Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World
Roderick Benns, 2016
Fireside Publishing House, Cambridge, ON
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement this morning of a three-community basic income pilot project would seem to move us happily to the forefront of one of the most interesting social policy developments in ages. It also attaches some extra timeliness to an encounter with activist Roderick Benns’s book on the topic.
Basic Income is a compendium of interviews, short articles and Q&A sessions on basic income. Benns supports a model based on a negative income tax in the amount of fifteen- to twenty-thousand dollars a year. (The Ontario pilot looks set to utilize an amount of seventeen-thousand dollars annually) A number of delivery models are possible for a basic income and the idea is to reform a patchy, outdated welfare system and place a minimum economic floor underneath all Canadians. The book functions as an intellectual diary logging the upward curve of interest basic income has enjoyed in Canada (and globally) over the last two years.
Benns is a true believer in the nicest sense of the term. His efforts are from the heart. Basic Income is peppered with the names of patient activists and the high profile Canadian political figures being drawn to this topic. Words from people in social difficulty describe how their lives might have been improved upon by a basic income and add some moral urgency to this policy matter.
Canadian mayors appear very frequently in Basic Income. Their words lend this book, and the concept, great strength. Mayors all over the country were canvassed by Benns in regard to a citizen’s income. Many weighed in with full enthusiasm, providing supportive quotations based on direct community knowledge. Indeed, the testimony of mayors from every corner of the country is the strongest component of this book. The municipal level of government is the one closest to the daily lives of people and who better than mayors to advocate common sense approaches to poverty and hardship?
The age of Internet search engines makes the lack of a table of contents or index somewhat excusable. The page at the end for further resources is a slim offering, however, considering the importance of social media and the Internet to activism. Basic Income is very important for content over format, even if the latter could be improved upon cheaply and quickly, in our opinion.
Three years is the length of the basic income pilot confirmed today for Ontario. Benns’s book offers readers a good tool for understanding and measuring this pilot and the progress of basic income around the world. No doubt Benns will be watching closesly and sharing insights.