Jon Cruddas and Tom Kibasi are wrong—"modified" UBI is the way forwardby Stewart Lansley, Howard Reed / July 6, 2016 / Leave a comment
Jon Cruddas and Tom Kibasi are not paid-up members of the Universal Basic Income fan-club—as their article in the July issue of Prospect—A Universal Basic Mistake—shows. As they put it, a UBI would “discourage work, perpetuate inequality, be expensive and be politically extremely unpopular.” Yet they provide no evidence for any of these assertions.
Of course, there are different models of UBI. The Compass report which we have authored, A Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?, outlines several types. These simulations show that a full scheme, one that swept away the existing system of income support, would be either too expensive or create too many losers.
However, a “modified” scheme, one that began by providing a UBI at a moderate level while leaving much of the existing system intact, would be perfectly feasible. Contrary to Cruddas and Kibasi’s claims, such a scheme, while not a silver bullet, would offer substantial gains: a sharp increase in average income among the poorest, a cut in child poverty of 45 per cent, and a modest reduction in inequality, all at a manageable cost of £8bn.
This model would strengthen the universal element of the current benefit system, thus reducing the reliance on means-testing. By providing a guaranteed, if modest income, it would, crucially, offer a more robust safety net in an insecure, low-paid and fragile working environment, while reducing the risk of poverty among those in employment. In this way, it offers a clear gain over today’s increasingly punitive, intrusive and patchy benefit system, making it fit for the 21stcentury.
Another significant merit of a UBI is that it offers all citizens much greater freedom of choice between work, leisure, education and caring responsibilities. For the first time, those who spend large parts of their time caring for others would receive an income, while all lifestyle choices would be equally valued. We would value but not over-value work
Yet Cruddas and Kibasi assert that UBI supporters are peddling “an ideology of idleness.” UBI fans are, apparently, extreme utopians, zealots for…