back to article Universal basic income is a great idea, which is also why it won't happen

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) unites a strange mix of people. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said in a speech at Harvard University in May. “And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn’t free. People …

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    1. Alister Silver badge

      Communists saw human society as a "system" that could be perfected if only a small group of very clever people (themselves) could only be given absolute control over it. How did that work out again?

      To be fair, the actual root idea of communism (with a small "c") where everybody shares property, and wealth is distributed equally amongst everybody, is a valid utopian ideal.

      The way that Communism was actually implemented in those countries that espoused it was as a ruling elite with all the property and all the wealth, and the rest of the population kept in poverty.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "The way that Communism was actually implemented"

        Just, it was implemented that way anywhere, showing that the very idea is utterly flawed from the very beginning. But still people believe it could work, and that's the dangerous thing - it will end in the same, terrible way anyway.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: "The way that Communism was actually implemented"

          Just, it was implemented that way anywhere,

          It was implemented NOWHERE. NOT a single "communist" country has ever pretended to implement communism. What they pretended to was to implement "socialism" with various adjectives describing it as an interim stage towards communism.

          The mere fact that you are saying "implemented" and "communism" in one sentence means you have got way too much propaganda brainwashing and you do not actually know a single bit about the ideological drivel which was used to justify various interesting approaches in the Eastern block.

          The actual system there was a THEOCRACY. You HAD to believe in the bright future of communism. That is what the posters (this one) said and you really needed that belief, because:

          1. The communist party manifesto is an ideal to subscribe to (chunks of it are plagiarized out of the Sermon on the Mount).

          2. The first volume of the Das Capital sorta makes sense. It is an interesting take on things to say the least

          3. By the time you are at volume 3 you are in WTF land.

          4. The only way to contend with Lenin's syphilitic drivel is to fervently believe in it. It is not WTF, it is beyond WTF land - most of the arguments fail basic formal logic requirements.

          5. The stuff "built on top" of Lenin or god forbid the stuff ghost-written for Stalin or Brezhnev is totally out of the lunatic asylum. We are not talking belief here, we are talking belief at the level at which lunatics in the US mid-west believe in Rapture and/or some bearded lunatics believe in the veracity of some of the stuff attributed to Muhammed.

          6. That is why "communists" persecuted religion that much as well - a state religion in a theocracy does not tolerate any competition.

          7. I can continue here - party hierarchy (religious) in parallel to the society one, persecution of heretics, elimination of heretics (Joseph Jugashvilli style) - the list can be continued on many, many pages.

          There was NEVER communism in any society on earth. There will probably never be. There were vicious oligarchical homicidal theocracies masquerading as "socialist societies striving to become communist". That is not communism as a societal order. In any sense.

        2. JEDIDIAH
          Devil

          Re: "The way that Communism was actually implemented"

          Sure. Give the Tories absolute power. Makes perfect sense. What could possibly go wrong?

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: "The way that Communism was actually implemented"

            To be fair, wine was frequently sweetened with lead in Rome back when IIRC.

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        'To be fair, the actual root idea of communism (with a small "c") where everybody shares property, and wealth is distributed equally amongst everybody, is a valid utopian ideal.'

        No it isn't. It's valid only for people that aren't human and believe in equality of income under all circumstances.

        In the real world, you'd better believe that people need motivation to make an effort with something, particularly if that's a role that is needed by society and cannot be left to the chance that someone will spontaneously decide it's their calling.

        I don't intend to work for a second longer than I have to, and once retired will do projects that interest me, help people, but don't contribute to the fabric of our capitalistic society in the same way my current role does. The only thing stopping me doing that right now is the fact that the outlook for my pension is currently dire, despite paying in a reasonable proportion of my salary (to be fair, I am trying to retire at 55. I haven't looked in depths at the numbers recently as I don't think I'll like the answer).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Alister ...... "To be fair, the actual root idea of communism (with a small "c") where everybody shares property, and wealth is distributed equally amongst everybody, is a valid utopian ideal."

        How does that work? Say you and I pool our property and wealth then take half each. You look after your property, work hard and earn more wealth. I on the other hand trash my property, don't work and squander my wealth. Now whilst I have had a lot more fun but my wealth is considerably less than yours so it's time to redistribute thing evenly again.

