1 May 2015

What I would do if I was UK prime minister

Listening to the main party leaders in the UK general election (which takes place on the 7th of May 2015), I get the distinct impression that they are literally clueless. Virtually everyone seems to assume that it will be enough to do some combination of (a) cutting back on public spending, and (b) increasing taxes to get out of the mess. Wrong... it won't work. It can't work.

So, just in case there are some politicians somewhere who are open to fresh ideas,  here is what I would do if I was Primeminister of the UK.
  1. Impose a modest Financial Transaction Tax on all electronically mediated financial transactions in the UK (currently running at around £2 quadrillion a year). 
  2. Negotiate the imposition of a modest Financial Transaction Tax on all electronically mediated financial transactions denominated in sterling, wherever they occur in the world. Offer to do the same in the UK for trading in other currencies, and offer to transfer the proceeds to other Central Banks.
  3. Use the revenue generated by the FTTs to replace existing taxes such as Corporation tax, but also National Insurance Contributions and VAT.  
  4. Move to replace Income Tax with the Universal FTT
  5. Introduce a Land Tax
  6. Scrap the vast majority of Benefits, and replace them with a Universal Unconditional Basic Income that would be paid to people of all ages, whether working or not.
  7. Set up a National Bank that uses a parallel money system, and provide accounts for all UK citizens and businesses that allows them to use an electronic Citizens Pound - pegged to the value of sterling.
  8. Allow citizens to choose to recieve some proportion of benefits, pensions and salaries (in the case of public sector workers) in the form of the Citizens Pounds rather than conventional money, 97% of which is created out of thin air by Commercial Banks when they make loans.
  9. Give the alternative currency guaranteed value by allowing them to be used to pay tax bills.
I sincerely believe that this set of proposals will go a long way to help with many of the problems that preoccupy the current generation of politicians.

For example, many politicians see the need to radically reform the benefits system. Well, what would be more radical than scrapping the current system? It's horrendously complex, and rife with inequity. By giving everyone enough to live modestly, you could largely remove the need for means tested benefits. It would mean an end to the horror of Food Banks, and payday loans - two of the most tragic manifestations of the state of UK society.

Secondly, that sort of Unconditional Basic Income it would provide a solution to the problems posed by excessive immigration. If UK citizens were entitled to the Unconditional Basic Income, but not recently arrived immigrants, it would mean that UK citizens would be able to earn a decent living on lower wages than immigrants, thus immediately making it much harder for an illegal immigrant to undercut resident workers. This would not restrict the right of EU citizens to work in the UK, but it would certainly make it less tempting for people to come unless they were assured of a good job.

Thirdly, the Unconditional Basic Income would give a massive boost to UK industry. Essentially, the Universal Basic Income would constitute a direct subsidy for UK manufacturing and services, because it would mean that businesses would be able to employ people on lower wages than are needed currrently. It would be cheaper to manufacture goods in the UK, because part of the employment costs would effectively be covered by the levy on the financial sector that results from the Financial Transation Tax. And, since citizens would be able to cumulate their Basic Income and any additional pay that they get for working, they would not be forced to take menial badly paid jobs simply because it was the only way to earn enough to feed their families.

Fourth, scrapping VAT and National Insurance Contributions would also mean that it would be much cheaper to employ people in the UK - again given an enormous competitive advantage to UK businesses. 

Fifth, the Unconditional Basic Income would provide enormous flexibility in the job market. It would mean that many jobs could be effectively zero hour contracts in which people would only come in to work if their presence was really required.  When the need for workers was less, employers could say that they didn't need the extra hands, freeing people up to do other useful work. It would also radically change the job market with the result that the toughest jobs would get paid better than easier and less challenging work.

Sixth, it would deal with the obvious fact, obvious to anyone who thinks about it for one minute, that paid jobs are getting rarer and rarer. Supermarket cashiers are already becoming a thing of the past. But, in the not too distant future, technologies like driverless cars will mean that many jobs for taxi, lorry and bus drivers will be a thing of the past. And even skilled jobs like examining x-rays for signs of tumours, or airport security, will soon disappear when it becomes clear that they are more efficiently done by machines. But the progressive elimination of such jobs  shouldn't mean that there is nothing useful for people to do in society. There are millions of useful things that citizens can do - caring for children, the elderly and the disabled for example - which people will do volontarilly if they have the opportunity. The same applies to many other activities in the arts and culture, as well as associations and charity work. Why should people wait to be retired before starting to do such emminently useful actitivies?

Importantly, this combination of measures, while not directly challenging the current monopoly on money creation that is in the hands of commercial banks, would effectively  allow the current debt-based money creation system to be replaced with a debt-free money system. Over time, this would allow debts to be paid off progressively - removing the ability of the financial sector to dominate. People would no longer spend their lives trying to get out of debt. And the horrific inequality that blights our societies will gradually be reduced. Currently, the system is guaranteed to result in a net transfer of wealth from people who have debts (most of us) to the lucky few who constitue the 1% (or even the 0.01%) at the top.

I could go on. But I think that these proposals demonstrate that the standard boring proposals made by 99% of politicians are not the only options. There are alternatives. They just never get discussed.

For the time being, about the only political party prepared to think out of the box in the UK is the Green Party. If you have the opportunity to vote in next Thursday's election, please take that option seriously.

No comments:

Post a Comment