Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cut the working week by a third

Rutger Bregman is a 28-year-old Dutchman whose book, Utopia for Realists, has taken Holland by storm and could yet revitalise progressive thought around the globe, The Guardian reports. 

He says we should institute a universal basic income for everyone that covers minimum living expenses – say around £12,000 a year; the working week should be shortened to 15 hours; borders should be opened and migrants allowed to move wherever they choose.

Instead of attacking capitalism and post-enlightenment liberalism, Bregman celebrates its achievements. He also credits globalisation with lifting 700 million Chinese out of extreme poverty – hugely more than communism ever achieved.

“I’ve heard for three years that many of my ideas are unrealistic and unreasonable and that we can’t afford them,” Bregman says, by way of preamble to a more comprehensive reply. “And the simple answer is ‘Oh, you want to stick to the status quo? How’s that been working out?’”

He acknowledges that a genuinely universal system would involve a massive overhaul of our tax system and that it would require an enormous amount of public and political support. But you’ve got to start somewhere, is his outlook, and the best place to start is in redefining what we mean by work.

“There was a poll in the UK that showed that 37% of British workers think that their job doesn’t need to exist. Well, it’s not the bin men, and the care workers and the teachers that say that. We’re talking about consultants, bankers, accountants, lawyers etc. The implications of that are radical. We could cut the working week by a third and be just as rich. Probably richer!”

“One of the basic lessons of history,” says Bregman, “is that things can be different. The way we’ve structured our economy, our system of welfare, it’s not natural. It could be different.”


Friday, 17 February 2017

UBI will be necessary: Musk

Elon Musk shared his thoughts on universal basic income (UBI) at the World Government Summit in Dubai recently, Futurism reports.

In his comments, he relayed concerns that autonomous technology will impact jobs, and he noted that we will likely have intelligent, massive-scale automation for transportation relatively soon – within the next few decades.

“Twenty years is a short period of time to have something like 12-15 percent of the workforce be unemployed,” he said, pointing out the extent of how automation will disrupt car-based transportation specifically.

However, displacement due to automation isn’t just limited to transportation, it will sweep across a number of industries, and Musk argues that the government must introduce a UBI program in order to compensate for this.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a choice,” he said. “I think it’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”

Saturday, 11 February 2017

UBI as part of a transformative project

"Some of the most compelling arguments for a universal basic income guarantee are about freedom and solidarity: the sense that another world is possible in which our economic system is based on trust and mutual aid, enabling everyone to share in the rewards of technology," argues Sharing The World's Resources (STWR) in a talk given to the World Basic Income conference.

"Unfortunately, there is little hope that the full implementation of a basic income – sufficiently high enough to meet all people’s needs without the obligation to work – is going to be achieved in the present context of financial austerity and so-called neoliberal capitalism.

"As long as present trends continue with the marketisation and gradual deterioration of public services in most countries, any successes achieved in introducing a nation-wide basic income scheme are likely to come at the cost of comprehensive social programs that benefit the majority.

"This means that any strategy to achieve a UBI has to be part of a transformative project, one that aims to delink work from income and redirect productive capacity towards creating real value for society, while at the same time 'switching off the neoliberal privatisation machine' and bringing about a 'controlled dissolution of market forces', as the journalist Paul Mason has argued."


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Australian unionist proposes universal capital grant

Young Australians should be given a grant funded by an inheritance tax on wealthy estates to help them enter the housing market, pay university fees or start a business, argues Tim Ayres, NSW secretary of the left wing Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union.

He raised the idea in a speech to the Fabian Society about inequality and connecting with voters amid the rise of populist politicians like Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In the speech due to be given on Wednesday night, Mr Ayres – a member of the ALP national executive – offers support for French economist Thomas Pikkety's proposal for an inheritance tax "to fund a one-off capital grant for every citizen at the age of 25".

He quotes Community Council for Australia figures that say if four per cent of the 25,000 families with assets of $10 million paid a 35 per cent duty it would raise $3.5 billion "while affecting only a fraction of the top 1 per cent of Australians".

"A capital grant to young Australians would give millions of young Australians a future: they can put it to a house, they can start their own business, they can pay off their university fees," Mr Ayres says.

"A universal inheritance tax may be bold, but 2016 has taught us that business as usual isn't going to cut it and politics as usual doesn't offer the scale of policy that is required to genuinely tackle regional and intergenerational inequality."

Inheritance or death taxes are in place in countries including Britain and the US but a recognised flaw is that people may transfer wealth before their death to avoid the duty.

In his speech Mr Ayres warns of the limited appeal of progressive politics to blue collar communities, particularly in regional areas where jobs have dried up and living standards have fallen.


Death tax grants would 'give young Australians a future', union secretary says (Sydney Morning Herald)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Indian govt study backs UBI

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) will be an efficient substitute for a plethora of existing welfare schemes and subsidies, according to India's annual Economic Survey, the Hindu reports.

In a chapter ‘Universal Basic Income: A Conversation With and Within the Mahatma,’ the Survey dwelt at length on the pros and cons of introducing UBI in India before concluding that it was “a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation is ripe for serious discussion.”

The report justified the introduction of UBI citing several reasons such as promoting social justice, reducing poverty and an unconditional cash transfer that lets the beneficiary decide how she uses the money and generating employment by promoting labour flexibility since it allows “individuals to have partial or calibrated engagements with the labour market without fear of losing benefits.”

It also said the move would bring in administrative efficiency as a direct cash transfer through a JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhar-Mobile) platform would be more efficient compared to the “existing welfare schemes which are riddled with misallocation, leakages and exclusion of the poor.”

The report advocated a “target quasi-universality rate of 75%,” which would entail a cost of 4.9-4.2% of the GDP, well within the ball park of 5% of the GDP, which is what existing centrally sponsored schemes cost the exchequer.

According to Professor Guy Standing, a founding member of the Basic Income Earth Network, told Business Insider UBI trials in India had been “remarkably positive”, giving people a sense of control over their money, reducing debt and empowering women, the Independent adds.