Coronavirus suddenly matters. Although apparently in good health, at 85 I may not have very long.
The basic income could have catalysed an orderly transition from growth to sustainability 40 years ago – world-wide. But Caroline Lucas has never taken me seriously.
Nevertheless last year I asked Caroline to draw Greta Thunberg’s attention to my weblog. I thought Greta might grasp the relevance of the basic income better than Caroline does, because she regards Asperger’s as a gift. Caroline has repeatedly declined to use her prominent position to recommend my views to anyone with influence, on the grounds that she was not in contact with them. Having just invited Greta to address Parliament, she could not use that pretext. But I was clutching at straws. I was surprised when she did pass on my request. As Caroline does not take my ideas seriously, I did not expect her to encourage Greta to do so. I was duly fobbed off by someone on Greta’s behalf with a similar conventional, practical mind. I doubt if Greta is aware of my weblog.
This powerful link makes one of the points I have been making all along: that a planned recession could have been made thinkable in 1973. Sandy Irvine has sent me this link to the Independent, making the same point, as does Layla Moran MP’s letter recommending the basic income to the chancellor of the Exchequer. I see that Natalie Bennett has already made a Parliamentary start. Suddenly everyone agrees with me that a recession makes sense of a basic income.
Now is the moment for vision. First Aid is only half the story. One early effect of Coronavirus was to drastically reduce pollution in cities, due to the sharp drop in Chinese economic activity. Air travel is suddenly non-existent. Oil is staying in the ground. The basic income acts as first aid by restoring economic activity as nearly as possible to pre-virus levels. That is exactly what is needed at first, but unless it is swiftly linked to the environmental threat, the ‘rescue’ will accelerate the headlong rush into the Tragedy of the Commons. or as the Prime Minister puts it “Growth will come roaring back!”.
Instead, we have the unexpected opportunity for individuals world wide, to decide what they do not need. Caroline can join the new basic income converts in Parliament. Being possibly Asperger’s myself, I bow to others on tactics. It may be that these two ideas, first aid. closely followed by eco-salvation need to be introduced separately.
Rishi Sunak’s piecemeal, incomplete measures announced on Friday 20th March edge ever closer to an unconditional basic income (UBI) to every individual. But they lack the UBI’s simplicity, and its potential to save the ecosphere. Details will need to be worked out: how much per capita, how will it be paid for. . . But it needs to be a sum to everyone, linked to the ecological threat. Unravelling the Chancellor’s inadequate measures afterwards will not only be difficult, but prone to fraud. At least with a UBI, everyone has a NI number on a computer.
When I suggested a UBI in 1973 to usher in a controlled, voluntary recession there was plenty of room for manoeuvre. Now, all we can do, even with the computers at the government’s disposal, is ensure that what there is, is shared fairly.
But Although my primary request is to Caroline Lucas, I also ask her to recommend my weblog to Greta Thunberg. Greta says “Listen to the scientists”. But the scientists can only clarify what will happen if nothing changes. The UBI is not a panacea, but it is an essential catalyst for most of the answers.
The Chinese pictogram for ‘crisis’ reads ‘opportunity/ danger’. The Chancellor’s proposals may rescue economic growth from Coronavirus, but if that is all they do, they will then be the cause of a much worse ecological disaster.
The basic income can avoid this fate.