The current welfare bill in Britain is £167bn, of which two-thirds goes to pensioners. It eats around 23% of government spending. A true, subsistence level basic income would close to double that. But it is imaginable, in the short to medium term, if you factor in the benefits.
The first would be to eradicate low-paid menial work. Why slave 10 hours a day with mop and bucket for £12k when you get £6k for free? Corporations would rebalance their business models towards a high pay, stable consumption, low-ish profit world, and the tax take would rise as a result. All tax relief for the poor would end.
As you might expect, much of this discussion has been reactionary and small-minded but then economics journalist Paul Mason comes along with this wise take on the subject.
Not only is he generally un-hostile to the idea of changing our economic priorities (which currently consist in the single word, “growth”), but he highlights the marvelous “end of drudgery” ramifications as a tangible benefit. It’s about time someone did this instead of trotting out the old “it would make people lazy” line, as if people would just sit around in their pants all day once given basic food and shelter.
One of the benefits of CI is that it would allow people to set up their own businesses or artistic practices without living in fear of losing their home or having to return to bullshit jobbery.
CI would essentially make inalienable human rights of shelter and freedom from indentured wage slavery. To be honest, I’m not sure how we’ve come so far along in civilization without figuring this one out.
Mason quotes Andre Gorz:
[CI] should enable us to “refuse work”; it would represent “the pooling of socially produced wealth”.