Give People Money is a complete guide to the political economic idea of a Basic Income. Designed to replace nearly all benefits, it would ensure nobody would suffer in poverty, it enables people to work part-time (without losing benefits) and it could eliminate benefit fraud and debt.
The present benefits system is expensive to run and massively complicated, and also promotes so much stigma that many people don’t claim what they need (read more on how to claim benefits you are entitled to). By simply ‘ripping up the book’ and starting again, the Basic Income idea is already being used worldwide. This book explains what it is, how it works, the benefits and how it’s transforming lives abroad.
It works a bit like this. Each month, the government would pay say £1000 into your bank account. And expects nothing in return. Sounds daft? Not so fast. An idea now accepted as super-sensible by many financial experts, Basic Income is already lifting the poorest peope on earth out of poverty.
At present, you have to go through a minefield of checks (all funded by tax) to get your benefits. Then if you work part-time (say due to being a parent or carer) you may end up worse off. And you don’t have time to study for what you’d really like to do. With Basic Income, you could be a parent (and carer), receive £1000 a month, take a little part-time job to top up your income, and study in your spare time. It’s so simple, it’s almost stupid. But it works. Billions would be saved in admin costs, and there would be no benefit system to conduct fraud in, so that’s more billions saved.
The Basic Income policy is supported by The Green Party and Scottish National Party, with caveats (like extra income to cover housing costs). The main parties don’t appear to be on board, preferring to complicate things or keep the status quo. Conservatives in particular appear to be still in favour of ‘trickledown economics’ where people get rich by providing jobs for the poor, who then have to work hard to climb the ladder themselves. Sounds good, but John Kenneth Galbraith called this the ‘horse and sparrow theory’ in that ‘feeding a horse a huge amount of oats will result in some of the feed passing through for lucky sparrows to eat’. Trickledown economics nearly always results in the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.
what are arguments against a Basic Income?
You can likely guess the top three from critics. Let’s address all three:
Why give money to rich people? This is an argument often touted about giving free fuel allowance to people who can already afford it. As mentioned above, the reason is that the cost of all the means-testing often means it costs more to separate out who to give money to, when it’s easier to just give it to everyone, and save millions if not billions in hiring people to sort out the paperwork. And who knows – some of the rich receiving the money may give it to small charities. Stranger things have happened.
Why give money to people to do nothing? This is usually an argument touted by idiots, who have no idea how much people struggle on the bottom rung of the financial ladder. Most people who are very poor (whether they are homeless, single parents, people with health problems, cash-strapped pensioners etc) rarely ‘do nothing’. They are usually struggling to survive, visiting different food shops to eek out enough produce on sale to pay the bills, walking miles to food banks, endlessly using libraries to search for jobs. Or more commonly, raising children or caring for elderly relatives. Giving people money actually helps to provide financial stability for the ‘backbone people’ of England, who prop everyone else up.
Why give illegal immigrants a Basic Income? You wouldn’t. The law would stay the same, that people would only get benefits, when they proved they were either here legally or had genuine refugee status.
do any countries give a Basic Income?
At present one country only: Iran. This was created out of necessity, when the government decided to pay out families a third of average wages, due to phasing out subsidies of water, bread and fuel. 10 years on, it remains the only country on earth with an official Basic Income. Taiwan recently had excess tax revenue and gave all citizens a one-off payment of $6000 New Taiwan dollars (£150) with the rest going to provide local government funding and improving work and health insurance systems. Many pilot programs have taken place from India to Scandinavia, with mixed results.
Norway does not have an official Basic Income, but everyone is heavily protected by the state (with free education, university healthcare and benefits if needed, as long as they seek work, don’t break the law, pay their taxes and vote). In the USA, citizens of Alaska received a couple of thousand dollars from oil and gas revenues. This was not so successful as it obviously encourages fossil fuels. However another pilot in North Carolina found that Basic Income did not deter people from finding work, and greatly improved mental health (a massive and expensive pandemic in the western world).