        The cycle continues either till you decide it's not such a great utopian ideal and become despotic, or our property and wealth is reduced to zero and we both starve to death.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " It will destroy democracy and hand all power to a tiny ruling elite."

      You don't think we are not in that position now?

      "As a historical example, the Roman Republic introduced a universal basic income for all Roman citizens: Within a couple of decades the Republic - which was centuries old, and had become the greatest power in history - collapsed and became and Empire: Free Roman citizens became subjects of an all-powerful monarch."

      Actually more to do with an antagonistic military mindset, and allowing very rich private individuals to control and own large standing armies (certainly in the case of Julius Cesar).

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        The Roman Empire was at it's time the greatest power in history. However, it doesn't even make it into the top ten empires in terms of land occupied or people under it's rule, even allowing for the slaves.

        " It will destroy democracy and hand all power to a tiny ruling elite.

        You don't think we are not in that position now?

        Personally, I think we are about two thirds of the way there. The next hundred years will decide that one way or the other.

        I think the causes of the collapse of the Roman Republic/Empire is far more complex than can be summed up in a post on el reg. Gibbons takes six books to provide a reasonable accounting and only covers many major events with one liner explanations.

        That the Roman Republic Senators had corruption perfected to an art form beyond anything that our politicans aspire to and were far more despised than our politicans is certainly true.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The fall of the roman empire was due to them doing to much, you could ask what did they do for us.

      2. Swarthy Silver badge
        Boffin

        "As a historical example, the Roman Republic introduced a universal basic income for all Roman citizens: Within a couple of decades the Republic - which was centuries old, and had become the greatest power in history - collapsed and became and Empire: Free Roman citizens became subjects of an all-powerful monarch."

        Actually more to do with an antagonistic military mindset, and allowing very rich private individuals to control and own large standing armies (certainly in the case of Julius Cesar).

        I believe it also had to do with all of their drinking water being carried through "plumbum"(lead) and the associated heavy metal toxicity which can cause violent\aggressive behaviour, reduced intelligence, memory loss, headaches, and insomnia.

        Nero and Caligula may both have just been suffering from particularly bad lead poisoning.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I believe it also had to do with all of their drinking water being carried through "plumbum"(lead) and the associated heavy metal toxicity which can cause violent\aggressive behaviour, reduced intelligence, memory loss, headaches, and insomnia."

          This theory has been pretty well debunked, lead has been used for plumbing for centuries, certainly well into the last century, and apparently the lead content of the water it carries in pipes is not that great, and in this analysis lead poisoning was greater in later medieval periods:

          http://www.poweredbyosteons.org/2012/01/lead-poisoning-in-rome-skeletal.html

          Also you have to be careful of descriptions of the behavior of certain emperors, as in some cases you're reading the writings of political rivals or the ancient equivalent of the Sun or Daily Mail; for instance Caligula is often claimed to have made a horse a senator.... he didn't, he just said he could if he wanted to.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "lead has been used for plumbing for centuries, certainly well into the last century, and apparently the lead content of the water it carries in pipes is not that great"

            The explanation I heard was that in the past houses were not centrally heated and were occupied during the day with intermittent use of water so the water didn't sit in the pipes for long and didn't get warm there. That ensured that the concentration of lead was kept relatively low. A combination of central heating and wives going out to work reversed this so the lead levels could rise but about the same time lead piping started to be replaced by copper.

  1. beast666

    Welcome back Stalin

    When will these post-modernists realise they won't win?

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Welcome back Stalin

      >When will these post-modernists realise they won't win?

      Warning: approximate descriptions follow...

      Both modern and (what is often called) postmodern thinking are the result of the move to atheism. They both run into problems when philosophy rubs up against reality.

      Modern "Scientific" thinking says there is no purpose or reason to anything in the universe because it comes from randomness. Dawkins will tell you that. The problem is that people see their lives and their relationships and world events and instinctively know that they must have some purpose, and that "evil" is a real thing. Only a sociopath, not even Dawkins, can run his day-to-day life in harmony with the truth of a meaningless universe. There is an explicit disconnect between what is "fact" and what is "valued." Values are disconnected from reality.

