back to article View from a Reg reader: My take on the Basic Income

Few things are more divisive than ideas that are perceived as radical; ideas that push against what we consider to be normal, against the social or political boundaries that we have grown up and lived within. As this recent article demonstrated, when the powers that be put forward divisive ideas it doesn’t take long for the …

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IT Angle

Can't you find a different forum?

Surely there are plenty of other places on the Internet to discuss politics? I come to The Register for technology news, not this crap.

Depending upon your point of view, head over to the Guardian or the Daily Mail.

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Devil

Talking of daily mail

There's a petition here to get the Daily Mail website classified as a fake news site on Facebook.

https://www.change.org/p/facebook-get-the-daily-mail-reclassified-as-a-fake-news-website

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

Maybe you missed various recent reg articles featuring basic income?

Which would explain this article on El Reg

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recent reg articles featuring basic income?

Doesn't explain why any of them should be here.

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

If only there were some way of identifying the subject matter of an article before clicking on the link to it.

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Re: AMBxx

Try reading the title. Reg titles can be humorous, misleading and clickbaity, but this time there is no excuse. The title was clear, accurate and succinct. With a little practice you can decode even the more cryptic titles, recognise that the article/advert will be of no interest to you, turn on your television set and watch something more boring instead. The great thing about watching television is if you do not like it, instead of turning off the television you can write an angry letter to the BBC, which could be read out and ignored by commentards busy reading comments with less pointless noise.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

As long as Orlowski gets to use this as his personal soap box against wikipedia/copyright reform/climate science/delete as appropriate, I think most readers are going to be more than happy to have the occasional dissenting voice.

Besides, it's an interesting idea that would shake up the IT market as much as it would any other. Not having to work for a big corporate to be a professional open source developer would be nice. It'd radically change the economics of running low-level tech jobs (helpdesk analysts, technicians etc.) as the driving force of the minimum wage would disappear. As the prevalence and effectiveness of automation increases it's worth us thinking about.

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Re: recent reg articles featuring basic income?

{Deity} forbid that any of us should learn about the lives of other people and be exposed to ideas and opinions that differ from our own.

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

Classic attempt to ensure there's no discussion of the actual issue. Don't feed the troll.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

You mean like reading the title and taking note it's under the 'policy' section? That's hard!

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

"It'd radically change the economics of running low-level tech jobs (helpdesk analysts, technicians etc)."

Agreed, but I don't think we should miss the "other end" either, by freeing up geniuses with a cool idea to subsist on beans on toast whilst they work on what will eventually become a game changing invention.

NB: I'm trying to see it, as the author suggested, from other people's view: I'm neither "low level" tech nor a genius :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

There'd perhaps be merit in your argument, but maybe not in your wording ("this crap", ffs) if El Reg's readers had not had to put up with years of "crap" from barrow-boy Worstall, political bloggist, senior fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, and contributor to Forbes, and other well known technology journals.

But we did. And now, maybe, just maybe, it's payback time...

Anyway, these days it's hard to tell the difference between the Daily Mail and the New Guardian.

All the best, Edward (and those in similar situations). Nil illegitimorum carborundum, as they say on the Clapham omnibus.

To those not in similar situations: good luck with tomorrow, and the day after. Think about what you'd do if it happened to you or someone close to you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

"It'd radically change the economics of running low-level tech jobs (helpdesk analysts, technicians etc)."

It would totally destroy the economics of running cold calling boiler rooms. Cut off the supply of people so desperate they have to suspend their morals just to earn a basic living. With just the consciously amoral involved we might finally end them.

Which would be nice.

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

Surely there are plenty of other places on the Internet to discuss politics? I come to The Register for technology news, not this crap.

If you do not understand the issues, how do you design and code to solve them?

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

BTW - Worstall was in favour of UBI - or at least some implementations of it.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/08/worstall_i_support_the_green_party_natalie_bennett_minimum_basic_income/

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

Nobody's forcing you to read the article. Is your life really so comfortable that you have nothing better to do than complain about the content of a news site because it wanders outside of your narrow frame of reference?

If so, I'd suggest that maybe you should pay more tax...

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

>Surely there are plenty of other places on the Internet to discuss politics? I come to The Register for technology news, not this crap.

Technology is developed and applied to reduce labour, so why the hell do you think a discussion about jobs is unrelated to technology?

