Kudos to Vox for showing interest in the idea of a universal basic income. This particular feature covers a Roosevelt Institute report into the impressive leveraging effects that could accompany the implementation of a UBI in the United States. We’re talking trillions.
A squeeze is on working people in the United Kingdom, the States and Canada. The calculus of personal pressure and hard times described in this piece from The Guardian website is certainly reproduced in the Greater Toronto Area. Such difficulty seems to be a big part of what it means to be a working person in these societies. Mentioned in this piece is the weak economics of wages for a couple with a young child in Glasgow where a call-centre job really just doesn’t cut it. The weight of this at the societal level is also discovered via this article. Recent data from a UK university is linked concluding a crap job is often much worse for your mental health than the stresses of full on unemployment.
Crazy stuff indeed. The late nineteenth century industrial economy was fuelled on coal. Our early twenty-first century digital economy is fuelled on human stress.
Basic Income: and How We Can Make It Happen
Guy Standing, 2017
Penguin Random House UK
$18.99 CAN paperback
Chapter four of this treatise on the social policy mechanism of universal basic income is the sweetest. There lies the magic of it all. We know poverty is expensive. A properly executed basic income would cut the cost of poverty and in so doing liberate a good portion of the fiscal resources needed to pay for itself. By no means is this the only way to afford a social dividend for all citizens as chapter seven attests. And afford it we must: this world is changing.
Guy Standing has been an intellectual point man for basic income on a global stage for many years now. He gives us the rationale and the ‘how to’ in his newest book. In the age of President 45, Boris Johnson, Rob Ford, Martin Skreli and other ineffective, uncaring and unhinged elite leaders Professor Standing has the contrasting voice of a grown adult. He has taken on the work of comprehending and advocating something in detail. At times things are technical, plodding even. But to do any difficult thing, as an individual academic or as a society, makes the demand for seriousness. It can also involve reward and rates respect. So it is with this book.
Other parts of this manual refer to the expected benefits of basic income and clarify it from other approaches to social welfare including historical ones. Somewhat new to our consideration of basic income was a potential contribution to environmental protection. More familiar are sections of the book describing the improvement in the quality of economic relationships and personal well being associated with a fully realized and well-executed basic income.
An important chapter is number six. Entitled The Standard Objections, it is designed to empower supporters of basic income. Enthusiasm on the part of those already converted is not going to be the determinant of whether or not we get the goodies. Not in an era of still lethal neoliberalism. Other voters, taxpayers, citizens, policy makers will have to be won over. A piece of work.
Chapter twelve displays its merits in this direction. Professor Standing tells us that ‘…the primary block to implementation of a basic income system is political, not economic or philosophical.’ Absolutely, this is true. We also must understand that as never before there is an opportunity, a window, for basic income. This last chapter is the one we will be reading over again as soon as possible. This is where we go from lively possibility to reality via public pressure. Here, anti-basic income emotionalism about worker dropout and a costly, unrealistic or even fully immoral ”something for nothing” pipe dream is addressed.
We do recommend this book. How could we not, really?