Well, one thing that might make a difference is the fact that, at last, the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income is starting to appear in mainstream press.
Take, for example, an article called "How to Fix Poverty: Write Every Family an Basic Income Check" that just appeared in Newsweek magazine. The article starts with some sobering figures : "almost 15 percent of citizens (and almost 20 percent of children) live in poverty. Of those, slightly under 2 percent live on less than $2 per person per day."
The article then states that "In 2012, the federal government spent $786 billion on Social Security and $94 billion on unemployment. Additionally, federal and state governments together spent $1 trillion on welfare of the food stamp variety. Adding those costs together, that's $1.88 trillion."
"According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 115,227,000 households in the U.S. Split $1.88 trillion among all these households and each one gets $16,315.62. In other words, if you turned the welfare system into a $15,000 basic income payment, you’d end up saving over $150 billion (or $1,315.62 per American household)."
Doesn't that just make obvious sense? And that's just using the money that the US government already spends on Social Security. Give everyone the payments as a basic entitlement, and there would no longer be the division that we currently have between the "scroungers" and "productive members of society".
There was also a piece by Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, that appeared in the Guardian called "Basic income paid to the poor can transform lives". He describes three recent Unconditional Basic Income schemes that have been tested in India, with support from Unicef. The payments were modest cash payments - just one third of subsistence - paid individually, unconditionally, unversally and monthly - guaranteed as a right. 6000 men, women and children recieved the money, with the children's money going to the mother.
The results look very promising, with positive effects in four different areas.
- It had strong welfare, or “capability”, effects. There were improvements in child nutrition, child and adult health, schooling attendance and performance, sanitation, economic activity and earned incomes, and the socio-economic status of women, the elderly and the disabled.
- It had strong equity effects. It resulted in bigger improvements ... for all vulnerable groups, notably those with disabilities and frailties. This was partly because the basic income was paid to each individual, strengthening their bargaining position in the household and community.
- It had growth effects. Contrary to what sceptics predicted, the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work.
- It had emancipatory effects. The basic income resulted in some families buying themselves out of debt bondage, others paying down exorbitant debts incurring horrendous interest rates. For many, it provided liquidity with which to respond to shocks and hazards.
Of course, one of the main arguments against such ideas is the question of how to find the money to make the payments. The Newsweek article rightly points out that you could finance a substantial Basic Income by simply redirecting existing welfare payments.
But, in case you didn't know, I have an even simpler proposal. Just apply a very modest financial transaction tax on all electronic transactions. For example, a 0.1% tax on the €2 quadrillion of transactions in the Eurozone would provide around €6000 a year for every man, woman and child in the the region.
There are lots of advantages of such a scheme - appart from eliminating poverty at a stroke. One of my favourites is that it allows debt based money to be laundered - converting it progressively into debt-free money that can be used freely.
Note added 26th December : And here's a piece that came out in Huffington Post too.