We have combine harvesters that allow a single person to harvest acres of cereals. We have machines that move earth and mix concrete to build shelters. We have pocket calculators that do the work that was once done by specialist human workers. This has been the case for decades. It is presumptuous to assume that technology will have no further effect on our social and economic lives as we look to the future. To refuse to consider these issues is to be wilfully ignorant.

Go away and read up on human history.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

"As long as [He] gets to use this as his personal soap box against wikipedia/copyright reform/climate science/delete as appropriate, I think most readers are going to be more than happy to have the occasional dissenting voice."

And right on cue, there's another of His entirely predictable rants today.

Also entirely predictably, unlike any other Reg contributor afaik, any comments on His articles are pre-moderated (I remember one exception to this rule in recent years).

Does He think he owns this place or what? Is He the only contributor here that doesn't have the b***s to have His contributions opened up for direct reader input?

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

To be fair any comment I have made that disagrees with his articles he has not censored, so I can live with him moderating.

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Re: Talking of daily mail

Just today, the paper apologised and paid up after being taken to court for making up lies about a muslim family. The 'journalist'? Why, Katie Hopkins, who describes herself thus:

"As columnist for the Mail Online, Katie brings her unique take on the day’s news and shares her honest views. Katie does not conform to PC convention but champions the spirit of hard working Britain."

With so many actual real islamic nutter terrorists doing the rounds, who knows why she felt it necessary to invent new ones. Maybe she's just a racist after all.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/19/mail-pays-out-150k-to-muslim-family-over-katie-hopkins-column

I bet that won't be tomorrow's front page headlines!

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

Because the whole idea of UBI is to solve the problem of what to do with all the permanently displaced workers when they are replaced by robots. Whether or not this will be an actual problem is a matter of some debate but this is a case of technology and politics colliding.

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Childcatcher

Re: Can't you find a different forum?

I believe El Reg started it by posting a highly inflammatory political piece in the first place, so it's only right and proper that they should allow a counterpoint.

Although I suspect you already knew that, but it's simply that this particular counterpoint offended your right-wing sensibilities, and it had nothing to do with the lack of tech. relevance, which you could easily have found by clicking anywhere off the page.

As to the topic at hand, yes absolutely there must be a basic income, for all the same reasons as why we needed a Welfare State in the first place: In a word, compassion, a virtue that's sadly being kicked to death by the increasingly right-wing tendencies of the society we live in.

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Re: Can't you find a different forum?

I think you miss a fundamental point. One of the drivers of the conversation around basic income is the increasing awareness of the political classes around the impact of automation and AI. Whilst it is easy to look at this as a separate topic, the fact that there are more people than the work that needs to be done, Elon hasn't found a cheap way to ship us off planet and a lack of growth in the west means that there are lots of idle hands and bribing them to STFU as is being done in Spain is a highly relevant topic.

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Re: Talking of daily mail

I was planning on doing the same for the BBC and Guardian

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Re: Talking of daily mail

"Just today, the paper apologised and paid up after being taken to court for making up lies about a muslim family."

The Daily Hate has a lot to apologise for, only apologises for a tiny fraction of the lies told in the paper and appears to have no shame whatsoever.

They have libelled:

George Cluny's in-laws

The RSPCA

Dr. Joel Hayward

Mary Honeyball MEP

David Milliband

Stefanie Powers

In fact the list of stories the Daily Hate has had to apologise for is endless. The one thing that links all the stories is that they are completely fabricated. Oddly there's one story that the Daily Heil has never felt a need to apologise for. "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!"

There's the Daily Mail "Timeline of Shame" which still captures only the surface of the lies and hate spread by this rag.

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A similar idea is negative income tax. If you earn less than the tax threshold they pay you to bring it up to that. Probably easier to administer than UBI.

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TRT
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Has to be

balanced by checks on unscrupulous employers, though. Can't be doing 40 hour weeks and earning under threshold just for the tax payer to be propping up some business owner who pays shite wages. *cough* Sports Direct.

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Those are tax credits. Not considered a resounding success, at least until now.

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Universal Credit

that was kind of the idea of UC.

The problem with the benefit system pre-UC was that it was a poverty trap. You recieve multiple benefits, calculated independently. If you earn a £ over the threshold, you get that deducted from _each_. So you are worse off.

UC was designed to solve that by deducting less than £1 for each £ you make. So you are better off for working.

That was the intent, I think it's kind of working, but the IT build out was awful and too ambitious for v1.

Basic income has the positive aspect that it would be easier to manage, you just have to prove you exist, rather than declare any income. So the integrations would be easier on the back end.

From a subject critique point of view, I sympathise with the author of this article, but I see no proof or evidence that the system as a whole should be changed based on it.

If we're going to rework the social contract so totally, then we need to have some form of evidence that the people of the UK _as a whole_ will be better off, according to whatever metric we choose, and not just one portion of the population.

If we are just improving the lot of one portion of the population, and that comes at an overall cost to everyone else, then we need a more refined approach.

So, overall, the article doesn't address the point that basic income is designed to have a general effect, like medical research looks for. Statistical means would be used to prove it, and so we need to address the problem as a statistical one.

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Anonymous Coward

There's a critical difference. A 'negative income tax' is manifested in the UK as tax credits. Earn under a threshold or fall into a certain category and the taxman pays you money. The trade-off, as with all modern benefits (except pensions and some other old age-related benefits), is that if and when you start working and earning the support disappears.

The idea behind the UBI is that you no longer have to work to live. You get the UBI regardless. You're no longer going to be slaving 70 hours at a restaurant for £350 a week while the multimillionaire proprietor takes all your tips and the state makes up the difference. You're going to be slaving for 70 hours a week for £350 a week on top of the £500 or whatever the state is furnishing you with. It gives you the power to walk away, to work for your own betterment rather than survival and fundamentally changes the relationship between employer and employee.

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Re: Universal Credit

"If we are just improving the lot of one portion of the population, and that comes at an overall cost to everyone else, then we need a more refined approach." --- David Dawson.

The statistics are pretty much irrefutable: since the heydays of 60s optimism and social mobility, we have been improving the lot of just one portion of the population: those who need it least.

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you no longer have to work to live.

Inevitably that cannot work for everyone, since then there would be no money coming in to pay us

You're no longer going to be slaving 70 hours at a restaurant for £350 a week while the multimillionaire proprietor takes all your tips and the state makes up the difference.

And that inevitably pigeonholes you as someone who thinks that all low wage earners are exploited by evil capitalists, which is not the case (nor is it's opposite, of course, reality is somwhere in the middle).

You're going to be slaving for 70 hours a week for £350 a week on top of the £500 or whatever the state is furnishing you with. It gives you the power to walk away,

Not really. Some people who are willing to work 70 hours for £350 will be so pleased to get £500 for doing nothing that they'll just put their feet up and open another beer. That will make it harder to find people willing to do those low-paid jobs, and will inevitably push up the wages in that sector. That, in turn, will push up prices and so depress sales. For industries that don't need to be local, like help desks, manufacturing, etc. it will just be another reason to offshore the work. That will export tax revenue, and make a UBI even harder to fund.

to work for your own betterment

Except that the reality is that other people will be working for your betterment, since the taxes of the people who work will be paying for your relaxed lifestyle. Many of us will want to know what we get out out of that deal. Yes, that's a self-centred point of view, but most people are self-centred.

Those people who see their taxes increasing to pay for people who choose not to work then have two choices, emigrate and take their tax money elsewhere, or elect a government that disagrees with UBI. Either way it ends in failure.

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"Not really. Some people who are willing to work 70 hours for £350 will be so pleased to get £500 for doing nothing that they'll just put their feet up and open another beer."

The evidence from trials of UBI in other countries suggests that this is not the case. people continue to work regardless. They're just happier doing so.

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"A similar idea is negative income tax. If you earn less than the tax threshold they pay you to bring it up to that. Probably easier to administer than UBI."

Maybe you're thinking of PAYE and a low-paid job. In the case of Edward making and selling stuff there wouldn't be an employer running PAYE.

But the killer in this idea is that it would involve HMRC. HMRC would ensure administration could never be simple.

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Anonymous Coward

"HMRC would ensure administration could never be simple."

The administration is made complex by the political classes, who in recent years have been dominated by the paper-pushing classes (lawyers, book-keepers, etc). And this complexity in turn is passed down to HMRC, whose book-keepers and lawyers make it even worse by outsourcing it to the same clueless idiots that have fouled up every other visible Government IT project in recorded history (there are some that work, somewhere, but they remain invisible otherwise the book-keepers etc would wreck them).

