Whatever happened to the idea of a Basic Income?

Many years ago, when I was still active in politics, the concept of a Basic Income for every citizen was a very live issue. Interestingly, although it started out as a left wing concept, people on the right started to become interested in it as a means of getting better value from the social welfare budget. Indeed, many of those on the left who initially advocated it used to cool on the idea when they realised that if every citizen was granted a no-questions-asked universal payment, it would allow for the radical dismantling of the social welfare system, including very substantially reduced numbers of civil servants, as the need for policing and processing would be hugely reduced.
Of course, there were other issues. Even with huge savings made by abolishing most social welfare payments, and cutting the public sector pay bill, it would still require large amounts of taxation to fund it. Secondly, if every citizen were to receive it, including those in work, to ensure universal approval of it, and it were to be generous enough to fund a relatively decent lifestyle, what would stop large numbers of people just becoming layabouts and parasites living off the backs of others? I don’t know the answers, but as a concept it is worth further examination, and perhaps could be the bridge between right and left in terms of setting a minimum standard of living upon which no citizen shall fall beneath.

6 thoughts on “Whatever happened to the idea of a Basic Income?

  1. To find out new about developments around the world, check the Basic Income News website http://binews.org/ and follow their twitter feed @BINews Also check the newsletter of the Basic Income Earth Network (basicincome.org). There’s a congress coming up in Toronto and also one in Munich (Basic Income Earth Network).

  2. Definitely, basic income is one of the few ideas that could reshape our social models, which is badly needed as the crisis highlights.

    Here in France the topic is getting (some) awareness currently. Note that a european citizen initiative is on track as well… I think you’ll hear more about the idea in the future 😉

    About experiments of the concept, I highly suggest everyone to read this insightful paper: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4100


  3. I don’t think any country has implemented it though.

    So while there is much talk about it, including from the Greens and Brian Lenihan in the last government, I think every pol in Ireland wants to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

  4. The problem is, Irish pols are all enthused about it but have not got the balls to tell people that it REPLACES existing welfare payments. I remember talking to Labour Youth people who supported it but were opposed to ANY cuts in existing payments, which defeats the whole purpose.

  5. Part of the idea of a Basic Income in incorporated in the notion of our move to tax credits rather than tax allowances. From what I recall a basic income scheme was part of either the 1989 or 1992 FG manifesto and John Bruton – policy wonk that he was – was quite the fan of the idea.

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