Universal Basic Income Floated to Counter UK's Austerity-Driven Cuts

Offering unconditional pay to all citizens allows 'people the freedom and flexibility to do more of what they want to do,' says UK politician
By Deirdre Fulton / commondreams.org
Feb 29, 2016
0
Universal Basic Income Floated to Counter UK's Austerity-Driven Cuts

The UK Labour Party is considering proposing a universal basic income that would be paid unconditionally to all citizens, news outlets reported on Wednesday. 

According to The Independent, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said during a talk at the London School of Economics on Tuesday night that the party would not rule out unconditional pay for all members of society.

Such a measure would be counter to the Conservative Party's austerity policies, which McDonnell said had failed. "Austerity is a political choice and it's politically easy because it benefits the elite," he argued. "It's a short term choice."

The Independent notes that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said during the leadership contest in 2015 that he was interested in the idea of a "guaranteed social wage" but that he believed there were issues that had to be worked through.

Last month, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called on the UK government to commission research into the societal effects of universal basic income and examine its feasibility to replace Britain's existing social security system.

"The basic income offers genuine social security to everyone and sweeps away most of the bureaucracy of the current welfare system," Lucas said at the time. "Fundamentally it would allow people the freedom and flexibility to do more of what they want to do—as well as supporting them in the caring roles they might need—or choose—to do."

In addition, "a basic income would also protect people from rising insecurity in our increasingly 'flexible' labor market and help rebuild our crumbling welfare state," she continued. "I also know from speaking to people in my own constituency that the stability of a basic income could be a real boost to freelancers and entrepreneurs who need support to experiment, learn and take risks, while keeping their heads above water."

Meanwhile, Labour/Coop MP Jonathan Reynolds wrote at the New Statesman on Wednesday that he sees basic income "as a policy to cope with inevitable but fundamental economic change," among other things.

"I object to the levels of poverty in this country and believe them to be an indefensible waste of talent and resources," Reynolds argued. "I wonder how many successful businesses, or technological inventions, or medical breakthroughs, we miss out upon because we do not give enough people the platform from which they might fulfill their potential."

After stating his conviction that "many fundamental problems in the UK—be it dealing with economic change, work incentives, poverty or a lack of competitiveness—could be tackled" through basic income, Reynolds concluded: "Moderates within the Labour Party shouldn’t be afraid to embrace radical ideas. I'm coming out for Basic Income."  

At the end of 2015, Finland took a step toward providing all of its adult citizens with a basic permanent income of approximately 800 euros per month.

As Quartz reported at the time:

Previous experiments have shown that universal basic income can have a positive effect. Everyone in the Canadian town of Dauphin was given a stipend from 1974 to 1979, and though there was a drop in working hours, this was mainly because men spent more time in school and women took longer maternity leaves. Meanwhile, when thousands of unemployed people in Uganda were given unsupervised grants of twice their monthly income,working hours increased by 17% and earnings increased by 38%.

Still, Irish writer and researcher Anne B. Ryan has warned, "Basic income is not a panacea; it will not solve all our social, ecological or debt problems, nor does it claim to. But it creates the conditions for creative solutions, rather than blocking them, as much of our present social security system does."

Earlier this month, the federal minister responsible for reducing poverty in Canada said he, too, is interested in the idea of a guaranteed income.


Photo: Tristan Martin/flickr/cc

Trending Videos
Sustainable Human
A Quest for Meaning
We Need Activism to Have More Compassion In It
Films For Patrons: Donate $5/mo to Gain Access to These Great Films

Films For Action is a library for people who want to change the world.

 

Our mission is to provide citizens with the knowledge and perspectives essential to creating a more beautiful, just, sustainable, and democratic society.

Films For Action was founded in 2006 by a few friends in Lawrence, Kansas, after realizing how essential healthy media is to a healthy democracy.

Over the last 15 years, we've reviewed and curated over 1,000 free documentaries and 4,000 short films, plus over 150 pay-per-view documentaries, spanning 34 topics related to changing the world.

During this time we've been able to reach tens of millions of people - not by owning a TV network or spending truckloads of cash on advertising, but because millions of awesome people keep sharing 'films for action' with their friends on social media - in particular, our 850,000 supporters on Facebook and 70,000 site members. 

One of the coolest things is, thanks to our patrons, our library is ad-free and 100% supported by member donations, while 99% of our library is free to access and always will be. The pay-per-view films on our site, of course, help support the filmmakers, and 90-100% of the revenue for PPV films hosted by us goes to the filmmakers. 

To thank our $5/mo patrons, we partner with filmmakers and distributors to provide access to a growing number of films that are normally pay-per-view. With just 23 highly curated films at the moment, it's basically a mini "Netflix for world changers," but its main function is to support the library as a whole.

If you'd like to know more, want to help out, or you're a filmmaker or distributor looking to collaborate, drop us a line via our contact page. 

Cheers,  
Tim Hjersted
Co-Founder & Director
Lawrence, KS