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 …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge
    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.

    1. Aqua Marina
      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

      1. smartypants

        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!

        1. Lotaresco

          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.

      2. evilhippo

        Re: Talking of daily mail

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

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      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

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        recent reg articles featuring basic income?

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

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          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.

        2. frank ly Silver badge

          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.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Robin

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        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 :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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?

        1. Triggerfish

          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.

    5. sabroni Silver badge

      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.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. xeroks

        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/

    7. Triggerfish

      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?

    8. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      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...

    9. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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.

    10. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      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.

    11. Oh Homer
      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.

    12. well meaning but ultimately self defeating

      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.

  2. wiggers

    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.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      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.

      1. Chris Wicks 1

        Re: Has to be

        My understanding of the theory is that if people are getting the UBI, they won't be so desperate that they need to do the awful job for shite wages - so Sports Direct's supply would dry up unless they paid better.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

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

    3. David Dawson

      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.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        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.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        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.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        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.

        1. munkiepus

          "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.

        2. James 51 Silver badge
          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.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            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...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. James 51 Silver badge
              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.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                "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.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  "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."

                  Kinda sorta happens already, but not very well enforced, and as always the globocorps have a way around it e.g. Apple borrowing billions of $ in the USA to pay dividends and other US expenses, so that the matching $Billions in overseas earnings don't have to be repatriated back to the US (where they'd get taxed). See also: GE, Pfizer, etc

                  See also e.g. the "reverse takeovers" involving e.g. ADT/Tyco, AstraZeneca/Pfizer, and so on.

                  https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2014-04-28/why-apple-has-to-borrow-17-billion

                  [...]

                  A year ago, the Wall Street Journal calculated that 60 large U.S. companies, each of which held at least $5 billion offshore in 2011, piled up $166 billion of cash overseas in 2012. GE and Pfizer were at the top of that list. Microsoft, which is acquiring the mobile handset business of Finland's Nokia, was third. That makes it logical to expect large non-U.S. takeover bids from Merck and Johnson & Johnson, fourth and fifth on the list, respectively.

                  Bloomberg News puts the amount accumulated by multinationals outside the U.S. at $1.95 trillion, up 11.8 percent from a year ago. Moody's, the credit rating agency, has a lower estimate of a mere $947 billion. That money is burning holes in companies' pockets and spurring mergers and acquisitions activity at levels unseen since before the financial crisis. The global M&A market has reached $1.2 trillion in the year to date, with 47 percent of transactions coming in cash.

                2. evilhippo

                  Excellent way to ensure no over-seas money get involved in any UK based investments. And also a great way to ensure investors in UK keep their money well away from the Sceptred Isles & safely overseas, never to touch these shores if they want to invest in various things and would rather not get taxes for just moving the money.

                  People who have a lot of money are almost as mobile as their money: if you make it expensive for them to move that money, they will either move it before the law gets imposed, and then probably move themselves as well. And good luck implementing such a tax at a global level as the places that do not reap huge benefits for avoiding such foolishness. Merchantalism was cutting edge thinking in the 16th century, but now it suggests a breathtaking lack of understanding how modern wealth creation actually works..

                3. WolfFan Silver badge

                  Re Dr. Syntax

                  Placing an export tax on money does not work. It's been tried, many times. What it does is to massively encourage means of smuggling money out. In particular it tends to ensure that those who have money keep as much of it as far away from any government which even looks as though it might start something of the kind. Unless a government can have the co-operation of other governments, the money will move. Example: during the 1970s, the government of Jamaica placed numerous restrictions on private citizens use and possesion of 'foreign echange', i.e. US dollars, British pounds, etc. Special permission, granted only to those who knew someone important, was required to legally possess more than US$55 or equivalent in pounds per year in actual cash. It was illegal to have an account in a foreign bank. However, unfortunately for the government, substantial qunatities of cash departed the island prior to the law being enacted, and were placed in banks in Cayman and the Turks & Caicos and Miami and New York and London, none of whom reported a damn thing to the Jamaican government. After the law was enacted, people went to considerable extremes to swap their useless Jamaican money for useful American (mostly) money and smuggled it out in literal ton lots. Remember, around that time was when the export of a certain green leafy vegetable product and the import for re-export of a certain white crystaline powdery product was hitting its stride. There were lots of aircraft and boats making unscheduled nighttime departures from the island. There was lots of space for a few bundles of cash on the outbound aircraft and boats. And then there were the officially departing aircraft and marine vessels; a lot of Customs men were suddenly in a position to purchase substantial houses up in the hills. And the government had a whole lot less cash than they'd thought they'd have. And the exchange rate started its free-fall, from US$2 to Ja$1 then, to the current US$1 to Ja$106.

                  Nor was the Jamaican government the only, or the first, to try this. The Nazis tried, hard, to restrict the flow of 'Jewish money', with limited effect. One reason why they started the war in 1939 was that they were running low on cash. Bills, notably money owed to France, Germany's biggest trading partner (no, not Treaty of Versilles stuff, though that didn't help) were coming due and the cash wasn't there, having been spent on nice shiny guns. So they elminated the debt by eliminating the creditor.

                  By all means try it. Maybe it'll work this time. Probably not, though.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Maybe it'll work this time

                    "By all means try it. Maybe it'll work this time."

                    If we are to have restrictions on the free movement of people and the free movement of goods, can you explain why the free movement of money should not be similarly restricted?

                    In the times you write about, money was rather more than numbers in a computer. There was even a 'gold standard' in much of those times; real money with real physical backing. Things were different then in various ways.

                    During those times there were very few super-rich individuals or super-rich corporates, but some of those lucky enough to have a bit of spare dosh did sometimes find themselves able to hide some of it beyond reach. It was small fry in comparison to the anounts involved in today's super-rich individuals and super-rich multinational corporates.

                    These days, money is little more than magick in a computer, with nothing real to back it up. Computers in central banks can print more money on demand, no need for gold to be bought to back it up.

                    Alongside that, significantly large computerised financial transactions can be and are tracked. Significantly large cash transactions stick out a mile.

                    Unexpectedly large transactions are now supposed to be accounted for (the so-called "anti money laundering" regulations currently so popular with customers of major financial institutions, not just in the UK but in many parts of the world).

                    Times have changed. What didn't work a few decades ago could be made to work now, if the politicians were prepared to make it happen. I'm not holding my breath.

        3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          "...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.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            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.

            1. Triggerfish

              @Philosophical

              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.

              I doubt you are unaware, but there is a subset of claimants who are like that anyway, one thing said to a colleauge when I worked on housing benefits was from a middle aged woman who told him she admired him for going out and working and things like that, she never wanted to and had never ever looked for a job once leaving school, had a couple of kids, lived in a council house, it was all good. Rather annoying when I was working temp wages because being unemployed was not how I was brought up to be.

              We used to estimate about 5% max of the claimants were taking the piss in one way or another (note not just by not working, you had people buying hoses and renting them to friends so they could claim stuff like that as well), or frankly are just useless.

              I think you are always going to get some who don't give a shit, the downside of having a more compassionate society is there are always those who will take some advantage of it. I'd like to think the upside is though that for some people getting a better basic income could make all the difference in improving their lives because conversly I know people who were made homeless at 15 and managed to get their lives to a state were they were working in a decent full time job.

          2. cambsukguy

            >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.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "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.

        5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          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.

          "

          In most cases it will replace the human unskilled worker with technology. In many cases the technology exists already, but the employer has no incentive to make the necessary capital investment in equipment while he can get a few immigrants to work for next to nothing. In other cases it will create a market so that the tech companies have an incentive to develop the necessary technology.

          The former unskilled labourer will be free to do things that may or may not make any money, and some of those will end up doing very worthwhile work that they actually want to do.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            In most cases it will replace the human unskilled worker with technology. In many cases the technology exists already, but the employer has no incentive to make the necessary capital investment in equipment while he can get a few immigrants to work for next to nothing.

            That's the attitude of the mill owners in the 18thC. Why have expensive workers at weaving looms just banging a shuttle back & forth all day when you could mechanise the whole process.

            Did that lead to those redundant weavers having lots of leisure time while the machines did the work? No, of course not. It led to the jobs being exported to,places with cheap power, and a whole new class of even less-skilled workers (often children) being created to perform the menial tasks of looking after the machines.

            That's exactly what will happen if you "replace the human unskilled worker with technology". The technology will be set up in a third-world country where power and zero-skilled labour is cheap, and environmental rules are ignored. That won't create money to pay for UBI to all those laid-off low-skilled workers at home.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        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.

        1. Richard 81

          @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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Blergh

          @Simon Hobson

          I do agree with Simon Hobson about income tax also having to change but I assume it would be something like a 50% flat tax on all income (after all the UBI is now the personal allowance).

          £5k/year -> £10k UBI + £2.5k = £12.5k/year

          £15k/year -> £10k UBI + £7.5k = £17.5k/year

          £25k/year -> £10k UBI + £12.5k = £22.5k/year

          £100k/year -> £10k UBI + £50k = £60k/year

          I would also assume the UBI replaces the state pension but I don't know if that is in the plan.

        4. The Mole

          You also seem to be thinking you'd be paying income tax on the basic income which clearly would be stupid, scrap the personal allowance (or declare it is part of the basic income) and you'd pay 20% on 15k meaning 3k tax and so 22k total income.

          Though what you have forgotten to take into account is that wages will go down as people will be willing to work for less - they were prepared to work for 15k before so even if the wage drops to 10k they still come out on top (18k total take home pay).

      3. albaleo

        It gives you the power to walk away

        It gives you the power to walk away

        I think this is the crucial part.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

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

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

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

            In the post to which DoctorSyntax is replying, the sentence prior to the quoted one is

            "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)."

            Suggestions welcome for a suitable reply. It's beyond me but I'm only the person who wrote what he's quoting.

            I thought it was fairly obvious that the complexity comes from the political classes and in particular the paper-pushing classes (lawyers, book-keepers, MPs, outfits like Goldman Sachs, Vodafone, etc).

            Or did I miss something?

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    I would love it

    If I could make a basic income, cover my mortgage and a few other bills each month. If I was happy just getting by, then I could not work. If I wanted to have some nicer things, I could work part-time. If I wanted to work full time, and have a lot of extra cash that would be cool too.

    What this all boils down to is freedom to live with out stressing out about keeping the roof over your head and food on your table. I would love to make a basic income, work 3-4 days a week to get ahead, and then 2-4 days a week to pursue "other" activities such as a private business. That would make three incomes and could be quite comfortable.

    This concept is also catching on in The Netherlands and other European countries:

    http://www.kela.fi/experimenting-with-basic-income-finland-and-netherlands

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: I would love it

      The problem with covering costs is who decides what the "reasonable" amount is and what expenses it is aimed to cover?

      For example, should a £2000/month mortgage or rent payment be covered in the same way as a £200/month one? If you make a distinction then it is no longer universal

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would love it

        "who decides what the "reasonable" amount is and what expenses it is aimed to cover?"

        If it's a reasonable expense for MPs to claim, it's probably a reasonable expense to be included in setting the level of Universal Basic Income.

        Right?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would love it

        The problem with covering costs is who decides what the "reasonable" amount is and what expenses it is aimed to cover?

        It's not a problem at all, most schemes pay everyone the same and it's not a lot. You want to live in a better house then you go to work to afford it. Don't want to work, live cheap, in cheap accomodation instead. The incentive to work is built in and anyone willing to live on that minimal income isn't likely to be productive if forced into work anyway.

