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Universal Basic Income: What is it and can it work?

We take a look at Universal Basic Income, the possibilities and pitfalls, and introduce you to our own branch of IndyIncome

What is it?

In its most basic form, (pardon the pun) Universal Basic Income is a regular, unconditional payment for every citizen across the country. Understandably, there’s still argument about the figures - but the general consensus is that it should be enough to live off, i.e. a living wage.

UBI is an age-old concept supported by intellectual giants like Martin Luther King, William Morris and Virginia Woolf. The history of the scheme can be dated back to Thomas Paine's essay, Agrarian Justice, where he proposes the idea as part of a social security system.

Is it feasible?

It’s no secret that not everyone gets an equal share in the economy’s wealth. Generally, the majority of wealth is amassed by those who own land or capital. (When writing this article, I accidentally wrote ‘the majority of wealth is amassed by those who own wealth.’ (I was tired!) Of course, I meant to write ‘land/capital,’ but actually this mistake raises a valid point - money begets money, and those born into wealth are able to fail repeatedly without risking the loss of material means, unlike those members of society living paycheck to paycheck and only one unexpected expense away from potential bankruptcy.)

UBI works by taxing everyone fairly. Taxes on any unearned income, such as rent, shares, inheritance, property and so on, have decreased dramatically in recent years. Reduced corporation tax has resulted in more tax havens and offshore accounts, essentially leading to a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The RSA (The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) believes that properly initiated UBI would help people get in to work, provide them with opportunity to rethink their lives and contribute to better overall health and wellbeing. Others claim it would be a disincentive and wouldn’t result in any clear benefit to society overall..

Isn’t it just for freeloaders?

Critics might assume that the introduction of UBI would mean people would stop working. Maybe some would, but the majority of people will always want to actively contribute to society, and actually this argument misses the point anyway. At the moment, people are having to work increasingly long hours for low pay just in order to scrape by. This morning, (Feb 16th 2018), the BBC announced the biggest decline in home-ownership in 20 years amongst 25-34 year olds.  In recent years, there’s been a huge influx in zero-hour contracts and gig work, which is unstable by its very nature. A basic stipend could be used to support those in precarious work.

In short, yes, some may freeload, but that will always be the case. We choose to think more positively and focus on the good a scheme like Universal Basic Income could do.

Why indycube participate

There’s an argument to be made that UBI would allow more people to start their own businesses. With a guaranteed monthly income at a level high enough to support and sustain basic living expenses, more time could be given to creative passions and pursuits. There would be more time for community work, volunteering (proven to increase happiness) and education.

Indycube is apolitical and sector-agnostic, so we’re not making any political statements when we say we support the notion that everyone could reach their full potential. We offer our staff a day’s worth of basic income time every week, allowing them opportunity to engage in creative pursuits, collect their children from school, or volunteer locally. It’s sustainable for us, and it means we get the most out of our day to day work because we’re all fulfilled on a creative and personal level.

We’ll leave you with the wise words of Steve Jobs: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do."

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