Uneasy Mix of Two Objectives

This article is a few months old now, timed to come out around the Swiss Referendum, but I only just got around to reading it. Oh well. It’s excellent and contains this simple little gem:

UBI is a somewhat uneasy mix of two objectives: poverty relief and the rejection of work as the defining purpose of life. The first is political and practical; the second is philosophical or ethical.

The piece is written by Robert Skidelsky who also co-wrote that smashing book How Much Is Enough? towards the end of which Citizen’s Income (UBI) is recommended as a sort of societal equivalent to individualist Escapology.

There’s also an illuminating brief history of welfare and this wee thing about the morals of being idle:

Most of the hostility to UBI has come when it stated in this second form. A poster during the Swiss referendum campaign asked: “What would you do if your income were taken care of?” The objection of most UBI opponents is that a majority of people would respond: “Nothing at all.”

But to argue that an income independent of the job market is bound to be demoralising is as morally obtuse as it is historically inaccurate. If it were true, we would want to abolish all inherited income. The 19th-century European bourgeoisie were largely a rentier class, and few questioned their work effort.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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