        Most of the saving is from removing everything but verifying identity and fraud detection because there's no calculation to make.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I would love it

      If I could make a basic income, cover my mortgage and a few other bills each month

      So you expect the taxpayers who do work to buy you a house, which you will be able to pass down to your children, as well as feed & clothe you?

      Replace "taxpayers" with "peasant farmers" and you get a great description of the 17th century model. Haven't the last 400 years of effort been to get way from that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: last 400 years

        "Haven't the last 400 years of effort been to get way from that?"

        Yes. And especially in the 2nd half of the 20th century, the vast majority of the UK did OK in comparison with the historical norms.

        However, something appears to have changed for the worse in the last decade or two. Significant swathes of the UK are no longer doing OK. Even today's Tories are willing to admit in public that lots of people are "just about managing". Meanwhile a lucky few are doing very very nicely indeed, often for no particular reason, often at the expense of those less fortunate.

        In the current circumstances, "business as usual", and the "same old same old", are not attractive medium term options.

        If significant changes are not made, and made soon, to the way things are done in the UK (and maybe elsewhere), significant changes will still come about - but perhaps in less agreeable ways.

        Some of us remember Toxteth and what followed. Others might benefit from learning about it.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: last 400 years

          I used to be happy working and paying bills until the light went on and I realised that it suits a few people to keep me in debt to a mortgage so I have no choice but to take whatever I can get. Effectively I was as much a serf as a 16th century peasant.

          So I stopped having fancy holidays and nice cars and stuff and paid off the damn mortgage and built me a little stash of cash. so I had my choices in my own hands.

          I recommend it.

          1. Richard 81

            Re: last 400 years

            "So I stopped having fancy holidays and nice cars and stuff and paid off the damn mortgage"

            Ah but what about the increasing proportion of the population, who don't have fancy holidays and nice cars and stuff, but do have to pay rent? If you can't afford to own your own shelter, you have no way of escaping your serfdom.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: last 400 years

              Ah but what about the increasing proportion of the population, who don't have fancy holidays and nice cars and stuff, but do have to pay rent?

              That's the whole point. Once you get free of having to work two thirds of your time for the lord of the manor then you find yourself in a position where you can afford to make choices about your future, training and career direction etc, instead of just keeping the hamster wheel turning.

              An ideal basic income scheme would put more people in that position.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: last 400 years

                It's a horrible situation where an large slice of the income that you spent hours generating goes to the taxman, another big chunk goes to mortgage interest drain or to the even worse rent drain (paying the landlords mortgage interest) and another portion gets spent on the transport to get to the workplace where you spend those hours (£3000 annual rail pass etc). This puts people into the rut.

                Take a step back and look at that situation. Does it not strike you as idiotic?

                After hundreds of years developing civilisation we really ought to be able be in a better position to shape our lives.

      2. Richard 81

        Re: I would love it

        "So you expect the taxpayers who do work to buy you a house, which you will be able to pass down to your children, as well as feed & clothe you?"

        Sure, but then you'll be getting the same amount of money too.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: I would love it

          Sure, but then you'll be getting the same amount of money too.

          From where?

          1. Richard 81

            Re: I would love it

            ...from UBI, paid for by all taxpayers collectively. You know what we're talking about right?

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: I would love it

              from UBI, paid for by all taxpayers collectively. You know what we're talking about right?

              Perpetual motion, apparently.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I would love it

        "So you expect the taxpayers who do work to buy you a house, which you will be able to pass down to your children, as well as feed & clothe you?"

        What if those taxpayers are machines, not humans?

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "What if those taxpayers are machines, not humans?"

          You mean money printing machines? Because everything else will come only in an unknown future...

          1. Naselus

            Re: "What if those taxpayers are machines, not humans?"

            "You mean money printing machines? Because everything else will come only in an unknown future..."

            Yes, if only we could make, say, cars using machines instead of people. But that is way off in the future, like 1973.

            1. LDS Silver badge

              Re: "What if those taxpayers are machines, not humans?"

              Just, car production is still far away from being fully automated... nor making iPhones, for the matter.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "What if those taxpayers are machines, not humans?"

            "You mean money printing machines?"

            No, the machines that are now supposed to be putting everyone out of work. That seems to be the notion. Whether it actually works that way is another matter. As per another comment, AFAIK mass unemployment is the result of governments making a pig's ear of the economy by meddling rather than advancing technology. But there's no harm in a bit of "what if" thinking in case things go differently this time.

      4. Naselus

        Re: I would love it

        "Replace "taxpayers" with "peasant farmers" and you get a great description of the 17th century model. Haven't the last 400 years of effort been to get way from that?"

        Replace 'Taxpayers' with 'Your employees' and you have a pretty good description of the current form of capitalism.

  4. Matthew Smith

    Two things about UBI

    I find the idea of universal basic income. I've read all the articles. But, two things I've never seen addressed:

    1. I still don't know how its going to be paid. The most common solution seems to be a far-fetched idea of printing money. This will increase inflation, but that increase would be offset by the deflation caused by greater automation.

    2. Because we are British, if we are given an extra £X a month, you can bet that would quickly be accounted for in house price inflation, and everyone would be back where they started from.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Two things about UBI

      House prices are localised. Much of life's other necessities are globalised. So you'd be able to get buy, provided you lived in a tent.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Two things about UBI

      One big issue is where the money come from. It would mean that taxes will be higher and higher on people creating value, while transferring money to people who don't. When taxes becomes too high, you stop creating value, it's not worth the effort - or, if you can, you go elsewhere. Printing money won't lead anywhere - just to turn a country into a very cheap labour ones. Rich people will stay reach and become even more, the other will get poorer and poorer.

      The second big issue is it puts people right into the claws of politicians. Your basic income will be decided by politicians - who will want something in exchange from you. And more and more people will vote just hoping to get more, regardless of anything else. So yes, some politicians like UBI a lot - it ensure control over a lot of people.

      IMHO a minimum wage and better salaries are the way to go. Company should be heavily and actively discouraged to pay employee breadcrumbs, and pay huge bonuses at the top. There's a reason Germany is where it is, and other countries struggle.

      Just, politicians like the same things executives like...

      1. Nifty

        Re: Two things about UBI

        This is why more tax should be on things that are automate-able, where quantity is easy to produce. Hnads-on services should be less taxed. So hospitality, building work, hairdresser, car servicing - lower VAT.

        Mass produced goods heading landfillwards - more VAT.

        A few special classes like books, ebooks, maybe tools - medium VAT.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Two things about UBI

          One big issue is where the money come from. It would mean that taxes will be higher and higher on people creating value

          I get where you are coming from, can't help wonder how much this would be easier to achieve if we starting nailing some corporations properly tax wise.

        2. gryphon

          Re: Two things about UBI

          E-books are already taxed at 20% VAT.

          Might have changed recently but safety boots (it we class PPE as part of tools) were VAT free, safety shoes were 20% VAT. Considering the looks of safety shoes I don't think you'd be wearing them as a fashion statement. :-)

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Two things about UBI

        "It would mean that taxes will be higher and higher on people creating value, while transferring money to people who don't."

        But this is coming, one way or another. Machines are going to diminish the need for low skilled jobs. So the people who can create value will have to be pay for those who can't. Perhaps we hand the money over to them without strings attached. Perhaps we insist government create jobs -- e.g. by paying for social care. But the people who earn are going to have to shoulder a bigger share of the burden.

        "There's a reason Germany is where it is, and other countries struggle."

        And that reason is the Eurozone periphery is holding down the prices of German products, making them cheaper than they would be if they were priced in Deutsche Marks.

        In a sense, the Eurozone is the same problem run with nations instead of people. Germany needs to pay for the rest of the Eurozone but the Germans insist they haven't inherited some structural boon and it's really the worth-ethic of the Mediterraneans that is at fault.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "Machines are going to diminish the need for low skilled jobs"

          Are you sure? There would be no need for all those immigrants if machines are diminishing the need for low skilled jobs. Actually, I've seen machines replacing highly skilled jobs, for example in machining metal pieces. Because a machine could be so expensive it's not economical to use it to replace someone you can pay very little.

          What I said about Germany has nothing to do with prices. Germany has still a strong manufacturing industry because it pays workers well enough, while other systems - i.e. Britain and Italy, through unions that pretended to act in the interests of the workers, actually worked *against* it, and have lower wages and higher cost of living.

          If I'm not wrong, metal workers in Germany got a 4% pay rise this year. Here in Italy metal workers (which comprises most IT workers too) have the worst collective contract, and just got an 8 euro per month pay rise, gross... but the unions called for a "big success". The same unions which were caught "discussing import matters" while in an expensive cruise along Norway - using the workers money.

      3. Naselus

        Re: Two things about UBI

        "One big issue is where the money come from"

        This is actually a problem with our conception of money, which is still rooted in metal-backed currencies even though we use fiat. In fact, this is pretty much where all the problems in our economy are rooted.

        Basically, after the gold standard finally died in 1971, we effectively agreed to just pretend that money was backed by gold. This produced the USA's limitless pot of debt, since it was now treated as gold-backed without actually needing to BE gold backed; most surplus value thus ends up in the US, and most of that gets concentrated into the hands of about 17 families. It did mean we were able to avoid a massive re-configuration of the financial system, but was otherwise pretty disastrous in the long term. (note that returning to the gold standard would also be a disaster, since the supply of gold doesn't expand quickly enough to cover increased productive output, leading to exactly the problems that led Nixon to drop convertibility).

        The actual advantage of a fiat system is that you really can just print as much money as you like, distribute it to the population fairly and equally, and then remove excess at the end - so taxation is used to reduce inflation, rather than to pay for the costs of running the government. There's really no sensible reason for any government that can print it's own currency to go around trying to find that money from elsewhere, since a) it's unpopular, so politicians run deficits instead, and b) it doesn't make the slightest bit of sense.

        UBI works just fine under a 'proper' fiat system like this. It won't work at all under the curious 'unbacked backed' system we currently use, but then again 2008 and the years since showed that the present system doesn't really work very well anyway. Money ought to be the grease which permits goods to flow through the economy to where they're most needed; currently it is completely failing at that role, and we have large amounts of idle capacity and large amounts of unemployed or under-employed workers. That's more or less the biggest failing an economic system can have.

    3. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Two things about UBI

      Because we are British, if we are given an extra £X a month, you can bet that would quickly be accounted for in house price inflation, and everyone would be back where they started from.

      That is a view that I definitely share, although it cannot be universally applicable. At the lower end of the income scale ("Living Wage", a/k/a "Not Really Managing Wage") one would have to hope that any taxpayer - provided addition would actually be spent on necessities. However, further up the scale I suspect that money supposedly provided as "child benefit" (or whatever it is currently called) definitely does contribute to house price inflation.

      I was appalled a few years ago when it was decided that people earning (well?) in excess of the national average would still continue to receive child benefit / tax credit / whatever because working out how to combine parental income was "too difficult"; astonishing in a time of supposed austerity. I still cannot work out why people who earn significantly more than Mrs Commswonk and I did can still receive top - ups from taxpayers, of whom I am still one even in retirement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two things about UBI

        Indeed.

        1 person earning £60k, partner earning £0 - no child benefit, or clawed back the next tax year

        1 person earning £49,999, other partner earning £49,999 - full child benefit

        Should have been on family income.

        Fundamentally unfair.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Two things about UBI

          "1 person earning £49,999, other partner earning £49,999 - full child benefit"

          Except thats not what happens..

          Year before last my declared earnings were 48k my wife earned 11k. This year I had to pay back all of the tax credits they paid the wife because the calculation is based on household income. (I did phone and tell them repeatedly to stop paying me because I knew I was going to be over)

  5. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    For! Against! All with very little middle ground to be found.

    Black and white thinking - a curse of human brains. Not helped by its close cousin 'pigeon hole thinking' (I don't like you therefore nothing you say can be correct).

    Nuanced thinking appears to be too difficult for great swathes of the population.

  6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    I'm a fan of UBI, but...

    There's a good chance that if we had it, the level would be too low for disabled people and they would need additional top ups. (Tim Worstall was in favour of it---although the price of accepting it was abolishing the minimum wage---but he set the level much lower than the current disabilities benefits.)

    We already have an age-based guaranteed basic income. The qualifying age is moving up because the rich won't pay for it we can't afford it. The level is pretty close to poverty, too.

    Much of what you outline is problems with the benefits system. We could simply fix these problems.

    Scroungers are vastly overestimated. And so what? Do we really care if people want to lounge around all day getting drunk? Because a system that can prevent free riders is a system so intrusive and authoritarian that no-one would want to live under it. And much of the problem with the benefit system is we are halfway down that road.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I'm a fan of UBI, but...

      The problem is we do care about "scroungers". Or, at least, enough of us do. And if enough people care about something in a democracy, they have the means to force change eventually. It's one of the bits of faulty thinking on the left of politics, at least in my opinion. They talk about fairness when it comes to spending money - but often forget it when it comes to taxing money. We seem to be wired to dislike having stuff taken away from us more that we like the promise of stuff being given to us. Which is why lots of research suggests that paying people bonuses at work is very ineffective, you'd actually be better to pay them the bonus and take stuff away if they fail to achieve it. Not that this is a feasible or sensible, but it would be more effective.

      Anyway if someone is "just getting by" in their opinion, and working hard, they're going to resent paying tax to people who don't seem to have much less stuff than them, but aren't working for it. Whether that's fair or not. This is always going to be a huge problem with UBI.

      I also think some people get all utiopian, Star Trek / Culture about it sometimes. It'll be a long time before we can let the robots run the economy, and all pay ourselves a comfortable wage, so that money ceases to matter.

      What UBI can do is replace a lot of benefits. And also help alleviate the poverty trap, where people on a mix of benefits and salary no longer get screwed for daring to earn an extra couple of quid - and sometimes lose more in benefits than they've just earned. So we could maybe pay it at around £100 a week, but I really doubt it could be high enough (at least at first) to replace things like housing benefit. And of course taxes would have to go up on everyone to pay for it.

      We also aren't going to be able to get rid of disability benefits. Some people need full time care. That's very expensive indeed. Plus things like adapted homes/cars are also bloody expensive.

      Society is paying for shovelling too many people onto long-term disability benefits over the last 30-40 years to get them off the unemployment stats. But also I think there's a change - lots more people are living much better lives (or even living at all) with modern medical care. They may not be doing well enough to work regularly, but many are close to it, who didn't used to be. And I don't think government have quite realised that change has happened, so look at the large rises in people on disability as if we've suddenly got a few million malingerers we didn't used to have.

      There's also the usual bureaucratic bollocks. I have a long term disability. I gave up claiming the benefit I was entitled to 15 years ago. I had to fill out a 60 page form every year to claim it, the form always changed. I have a genetic condition. There is no cure. It won't magically get better. I'm stuck with it being the same until it interacts with normal ageing and the two will make each other that bit worse. Until then, why am I filling out this poxy form, and wasting all this admin time year after year? It was probably costing 2-3 months of the little money I got just to process the damned form each year.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: I'm a fan of UBI, but...

        What UBI can do is replace a lot of benefits. And also help alleviate the poverty trap, where people on a mix of benefits and salary no longer get screwed for daring to earn an extra couple of quid - and sometimes lose more in benefits than they've just earned.

        This very much, one of the problems I noticed was how slow working out the "change in circumstances" could be and it could be quite a harsh adjustment, someone could earn a bit extra and they would be either penalised for it by losing benefits money (while having to pay out to get to work etc) so making it more of a loss than staying on benefits. Or they could be caught out by the fact that by the time the adjustment was made, they were getting hit with a deficit to their benefits a month or two down the line, which can effect someone who is living hand to mouth, people in real poverty tend to spend the money when they have it because there is always something they have not been able to afford for a while but needed. These people can't afford a unexpected deficit to happen later and catch them out, they don't have monetary resources sitting in the bank for that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm a fan of UBI, but...

        > The problem is we do care about "scroungers".

        When it comes to disability, the real 'scroungers' are the medical supply companies who put a 30% - 40% mark-up on medical necessities, knowing they have a captive market. The savings engendered by a legislative cap on medical profit margins would more than cover the cost to the Exchequer of the (supppsed) long-term malingerers.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A brave gamble

    I think that UBI is a great idea and would probably come close to paying for itself by eliminating the huge waste in the amount of time and money that society puts into not paying people benefits. It's simple and easy to understand and would free up many people from the daily grind of trying to stay within the current systems do's and don'ts.

    The ultimate value of a society is not how wealthy the richest members are - it's how healthy it's members are and how we treat the least able members - you can be rich as King Croesus but you are only one dive into the wrong end of the swimming pool away from a life in bed ... and not in a good way. Of course people will bitch about the cons - the fact that someone is getting something - although oddly enough these whingers never complain when it's them getting the freebies.

    UBI will do nothing to stop anyone who wants to get rich from getting filthy rich, but imagine the world that they could live in where there's no penalty for being an artist. In addition UBI would make education, whether at college or the public library, far more accessible to everyone not just the ones good at exams.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: A brave gamble

      by eliminating the huge waste in the amount of time and money that society puts into not paying people benefits.

      Except that it wouldn't There would still be a need to pay benefits. If you set UBI high enough that a disabled person who does not own a home can survive, it would mean that a middle-aged couple who've paid off their mortgage would have a very comfortable income indeed. That would be unaffordable, but setting it low enough that the middle-aged couple just got by would leave the disabled person starving unless they got some additional benefits.

      UBI can't replace benefits, it just residtributes them irrespective of whether the recipient needs them or not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A brave gamble

        "UBI can't replace benefits, it just residtributes them irrespective of whether the recipient needs them or not."

        What's the B for, in UBI? Does it affect what you wrote?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A brave gamble

          A benefits system that only had to deal with the disabled would be an order of magnitude cheaper to run. The mistake is assuming UBI would be the only system in play.

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: A brave gamble

          What's the B for, in UBI?

          Basic

          Does it affect what you wrote?

          No, why should it? The previous poster said that UBI would replace benefits, I disagree. Either the basic income will be very low, in which case some people will still need extra benefits, or it will be high, in which case it is unaffordable. It won't replace benefits.

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    UBI can be abused if done correctly. And this means that more ne'er-do-wells' lazy habits be supported by other hard-working people, and this will undermine the efforts to help people who really can't work to a major degree.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      UBI can be abused if done correctly.

      I'd be interested to know how. Would it involve someone spending their entire life in bed and refusing to work or to contribute to society in any way, or would it involve screwing the system by hiding taxable unearned income and thereby refusing to contribute to society in any way?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'd be interested to know how.

        Fake identities, for one thing. Invent some imaginary people living at your address and claim UBI for them.

        Of course, that would be easy to stop. You'd just need to hire some more civil servants to check that claimants really exist, make sure that the claims were justified, etc. Of course, there goes the theory that you could save lots of money with UBI because you wouldn't need all those people checking benefits claimants' credentials.

        The numbers just don't add up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ne'er do wells

      "this means that more ne'er-do-wells' lazy habits be supported by other hard-working people

      They already are, bigtime. Just ask the folks who work hard for next to nothing in the so-called 'gig economy', where somehow all the work is done (and all the risk is carried) at one end and all the reward trickles up to the other end. And before the gig economy, just look at hard-working folk like Mr and Mrs "Sir" Philip Green.

    3. Triggerfish

      UBI can be abused if done correctly

      Most systems can be gamed, there are people scamming benefits now, it's not as many as is often touted by some papers though.

  9. msknight Silver badge

    Private market undermines social change

    The situation at the moment is that the majority of social housing is in private hands. When local councils passed their housing stock to private enterprise, over the last few years the inevitable has happened and some "trusts" have eaten up others, leaving the social housing stock in the hands of ever fewer, and larger, corporations that now have the upper hand over the authorities who they serve.

    Net result is that rents rise and benefits have to match. Also, the social housing corporations have changed the rules over who they are willing to house. Now, we have a tipping point where the the authorities (caught between the rock, and the hard place of lower funding from central government) can't afford these rents.

    We are in a housing crisis situation where private industry can call the shots and set the prices.

    (If you did an FOI of your local authority to ask them how much money is spent on emergency accommodation, I think you'd be in for a shock.)

    A basic fund will not change this dynamic. Whether people get the money for their living expenses via the benefit system, or by a single credit system, does not alter this.

    The only solution is to ensure that housing is available to match need, at a realistic price. Basically, a return to social housing under state control.

    Once you have this (and issues like them, eg. electricity, water, public transport) issue sorted out.... only then is debate on the subject of a basic income, viable.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Private market undermines social change

      "If you did an FOI of your local authority to ask them how much money is spent on emergency accommodation, I think you'd be in for a shock."

      OTOH some of the locals have a shock when I point out how much the local authority, which is perpetually crying poverty, spent on financing a leg of the Tour de France in England.

    2. msknight Silver badge

      Re: Private market undermines social change

      To add... the only thing that will happen is that by folding rent costs in to a basic allowance given to everyone... you lose sight of figures like the rent crisis by passing responsibility from benefits agencies, to the individual.

      Basic income cuts the individual lose from the state and says, "Here you are... get on with it." and the state wipes its hands even more, from social responsibility for supporting the individual.

      Personally, I've got nothing against someone in an area with lower living costs being able to afford a more flash TV than someone else in an expensive city. If we make London business pay people more to work there, then that's a bonus in my view. Why should the state subsidise it? Any business that can't afford to do business in London always has the option of moving somewhere else... that's commercial force at its best, in my book.

    3. Custard Fridge
      FAIL

      Communism works, but people have quirks.

      Eastern Europe used to have housing according to need with heating, power, water and transport centrally controlled. Nobody starved, everyone had a job. But at what cost to their society and economy?

      Communism works, but people have quirks.

      Communism therefore never works, because people run it, and inevitably some of them want more influence / income / sturdy glass mugs than others.

      Before you know it those running it have their own limos and their own traffic lanes to be driven down and if you dare drive in one you will be shot at.

      However, if computers ran communism, the readers of The Register would truly rule the world, rather than only build its electronic cathedrals...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Communism works, but people have quirks.

        Communism never worked. People may not have starved but they made long queues for some basic bad food. Everybody had a job, but had very little reason to do it well - thus creating shortage of goods, and producing very low-quality ones. Have you ever been in East Europe? Mostly, huge low quality buildings to live in.

        That's why when USSR collapsed, people run away from Communism.

        You can't say an idea of society "works" but "without the people, because they are the issue". It's just like saying water is not wet if you remove the water.

        1. Nifty

          Re: Communism works, but people have quirks.

          Capitalism took hundreds of years to get to it's current 'acceptable' state. Even then it only works at all well when counterbalanced by some sort of social democracy.

          Communism has not had a chance to evolve for long enough to find out if it could have 'worked'.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Private market undermines social change

      Well, I live in a country where social housing is mostly state owned, and that means:

      1) People often do not pay even the low rents, and house maintenance suffers even for those who pay

      2) People stay in social housing even when their income no longer justify it, because rents are low (or not paid). Or people who illegally try to obtain one for the same reason.

      3) A not so small percentage of abuses - people who occupy the houses without having the rights. Just because they can and nobody removes them.

      Usually, those really in needs suffer from all the above. But politicians do very little, because 1), 2) and 3) are still votes... and they can still raises somebody else taxes if more money are needed (just paid the property tax last Friday...)

    5. IsJustabloke Silver badge

      Re: Private market undermines social change

      I agree, rental costs in this country are ludicrous; renting should *never* be more expensive than a mortgage and that is the situation we are in these days. That's wrong. No ifs no buts, its wrong.

      I have a 3 bed end of terrace my mortgage was £800/ month, the same mortgage today would cost circa £900 / month; the identical house at the other end of the terrace rents at £1200 / month. How is that equitable?

      Calling the blocks of flats and little boxes that form a part of every estate built these days "social

      housing" is wrong. They're not there for the benefit of society.

      The other end of this is "benefits" we absolutely should help the people in our society who need help, the downside of that is that some will take the piss ( and by no means is it the majority) I don't want the state to give me "some dosh" each month I want them to spend on the people who need it more than I do but if I ever find myself needing the help I would expect to get it.

      I'm not sure UBI is the way forward.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Private market undermines social change

        But mathematically, renting *IS* more expensive than a mortgage, because rent=mortgage+insurance+maintainance+repairs+plus+plus+plus+plus. I'd like to find the world you live in where non-mortgage costs of a building are negative.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Private market undermines social change

        Rent will always be higher/similar to mortgage costs. Becuase the landlords have to be able to buy the property in order to rent it out. And they're not charities.

        Admittedly you can get round that with social housing. But there you're just moving the costs to taxpayers. Admittedly you could go for a system of everyone in the country having a council house - but it would take generations to do. And in the meantime, there's an unfairness of the ones left paying market rents and mortgages for their whole lives while others are moved across to state housing. That'll be hard to sell in a democracy.

        If rents were massively lower than mortgages though, they'd be pushed back up by market forces. Either people would stop buying houses and rent, the extra demand pushing the rents up. Or landlords would stop buying properties to rent out, as they wouldn't be able to turn a profit, restricting the supply of rental properties. And thus pushing rents up...

        Basically fixing prices is a shit idea. Economically speaking it always screws up. What you need to do is fix the underlying problems. In the UK that means building more houses, as our population is rising - which means fixing the planning system. And also trying to rebalance the economy so there are more jobs not in the South East, so that we can get more people living in areas where population density is lower. Which makes infrastructure easier and cheaper and people might be less resistant to building near them.

        Also better housing would help. If you're going to have more flats, don't make them all rabbit hutches with 10'x10' rooms. Give them dining rooms, and slightly bigger rooms, they'll still be far more dense than housing, but then more people will want to live in them.

        1. msknight Silver badge

          Re: Private market undermines social change

          We have levels of expenditure expressed as a percentage of income.

          If you spend more than 10% of your income on fuel then you're in fuel poverty.

          What's to stop us creating social housing that fluctuates to a percentage of average income, or a percentage of the universal income... so that as the country does better or worse, then that rate will rise and fall also. - that's not a fixed rate, but variable according to the market forces affecting the country. Far better than the economics of supply/demand.

          However, if you have a better job, or other aspirations, then there's nothing stopping you from hopping out in to the private rented sector.

          Incidentally, for some of the other statements, buy to let is a different mortgage interest base to buy to live in. Different risks, different rates, so the mathematics isn't quite the same. It's also a business, so the landlord has all that to contend with, also VAT, rebates and whatever are the acting forces in that market at the time.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Private market undermines social change

            Buy-to-let should still have the same basic cost of capital. Sure, it's done on interest-only mortgages. But you still have to find the deposit, and if you want to pay off the mortgage and get out from under the interest payments, you've also got to earn enough to pay the principal. Obviously if house prices zoom up, then you're quids in - hooray! But if you're in a more stable area, that's not quite the case. And you're taking a risk on them going down - especially if you're not making the profits required to cover you in downturns, where selling is a loss-making option.

            Add in maintenance, repairs, insurance, loss of earnings from gaps between tenancies etc.

            Also, rent is decided by a market. So landlords will charge what they can get away with - i.e. what the market will bear. They'll then provide properties of the quality that they can afford at those prices, so as rents fall, so will either prices or quality of rental properties. As the alternative to renting is buying, the prices are likely to remain strongly linked.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Private market undermines social change

          " renting *IS* more expensive than a mortgage, because rent=mortgage+insurance+maintainance+repairs+plus+plus+plus+plus."

          Where does the capital growth fit into that arithmetic?

          "I'd like to find the world you live in where non-mortgage costs of a building are negative."

          Me too, but there seem to be huge numbers of people. especially in some parts of the country and some parts of the property market (residential AND commercial) that either don't see that or don't care.

          And remember, BuyToLet landlords, the value of bricks and mortar can only increase, it can never go down. Negative equity never happened and never will. At least, not so long as the moneylenders friends are allowed to print money to protect their securities, safe in the knowledge that ulimately the taxpayer will bail them out when things go badly wrong, unlike almost any other business sector.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Private market undermines social change

            "Where does the capital growth fit into that arithmetic?"

            Capital growth comes into it when someone takes out an even larger mortgage to buy it from the previous owner.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Private market undermines social change

              "Capital growth comes into it when someone takes out an even larger mortgage to buy it from the previous owner."

              You mean it comes into it when the original owner gets all their original mortgage paid off and a nice little chunk extra for a nice holiday or five?

              Which presumably also applies equally to

              "Did you give even a moment's thought as to how anyone could rent out a property at a rate lower than it's costing them to buy it let alone maintain it?"

              In the brave new world of perpetual growth of property values, the rent doesn't need to help pay off the capital, it just needs to cover the real costs (maintenance etc) plus a contribution to any applicable mortgage interest (why should the renter pay all the interest when the owner gets by far the biggest part of the benefit).

              Again, what am I missing?

              I do know that even the Tories have realised that BTL has been far too lucrative and had proposed changes to rules which not surprisingly didn't go down real well. Whether the changes have or will go through, I don't know.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: Private market undermines social change

                The changes have gone through. You pay extra stamp duty on sales of second properties - and can't claim tax relief on interest payments. The second I agree with, but is sort of unfair, in that property companies can take interest costs from profit. Just not the people who buy one or two flats as an investment. However it's to disincentivise people from becoming amateur landlords, as it distorts the whole property market - as well as being an extra risk to the economy during recessions.

                You've always paid capital gains tax on the proift you make selling a house you don't live in.

                But you won't solve the rise in house prices by moaning about it, and you don't solve any problem by price fixing. Prices have risen because we restrict the building of more houses in the places that people want to live. If you restrict the supply of something people want, then they'll pay more in order to get it.

                One solution the last Labour government tried was to encourage more people to live in flats, to increase the density of living in popular areas. That had some effect, but most people don't want to live in flats. It could just be a cultural thing. When I lived in Brussels it was quite normal to live in apartments in the city. Even families. But in Brussels you could get a whole range of apartments, including ones with 3 decent sized bedrooms, a large sitting room and separate dining room. Too many flats in this country are too small to be comfortable, so most people that live in them would prefer to have a small house - putting further upward pressure on prices.

                In the brave new world of perpetual growth of property values, the rent doesn't need to help pay off the capital, it just needs to cover the real costs (maintenance etc) plus a contribution to any applicable mortgage interest (why should the renter pay all the interest when the owner gets by far the biggest part of the benefit).

                Economics is more complex than that. If property prices didn't change, but inflation was 2% a year, then the money you spent on buying your rental would become less valuable every year. Hence we will always have rising property prices. This is much more a problem in popular areas, where we need to find ways to either build more housing, or persuade people to live in other areas.

                You also assume that all rentals will rise in value. Which is what caused the last property crash. They have (with crashes) for the last few decades, but that's not certain and not a sensible way to invest. So rent has to cover the cost of capital. If I bung £200k on the stock market (in a pension say) then I'd hope to get maybe inflation + 5% a year, over my lifetime. So £200k buying a flat needs to promise a similar income, or you're better off buying into a tracker fund. So yes, the renter needs to cover all the interest and all the other costs, and a bit on top to cover the cost of capital, or renting won't be profitable, and people will put up the rents. Or do less maintenance. If you don't have interest to pay then you'll make more profit as a landlord.

                Finally to give you some numbers for when I was flat hunting in 2012. A nice 2 bed flat in my area was £160k. On which you could charge about £800pm rent. A repament mortgage on that, with 20% deposit was a similar amount to the rent. Interest only (with 20% deposit) would be about £320. Add in insurance of £100 + ground rent of £150 that's £570 before maintenance. Add in one month per year of lost rent due to tenancy changes and £50 a month maintenance means you're making £700 costs, so you're making £100 a month profit.

                So £32k investment (20% deposit) would earn you £1,600 at 5% interest, on that investment in property you're only making about £1,200 a year - with the hope of capital gains.

                Buy outright, and you're saving £320 interest, however 5% on £160k investment is £8,000 - and you're now only earning £5,000 on your investment.

                Which is why amateurs should stay out of being landlords, because you're basically just keeping your capital warm and hoping for huge capital gains.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Private market undermines social change

        "renting should *never* be more expensive than a mortgage and that is the situation we are in these days."

        Did you give even a moment's thought as to how anyone could rent out a property at a rate lower than it's costing them to buy it let alone maintain it?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now, more than ever

    Would downvoter please care to explain their reasoning (whichever side you're on)?

    Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. Terms and conditions apply, available in the basement in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of The Leopard" (c) Douglas Adams, RIP.

    TL;DR: bah humbug.

  11. Nikki Radir

    This is only one example of BI's benefits

    Thanks to your contributor for this article. My take on this is that there are many ways that BI would benefit both individuals and society at large. If we get off people's backs by abandoning all the many and various bureaucratic obstacles, petty prejudices and financial hurdles that work against those on the economic margins, then they would be free to contribute in a paid or unpaid job, to engage in training or education, or to mix work that pays with pro bono work.

    Where I part from the ‘universal’ form of BI is in wanting a requirement to put in a minimum number of working hours (when fully able to do so, unlike this article's author). We need everyone's contribution. I'm not in favour of workfare, there should be an entirely free choice of occupation - but for the sake of everyone's self-esteem, a general perception of fairness and helping to cover all those things that commerce and the state can't, people should work.

    I think that capitalism is great, as long as democracy is in control; this requires confident participation from a large majority. BI would enable more people to be citizens, not just dependants. It's a help to those starting out on careers or creating small businesses, it's a landing pad for those who crash and burn. In either direction, it helps give confidence to people that they won't be ruined by taking the risks of trying new ventures.

    BI has a big problem of perception to overcome, in that it requires a large amount of money to be shovelled through taxation and back out to the citizenry; a lot of thought needs to be given to this. Rationally, it cannot be “too expensive” as it is a redistribution scheme, where gains and losses across the population balance out.

    Maybe one facet of the system should be the ring-fencing of this and other, residual benefits outside the Treasury's grasp. It means an end to the grudging concessions of welfare benefits and an acceptance of the permanent redistribution of income. In this age of huge concentration of wealth and unstoppable automation, is this a bad thing? BI of itself is no magic bullet; but whatever questions need to be answered in terms of conditionality, the long-term need of those unable to contribute fully or the thorny issues around housing, it seems to promise much. And I like the idea of one, big, fair, reasonable ‘yes’ to people’s requests for help; replacing hundreds of ways to say ‘no’.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: This is only one example of BI's benefits

      "Where I part from the ‘universal’ form of BI is in wanting a requirement to put in a minimum number of working hours"

      And so if nobody is prepared to get off their arse and actually employ you, you starve. Thanks.

