Carolyn Stock: Basic income for all basis for thriving society

Basic income affords the means of organising society in a way that supports everyone. It has much to lend it merit. Photo / Bloomberg
Basic income affords the means of organising society in a way that supports everyone. It has much to lend it merit. Photo / Bloomberg

Not long ago the Government pledged $130 million to address domestic violence. That our politicians aim to safeguard basic human rights in this way is a sign of how far we have come as a society. However, like so many of the social problems governments endeavour to "fix" through allocating funding, it does not seem to adequately address the issue that lies at their core.

People often enter and remain in unsatisfactory relationships for economic reasons. Although not the only factor, lack of economic security is a main player when it comes to problems such as domestic violence. If we can address the issue of economic insecurity we are a long way towards addressing many of the long-standing social problems we encounter.

In the main, economic security is the same as job security. The way we are expected to support ourselves is through our having employment.

If there were enough jobs to cater for people needing them, and if a lifetime of job security for every person of working age was ensured, this may be well and good.

However, supply does not match demand. Rutger Bregman, a spokesperson for unconditional basic income, says, "Nowadays, governments are obsessed with pushing people into jobs, even when there are no jobs."

If there are more people requiring job and economic security than there are jobs, tying a person's requirement for food and shelter and other basic necessities to employment status is cruel. There are many people without economic security, not due to personal fault, but due to our as yet failing to see that securing for everyone in society economic security is the basis of humane society.

We have welfare. But is welfare the answer? And is there an alternative?

An idea that has been talked about by social scientists for decades but which only relatively recently has entered mainstream discussion is that of unconditional basic income or the citizen's wage. It is the proposal that every person within society, regardless of their employment status, their income level, their personal wealth, or their relationship status, receive an unconditional basic income to cover basic living costs.

It is an idea that understandably raises concerns among those who first encounter it. First, how could we possibly afford it? And, if we give people "free money", will we not encourage laziness?

Regarding affordability, if you compare basic income with welfare and all other funding that goes into picking up the pieces of current economic practice that is not serving us well, basic income turns out to be cost-effective in the long run.

And concerning the primary moral objection to basic income - the objection that affording basic economic security would result in widespread laziness - there is little to support this dystopian view of ourselves.

An early advocate for guaranteed income, Erich Fromm, points out that if people are forced into jobs they are unsuited to due to having no other means to survive, laziness is the result. However, granted the means for self-determination, people thrive.

Rather than governments pouring money into job-creation schemes that so often fail in effectiveness, basic income affords people the opportunity to create their own meaningful employment.

Most people do not want charity. They want to be in a position to care for themselves and for their contribution to society to be meaningful. Unconditional basic income affords this.

Many benefits derive from ensuring economic security: Businesses are kept in business in that everyone having money they need means there is money to spend. The liberty of freedom of association is upheld. No one need stay in a workplace setting of exploitation or abuse.

Basic income affords the means of organising society in a way that supports everyone. It has much to lend it merit.

Carolyn Stock is author of Free to Exist: The right to be human, available on Amazon.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 22 Oct 2016 14:17:46 Processing Time: 402ms