How Practicable Is Basic Income Today?

According to a recent report, the Bank of England has created £375 billion of new money through its Quantitative Easing programme. This began in March 2009, three and a half years ago. Let us imagine though that instead of creating this money electronically and giving it to the banks, it had created a similar amount of new money and given it to all of us. How would this have panned out?

The population of the UK is currently around 62 million; around 30% of those are 15 years old and under, so allowing for people in prisons and long term institutional care, hospitals, etc, let’s imagine this £375 billion had been distributed to 45 million persons - irrespective of income or net wealth - that would mean £375,000,000,000/45,000,000 further divided by 7/2 which gives us £2,381 per annum.

Obviously a single person living alone could not exist off that; for many commuters it wouldn’t cover train fare much less rent or mortgage, but paying this to every citizen would allow much of the means-tested benefits system to be phased out.

One could add a caveat to this Basic Income distribution, namely that the wealthy would be free to opt out on a monthly or a quarterly basis - no longer period than that. Probably a great many would, if only for reasons of status.

The institution of a Basic Income would eliminate the poverty trap. If on top of that the minimum wage were abolished, the unemployed would have real incentives to take low paid jobs, and even the unemployable would be able to find work here and there. The minimum wage - which was increased October 1 - may have been instituted with the best of intentions, but rather than being fair to low paid workers it destroys jobs, certainly in the private sector.

Of course, there would be a lot more to it than this; some people would still need housing benefits, council tax rebates and such, but the institution of a Basic Income coupled with the phasing out of the means-tested benefits system would soon bring about radical economic and social change. As always, the biggest obstacle to bring about such changes would not be the practicalities of implementation but the powerful vested interests who would oppose it. Like all those benefit snoops who would find themselves out of their jobs.

[The above blog was first published October 2, 2012 (UK time).]

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