      1. Nikki Radir

        Re: This is only one example of BI's benefits

        @J.G.Harston

        What I actually said, was that we need people to work, whether that be in paid employment or not. You could put in some time down your local charity shop, help out with kids who need to learn to read, volunteer to get the elderly and disabled to their hospital appointments ... whatever you wanted to do, and so meeting the requirement. If the requirement in terms of hours worked was reasonable, you might then have enough time, attention, energy and cash to rehearse in a band, campaign for your favourite political reform, tend a community garden, write a business plan...

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: This is only one example of BI's benefits

          And if nobody is prepared to get off their arse and use you in a charity shop, to teach their kids to read, to take them to hospital, whatever....? You starve.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      BI would enable more people to be citizens, not just dependants

      You're wrong. When the State (aka politicians) pays - and fully controls it - people are not freer citizens, they became State (aka politicians) serfs.

      In a true liberal environment, State and companies would be in "competition" (yeah, I know now it doesn't happen, and that's one of the issues), and while companies would try to "maximize stakeholder value", the State would control this isn't done against the rights of citizens - which should control by voting the State does their interests, and not only those of a few ones. Free citizens doesn't owe anything to the State. The State for them is just a "cost" they pay to obtain the services it was built for.

      But what would happen once the State becomes the employer of most? When people became fully dependent on what and how much the State gives them? Freedom? Ah ah ah! Free citizens will be broken by extracting from them all the money the State can to keep its serf calm. That's how most dictatorships work.

      Companies also will be able to make a Uber - want some little extra pocket money? That's the only job I offer, and these are the terms. If you don't like it, I'll find someone else who will accept, don't worry.

      And about creating business, my grandfather did it in 1936, and he started to work as a workman when he was only fourteen years old, without all the advantages you have today. He and his brother saved money, and with some help form their fathers, they were able to buy a little shop. Eighty years later, the company born then is still alive.

      The issue today is people just complain, want everything easy, and paid by others, no sacrifices.

      1. Nikki Radir

        Re: BI would enable more people to be citizens, not just dependants

        @LDS

        We obviously see the state differently. For me, it exists to fulfil those aims we can't manage by ourselves, and does so with our permission and agreement. Of course it doesn't yet live up to that ideal, and never will perfectly do so, but the answer is more democracy - more engagement by us in decision-making. If I've got your POV right, paying taxes already makes us serfs - and I can't agree with that. We need taxation to have a functioning society, given all the complex interdependencies that need to work smoothly, and to accept that the benefits of government activity (under democratic oversight, administered competently and effectively, etc. etc.) work for all of us together, even if some of those don't accrue to us individually. For example, I don't have kids, but am happy to pay my share towards state-funded education.

        I admire people like your grandfather, but I don't think we need to make things tough(er) for people trying to make their way. On the contrary, I'd like more to make an effort to succeed, for there to be freer competition and more ideas in the mix. The point is that while anyone can succeed, not everyone can. The winners need the rest of us to work for them, that's how capitalism works, isn't it? Removing the poverty trap and making sure that people know there's always a blame-free, fall-back to a basic income means that more can take those risks with confidence.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: BI would enable more people to be citizens, not just dependants

          "the answer is more democracy - more engagement by us in decision-making."

          Right. But it has to be well informed and (preferably) reasonably well educated democracy, otherwise people are just going to follow the Murdoch/Mail line, and that's not good for most of us.

          And as soon as you encourage people to think sensibly for themselves, to ask relevant questions, and to demand access to relevant information, Big Money not only loses a supply of compliant wage slaves (just as they would with a Universal Basic Income), it puts the whole of society in the US/UK (at least as it has been for a few decades) at risk. Well, the 1% are at risk anyway, and they're not going to be allowing that. But it'd be nice.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          "paying taxes already makes us serfs"

          I never said paying taxes makes you a serf. Taxes are the cost of a democratic state. An unavoidable cost that must be controlled, and kept to the necessary. Education is needed for example. I believe health care is as well. But many other expenses should be up to those using the services, not to other taxpayers. In turn, wages should be adequate to allow it.

          Living out of money paid you and controlled wholly by the state makes you a serf.

          Paying taxes without being able to change the government and control it ("no taxation without representation"), yes, makes you a serf. It is exactly what was happening before modern democracy was achieved. You paid taxes to the king and to the church, and had no voice.

          But beware: basic income will make politicians able to build a large electoral base of people who mostly don't pay taxes but live out of other people taxes, and thereby depends on those politicians to ensure that money stream.

          Thus those politicians will be able to use those "descamisados" (nothing new, Peron knew how to do it. or Chavez, if you like) to establish and maintain their power, and impose higher taxes to others, which will have lost any way to control the government because they no longer have enough electoral power.

          I live in Italy, and Italy is in trouble also because of such issue. A large part of the government expenses is used to gain and maintain consensus, especially in South Italy. Government jobs, pensions, etc. etc. A black hole draining the country resources.

          Large part of the debt was created for the same reason. Expenses can't be put under strict control because politicians will lose consensus - thereby they just keep on getting taxes higher and higher, and those forced to pay them has no way to change it. That burden is crippling the whole economy, which just risk to collapse - and then there will be no money for anybody.

    3. Gary Heard

      Re: This is only one example of BI's benefits

      "We need everyone's contribution. I'm not in favour of workfare, there should be an entirely free choice of occupation - but for the sake of everyone's self-esteem, a general perception of fairness and helping to cover all those things that commerce and the state can't, people should work."

      Sorry if this sounds sarcastic, it's not meant to be. But we cannot all be Reality TV Stars (which seems to be the "Hope" of a considerable number of people now.

      "BI has a big problem of perception to overcome, in that it requires a large amount of money to be shovelled through taxation and back out to the citizenry; a lot of thought needs to be given to this. Rationally, it cannot be “too expensive” as it is a redistribution scheme, where gains and losses across the population balance out."

      But what it hands out is always less than it takes in, and, from that, who do you want to decide how you spend the money you earn? Politicians? Very Brave of you to believe they have your welfare at heart and that the power of being in "control" isn't their drive

      Finally, I always wonder at "The Law of unintended consequences" merging with "The devil makes work for idle hands"

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More socialism utopia BS...

    And we all know the problem with socialism; eventually you run out of other peoples money.

    Calm down, calm down, I'm well aware all the failed socialist states around the World just implemented it incorrectly/it was the wrong kind of socialism* [delete as applicable]

    The virtue signaling Champagne socialists that suggest "great" ideas such as UI never think it through and also assume all humans share their morals/sense of decency etc. And, as we know, 52% of the UK are almost sub-human.

    As per @Steve K's post, how much should it be? £200 p/w goes a lot further in 'Boro than in London. What about kids? Is my 3 month old entitled to his UI?

    Free money for all!

    1. smartypants

      Re: More socialism utopia BS...

      "And, as we know, 52% of the UK are almost sub-human"

      I understand the AC moniker. After all, you're making a reference to the Brexit result - the one where just over 1 in 4 of the population voted to leave (not even remotely "52% of the UK").

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: More socialism utopia BS...

        > (not even remotely "52% of the UK").

        No, just 52% of the 82% who voted, and therefore cared about the result. Not even remotely as low as 1 in 4.

        1. Toltec

          Re: More socialism utopia BS...

          "No, just 52% of the 82% who voted, and therefore cared about the result. Not even remotely as low as 1 in 4."

          72% turnout

          44 million of 64 million registered to vote

          52% voted leave

          Comes out at about 26%, which most people would consider close enough to 1 in 4.

          1. smartypants

            Re: More socialism utopia BS...

            Population of country=65m

            Leave vote=17m

            17/65= just over one in four.

            Could it be any simpler?

            (Facts and brexit... Always at odds!)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: More socialism utopia BS...

              Population of country=65m

              Damn, you're right. I forgot all those infants and toddlers who really, really, know all about Brexit and strangely didn't vote either way.

          2. Toltec
            Facepalm

            Re: More socialism utopia BS...

            Downvotes hmm.

            72% turnout - My bad it was 72.2% according to most sources and 71.8% according to the BBC earlier this month. I thought 72% was a reasonable approximation.

            44 million of 64 million registered to vote - My bad 44m is for the general election, it was 46.5 +/- 0.001 for the referendum, population is a bit of a tricky one as the Euro vote included people not living in the UK, I just allowed that there would be a balance between ex-pats that could vote and foreign nationals in the UK that could not and went for 64m. So 72.6% of the population could vote and 72% of them did so we get a figure of 52.3% for the total proportion of the UK population that voted in the referendum.

            52% voted leave - Most sources quote this figure, they do not supply any error or uncertainty figures. So of the 52.3% that voted 52% voted leave which leaves us with the figure of 27.2%

            OK, I get it now I said-

            Comes out at about 26%, which most people would consider close enough to 1 in 4.

            My bad, I should have said, comes out at about 27%, which most people would consider close enough to 1 in 4.

            Of course 48% voted to remain, which comes out at about 25%, which most people would consider to be 1 in 4.

            Were the downvotes for getting the percentage out a little or saying most people would consider 26% to be about 1 in 4? I would go for the latter as 27% is still about 1 in 4, I clearly failed to cite a source with research showing that more than 50% of people thought 25% +/- 2% was approximately a quarter.

            Wait, is it just possible you thought I was commenting about the validity of the result? I guess that would mean I got downvotes from both sides as it could be read either way if you want to apply personal bias rather than reason. If that is the case I don't care at all, just as long as you didn't think I had the calculation wrong, that would be hurtful.

            Let's just muddy the waters a bit further, I voted leave, but believe the result was not sufficiently clear, I also think we were asked the wrong question.

            TL:DR

            What the hell am I doing talking about the Euro referendum in a thread about UBI? Must take my tablets.

        2. smartypants

          Re: More socialism utopia BS...

          AC perhaps you just forgot about people who are in the UK but couldn't vote.

          Just over a quarter of the UK population voted to leave the EU.

          They all count. They are all people. Most of them will be paying the price one way or another, vote or no vote.

      2. Toltec

        Re: More socialism utopia BS...

        @ smartypants

        Didn't get the AC Brexit reference immediately, I thought they were just referring to people less smart than them at first. Still rather rude and insulting, but that does appear to be the level for a fair proportion of both Leave and Remain voters unfortunately.

        The situation the author of the article is in is one of the reasons why I don't think UBI as a replacement for all benefits would work. One solution does not suit everyone, equality is not about giving everyone the same benefits it is about allowing them equal opportunity to live their lives. Having experienced the poverty trap back in the 80's and being fortunate enough to have escaped I believe we need a better system, but I don't think UBI is it.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: More socialism utopia BS...

          The situation the author of the article is in is one of the reasons why I don't think UBI as a replacement for all benefits would work.

          The B stands for Basic and no-one claims that it would replace all benefits. It just gets rid of a lot of the problems we have with the current system (but naturally introduces a few of its own and leaves some problems unsolved, as anything would).

          1. Toltec

            Re: More socialism utopia BS...

            That is the problem, how do you make a system more beneficial to work for those that can without penalising those that cannot or rewarding those that will not, while still making it simpler and more efficient? At a fine enough level everyone's circumstances are different and changing, however the complexity of an individually tailored system means more resources go towards the administration than towards the recipients.

            Out of interest what would people think is a UBI amount that would work? Around here a room to let starts at about £500 per month so that is £6K before you start buying food and clothing, so £10K? Let's say everyone eligible to vote would receive this so £440 billion required assuming no overheads. According to the ONS http://visual.ons.gov.uk/welfare-spending/ the welfare budget for 2014/15 was £258 billion, of that about £170 billion goes on basic payments not involving additional care. Therefore to be revenue neutral assuming people that needed extra care still got it UBI could be about £3800, enough to buy food and clothes, but not to pay for accommodation.

