16 Feb 2014

Malcolm Torry : Money for Everyone - Why we need a citizen's income

I've just finished reading Malcolm Torry's 2013 book intitled "Money for Everyone - Why we need a citizen's income". I can thoroughly recommend it.

Here's what the book says about the author. "Dr Malcolm Torry is Vicar of Holy Trinity, Greenwich Penisula, in the Church of England Parish of East Greenwich. He is Director of the Citizen's Income Trust, and was a visiting research fellow  at the London School of Economics and Political Science from May 2011 to April 2012".

He clearly didn't waste his time at the LSE. The book is very well documented, with over 700 references, and makes a totally convincing case for introducing an unconditional Citizen's Income. 

I was fascinated to learn that they have had such an unconditional Citizen's income since 1982 in Alaska using a fund that was set up using money obtained from selling oil drilling rights. It's not quite perfect, since the amount paid to each citizen varies depending on the amount money earned by the investments. But, as you can from the official figures for the past 30 years, the best year was in  2008 when the vast majority of Alaska's 680,000 inhabitants received over $2000 each - no questions asked.  The effect seems to have been very beneficial. As Torry notes, "Alaska is the only state in the US in which inequality has decreased during the past twenty years. Whereas in 1980, Alaska's net income inquality was the highest in the United States, now it is the lowest".

He also describes the details of a pilot study run  in Namibia between 2007 and 2009 in which each of the 1000 inhabitants of two villages was given a Citizen's Income of about $12 a month. The results looked amazingly good - with across the board improvements in health, education, crime rate and other measures.  Particularly impressive was the finding that "average income rose a staggering 200 per cent in the lowest quintile, excluding the Citizen's income, because people could now purchase the means of making an income, and they did."

I was pleased to see that Malcolm Torry mentions the possibility of using a Financial Transaction Tax to finance the Citizen's Income. But it looks like he might not have thought about combining the Citizen's income with a change in the way that money is created and introduced into the economy - the sorts of reforms proposed by Positive Money in the UK and Monnaie Honnête in France.

I'm more and more convinced that a combination of the two ideas - debt free money creation by a central publicly accountable authority and injection into the economy via a Citizen's income - provides a truly effective way to fix many of the problems we face.

You can find a neat poster that presents the main arguments for a Citizen's Income here.

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