The comments thread on Monday’s post about paying people to write has revealed an interesting commonality: without controls anyone would sign up. So, I thought I’d post my response as a separate article: that’s what I want.
In fact, I want to remove the obstacle of needing even a pretence of using it to compensate for books written or art produced.
The current unemployment benefit system in the United Kingdom involves a complex structure of testing based on amount of National Insurance paid in the past, savings, income, and active search for work; with active search for work being measured with a high-level box-ticking metric of X jobs in fields A,B, & C per Y weeks rather than a holistic effort-to-become-permanently-employed judgement. In addition to pressing people who want to develop themselves with a long-term improvement (for example, a degree) to instead take a low-level job, this testing structure produces a bureaucracy to administer it, a bureaucracy to deal with appeals, and a bureaucracy to reclaim money that has been paid when the testing structure says it shouldn’t have been.
Therefore, the cost of unemployment benefit is higher than the amount paid out. So, I’m suggesting scrapping that cost. Replace unemployment benefit with a regular payment to each citizen with no testing. Not enough that they are rich, but enough to live on.
Living in a box behind a fast-food restaurant? Eligible for citizen’s income.
Own a multi-million pound company? Eligible for citizen’s income.
Writing and publishing a song every week? Eligible for citizen’s income.
Sitting on your sofa watching daily television all day and eating pies? Eligible for citizen’s income.
Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The cost of administering the current system isn’t just higher than payouts; it’s much higher. Higher by enough according to a Green Party study that replacing tested benefit with universal entitlement would save money.
And that’s assuming everyone took the entitlement. Many people earning a decent salary probably wouldn’t.
Instead of an economy that said people had to seek jobs from the class of “proper” work, we could build an economy that said primary caregivers could devote their time to that instead of working a part-time job as well; an economy that allowed the next great novelist to spend a year sweating over a keyboard instead of having to spend six years of evenings and weekends around an admin job; an economy that lets a woman in Glasgow who had a crazy idea for a low-entropy battery build the prototype that moves us one step closer to a post-scarcity world instead of dreaming during her lunch breaks.