      The post-modernist tries to remedy this problem of modern thinking. This came from shortly after the enlightenment (rather than being chronologically after the modern era) and was the reaction against the meaninglessness of enlightenment thinking. Rather than taking the external physical world as the starting point for truth, they take the view that the mind is what senses the physical world and therefore reality is in the mind, not the external world. Truth is therefore what we collectively agree is reality and therefore, anything which is "true" is a social construct. This thinking show up when we see "scientific consensus" being equated with "truth" (which may or may not be the reality of the situation) and also things like "gender is a social construct." The problem is that we have no way of stepping outside of our minds to test anything and therefore we've given up on, and are un-tethered from, "objective reality." Again, values are explicitly disconnected from reality.

      Once values are disconnected from reality, we get more and more irrational behavior. Logic and truth become twisted or irrelevant. Look at CNN, the BBC, the Guardian, Salon, student protests and mass shootings for evidence of this. I think Collectivists (Left and also Alt-Right) with their historical predilection for explicitly embracing secularist ideology and penchant for class (worker/capitalist; race; gender etc) warfare fall prey to this problem in a particularly identifiable manner.

      Once objective reality is disconnected from values, narrative and perspectives become paramount. Everything is viewed through a very limited lens leading to a warping of common sense. Yelling at the sky becomes a thing. Denying Trump is your president is a thing. Race warfare by any means necessary becomes a thing. Denying that Socialism ends in human catastrophe, becomes a thing. This isn't to say the Right doesn't have its problems - it is just that the Left has gone full-lunatic first.

      1. beast666

        Re: Welcome back Stalin

        Well said Mr Lee. Pay attention and speak truth.

        I'm off to clean my room and sort myself out. ;-)

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Welcome back Stalin

        You are confusing the evolved innate tendency for humans to believe in agency, with the necessity of that agency existing. You then throw in a mix of the misguided idea that belief in some agency is a prerequisite for moral behaviour (which is neatly disproved by the observation that atheists give more to charity than people ho identify themselves as religious).

        Basically, you start from the position that the universe is inherently meaningful, then argue for that position by claiming that anything else is a sign of sociopathy.

        You should probably take a look Here, tick off the pitfalls you have fallen into, re-examine your arguments, and start again.

        1. beast666

          Re: Welcome back Stalin

          You are confused and neatly disproved by the observation that ideas like the UBI lead to 100 million deaths in the 20th century.

          I start from the position that human suffering is universal and each of us can find meaning if we orient ourselves in the world correctly by paying attention and speaking truth.

          Atheists and post-modernists lack the intellectual depth to recognise this orientation even exists and are so doomed to following discredited ideologies of dead men. They are incomplete people.

  2. Nosher
    Big Brother

    Can technologists see the future more clearly?

    I would say that technologists have a patchy record at future-gazing at best, with Adam Osborne (of Osborne 1 fame) predicting in 1979 that 50% of jobs would be lost over the following 25 years, or Alvin Toffler suggesting that computers would enhance our mind power. I don't see much of that in the tabloid race to the bottom or a world of uncritically-accepted fake news on Facebook. Even the legendary Dr. Christopher Evans suggested that computers would remove drudgery, increase prosperity (for all, not just a few) and iron out intellectual differences between all people

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great idea, pity

    Like proportional representation UBI is a great idea, but certainly the UK would be among the last countries (together with the US) to adopt it.

    The problem is the "money for nothing" aspect which will jar with the right wingers, and the older community in both countries, as to whether we need it it depends on the pace of technology in all it's forms replacing humans in jobs (doesn't have to necessarily be any kind of artificial intelligence, the automated till that sold me snacks in the local mini market this morning definitely doesn't think, but definitely replaced a cashiers job).

    We have long dreamed of robots doing all the work so we could enjoy a life of leisure, but the reality is something people shy away from, we have a hideously unequal economic system but we are more outraged by someone scrounging benefits than someone, or some company, moving billions offshore to some tax haven :

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/15/benefit-scroungers-billions-rich-paradise-papers-tax-avoidance

    The problem will be for capitalism to sort out, companies overriding principle is to create money and cut costs, if it becomes viable to reduce payroll to near zero companies will do it, this would not be so bad if they paid tax fairly but at present they are not and they seem to have the politicians pretty well on their side.

