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Universal Basic Income

January 19th, 2017

This week's big new story is Oxfam's report on how the eight people own same wealth as half the world. Last year it was 62 people! The principle of 'Universal Basic Income' appears to be the idea that appears to be able to provide a workable solution against widespread poverty especially in countries where the 'extended family' support structures, important in poorer societies, have been eroded over the recent past generations.

Handing over credit card Known by several other names such as unconditional basic income, citizen's income, basic income guarantee, the principle idea is that all citizens or residents regularly receive an unconditional sum of money as a form of social security. The mechanics of each scheme may be different, for example, negative tax rates, but the aim is that each person/family has enough income to maintain a minimum standard of living.

With the rapid disappearance of many types of jobs many of which are never to return, a fact that US President-Elect Trump will have to deal with soon after his election promises, it is difficult to see evidence that these disappearing jobs are being replaced. Many of the new jobs do not require the sort of workforce numbers previously required and so unemployment is likely to increase to substantial levels in the future. With unemployment comes poverty especially in societies where family structures have been eroded by modern living.

Growing poverty is a threat to society. It one of the most likely reasons for future social unrest – the kind that could blow up into another 'French Revolution' and is the reason why the idea continues to be considered.

The Swiss became the first nation to formally contemplate the idea in a referendum on the 5th June, 2016 in which one of the issues was what was called Unconditional Base Income. The referendum included the issue following a Swiss Citizen's Initiative that gathered over 100,000 signatures. No payment amounts were suggested in the referendum, just the idea, and the vote was lost when only 23% of electorate approved.

Prior to the Swiss referendum and since then there have been several experiments including one in Pakistan funded by the UK and the subject of a controversial news story in January after it was described as "exporting the dole" by a senior Tory MP. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) gives just over £10 a month to some of the poorest families in a country where millions live on less than £1 a day.

The BISP scheme is not really 'Universal' and all the pilots or experiments have been more about Basic Income for the poorest in society. Around the world, several schemes have been run or are still running in places such as Namibia, Uganda, Brazil (2) and India. In the late 60s in the United States, there were several basic income-experiments all in the form of a negative income tax. On December 14, 2016 the Finnish Parliament passed the act authorizing an experiment of basic income beginning January 1, 2017.

Like the Swiss, it would appear that some countries are not ready to consider Basic Income proposals yet, for example, the Dutch 'committee for citizens' initiatives decided against allowing Parliament to discuss the proposal on December 15th 2016. However initiatives are constantly being founded such as Austria's "Generation Grundeinkommen" touted to be launched on 19th January, 2017.

An example of a working universal income scheme, though nowhere near the basic living standard paying only $2,072.00 in 2015, is the Alaska Permanent Fund which was created in 1976. The dividend pays a partial basic income to all its residents via the Permanent Fund Dividend [PFD] and is paid to nearly every Alaska residents that have lived within the state for a full calendar.

If you have doubts about the growing 'poverty' problem, a quick search on youtube will reveal hundreds of videos showcasing the issue in both the US and in Britain.