Basic Income in Britain already exists, we pay it to our politicians but we call it “expenses”. Some politicians choose to dip into more than others but we pay our politicians a salary for politicking and we reward them with a Basic Income for being politicians. We pay them a very generous Basic Income that far exceeds the notion of covering the basics and extends to heating their stables and cleaning the drawbridge of their castle. If Britain introduced a UBI then, I would propose, we should replace politicians’ expenses with the UBI. Ironically, some of the recipients of the highest levels of Basic Income in Britain are among the wealthiest percentage of the population, including members of the Royal family. If it’s good enough for the Queen, then it’s good enough for us.
A key aspect of UBI is its Universality. At the base level, it means that we all get the same but there are wider implications. Because UBI is paid to everyone and replaces many forms of social benefit, including pensions, the stigma of the payment is removed. Instead of people on benefits being treated with scorn and often scapegoated by politicians for failings of politicians to successfully manage our economy, that layer of social divide would not exist. Because we could all choose to pursue ‘work’ that is not monetarily based, we would begin to raise our perceptions of the value of non-monetarily rewarded work. Because ‘work’ would become something that is not corralled by age or physical restrictions, we would also begin to alter our perceptions of the value of the variety of the contributions all in society can make, helping to improve equity, access, and inclusivity. UBI would be every bit a social investment as the NHS or education.
By reordering the value of monetarily rewarded ‘work’, UBI would shift the power balance between employee and employer. When you have a society aligned with a culture of ‘competition’, as we have with neoliberalism, people lose sight of the vulnerable within their communities. A small element of that is a hardening of attitudes, a “dog eat dog” viewpoint, but mainly people become preoccupied with their own struggles because of the anxieties that a neoliberal, trickle up, monopoly economy fosters. We have less time for ourselves and less time for anyone else.
Have you ever read a story where the protagonist is immortal and thought about the things you could do if you lived forever or if you lived for a thousand years, well, imagine someone not only just extended your life by 25% but gave you those years during the period when you were youngest and most fit and able. It may seem like wishful thinking but, if you were free to choose to only work three days per week, how would you spend your other days? Do you think you would use your time constructively? Imagine what you, individually, could achieve and imagine what we, collectively, could achieve.
The reason why pay people a UBI and not just provide people with a state built lodging and food parcels is that we live in a capitalist society. UBI is not intended as some form of foundation for a communist utopia, it is merely an attempt to alleviate burdens that are created by basic needs, which our society can afford to alleviate. UBI is not intended to enslave you to state handouts, it is intended to provide you with a freedom over some fundamental aspects of all our lives, shelter, sustenance, and how we spend our time. You receive the income so that you are free to make choices over how you spend it and, in trials around the globe, that has included communities collaborating to utilise a percentage of their Basic Income to collectively invest and encourage entrepreneurial endeavours.