    If we ever get to a state of advanced automation where most people don't have a job I think some kind of UBI will become forced on the commercial world in order to keep people buying, if they don't then the rate of failures will increase as profits fall, therefore to maintain the status quo we will need some kind of socialism for the rest of us, the alternative would probably be something approaching the French revolution, if those in control follow the "Let them eat cake" option (which is why some of these super rich internet moguls are so interested in UBI).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great idea, pity

      "The problem is the "money for nothing" aspect which will jar with the right wingers, and the older community in both countries"

      Wrong. The problem is the "complete dependency on the state for your income, for more and more people over time, and the subversion of democracy that this would entail" aspect, which will jar with anyone with a bit of intelligence who thinks about it for a few seconds.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great idea, pity

        ""complete dependency on the state for your income, for more and more people over time"

        And who said that is anything to do with UBI?, where this has been tried before in places like Canada it has given people time to follow pursuits which they have used to earn money,and develop businesses, nobody is saying because you get UBI that you are forbidden from making money in other ways, or having a job too, that's kind of the point.

        The thing is it provides everyone with a basic level of income to ensure people don't starve, and in doing so removes the cost of large and bureaucratic systems to administer "benefits". People who think this is just paying people "to do nothing" have fundamentally misunderstood the concept because of their own prejudices.

      2. PapaD

        Re: Great idea, pity

        And yet, in places where they have actually trialled UBI, they have found that almost everyone involved used the income to improve their own situation, either by education, or by spending.

        Getting £400 a month on UBI for a working age individual isn't going to give you an easy life - however, continuing to get £400 a month even if you are employed is going to encourage those who want to live on more than the bare minimum to actually seek employment.

        The whole point of UBI doesn't seem to be to give everyone a cushy wage so that there is little to no incentive to work, but rather to give everyone (employed or unemployed) a small amount of income based on the wealth of the nation. An amount that will allow them to improve their lives, buy things they otherwise couldn't, or even work a little less and enjoy life a little more.

        Doing so actually improves the economy, because contrary to the belief in trickle down economics, what actually improves an economy is having more people spending small amounts of money, rather than extremely rich people hoarding extreme amounts of money.

        All done in a way that reduces government spend (by decreasing bureaucracy), reduces the need for fraud investigation into tiny amounts of money (if all benefit fraud occurring right now stopped, the amount recovered would be a fraction of the amount that could be reclaimed by focusing on big tax avoiders)

        If done right, UBI could greatly improve society, provide a decent safety net for most, and encourage spending amongst everyone else.

        What could you do with an extra £400 a month - pretty sure you wouldn't give up your job for it, because even minimum wage is nearly three times that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great idea, pity

          "All done in a way that reduces government spend (by decreasing bureaucracy), reduces the need for fraud investigation into tiny amounts of money (if all benefit fraud occurring right now stopped, the amount recovered would be a fraction of the amount that could be reclaimed by focusing on big tax avoiders)"

          It won't reduce government spend, it will massively increase it. Your maths is very faulty.

          If UBI is set high enough to actually live on - a lot more than £400 a month - it will be massively more expensive than current benefit spending.

          If it is not set that high, then you won't be able to eliminate other benefits: We will still need to have housing benefit, disability benefit, pensions, unemployment benefit, child benefit.

          So all the bureaucracy would remain, and the fraud.

          Yet another miracle cure for all the problems in society that turns out to fail, once you think it through for a minute.

          1. PapaD

            Re: Great idea, pity

            Pretty much every time i've seen a reasonable UBI proposal, the amount has always been in line with current benefits (pensions, child benefits and unemployment)

            No-one has suggested UBI be set to be enough to live on, its always been a 'safety net' of a small amount. Sure, in the far future where all work is done by robots, we may have to look at a UBI of a level enough to live on, just so that the companies can make profit by selling things to people.

            But what is being proposed these days is a replacement for most of the current welfare benefits (which does mean unemployment, pensions, child benefit will all go) - all that will remain will be a top up for disability and housing. The rest is removed by the UBI

            Btw, getting £100 a week per adult, and £50 a week per child is more than you would get on unemployment in the UK, and more than you would get for child benefit in the current setup.

