Imagine that you had just purchased a lottery style scratch-card. You scratch away and slowly you reveal 3 matching symbols which means, according to the small print on the back of the card, you are a winner. Congratulations. Your prize: £1,000 per month for life, no strings attached.
Take a moment to reflect on this. What would this guaranteed £1,000 each and every month mean to you, your family, your life? What would you do with it? I bet you have all kinds of ideas running through your head.
If you are employed would you retire early? Perhaps. But consider this, although £1,000 seems a lot it probably will not be enough to allow you to live the lifestyle you want. Sure, it’ll go some way to help you pay your rent or mortgage as well as your utility and grocery bills but after those have been taken care of there likely won’t be a lot left over. You’ll get by but this probably isn’t enough.
So perhaps you decide not to retire from employment after-all. You go to work as you always had but now you get your £1,000 winnings as well as your usual monthly wage. You decide to use your winnings to take care of the bills and your wage, well, that is pocket-money now. You can do whatever you want with it. You could put some of it into a savings account or pension fund. You could save up to pay for some home improvements or a new car or holiday. Whatever it is you want it is now easier for you to get. Brilliant!
But what if you do not particularly care for the job you have. Perhaps your boss is a git. You feel you are underpaid. You think that the job you have is useless in that it really does not do anything or add anything positive to the world, your community, or society. The reason does not matter as such, just that you would prefer not to do the job. The good news is that your £1,000 guarantee means that you can quit your job and find something that you want to do without having to worry about the bills being paid. You could do that or reduce the number of hours you work!
The same goes if you happen to be unemployed too. You do not have to worry about the bills being paid and you have the power to say “NO!” to terrible jobs with poor benefits and working conditions, or low paying jobs, and so on. You no longer would have to claim welfare so you would no longer have to constantly prove that you are worthy or indeed entitled to eat and have somewhere warm to sleep at night via means testing and conditionality requirements.
Regardless of your current economic or employment status you could decide to live a simpler life if you were that way inclined. Ultimately it is your choice!
Now, what if the universe broke and everyone on the planet, or at least the people in your country, “won” this guaranteed £1,000 per month for life too? They would all have those same choice and freedoms that you have. What do you think these people would do with their winnings?
But here’s the thing, or the point of this blog.
There are advocates of something called Universal Basic Income, also known as Basic Income and Unconditional Basic Income, which is essentially a monthly payment to everyone regardless of employment status or financial situation. Recipients would be free to do whatever they want with their Basic Income. There would be no terms and conditions or means test but the general idea of Basic Income is that it would or could be used to ensure that basic needs could be met.
One of the most common objections to Basic Income is that some believe that everyone, for whatever the reason, would suddenly stop working and do so for all time. I find this argument funny because if one raising such an objection is asked “Would you stop working?” more often than not (at least in my experience) they tend to say “NO!” Their reasons? All of the above.