            I'm not an economist so I've probably made a mistake and missed something, if someone better qualified could explain I am open to being educated.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: More socialism utopia BS...

        And less than 1 in 4 of the population voted to Remain.

    2. PTW

      Re: More socialism utopia BS... Apologies

      I forgot the /sarcasm tag on the 52% comment, but glad to see it hooked a few "It didn't go my way so it's not democracy unless we have a second vote" crowd :D [personally I didn't vote, I was away living in Europe]

      With Brexit & Trump maybe socialists should wake up and realise just because they screech louder than anyone else, doesn't mean everyone supports them, they're deafened by their own echo chamber. Remind me how are Labour polling at the minute?

      They're even intentionally blind to the fact the recount in the US has turned up massive Democrat voter fraud... And continue to shout "it's the Russians that got Trump elected!" Second vote anyone!? Trump was filling stadiums whilst Clinton couldn't fill a public bar, yet they still don't see how out of touch they are. Just screech some moar! Alt-right, far right, rigged, fake news, Russians. If only I could live of the tears :-))))))

      Facts are a bitch! :D so feck the AC here I am

  13. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    UBI is a nice idea but...

    UBI is a nice idea but I don't believe that it's workable. It would be abused to hell on multiple levels and will lead to high inflation until the economy settles to a level where the UBI is worthless.

    There will be a large number of people on or close to the line who will chose not to work and instead collect just UBI instead. While this may not seem too bad, there will be various hits from this. Firstly government tax income will drop not only from the reduction in paid tax but there will doubtless be quite a number who take the UBI and then supplement it through non-taxed methods - it would be rather Daily Mail/Express like to describe this as "UBI is funding crime" but it's pretty much how it would be seen.

    Many of the people benefitting from UBI will be employed doing the less popular or menial jobs which will lead to a sudden workforce void in these types of roles and the only way to encourage people to do these level of jobs will be to pay them somewhat more than they would have been paid previously. This increase of low level job pay rates will lead to inflation as the extra money has to come in from somewhere which means dependent services and products will go up in price; this is already observable now due to the effects of minimum pay rate. The cost of food, accomodation, energy and transport will all rise due to both rising costs to provide these and through market pressures, i.e. "charge as much as the market will handle". If UBI isn't increased in line with the rises in the cost of food, accomodation, energy and transport then UBI will become worthless however because UBI will be the cause of these rises it'll become a circular economic loop.

    It's not that providing support for those members of society that need it is a bad idea, it's just that utopian schemes such as UBI will not work in reality, particularly for larger and larger population sets. As a result some form of means tested system is likely the only workable scheme but only if this is a fair implementation - currently it is erring very much on the side of being inflexible, uncaring and overly bureaucratic. Society would also need to change to be more flexible and to allow the inclusion of those who are not able to operate at the same regularity or levels of performance as the "average" person does, such as the writer of this article. Through various contacts I know of quite a lot of people who would jump at the chance to work but cannot due to interactions with their current benefits, that they reply on to survive, but also due to employers finding it very hard to employ these kind of people due to bureaucratic issues more than operational ones.

  14. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Whilst I sympathise with Edward's position, I didnt actually read anything in this article that makes me think we need to completely throw away the current System. It certainly needs refining. The fact that earning money costs you your other benefits is (and has been for a while) a problem. I experienced the same when trying to work whilst attending uni. It was extremely annoying that my uni benefits were eaten into because of me trying to earn a few more dollars to help pay my fees. In the end, it meant I gave up working during uni because I didnt earn any extra and I had significantly less study time.

    But despite this, I'm not convinced that we need to completely change the social contract to fix this. Fix the regulations currently in place, and the main problems go away. Reduce the red tape and Edward could do some work without needing a contract, such that he would be much happier.

    The Expression, throwing the Baby out with the bath water, springs to mind.

  15. smartypants

    Let's try it... dev style!

    We could do a partition on the population and try it out on anyone whose surname at birth began with an A. Then if it's a complete disaster, we have only screwed up the lives of a few percent of the country with the change...

    Or is that all a bit pointless now as we're going to shaft ourselves royally in 2017 anyway?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Let's try it... dev style!

      Test it on the people whose surnames begin with Z. There's fewer of them to screw up...

      1. TheTick

        Re: Let's try it... dev style!

        Changing my name to Zebediah Zakariah as we speak...

  16. Esme

    Excellent article

    Although I'm able-bodied, I have had a couple of longish periods of unemployment in the past at least partially due to employer discrimination. It was really frustrating being unable to find work and unable to do anything to help the community (like volunteering to help adult learners with their maths and English, or even helping local charity shops with their admin) because if I'd done so, I'd have lost unemployment benefit. A UBI would have allowed me to make myself useful as and when and where I could until such time as I'd found paid employment.

  17. Nifty

    A long long time ago in the UK we used have real unemployment benefit. This meant that for a period of time after becoming unemployed you got a no-further-questions-asked proportion of your previous income. Something like this still exists in at least 1 European country like Denmark. It's said to make Denmark one of the most flexible labour markets around. For between-jobs situations it very nearly equates to a minimum guaranteed income. I'd be willing to consider tax bill for this if it gave all workers a better sense of income security.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Something like this still exists in at least 1 European country like Denmark.

      And in France, depending on your age it guarantees 70% of previous income for between 2 and 5 years, the only proviso is that you can't turn down too many job offers without good reasons.

      France has 3.5m unemployed (10.5%), a number that is steadily growing and is twice that of the UK. The French economy is being bankrupted by paying this, it's unsustainable.

      1. Nifty

        That's why I mentioned the successful and affordable Danish model - they've obviously tuned it to actual work. France just provides a (bad) example that's fodder for naysayers.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        The problem with France is people don't want to employ people, because it's so hard to get rid of them.

        The US have tended to recover faster from recessions than Europe in the last 50 year (massive generalisation but basically true), and I suspect this is because you can easily sack people - so it's much less risk to rehire staff early. The downside of this is obviously less job security in the good times.

        Also the US rely less on their banks for business lending - and more companies get cash from the bond markets. Banks tend to be over-generous in the boom and over-cautious in the bust (pro-cyclical).

        The Scandinavians therefore have very free market economies, easy to do business/easy to sack/easy to hire. But very generous benefits, which are contributory. So you get high unemployment benefit, a percentage of your wage - which means you can afford to risk a mortgage even if you have much less job security. Maybe this only works for them because they're small countries with (until recently) relatively homogenous populations? Or maybe it's a model we should borrow more from?

  18. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    No basic income without basic accommodation

    The two parts of the picture that nobody seems to be putting together are that UBI has to go hand-in-hand with universal basic housing - in other words a nationwide program of building state-sponsored social housing.

    You'll hear cries of wails about how housing prices will crash. So what? If the value of the house you are lucky enough to currently own halves, it doesn't affect you, because the nominal value of that property lies only in its sale value, which, if you sold it, you would then have to spend to buy another house. The ONLY people which this would adversely affect are those who own multiple properties and rent them out for pure profit. This is also the reason this won't change; because these people happen to be our current lot of elected representatives, and they are doing quite nicely out of everybody else's slow decline into poverty, thank you very much.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

      There are several immediate problems with this.

      1. If you crash house prices too fast, the economy is in trouble. My flat has gone up a lot since I bought it, so I can cope with prices halving. I'd be worse off, but it wouldn't financially knacker me. 60-something % of houses are owner-occupied (most with mortgages). If you put millions of people into negative equity, that really will have a huge effect, they'll all have to sell up or stop spending on almost everything but paying down their mortgages. Or the banks will take massive losses, and knacker our economy. Or both.

      2. Fairness. Even after WWII I think we were only building about 400k homes a year. There are 30million odd households, so 18m (ish - sorry while I scrawl on the back of this envelope) owner-occupied. Are you leaving them in them, or confiscating? It'll take you a while to get the other 12m into government housing. In the meantime some people are getting massively subsidised housing, some are getting financially hammered. Erm, the ones getting hammered are more likely to vote. How do you get them to vote for this?

      3. If you offer a cheap government home to all, what will demand be? I've seen recent UK population estimates that we'll have 85m people by 2050 (70m by 2030) up from 64m million now. To be fair that was before Brexit, so assuming a large figure for immigration, but I doubt that's going to drop as much as some hope, and the birth-rate is also going up. Estimates are we need a couple of million homes now, to make up for crap building rates up to now, plus another say 3m by 2030. Can we build 5m homes in 15 years? Yes. Can government finance that? Hmmmm...

      4. Planning. Where do you put another half London? And how do you get the people who live there to let you? And where do you put the roads and railways?

      6. £100k per house x 5m = £5tn = c.2.5 years of our total economic output.

      It's all doable. But not by government alone I think.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you crash house prices too fast

        "If you crash house prices too fast, the economy is in trouble."

        The economy is already in trouble anyway.

        E.g. How can it possibly make sense to be able to make a living by buying a house, leaving it empty and doing nothing with it while the paper value increases, then after a year or two remortgaging it at a higher value, using the advance to pay off the previous mortgage *and* leaving cash left over to live off. Beats me, but folk are apparently doing exactly that in parts of the south east. I'm told it's part of the joy of quantitative easing and/or of London being the world's favourite high value money laundering center.

        A change is gonna come. Of that we can be certain.

    2. Duffy Moon

      Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

      I heartily agree with Loyal Commenter. The current state of housing is ridiculous. Most of the benefit budget is taken up by Housing Benefit, which ultimately ends up in the pockets of landlords. Lower rents/house prices make UBI more realistic.

      Current conditions also make it expensive to move house. Surely encouraging mobility would be beneficial?

      The same applies to public transport. The railways receive more in subsidies than they did in the British Rail days and they're still terrible.

      I have just been made redundant and am currently attempting to claim UC. It seems even worse than JSA so far. They don't seem bothered about my hard-earned and paid-for BSc and MSc in bioscience as long as I take the first shelf-stacking job that comes along. How that's supposed to help me or the country-as-a-whole is beyond me. It must be the same logic that makes smart meters useful. On UBI, I could even afford to work voluntarily in order to gain useful, vocational experience on various lab techniques which would help me to get the job I'm best suited to.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

        "Most of the benefit budget is taken up by Housing Benefit, which ultimately ends up in the pockets of landlords."

        This isn't remotely true.

        https://fullfact.org/economy/welfare-budget/

        Housing benefit: £26bn

        Child and tax credits: £30bn

        Disability benefit: £37bn

        State pension: £92bn.

        Have you tried seeing if things are true before saying them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: housing benefit

          Thanks for the reality check on the numbers, not many people seem to realise that the vast majority of the "benefits" spend is non-optional stuff like state pension and disability benefits.

          On the other hand it is still true to say that housing benefit ends up in the pockets of the landlords, isn't it? And that housing benefit is effectively a subsidy/benefit to employers paying low wages?

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: housing benefit

            "On the other hand it is still true to say that housing benefit ends up in the pockets of the landlords, isn't it? And that housing benefit is effectively a subsidy/benefit to employers paying low wages?"

            Partially. Without Housing Benefit, housing costs would fall, but not massively so. However, since they cannot fall to zero we would still need Housing Benefit, and the hard limit is for landlords to lose money. You would perhaps see a reasonable drop in house price inflation, but the reality is that housing costs are high because of supply and demand. Prices rise until enough people refuse to live somewhere that the supply of houses matches the number of people wanting them. The rest either leave high-demand areas or accept a lower standard (size, number of occupants, etc.) of accommodation than they were previously wishing for.

