Monday, 11 January 2016

Reader's Letter Of The Day, and...

DBC Reed alerts us to some pro-Citizen's Income letters in The Guardian, best of which was this:

… In order to pay for basic income, the most logical change to the taxation system would be the introduction of a land tax, the effect of which would be to reduce property prices and, in conjunction with basic income, stimulate the economy by putting more money into circulation. The net result would reduce inequality and have a negative effect on the income of rentier landlords who would undoubtedly see the measures as an attack on capitalism itself: yet another good reason to make it happen.

Bert Schouwenburg, International officer, GMB

The next letter provides a totally bizarre Killer Argument Against Citizen's Income, Not:

I think most Guardian readers would be instinctively drawn to the idea of the universal basic income as a signifier of a return to universal welfare, but we should be careful what we wish for. Charles Murray, arch champion of neo-liberal reform of the state, has been arguing for this for years as a means of eliminating forever the welfare state.

Karen West, Aston University

Dude WTF.

So the socialists say that people like Charles Murray wants to "eliminate forever the welfare state". A Citizen's Income is merely a radical simplification of the "welfare state", altho' it would get rid of most of the apparatus of the welfare state, i.e. most of the hundreds of thousands of civil servants working for the DWP and housing departments, plenty more at HMRC and so on. Perhaps that's what she means..?

(As an aside, I was at a Citizen's Income Trust shindig last year, and both Natalie Bennett and John McDonnell spoke in favour of it. Are they also "neo-liberal"? Sticking "neo-" in front of something to make it sound conspiratorial and evil is usually a sign that somebody has nothing to contribute.)

I've heard just as many authoritarians/right wingers complain that a Citizen's Income is some evil, neo-socialist stalking horse.

I have pointed out many a time that there are some overlaps between non-socialist left and libertarian right, and pretty much everything I support is exactly in that overlap. If done sensibly, a Citizen's Income would not be significantly more or less redistributive than the current welfare system and all the tax breaks it could replace, it's not really a political thing at all.

Can't these opponents on left and right agree between themselves whether it is a wicked far right idea or a wicked far left idea, and then we can then take on the winner?


Sean Vosper said...

Excellent points - I don't think that it would ever get off the ground though:

What happens with Housing Benefit?
Is Child Benefit going to be the same amount as an adult?
Are we really going to pay zillionaires this?
What happens in the macro economy? I mean in short does the 99p shop become a £1.99 shop.
It nets out at what - £20k say. I mean are we really saving money on admin that wouldn't be lost paying people and then taxing them. Is it not simpler to set the personal allowance at £20k. I think the simplicity argument is so appealing because our govt is so breathtakingly bad at doing means-testing, etc. efficiently. Look at Singapore they've got all sorts of bureaucracy going on but they do it properly not all half-done and papered over like us.
Also, shouldn't disability be much more targeted based on individual need and circumstances rather than one payment fits all.(Not specifically a criticism of BI to be fair)
Hate to sound like an old Tory but what if people really did decide to quit work en masse.

Sorry to be negative - I too can see the enormous appeal of simplicity. And further sorry to be partisan but the Left want it as an additional benefit not a replacement. They want it "constitutionalised" as an entitlement for every citizen. An entitlement has to have a corresponding obligation. You can only pay this if someone generates a surplus somewhere.

Just to be clear I would vote for a Corbyn Labour Party in a second if they credibly promised to introduce LVT.

We have to keep thinking about the question of why so many people simply seem unable to earn a market wage to provide a decent life. The top maybe 20% are just pulling away at an astonishing rate - and I somehow sense that this may not end well.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SV, do you seriously think we haven't considered all these points.

The answers are all here.

HB is a separate topic, but if you look at actual numbers etc, the answer quickly becomes clear.

For clarity - of course zillionaires receive the Citizen's Income, the same as they - or anybody else - get the right to vote, the right to use public roads or libraries, the same as everybody else.

Lola said...

The Left and the Right are never going to agree with any of this. Why? Because it's all about power. Or in your terms Indian Bicycle Marketing. They are all 'O'Briens. (

The GMB blokey hasn't got a clue either. He thinks 'land' is 'capital'. Prat.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, the gmb guy said nothing of the sort. He juxtaposed "rentier landlords" and "capitalism" as different things. He appears to be pro-consumption hence pro-capitalism. I think.

Lola said...

MW Oops Speed Reading failure...

Lola said...

MW Mind you I still don't agree with the GMB blokey wholly - "stimulate the economy by putting more money into circulation"

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, I agree, that bit is deeply flawed but he ends with the right answer - transfer money from landowners to consumers and thence to producers (and thence, presumably) to worked and investors. It's all good.

Lola said...

MW Indeed