Why (almost) everything leads to the Citizens’ Basic Income

Johnny Void’s blog gives a devastating criticism of the government’s merciless attack on the poor, but I want to take his message further. 23rd March on Osborne’s budget for rich kids is a must read. JV is angry, and rightly so.
As Johnny Void says, the only people with fifteen grand a year to spare to stash in an ISA to take advantage of George Osborne’s so-called saver’s revolution are George Osborne, his parents, and everyone he knows. The same could be said about David Cameron, Nick Clegg, David Miliband and even Nigel Farage.
There was nothing in that budget for the poorest: the families queuing at food banks, or disabled people living in fear of the next Atos assessment.
I remind myself of the youth who was referred to a psychiatrist for being obsessed with sex. The shrink showed him a card with just a square on it.
Doc: “What does that remind you of?
“Sex”
Next picture, a circle.
“That looks sexy to me”
Doc: “OK, how about this?”
(It doesn’t matter what it was)
“When are you going to stop showing me dirty pictures?”
My problem is that I keep finding things that make me, and nobody else, think of the Citizens Basic Income. Johnny Void’s blog is just the latest. So is Boycott Workfare. It first happened to me with Limits to Growth, back in 1972, which explored how long before the physical limits of the Earth could cope with increasing population times increasing per capita consumption. Some think the ‘Limits’ study cried “Wolf” because it didn’t happen quite as the MIT study predicted, but the point of the story of the boy who cried “Wolf” is that the wolf did appear in the end. The ‘Limits’ question is not ‘if’, but only ‘when’. I thought: “This will need something which will allow the (temporary?) absence of economic growth to be a possibility – perhaps even a policy option for governments, to allow us to avoid the worst whenever ‘Limits’ does come true. Whole populations need to lose their fear of a recession. But when I put this idea to others, they said I was mad. I did manage to hoodwink the Green Party into including the Citizens’ Basic Income in its first Manifesto, and it is still there, but it has lain in the long grass ever since. The Green Party is not mad.
It happened again with Dynamic Benefits, towards Welfare that works. (Click ‘Publications – Sept 2009). This time the diagnosis of my insanity was clearer. ‘Dynamic’ is the report on which Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of Welfare and Pensions’ unbelievably odious workfare policy is based. It introduced the ‘Universal Credit’. (But it is not to blame for the bedroom tax, or sanctions). Yet I keep urging Green Party spokespersons, and anyone who will listen, that purely from the social justice angle, no mention of zero growth, the first part is unintentionally a comprehensive case for the Citizens’ BI, complete with explanations and graphs showing the withdrawal of means tested benefits as the massive tax it is in effect on very low incomes. But with the possible exception of Natalie Bennett, whose sanity must now be in question, no one is stupid enough to mention the Citizens’ Basic Income. None of them follow my febrile suggestion that they might actually read, and quote chunks of Dynamic Benefits, to the considerable embarrassment of IDS, perhaps even his downfall. But only someone as deluded as me would see that as a possibility. At least Johnny Void should be viewing my ravings with mixed feelings. Pity this bloke is bonkers, he must be thinking. It would be nice if we could get rid of IDS sooner rather than later.
But there is more evidence that Johnny’s hope would be misplaced. I really am insane. I have this absolute certainty that I am right, and that nobody understands me. At the very least I must be bad at expressing myself, otherwise why aren’t these ideas already going viral? I even believe that Iran offers us a way forward. they were forced to introduce a Basic Income because a means tested scheme intended to deal with rising prices collapsed. Only a madman could think it might happen here.
I think the Green Party has gone mad, but I would, wouldn’t I? It is at risk of being dominated by a group who want to project it as an anti-capitalist Party. I am not in favour of the capitalists, indeed they are a dangerous lot, but I can see it from their point of view. There is further evidence of my madness in that my strategy for dealing with the menace of capitalism is to make friends with some of their supporters, (fracking should help us to do that) and to stop buying their products. We can do that once we have a Citizens’ BI, which will allow repair and recycling to come into their own. To be sure, Zac Goldsmith, who I have, in my diseased mind tried to reach out to, has not shown much sign of responding, but it is no use complaining of faults on both sides.
Applied as between nations, the principle on which the Citizens’ Basic Income is based could transform international relations. The pressures for economic migration would be relieved, and the free movement of peoples could become a matter of fact reality.
But what about the capitalists? I hear you say again. (A hallucination – that would mean someone was taking me seriously). As I say, I can see it from their angle. No one has yet thought of a way to make not manufacturing very much an attractive idea to manufacturers. The Citizens’ BI is not a panacea, but at least if (when??) it does go viral, world-wide, and the 99% are clamouring for it, then a ‘Ceausescu crowd’ moment could happen. Not that I am suggesting bloodshed. A better image to close on is Nelson Mandela. He did not have a panacea either. He did not cure all South Africa’s ills. But he did achieve one, vital reform. And once he had wrested what he needed to from his enemies, he forgave the bastards.

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7 responses to “Why (almost) everything leads to the Citizens’ Basic Income

  1. I think your CBI is a great idea – why have I never heard of it? Manufacturers are clearly mad. In their ideal world people should work for nothing but still have money to buy their products. Back in 60s/70s there were sensible ideas floating along the lines of “Small is Beautiful” an awareness of the detriment of ever expanding population with the resulting destruction of the environment and speculation about sustainable development, and people opting for a less consumerist life style. But that didn’t make money for the capitalist profiteers and they have all the politicians in their pockets. And Thatcher wasn’t exactly a cultural improvement. Now we have generations who grew up without hearing those ideas of the 60s 70s and all they want is money either for trendy (stupid) goods or more reasonably just survival. It looks like that’s where we will all be in a few years time – in the gutter with these sensible ideas well out of our reach.

    • Time to reply now we have lost the Euro election in Yorks & Humber.
      As I try to say in the post on which you comment, the Cits BI isn’t a panacea, but I do think it is an essential ‘sine qua non’ if there is to be any chance of the culture that started to emerge and was suppressed. The possibility we have to try to build on is that to actually trash the planet is not in the long term interests of the people who suppressed it.

      • They are pirates. Grab the money and run. Trash what they can’t take and don’t care about consequences. After all they have all the money and power so they will be the last people to be affected.

  2. BCI as a distribution of common value which is currently captured and monopolised (with a tired old justification) by capitalism is what we might call capitalism 2. Capitalism 1 based on complete dispossession as it’s driving force is a 19th century attitude. It is based on the idea that economies should be steered by the discernment consciousness and creativity of the few who have demonstrated responsibility by accruing value. Nowadays the masses possess education and information we collectively have those qualities in far greater abundance than those who have elbowed their way through society to grab monopolies. Give us each a little of that freedom and we will steer economic well-being from the bottom up, the release of stressful grinding day-to-day focus on keeping the wolf from the door will prime a powerful economic reboot.

    • Thanks for the reblog. I have just had a curious Twitter exchange with Frances Coppola – a Citzens BI supporter who doesn’t see any problem with growth. I have always been aware that the Cits BI could be used to fuel growth, indeed one of its benefits is that it will reduce the severity of any recession, but people like Frances C worry me. We have to kick growth dependency.

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