A reader has asked me what I think of the idea of a basic income By this is meant a uniform payment to every able-bodied adult in the population whether they’re in a job or not, sufficient to pay for basic food, lodgings and clothes, raising children and to replace any other state income support, unemployment benefits, subsidies, state pensions and other subsidies.
It seems at first to be horrendously expensive but, after dispensing with the costs of vast swathes of civil servants at central and local level, it seems perfectly feasible, according to various proponents — surprisingly on both the left and right. Furthermore, both cite the gains that might be made when large numbers of people are released from worry about the future. Some say that a great deal of creativity might be released.
My view is that a Basic Income would make very little difference because, if anything, the natural social pecking order would operate more strongly than ever. The successive exploitation by higher social groups over lower social groups goes all the way down to the lowest levels and, if anything, would be intensified. Indeed, if the condition of the lowest classes should become worse under a Basic income regime, the upper middle classes could wash their hands of any concern because, after all, it is their taxation that pays for the bulk of the Basic Income.