            If you fix supply you get house price inflation. If you fix prices by fiat then you get massive shortages and corruption. There's no real way out of this.

          2. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: housing benefit

            "On the other hand it is still true to say that housing benefit ends up in the pockets of the landlords, isn't it?"

            Well yes, but the really mental bits come in when you look at the whole process.

            1 The government uses taxes to pay for housing benefit

            2. The housing benefit is paid to the tennant who (mostly but not always) gives it to the landlord

            3. The landlord pays tax on the income

            4. goto 1

            It seems to me that it would be better to offer landlords tax free income on properties that they rent out at an affordable rate to people claiming housing benefit... So the landlord could offer a property 20% cheaper and still make the same profit... this would of course require more regulation of the housig market (at least the portion of it being used for benefits claimants)

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

          "Have you tried seeing if things are true before saying them?"

          Are you serious? I thought that had established beyond any doubt that the definition of fact has changed in recent years... the rule seems to be whoever states a "fact" first/loudest is correct.

        3. Duffy Moon

          Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

          "Have you tried seeing if things are true before saying them?"

          Post-truth world innit

    3. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

      @Loyal

      "You'll hear cries of wails about how housing prices will crash. So what? If the value of the house you are lucky enough to currently own halves, it doesn't affect you, because the nominal value of that property lies only in its sale value, which, if you sold it, you would then have to spend to buy another house. The ONLY people which this would adversely affect are those who own multiple properties"

      Actually you have missed something here, if house prices are cut in half then loads of people will be in negative equity.

      What you are forgetting is that there is a middle ground betwwn not owning a house and owning a house outright - having a mortgage.

      So if my house was worth 200k and I had a £150k mortgage I have 50k equity in the house.

      If the house prices were cut in half I would have -50k equity in my house.. It wouldnt matter if other houses were more affordable I'd still be saddled with that debt.

    4. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: No basic income without basic accommodation

      @Loyal

      "in other words a nationwide program of building state-sponsored social housing."

      Does that go with a state sponsored program of forcing land to be sold for said housing or are we proposing building tenements again, because they worked so well the first time.

  19. Panicnow

    Low value tasks

    There are many tasks that would be nice done, but don't justify a living wage. Basic Income would allow otherwise unemployed resources to add value. (I've a number of jobs around my house I'd like done, but not at £7 per hour)

  20. Panicnow

    Paid to Diet

    BI provides a subsistence living. This means anyone not topping it up has a very low ecological footprint. I'd support this, just so I can enjoy "their ration" of world resources

  21. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Significant problem with Basic Income

    We as human beings seem to be wired to work or function better around those who work. If my memory serves me (unfortunately no citation) the data on achievement levels among children of parents who do not work is horrifying. "Lost generation"-level horrifying.

    So I'm not opposed to Basic Income if we reach a point where large segments of the population have been automated out of work altogether, but it's kind of a nuclear option to deal with the issue. (see icon)

  22. infracat

    Basic Income post

    I found this article well thought out and clearly stated. It serves to illustrate why some of these issues are so divisive, they are three dimensional and faceted. From any persons point of view, a portion of the issue can be seen, but part can not. Another person viewing from a different point sees something different. As to if it should have been posted here I will not judge though I read The Register for more then the technical content. There are other, more dry, places available that have tech. The Register is more alive and I thank them for it. While I would not wish to see The Register change to a social comment publication I enjoy the format is uses and the occasional article that makes one think. I also enjoy the humor for the entertainment value and sometimes for the memories. I too have spent time clearing Post-It notes from floppy drives.

  23. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Tax workaholics.

    We tax tobacco (in part) because it it leads to heart disease which costs health service. Yet we don't tax people who work damage themselves by working too much, especially if they already have a comfortable dwelling and reliable vehicle.

    I only offer this observation to stimulate ideas.

    Felix Dennis said that in retrospect he wished he'd stopped working 18 hour days when he'd reached £30 million, and instead retired to plant trees and write poetry. Yet he didn't do that - he continued working long hours out of habit, as he put it. Planting trees and writing poetry are better for your health than cocaine and prostitutes (though he said that he gave those up when he reached sixty years of age).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Tax workaholics.

      I'm not sure how possible it is. My experience of the kind of people who work stupid hours and make serious money is that they're too driven to stop. And if they do stop, will just find other things to fill the time, like charity/church/club/steam railway work. Or consult at what they did before.

      They seem to be the kind of people who rarely sit down and read a book, or watch telly, but still manage to fit in quite an active social life, even with the mad levels of work. Then when they retire, the pace stays the same.

  24. Dave 126 Silver badge

    The Amish

    The Amish make very little use of technology that has been developed in the last couple of centuries. Yet they don't find it a chore to erect a barn without the use of the latest DeWalt power drill. In fact they claim to enjoy it, because they are surrounded by lots of their mates and no one individual has to that much work. I'm inclined to believe them, based on my own activities: Do I like feeling useful? Yes. Do I like messing around with lots of mates? Yes. The meaning of life is to fart about, as Kurt Vonnegut said.

    Too little work is bad for you. Too much work is bad for you. And the Amish, despite a bigger than average occurrence of some medical conditions due to their limited genetic pool, are healthier than the wider population.

    1. Toltec

      Re: The Amish

      I am sure the Amish look after their aged and ill, how do they deal with those that refuse to work? Possibly it does not really happen due to upbringing and a healthier outlook on life?

      "Do I like feeling useful? Yes. Do I like messing around with lots of mates? Yes. The meaning of life is to fart about, as Kurt Vonnegut said."

      Agreed, I've built house extensions and helped mates out with DIY, I like solving problems and building stuff, however as this includes things like telephone systems, networks, data centres and cars* I don't think the Amish lifestyle is for me. When I retire I'll undoubtedly keep building stuff, I just won't be being paid to do as much of it. UBI may allow more people to invent/create some really useful or interesting things and take the risk of seeing if they can earn an income doing something they love doing. If nothing else it might reduce depression and intolerance, but part of me fears the dystopia of state subsistance and an isolated elite, human nature being what it is.

      * I walk to work, go figure...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The Amish

      Dave 126,

      The Amish are happy, perhaps because the ones who aren't are free to leave. And join a modern economy, with all the shinies that they could want. I don't know what their rules are on medical care, but they benefit from the science that modern societies have generated - even if they don't use all the drugs.

      That kind of society can happily exist. But it can't cope with running cities - and if you're going to have a global population of 7bn, you're going to need cities.

      And if you're going to have a UBI to support people living the Amish type of lifestyle, you're going to need a bunch of far richer taxpayers in order to support it. Which is fine, one of the points of the policy is to allow people choice.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: The Amish

        Some of the Amish do use power tools, diesel generators and pneumatic powered tools, they might still believe in the simple life and live it, but they will ustiise parts of the modern world that can be useful to sustaining that.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

          Re: The Amish

          The Amish rules about use of technology are based on their local church (which is usually about 20-40 families), and not the movement as a whole. So you can have one church that allows things like bicycles and power tools, and the next church that could be just 1-2 miles down the road that doesn't allow those same things.

          I remember an article from some years back where a visitor staying with an Amish family remarked on the families ownership of a toaster, to which the household patriarch said "We are of this world, and we like toast."

          There is a terrific documentary about the Amish available through the U.S. Public Broadcast Service if you are interested. It is named "The Amish", and it does a very good job of humanizing a group that is often looked at as rather otherworldly.

  25. Aunty Dan

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,

    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;

    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,

    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew

    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true

    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four

    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man

    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.

    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,

    And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins

    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,

    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    "The Gods of the Copybook Headings", Rudyard Kipling, 1919.

  26. bobfrancis1980

    Citizens Dividend

    A citizens dividend would be able to provide the same as a universal basic income while being much less controversial, at least for the 99%.

    The 1% will of course want to hold onto the world's resources and put out any argument they can think of that would help their cause.

    But let's be fair, the resources of this planet were here before any of us. Why should people or companies get to profit from these resources?

    They rightfully belong to all of us.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cutting the cost of bureaucracy?

    Having known someone who worked at one of the government mail opening places, basic income at least seems like a good idea to me.

    You wouldn't have to pay people to deliver, open, scan the mail, assessors to process the legitimacy of those scans, decide that they're not entitled to support (as a matter of course, to add to the discouragement the system is designed to offer), deliver, open, scan and process the inevitable appeal, along with the £40 for the GP's medical assessment.

    But then that's a lot of people out of a job and less tax coming in to pay for this basic income.

    I suppose the cost of the bureaucracy doesn't equate to the cost of the basic income. And when you don't have to work by necessity, how many people would...

  28. DougS Silver badge

    Here's what I'd like to see discussed about UBI

    The typical discussions devolve into the usual arguments on both sides. It is boring and pointless.

    Instead, I'd like to see someone from the hardcore anti-UBI side answer the question of what's the alternative if there is massive structural unemployment in our society. Hypothetically, let's say that at some future date it becomes possible to build a robot/android with sufficient AI that it can replace half the human work force at a purchase/rental price equivalent to five full time minimum wage employees. Let's assume structural unemployment will quickly goes from 5% to 15% and it is obvious to nearly everyone it will go up to 50% in the next decade or two.

    What alternatives to UBI are there to handle this? Do you make the robots illegal? Do you tax them heavily to make them less attractive to employers? Do you eliminate the minimum wage so people can work for less and less money as time goes on to undercut the robots? Personally, I see only three possible outcomes in such a future:

    1) UBI or something like it, to insure the now "useless" idle masses are kept happy

    2) extermination, the useless idle masses are killed or essentially caged in ghettos and allowed to starve dystopian Sci Fi movie style

    3) revolution, where the useless idle masses rise up in anger - many die and you end up with #1 or #2 depending on who wins

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Here's what I'd like to see discussed about UBI

      "Instead, I'd like to see someone from the hardcore anti-UBI side answer the question of what's the alternative if there is massive structural unemployment in our society."

      OK, I'm hardcore anti-UBI, so I'll bite. You are the one suggesting an alternative system to the current one. It is therefore up to you to explain:

      1) how to transition from one system to another without financial collapse;

      2) how to pay for UBI without eye-watering tax increases.

      Part of the reason that people support UBI is that it reduces admin. Not really: our current admin is because some people need more benefits than others. The author of this article, consciously avoiding any numbers in his argument as to why we should upend society for his benefit, gets considerably more in disability benefits than standard unemployed people. Which level is the UBI to be set on? If disabled people can live on it, everyone else will be having a party, for a month or two before the economy collapses.

      Even £200/wk is £10k/year, multiplied by roughly 50m adults yields £500bn/year. Children get nothing, of course, because sod 'em, and we already cannot afford that bill. That is the same order of magnitude as total UK expenditure: OK, the benefits bill can be reduced, but not eliminated, as £200/week cannot get you accommodation in many parts of the country, so we take say £100bn off the benefit bill. This gets you down to roughly half of total UK government expenditure. So, taxes will have to rise by 50% to pay for this: basic income tax at roughly 30%, plus 15% NI, VAT at 30%, and so on. And that's true only if the economy doesn't suffer for it, which of course it will in the short term, even if long-term it works.

      Of course, foreigners can't be able to claim it for obvious reasons, so we would have to leave the EU to implement this. Which I guess is not the argument that it was last year when I was talking about this.

      I would be convinced of UBI only if someone can actually show me how to implement it without such massive downside risks that I would prefer large-scale unemployment instead.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Here's what I'd like to see discussed about UBI

        I'm not pro-UBI, I just don't see what alternative there is if we get to the point where robots can replace a good portion of the population. We may have a preview of this in a decade when truck, bus, taxi and Uber drivers start losing their jobs en masse. If all 3.5 million truck driving jobs in the US went the unemployment rate would go up by 3%. Wouldn't happen overnight, but what sort of jobs will be created for these people that they're qualified to do, and how much of a pay cut would that new job entail for them?

