What follows is a letter which I have written to the Right Reverend John Packer, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.
Some time ago you were kind enough to see me at your home, and you bought a copy of my book, “Citizens’ Income and Green Economics”. I have hesitated to write to you because what I have to say could be read as criticism. It is intended rather as an appeal for what I hope will happen. There have been three recent occasions where the logic of the Citizens’ Basic Income was relevant but was not brought to bear, one involving you, and one each involving the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Your important contribution to the Lords debate on welfare benefits would have been strengthened by mention of the Citizens’ Income principle. Were you inhibited by the fact that it is Green Party policy? I realize you must avoid being identified with a political party, but you need only mention the CI itself, and explain how it impinges on the situation under discussion. The Citizens Income Trust is non-political. It would be up to the GP to draw attention to the Party’s policy.
The benefits restored to claimants in Court which were being cancelled by the legislation were means tested. Means testing is wrong in principle, but simply to abolish benefits is oppressive to the poorest in society. You have read ‘Dynamic Benefits’, which exposes the malign effect of means testing. That part of the report could be published under the heading “the Case for a Citizens Basic Income”. I felt you could have drawn attention to that in the debate.
The dramatic increase in ‘payday loans’ is another direct consequence of the removal of means tested benefits. Credit Unions are necessary as first aid, but the Archbishop of Canterbury could have tellingly used the same passages from ‘Dynamic Benefits’.
Dr. Sentamu has been criticised for inconsistency, in that he has expressed disapproval of ‘workfare’, although he is the President of the YMCA which uses workfare placements. Workfare is both oppressive and idiotic when dozens of desperate unemployed are already competing for every scarce vacancy. My book spells out that although the Citizens Basic Income does allow everybody not to work, it actually creates a work incentive, even when employment prospects are limited. Once a C(B)I for all at an adequate level is in place, voluntary, unpaid work for charities will make sense as a personal choice by many. Until it is, workfare at Jobseekers Allowance rates is slave labour.
These ideas need to be taken seriously and publicised by individuals who are already taken seriously by the wider world. To what extent do you have the ear of the Archbishops?