            In all honesty, if you dropped it to £75 a week for a working age adult, and £35 per child, (£150 for a pensioner) the costs would be in line with current UK welfare provisions, but with reduced administration costs

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Great idea, pity

            "If UBI is set high enough to actually live on - a lot more than £400 a month "

            Actually you can (living very very basically, you could at least feed and clothe yourself, if you don't mind sleeping in charity hostels), but it does show the UK economy, particularly in the South, is ridiculously distorted and overpriced, especially in regards to accommodation.

            The reason people come here to pick fruit or work in factories for very little money is largely due to the fact that Pounds Sterling in their home countries is worth a lot more, the question of whether it stays that way is open to doubt given our current economic performance, and the eye watering levels of debt, the UK (public and private) economy is pretty much on a knife edge and could well reset in the next few years, especially if property collapses (accommodation being the highest cost most people have).

            If we suddenly see higher interest rates this could well happen (having had a mortgage when rates where at 15%, I remember the majority of the houses on the new estate where I lived suddenly became empty with lots of possession notices in the windows, and prices went way down, never say never, it's happened before!!)

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Great idea, pity

            "If UBI is set high enough to actually live on - a lot more than £400 a month - it will be massively more expensive than current benefit spending."

            Outside of London, you can rent a room in a flat share for £200/month including bills, even less if you look up north.

            I can live on £200/month for food & clothing, my family of 5 spends less than £1k/month on food & clothing, so that is £200 a person, and I we are not really careful at all with food/clothing spending..

            If the government was to invest in building high rise buildings for social housing, the costs could be even less for housing and more importantly if it was done right it would provide good quality housing.

            But the key thing is you get the UBI no matter what you do, so it costs next to nothing to administer, if your eligable you register once and then you get it forever, no need to check anything afterwards except to ensure the person isn't dead each year and when you reach 16 switch the management of the money to the new adult.

        2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Great idea, pity

          @PapaD "What could you do with an extra £400 a month - pretty sure you wouldn't give up your job for it, because even minimum wage is nearly three times that."

          An average salary pays more than that in tax,... so I'm a little confused, is this £400 a tax break? If we are giving working people tax breaks, where do we get the cash to pay those that aren't working £400?

          Just where does the money come from please?

          1. PapaD

            Re: Great idea, pity

            Current welfare costs in the UK are about £253 billion a year - that's where most of this comes from - the universal income, set at £150 for pensioners, £100 for working age adults and £50 per child, would cost around 49% of the UK's income from tax. The current welfare provisions cost about 33%, so it would be more expensive - however the majority of that 315billion that it would cost would actually get spent and would circulate back to the government, increasing the annual tax income by some.

            You could reduce the UBI cost to around the same as the current welfare provisions by reducing the amount - this is why people suggest that the amount would need to be calculated based on the current economy - the richer the country was, the more would be paid to everyone

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Great idea, pity

              "the universal income, set at £150 for pensioners, £100 for working age adults and £50 per child, would cost around 49% of the UK's income from tax."

              So UBI would cost half of all current tax income, and still wouldn't be high enough to live on, so we would need to keep other benefits?

              I guess that's put the issue to bed then.

              "however the majority of that 315billion that it would cost would actually get spent and would circulate back to the government, increasing the annual tax income by some."

              Oh right, the whole thing is dependent on left-wing economic theory: The government can always afford to spend more money, because it would all simply come back to the government in higher taxes. Funny, that has never worked in practice either.

              " people suggest that the amount would need to be calculated based on the current economy - the richer the country was, the more would be paid to everyone"

              And when the country got poorer?

              What political party would ever campaign to reduce the payment - and what is the chance of them winning an election?

            2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

              Re: Great idea, pity

              "would cost around 49% of the UK's income from tax."

              So we cap the benefits of the disabled at £400 a month, and give perfectly healthy people in work a tax break, and lose money overall.

              Sorry, I still don't get how this is supposed to work.

      3. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: Great idea, pity

        >The problem is the "complete dependency on the state"

        Given that most people would want more than the UBI I'm not sure how many would be completely dependent on the state and I'm not sure it would be too much of a problem for democracy if they were.