        Granted, taxes would have to be high to pay for this, but you'd have to 'follow the money' instead of thinking in terms of tax rates. Instead of paying money to all the workers who were replaced by robots, that income will go to the people who own the robots and the people who make the robots. Since the people who own the robots and the people who make the robots may be in a tax haven and untouchable, the only option is to tax the robots themselves just like you tax labor income currently.

        This would have the effect of slowing down the robot transition by making them more expensive, but if you taxed a robot replacing four $30K/yr workers (because robots can work 168 hours a week, instead of just 40) $120K/yr then you could provide four displaced workers with as much as $120K/yr of UBI.

        Is taxing robots fair to the robot owners who make less money, and fair to the robot makers who sell fewer due to reduced demand? No it absolutely is not, but again I ask, what's the alternative? Otherwise you'd have more and more robots being bought as their price went down and capability went up, and more and more people losing their jobs and unable to get new jobs. Do you let them starve? Tell them to move to a third world country where wages are low but you can survive on less money?

        I totally agree that UBI has massive downside risks, but I think it should be obvious to any thinking person that the downside risks of 30% unemployment in a developed economy would hugely outweigh the risks of UBI, unless you figure you'll be one of the rich ones who owns the robots and will live in another country where the violent mobs willing to kill you so they can get money to feed their starving children can't hurt you. It is also ultimately self-defeating to the robot owners who presumably own businesses that use the robots, because they'll lose a customers as their customers become permanently unemployed and might eventually lose their business.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the billionaire tax dodging megacorps could pay for it too...

    ...having spent years avoiding paying their share and exploiting cheap labour everywhere.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      Re: Maybe the billionaire tax dodging megacorps could pay for it too...

      "Maybe the billionaire tax dodging megacorps could pay for it too"

      If you scroll up a little you will see a breakdown (estimated) - the numbers dont seem too far off to me, 500bn is what it would cost (Estimated) to give 10k a year to every adult. Now if you add up all of the "tax dodging megacorps" tax contributions (or rather what they should have paid had they not been exploiting legal loopholes) you still dont have a number anywhere near 500bn... so wheres the rest coming from?

  30. RobertD

    The Heirs of Reginald Perrin

    In 'The Legacy of Reginald Perrin' a few years ago, the heirs to his estate had to come up with a really silly idea, so someone proposed the young age pension. When people leave education, they get paid to do nothing for 10 years except bum around, explore the world, have parties, get drunk etc. They get it out of their system, enjoy themselves while they are young enough to do so, then after 10 years they get a job and work until they die.

    It was rejected for being far too sensible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Heirs of Reginald Perrin

      "they get paid to do nothing for 10 years except bum around, explore the world, have parties, get drunk etc. They get it out of their system, enjoy themselves while they are young enough to do so,"

      A bit like the royal family then, and others with privileged parentage. Except everyone gets to play, not just those of privileged parentage. Sounds good to me.

      "after 10 years they get a job and work until they die."

      Ah OK, not so much like most of the royal family and related.

      Still, sounds interesting. I'd vote for it, but then in a forty year working career I've already had one mid-career five year break (much of it spent looking after unwell parents, and then a bit of seeing the world and some small scale local voluntary work) while I was still fit enough to do so and enjoy it.

      Much more recently, like many of the more experienced folks in the industry where I've been for years (safety critical systems design and support), I've started what in my case will probably be another multi year break (not so much through choice this time), and it's almost infinitely improbable that I'll find another relevant job before state pension age. I've again found some voluntary stuff to keep me busy but anything physically demanding (e.g. serious fun, or even just long distance driving) has unfortunately become almost out of the question, which makes me *very* pleased I was able to take the earlier break.

      For most people around my age and with similar work experience this probably wouldn't be a comfortable situation.

      All the best for 2017. Interesting times ahead.

  31. evilhippo

    Giving people other people's money in return for doing nothing beyond existing? Oh yes, what could possibly go wrong with that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Giving people other people's money in return for doing nothing beyond existing? "

      It still works for folks like the minor royals, the late Duke of Westminster ("The father-of-four was Britain's third richest man and the richest property developer in the UK. His vast wealth came from estates in Oxford, Cheshire, and Scotland as well as huge swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia."), etc, doesn't it?

      Folk like the Duke get lots of other peoples' money simply because of an accident of birth, "for doing nothing beyond existing" if you wish to put it that way.

  32. regprentice

    The issue with UBI is that no one really understand how much it will be.

    the only realistic uk proposal was from the Green Party which set UBI at about the state pension rate, or circa 6K a year. Additionally looking sites like RSA or Basicincome.org and Looking at the numbers and understanding the subsequent proposed changes to tax it is in effect saying that we will do away with the initial tax free band and give you the equivalent in cash. This largely washes its own hands and gives a UBI of circa £3k a year.

    Speaking to the man in the pub there seems to be a perception that UBI might produce an income of circa 20K a year, or 'how much might i need to live comfortably without working'. There is a big difference between those two numbers.

    My other concern is that wages will normalise and , after a while, drop by the amount of UBI. to put workers back in the position they were in prior to the introduction of UBI (Though that naturally happens if its simply the withdrawal of the free tax band)

  33. Fink-Nottle
    Thumb Up

    Amendment

    An extra fiver to your weekly UBI for each of your posts on t'internet that garner 50 up-votes.

    Contribute to the circenses, earn more panem.

  34. annodomini2

    UBI is wonderful in principle - Impossible to implement with current culture

    I would love the idea of UBI everyone eats and has a roof over their head.

    The problem is it could never work in a capitalist society, fundamentally the market would render the payments irrelevant within a few months.

  35. Lotaresco

    I don't object to UBI but I don't think it would work

    The problem being basic human nature. There are many people who have no ambition, no interest in work. For those individuals all UBI means is that every day would be spent in the pub/McDonalds. The effort of getting up, getting washed, getting to work would be far too much. Note this subset of the population is not the same as those who are unable to do these things because of illness. The bone-idle have always been with us. This would, in my opinion, lead to ghettoes of no ambition, no effort.

    Then there will be cheats. Those who will take their UBI and work selling stuff on ebay, Gumtree and cards in local shops not declaring their extra income. Others will work illegally for employers relying on UBI to provide basic income and topping it up with cash-paid casual work.

    To even stand a chance of working HMRC would have to adopt (even more) draconian invasion of privacy and penalties for cheating would have to be severe. No "naughty, naughty don't do that again" more like "Cheat on UBI and there is a tumbril and Madame La Guillotine." to stand a chance of success.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure a UBI is that workable from the tax perspective.

    I prefer the Universal Basic Dividend idea. I'm pretty sure a lot of companies will in the future too, as unemployment goes up from people being replaced by technology and those companies sales/profits go down as those unemployed can't afford to buy their product/service.

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/basic-income-funded-by-capital-income-by-yanis-varoufakis-2016-10

  37. Brian Allan 1

    Governments are ALREADY having trouble keeping social services from bankruptcy. Where in hell is the money for a universal income scheme going to come from!? Dream on, utopia is always around the next corner!

  38. MachDiamond Silver badge

    ZPG

    Automation is being added to every process that can be automated. Tesla Motors has promised to employ 6,500 people in it's Gigafactory in order to get a massive subsidy from the state of Nevada while at the same time working to make the Model 3 line the most automated auto production line in the world. Anybody think they won't apply the same level of automation to producing battery packs. Panasonic, who will be manufacturing the cells for Tesla Motors under the same roof also uses a high level of automation since the construction of the cells needs to be done in an inert atmosphere and a vacuum, not places where one puts employees. Precision and consistency are also key points.

    With many areas of the US raising minimum wage to $15/hour, many fast food restaurants are beginning to install kiosks for ordering and delivery. The capital expense for the equipment is getting much more affordable in comparison to the labor efficiency of a typical fast food worker. It might not be long before fast food is nearly 100% automated.

    For too long the human race has added to it's numbers faster than is sustainable. Instead of a GBI, governments should look at an incremental tax on children. The first 2 will still allow the parents to take a standard deduction, the 3rd will only qualify for 1/2 deduction, the 4th won't be allowed a deduction, the 5th gets -1/2 and the 6th -2 leaving zero tax deductions for all of the children. Nothing will preclude a couple from having a large family, they will just have to have the means to support it. For natural births (no IVF) of triplets or more, a waiver can be applied for but the couple can lose tax deductions if they continue having more children. Adopted children might be figured differently, especially if the children are coming from somebody that is already having too many. The parents would be on the hook for the penalty, but could put the child up for adoption if they can't afford to care for it.

    If the world is indeed heading for much more automation and fewer low skill jobs, some thought has to be given to curbing population growth. A GBI is just socialism with a different hat and the ramifications are huge. Low skill/ low wage jobs won't get filled. Foods that need to be harvested by hand will no longer be grown or will become very expensive. A ticket on a cruise ship could double and cause that industry to seriously contract. The US politicians have been actively shipping manufacturing jobs overseas and telling everybody that the economy is switching into a "service" economy. With a GBI, many of the people working service jobs are going to find it much easier to move to someplace with a low cost of living and not working.

    Agriculture can be described as the process of using dirt to convert petroleum into food. With diminishing petroleum reserves, the day will come when a large percentage of the world's population are going to starve or die from disease brought on by a poor diet. Prices of food will go up while job availability will go down. Employment in the US is way down from figures a decade or two ago. The president of Gallup (a polling company) published figures showing how the US government employment figures were a lie. Full time, well paying jobs are leaving the country (and the first world) and are being replaced by low paying part time jobs with no benefits. On the surface, GBI would help, but that money has to come from somewhere. TANSTAAFL. People with money and high-earners will transfer or "earn" their money in some country that doesn't report to The Man maintaing the status quo and bankrupting a country. GBI is a silly idea. My home will be paid off in a little over a year and my monthly costs will be very little. It would be so easy to retire at a very young age and live off of a GBI.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Automation is being added to every process that can be automated."

      You reckon?

      Many organisations with call centres (for example) still seem to be prefer to offshore work (presumably because it's allegedly low cost) rather than to invest in decent automation.

      Maybe you're not aware, but one of the consistently highest-rated organisations in the UK for customer satisfaction gets there in because its phones are usually answered by competent well informed humans rather than automation or by human scriptreaders, frequently incomprehensible and offshore. Even more amazingly, that organisation is a bank, and one which doesn't offer particularly competitive rates on anything (unlike e.g. Santander) but some people are willing to make that tradeoff in return for decent customer service . (It's the bank which started in the ex-Systime building in Leeds).

      Maybe you've not noticed the resurgence of (e.g.) craft breweries, craft bakeries, etc in some parts of the world (though at least some of the craft breweries have some stages of the process automated to some extent:

      https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/automated-home-brewing/ (from 2014 but there are more around these days).

      Maybe you've not seen that some very reputable motor vehicle manufacturers have tried automation and in some parts of the process have decided it's not for them:

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/26/mercedes-benz-robots-people-assembly-lines

      Maybe you've not seen that in some Amazon warehouses in the UK, they use mobile robots for bulk transport between stationary shelves and stationary pickers. The picker's job (taking stuff from the shelf and putting it into a particular order's parcel) is still done by a human. See e.g.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/04/30/amazons-robot-revolution-lands-in-britain/

      There will be more automation in many places. Maybe not everywhere. One size does not fit all. Realism is not really optional.

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