Why we should put ‘basic’ before ‘universal’ in the pursuit of income equality

That’s the title of my latest piece in The Guardian. There are two key points

First, in terms of effective tax rates and tax paid, any means-tested Guaranteed Minimum Income can be replicated by a non-tested Universal Basic Income, and vice versa

Second, for a number of reasons, it would be better to begin by expanding access to an adequate Basic income (in Australia, the Age Pension is an obvious benchmark) rather than starting with a small universal payment and then increasing it to a level sufficient to live on.

30 thoughts on “Why we should put ‘basic’ before ‘universal’ in the pursuit of income equality

  1. I think there is plenty of work that needs doing. We need a lot more technology and service jobs. We need more researchers, more educators, more health and welfare workers. We need more environmental remediation workers . We need more inspection and compliance government workers for environmental and other concerns. We need, in general, to expand the public service again.

    There is plenty of work, that adds value to our lives, that needs doing. I would also prefer to see a fully employed person doing half a real job than an unemployed person doing no job at all. I think the economic benefits are better in the first case and the sense of futility less (but still not zero) in the first case.

  2. Sorry, I should have said above “a full time employee doing half a real job”. And yes, I know private enterprise can’t carry that but public services can until the real value adding work is found and there is plenty to be found. Why are ABS and Centrelink in such a mess now, to give two examples? The answer is simple. Staff cuts have been way too excessive. They need more staff, perhaps 20% more.

  3. More service jobs require more capital to be invested in plain physical productivity, such as e.g. profits from the mechanization of agriculture have released a lot of labour power for services and money to pay for the services.

    And would it not be most fair and democratic to have all citizens participating in the capital creation and ownership (saving and investment) needed to crank up physical productivity for jobs and incomes for all, which is administratively easy through the taxation system ?

  4. @John Brookes

    ‘… what is a “dignified labour income”?’ Good question, so is: what is “being as efficient as you could be”?

    Assuming you agree in principle that the notion of ‘efficiency’ or being ‘efficient’ is related to the notion of ‘optimum’ or ‘optimisation’. On your web-site you give a good example of the difficulties in identifying an optimum when pursuing an economic policy. Your example relates to a series of tax cuts, which exceed the implied optimum.

    I suggest a similar argument can be made for ‘work’ sold by individuals for monetary income. People working less – in terms of hours (and having more time to pursue whatever they like to do, including inventing something in their uncommitted time or doing outreach work) but with high enough wages per unit of time to result in a ‘living wage’ is perhaps a better alternative (‘more efficient in some other sense) to some people, possibly the majority, having no paid ‘work’ but a UBI.

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