        It would be difficult for a party that wanted to abolish it to be elected unless it was detrimental to more people than it helped but that would just mean those standing for election would have to differentiate themselves in other ways - the arguments about how best to run an economy would not change particularly.

        If you consider UBI as dividends on shares in UK plc to which all citizens are entitled then all will still want the country to do well and most will seek to take advantage on the extra opportunities it offers.

        If you set the UBI fund apart from government with established rules for distribution and a ring-fenced proportion of GDP then it doesn't offer much scope for subversion of democracy as we know it - certainly less than the NHS currently does.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    UBI will come - soon

    The principle is very easy to understand. Assume I have a factory that can make electric toasters for £5 each, staffed entirely by robots, with distribution by driverless lorries. I have no staff. If every other factory works the same way, then none of us have any customers for our cheap toasters, as no-one has any income. Result - unsold toaster mountain.

    UBI is just a simple and cheap mechanism to ensure that all in a society benefit from the advances of technology. As a society we've steadily mechanised, and as a result productivity has increased, so that we won the fight for a 40-hour week. No-one should now be doing 12 hour days, six days a week. This is just taking it to the next logical stage.

    A key feature of UBI is that it is very basic. Enough for food, clothing, shelter and not much more. If people want more, then they work - but not 40 hours a week. For every pound they earn they will pay some tax, but they will also keep some of it. Goodbye benefits trap. For people who cannot work they will continue to receive some benefits. Pensioners will receive some pension (which they have paid for and earned).

    It can and will work. But the vested interests fighting it will be as hard to overcome as Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: UBI will come - soon

      and if it DOES come, say goodbye to your economy. "the masses" will end up with mediocrity, and "the ruling elite" will always have "theirs". Separate the haves and have-nots by guaranteeing UBI and you'll keep all of those upstarts (who otherwise WOULD work harder to get ahead) "in their place".

      But why is that?

      Because, in order to PAY for it, you'll have to tax incomes at the worst possible 'progressive' rate. but "the rich" are ALREADY rich. You're heavily taxing people trying to BECOME rich. So you're heavily taxing those who have the POTENTIAL of being rich, but you're taking that opportunity away from them with the high marginal tax rates. And so they say "why the HELL should _I_ slave myself and get NOTHING in return?" So they stop working so hard, as it's POINTLESS. And so on.

      And "the rich" get RICHER, because they ALWAYS do, and the poor get POORER, because, UBI.

      See?

      1. Thesheep

        Re: UBI will come - soon

        YOU seem to have an INTERMITTENT problem with your CAPS LOCK key. And also YOUR logic.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: UBI will come - soon

      "But the vested interests fighting it will be as hard to overcome as Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma."

      Given your initial proposition - a completely automated factory with nobody with income to buy its products - why would they fight it? As you describe it it would be in their interests.

      But what you didn't address is where does the money come from to pay the UBI so the toasters can be sold?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UBI will come - soon

      "Assume I have a factory that can make electric toasters for £5 each, staffed entirely by robots, with distribution by driverless lorries. I have no staff. If every other factory works the same way, then none of us have any customers for our cheap toasters, as no-one has any income. Result - unsold toaster mountain."

      In what way does making an assumption about a situation that does not exist anywhere, and never has existed, help make good decisions about economic policy?

      "UBI is just a simple and cheap mechanism"

      Except not remotely cheap.

      "A key feature of UBI is that it is very basic. Enough for food, clothing, shelter and not much more. If people want more, then they work - but not 40 hours a week. For every pound they earn they will pay some tax, but they will also keep some of it."

      Your maths isn't very good.

      How much is just enough to live on? £800 a month at least?

      So how much is the someone going to have to earn - working less than 40 hours a week, just doing the hours they feel like, and paying significantly less that 100% tax - to cover that £800?

      And that's just paying their own UBI, what about all the other people not in the workforce whose UBI they will have to cover?

