Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing
This was an exciting book! I’ve always thought that a UBI (Universal Basic Income) was a good idea. The author lays out clear arguments for a UBI, explains common misconceptions and arguments made against UBI, and gives suggestions how it could be funded. I’m now even more in favour of a UBI than ever before.
A major question people have is, how can we fund an UBI? If we think of it as a Social Dividend, a share of the common resources every citizen has access to, then we can see that taxing these things that are being used makes sense. The air, water, land, and intellectual property should be taxed. If you are bottling water, and profiting from it, you should be taxed on using the water resource. If you are polluting the air with factories, you need to pay the air tax. If you are renting land to people, and profiting from it, you need to pay portion of this to the state.
Taxes on income producing assets - physical, financial, and intellectual - is taxed far too low in comparison to tax on labour. This is why we have a huge gap in wealth. The rich have lots of capital (land, stock, rental properties, patents), and the poor just have their labour to rely on.
An interesting part of the book is the philosophical arguments he lays in the beginning of the book, on why we need a UBI on the basis of personal freedom, and economic security.
There is no reason that all countries shouldn’t have a UBI. As this COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, we are living in precarious times that will only become more unstable as the climate is destroyed, and robots take our jobs. If we had a UBI maybe we could’ve shut down economies quicker to spread the contagion without people worrying about their jobs & salaries?
On the topic of ‘robots taking our jobs’. This is both true and false. True, robots will take those menial jobs that nobody really likes away from humans: driving a taxi, working in a factory, and industrial farming. That being said, there will never be an absence of ‘work’. Work is what we do outside of the formal labour market. This includes taking care of your sick grandma, volunteering at the community center, and raising your children. With the UBI, people could be more free to spend their times in ways that don’t contribute to the GDP but still make a valuable contribution to society, all by making people happier, healthier, and more friendly towards others (increased altruism).
This book is excellent and all should read it. We are at the limits of ‘pure’ capitalism. We need to make some adjustments to the future of workunless we want to live in one of those dystopian societies in the book we read.
Book #46 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge