On Universal Basic Income, Be Careful What You Wish For

The Expanse IFF protest
A scene from The Expanse, where oppressed citizens of the future exist on subsistence ‘Basic Assistance’ Welfare

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) Organizer, John Clarke writes:

In the last while, I have discussed the issue of basic income with hundreds of people who support it in a range of countries. In all the interactions I have had, I have yet to come across a serious and coherent response to three simple questions.

    1. Since the 1970s, existing income support systems have been degraded so as to create a sense of desperation and force people into low paid precarious work. This strategy has been horribly successful. If we have been unable to defeat this austerity agenda, on what basis is it assumed that an adequate universal payment that would reverse it can be obtained? (If universality is your answer, take note of the attack on public healthcare systems).
    2. Since it is assumed that a truly adequate UBI is going to be created under capitalism, how does that system and its job market function without the economic coercion that is presently at the heart of things?
    3. Right wing neoliberal thinkers have in mind a form of basic income that provides a means tested and inadequate payment. This would serve as a subsidy to low paying employers so as to block struggles for decent wages while, at the same time, it would be used to replace other systems of social provision. This would be an entirely regressive development. It is not enough to say that your version of BI is not like that. What is the plan to ensure the kind of BI the World Bank would like to see is prevented and the progressive model prevails?

If this post sparks interest, I expect some responses but few real answers to these questions. In my view, there aren’t any adequate responses to them because they point to reasons why a progressive UBI is not going to happen under capitalism and certainly not during the neoliberal era.

UBI, Further Reading:
















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