful. My model for that would be some of the Nordic countries, but particularly Norway. And what we find is that the number of people who are involved in public service is directly associated and related to the amount of residual poverty that then remains in that economy, because what you are giving people is respected, worthwhile jobs. We could do that. Government has created many jobs. They are worthwhile jobs. They’re important jobs. And it could create an awful lot more if we had the will to do so. That’s the answer to this question of what happens to people not having jobs.