It isn't written in stone that it must always be that way.

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Pirate

The hyper rich and corporations would be the ones paying for it. After all they are the only ones with the money to do it. The benefit disproportionally from society, why shouldn’t they pay for it too? Plus there’s stuff like 3D/additive manufacturing and AI on the horizon that has the potential to put a lot of people out of work without the possibility of new jobs for even a fraction of the people who are made redundant.

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LDS
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Your wrong. The hyper rich and big corporation know very well hot not to pay for it. Just look at the huge amount of money some of them sit upon in tax havens, while not paying much taxes in the country the operate.

The middle class, or what remained of it, will pay again for such nonsense. The one who can't pay the right tax consultants, can't move money easily offshore, and don't have friends among politicians...

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Anonymous Coward

The hyper rich and corporations would be the ones paying for it.

This is the old argument, there's always someone rich that can be soaked to pay us. It never works, the "hyper rich and corporations" simply take their money & go somewhere else.

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You're no longer going to be slaving 70 hours at a restaurant for £350 a week while the multimillionaire proprietor takes all your tips and the state makes up the difference. You're going to be slaving for 70 hours a week for £350 a week on top of the £500 or whatever the state is furnishing you with

Except it won't work like that.

You might get something more like (say) £250/wk from the state. But you won't still be getting £350/wk from your 70 hour job - the flipside of a state basic income is that taxes will kick in sooner and faster on anything you do earn. It only really works if the net result is that most people are more or less about the same financially. If lots of people are significantly batter off then it's not affordable, if lots of people are significantly worse off then it's politically not going to happen.

Lets say, just for the sake of easy numbers, that the basic income was set at £10k/year. For someone currently earning (say) £15k/yr to suddenly be on £25k/yr just wouldn't work - so their tax would need to go up. Just eliminating the personal allowance wouldn't do it as that would mean paying 20% on £25k (so taking home £20k) vs paying 20% on £4k (and thus taking home £14.2k before).

So the basic rate of income tax would have to go "quite a bit" to make the books balance - and then you have the "not really poor and not really well off" middle ground at a real disadvantage.

Lets say (and yes, ignoring other taxes like NI for the sake of illustration) you tried a cost-neutral approach. Everyone gets about £2k/year basic income, but the personal allowance is cut to just £1k. Someone earning (say) £15k would currently take home £14.2k (£800 of income tax, 20% of £4k). Afterwards they take home £12,200 from the job and get another 2K from the government - £2k of tax has been added by removing the personal allowance and given back by way of basic income.

But £2k is clearly nowhere near enough to live on, so it doesn't remove the problem.

Make the basic income more than £2,200 a year and you can't offset the cost be reducing the personal allowance. So then you have to start increasing the basic rate, that hits lots of people hard, and a change that's going to hit lots of "hardworking middle englanders" disproportionately is going to be very unpopular.

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"...since the taxes of the people who work will be paying for your relaxed lifestyle."

But you, too, could put up your feet and make do on UBI. Why wouldn't you? And why are you annoyed that other people are prepared to make the compromises you won't make? Because it's thinking like that which has turned social security into regime more punishing and more impoverishing than an open prison.

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Mushroom

Of course you'd have to implement the taxes on a global level so there would be no where to hide. Except Spppppaaaaacccccceeeeeeeeeee of course.

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@SImon Hobson

If the plan is to raise the cost of UBI through taxation alone, then you're right it doesn't work. That isn't the plan though; the whole point of introducing a far simpler universal system is that you'd also save a lot in administration costs. Also, the hope we'd have a more productive society overall, and thus generate more taxes anyway. Whether either of those to benefits are feasible is something that needs to be assessed quite thoroughly though.

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But you, too, could put up your feet and make do on UBI. Why wouldn't you?

Obviously because I want better than a basic living.

And why are you annoyed that other people are prepared to make the compromises you won't make?

I'm not. I'd be annoyed if I were expected to pay for them though. It's one thing to see taxes helping people who need extra help, quite another to see them go to people who simply choose to take the easy option, knowing that "someone else" will pay for it.

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Anonymous Coward

You're forgetting about the hundreds of random benefits that could be abolished if UBI is brought in.