      On top of all the other things our takes are still going to have to pay for - police, schools, fixing the roads, defense etc, etc.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    “A low UBI would leave in place means-tested benefits, but it could take a lot of households off various means-tested benefits and because the administrative cost of UBI would be very small the net effect would be a reduction in administrative costs,” [My emphasis]

    Does he really believe that? As long as there were any means-tested benefits the entire administrative apparatus would still be in place. It's just the way things are done.

  6. lidgaca

    Elephant in the room ...

    Nobody has mentioned immigration ... This has been a contentious enough issue during the past few EU years. How would we possibly be able to police our borders if it becomes known that Britain = Free Beer for life ?

    1. Julz

      Re: Elephant in the room ...

      UBI would apply only to citizens. I guess any saving in welfare bureaucracy would be made up in Home Office incompetence. Oh well...

  7. rmason Silver badge

    It works..

    It works in star trek because they can magic anything they need from thin air,and will have a similarly "tech related" solution for any other fictional issue.

    We can't magic things out of the air, neither do we have robots or computers that can fill every job role this would effect.

    Thus we still need shelves stacked, fast food cooked, reasonably priced alcohol brewed, mess cleared up, the elderly cared for, or any other job we don't yet have a robot for.

    If this happens how much do you think we'd have to pay such roles to fill them?

    1. PapaD

      Re: It works..

      "If this happens how much do you think we'd have to pay such roles to fill them?"

      About the same as we'd pay them now, minimum wage - or do you think people will give up nearly £1200 a month (before tax) to be paid £400 a month (before tax)?

      How much UBI do people opposed to it think everyone would be getting?

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: It works..

        @PapaD "£400 a month (before tax)?"

        Sorry, recipients of UBI pay tax now? I think you just invented a perpetual cash machine, where tax on tax makes more money than is put into the initial system,.....

        1. PapaD

          Re: It works..

          Of course they pay tax on it - of course, if all they are earning is the UBI, then they have a tax bill of zero (cos £4800 a year is less than the £12k or so a year that is the minimum for paying tax)

          If, however, they are already earning £35k a year, then the extra £4800 will be taxed as any other income.

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            Re: It works..

            "Of course they pay tax on it",... why give it to them in the first place? This is just admin overhead. The earning limit already solves this for those in work, you've just added a third wheel.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: It works..

      We don't have magic replicators, but we do have big combine harvesters. We're approaching the point - and have been since the invention of the plough - where it's available land mass that dictate our resources, not human labour.

      That's why we have so many jobs - coders, market researchers, interior decorators - that aren't directly tied to feeding us.

      1. Tom Graham

        Re: It works..

        "We don't have magic replicators, but we do have big combine harvesters. We're approaching the point - and have been since the invention of the plough - where it's available land mass that dictate our resources, not human labour."

        We are not remotely approaching the point where everyone can have everything they want without anyone having to work - where no-one has to do shitty jobs like stacking shelves, wiping the arses of senile geriatrics or scraping fatbergs off the walls of sewers. Who exactly is going to do these jobs if they can live on a handout from the state?

        "That's why we have so many jobs - coders, market researchers, interior decorators - that aren't directly tied to feeding us."

        You mean how jobs still exist even though technology was supposed to destroy all of them?

        How people keep on finding new jobs to do, even though machines plough our fields, work our production lines and route or telephone calls?

    3. beast666

      Re: It works..

      Star Trek relies on almost limitless cheap energy.

      The post-modernists would have us all use 18th century tech windmills to sometimes provide limited expensive energy.

      Let that sink in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It works..

        @beast666 "The post-modernists would have us all use 18th century tech windmills to sometimes provide limited expensive energy. Let that sink in."

        Ahh, I see you've been on UBI for some time, your idiocracy has begun to settle in nicely, well done, you deserve some well earned couch time.

    4. Aoyagi Aichou

      Re: It works..

      The near-communism of Star Trek works because of seemingly infinite energy resources, i.e. almost a complete lack of scarcity. Until that point is reached, systems like UBI are going to help a few, but will be abused by many, especially those coming from "developing" countries. In fact, I'm not sure if I could resist such proposal (i.e. live a medicore life with no luxuries and play videogames, watch Netflix, or do whatever else I want all day) myself, being a lazy tw*t.

      "Who exactly is going to do these jobs if they can live on a handout from the state?"

      The Klingons, of course. It's only for their own good.

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