Today the Swiss are voting in a referendum whether they should have a “universal basic income”. This is a flat payment made to everyone whether they are in work or not. Finland and the Netherlands are planning some limited experiments in which the inhabitants of a certain area will be paid abut US$1000 a month — that is, above minimum wages but well below a comfortable income. In all cases taxation will have to be raised somewhat.
A basic income may well turn out to be inevitable in due course when the steady automation of jobs is considered but, at present, the top 25% of the population who pay almost all of the net personal taxes in advanced countries wouldn’t accept it willingly. In the case of Switzerland, we’ll have to wait and see the result and any reaction from it.
When autonation starts digging deep into the employment structure and most of the able population are out of work then the idea should return with a modification. It should be paid on a group basis — say to groups of ten or so living nearby in any locality. In townships of Medieval England, where there no policemen, tithings of ten individuals, including a named leader, were charged with keeping to the law.
If a basic income for ten people were paid to a ‘tithing’ once a month then it can make a joint decision each time what to do with the money. It could be dispersed equally or unequally or it could be used in a joint effort, either for leisure pursuits or for a business enterprise. Each of us wants ro work or play in a social group — especially when learning to socialize as children — almost as badly as needing an income.