Adult social care, attendance allowance, bereavement allowance, bereavement benefit, carer's allowance, child benefit, cold weather payment, community care grant, council tax benefit, crisis loans, disability living allowance, employment and support allowance, funeral payments, guardian's allowance, healthy start scheme, housing benefit, in work credit, incapacity benefit, income support, invalidity benefit, job grant, jobseeker's allowance, local housing allowance, maternity allowance, mobility support, over 80's pension, pension credit, reduced earnings allowance, retirement allowance, return to work credit, school uniform allowances, statutory adoption pay, statutory maternity/paternity pay, statutory sick pay, sure start maternity grant, tax credits, training premium, travel to interview scheme, unemployability supplement, war disablement pension, war widow's pension, winter fuel payment, working tax credit...

And the tens of billions of pounds it costs to employ paper pushers and keyboard mashers to apply for, assess, grant, check up on, pay, cancel, reassess, and deal with problems with said benefits.

Get rid of EVERYTHING. Pay a UBI high enough to live no matter what your circumstances. Ignore the wails of protest from everyone currently in receipt of those benefits. Yeah, you're going to piss off the war widows with disabled carers that are losing their extra £100 a month or whatever. And the "I worked all my life for my savings so why should everyone else now be getting free money????" outrageds. Tough.

And make the corporations pay their fucking corporation tax on business activities in the UK.

Then the figures add up, and it boils down to the will to try something radical.

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>But you, too, could put up your feet and make do on UBI

Except no nice car, no nice trips, no nice foreign holidays, no restaurants, no flashy xmas presents.

The only people that will accept not working and taking a small income to get by on are those that do not have a choice because they cannot work, those that have side careers (a bit of cleaning, a bit of drug peddling, a bit of day work, a bit of 'night' work etc. - cash in hand).

Many people want more than 'enough', indeed our economy requires it. Many people, myself included, have easily enough to get by but do not need loads of extras, don't need a 'better' car, don't need an expensive phone etc.

Part of the issue with stalling western economies seems to be that more people are happy enough with what they have and do not need too much extra, added to that the longevity of vehicles and flattening of performance increases of computers in general.

I am constantly amazed by how cheap stuff can be, including, often, even good food. Automation is definitely a benefit in that way at least.

I have spent almost 20 years attempting to do less work but still work, with only some success. People ask why I didn't work for a year or why there are gaps here and there. The answer cannot be 'I am lazy' or even 'I didn't need to' because we live in a society where that is resented even if that person is not a scrounger and doesn't live high on the hog either. So, I have to make excuses or stretch CV dates, tiresome.

I know that this way is better for me and would be better if we all did less where possible, especially if the alternative is only to make more and more stuff with finite resources. Far better to save the resources to use when required instead.

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"Inevitably that cannot work for everyone, since then there would be no money coming in to pay us"

The recent article on this was predicated on the assumption that automation would give rise to mass unemployment.* The proposal there was to tax the work of the robots. This in itself might not be sufficient as the work could be off-shored to somewhere with lower tax rates. It would take more than simply taxing robotics but there could still be means to levy the necessary taxes. In those specific circumstances one could see how it might work.

*AFAIK mass unemployment in the past has been a result of economic meddling rather then mechanisation but I suppose there's always a first time.

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"Of course you'd have to implement the taxes on a global level"

Not really. Place an export tax on money. Money leaving the country bound for tax havens or off-shoring gets taxed. No need to tax the rest of the globe if you can simply tax the money headed in that direction.

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Re: Universal Credit

>If we are just improving the lot of one portion of the population, and that comes at an overall cost to everyone else, then we need a more refined approach.

I'm not sure that we are only considering one portion of the population. At the moment, lots of people have too little work, and lots of people work too much to the detriment of their health, happiness and family relationships.

Bertrand Russell made a distinction between active leisure and passive leisure. Active leisure is walking to the pub, learning a musical instrument, pottering around in your workshop, laughing with your friends, baking a cake. Passive leisure is slumping in front of the television with a glass of scotch (because the working day has left your knackered).

If nobody was allowed to do more than twenty hours work a week, we would be more likely to adopt active leisure activities - which are better for our health, happiness and relationships. Healthcare costs would be reduced. Fuel costs would be reduced, because we wouldn't be in such a rush. When we were at work, we would be approaching our tasks with greater concentration and less resentment.

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"And this complexity in turn is passed down to HMRC"

Complexity pushed down to HMRC? Where do you think it comes from?

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