Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Devon Voice Debate (1) – Universal Basic Income For Devon? (Part 1)

DEVON VOICE – The Voice Of The National Liberal Party In Devon – is interested in creating a more just society based on the three principle of self-determination – National self-determination, Political self-determination and Economic self-determination

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With the principle of Economic self-determination in mind, we’ve reproduced an article by
Brian Bergstein from
MIT Technology Review – see the original here
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611418/basic-income-could-work-if-you-do-it-canada-style/
which looks at the introduction of a trial system of Universal Basic Income in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. The Universal Basic Income (UBI) is generally understood to be a guarantee from the government that each citizen receives a minimum income which is enough to cover the basic cost of living. The UBI is also designed to provide financial security – particularly in the not-to-distant future where it can offset job losses caused by technology.


Originally called Basic Income Could Work – If You Do It Canada-Style, we’re reproducing it as Devon Voice is interested in alternative social & economic ideas such as Distributism and Social Credit. An important element of Social Credit is to match consumption to production via the issue of the National Dividend – new money which would be created and distributed by the government as purchasing power to the whole population. Put simply, this answers the age old question of what’s the point of producing goods and/or providing services if they cannot be bought or used? Whilst the Universal Basic Income and the National Dividend are not exactly the same, there are obvious similarities.


As always, debate is free with Devon Voice & the NLP. Therefore, we’d appreciate your views on this article (and the idea of Devon introducing the UBI) when it appears on either the National Liberals Facebook site – https://www.facebook.com/groups/52739504313/ – or the National Liberal Party Facebook site – https://www.facebook.com/NationalLiberalParty/ – It goes without saying that there are no official links between Brian Bergstein, MIT Technology Review, Devon Voice and the National Liberal Party. Please note that the NLTU has kept the original North American spelling and phrases as they are.

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Basic Income Could Work – If You Do It Canada-Style (Part 1)

A Canadian province is giving people money with no strings attached – revealing both the appeal and the limitations of the idea.

Fresh Produce

MAJOR CH Douglas (left) developed the idea of Social Credit, which sought to disperse economic and political power to individuals. This would ensure absolute economic security for all. Devon Voice (right) hopes to explore Social Credit ideas – which offer an alternative to both capitalism and socialism – in future issues.

DANA BOWMAN, 56, expresses gratitude for fresh produce at least 10 times in the hour and a half we’re having coffee on a frigid spring day in Lindsay, Ontario. Over the many years she scraped by on government disability payments, she tended to stick to frozen vegetables. She’d also save by visiting a food bank or buying marked-down items near or past their sell-by date.

But since December, Bowman has felt secure enough to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. She’s freer, she says, to “do what nanas do” for her grandchildren, like having all four of them over for turkey on Easter. Now that she can afford the transportation, she might start taking classes in social work in a nearby city. She feels happier and
healthier—and, she says, so do many other people in her subsidized apartment building and around town. “I’m seeing people smiling and seeing people friendlier, saying hi more,” she says.

Jim Garbutt sees moods brightening, too, at A Buy & Sell Shop, a store he and his wife run on Lindsay’s main street. Sales are brisker for most of what they sell: used furniture, kitchen items, novelties. A Buy & Sell Shop is the kind of place where people come in just to chat—“we’re like Cheers, without the alcohol,” Garbutt says—and more and more people seem hopeful. “Spirits are up,” he says.

What changed? Lindsay, a compact rectangle amid the lakes northeast of Toronto, is at the heart of one of the world’s biggest tests of a guaranteed basic income. In a three-year pilot funded by the provincial government, about 4,000 people in Ontario are getting monthly stipends to boost them to at least 75 percent of the poverty line. That translates to a minimum annual income of $17,000 in Canadian dollars (about $13,000 US) for single people, $24,000 for married couples. Lindsay has about half the people in the pilot—some 10 percent of the town’s population.

The trial is expected to cost $50 million a year in Canadian dollars; expanding it to all of Canada would cost an estimated $43 billion annually. But Hugh Segal, the conservative former senator who designed the test, thinks it could save the government money in the long run. He expects it to streamline the benefits system, remove rules that discourage people from working, and reduce crime, bad health, and other costly problems that stem from poverty. Such improvements occurred during a basic-income test in Manitoba in the 1970s.

People far beyond Canada will be watching closely, too, because a basic income has become Silicon Valley’s favorite answer to the question of how society should deal with the massive automation of jobs. Tech investors such as Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes and Sam Altman, president of the startup incubator Y Combinator, are funding pilot projects to examine what people do when they get money with no strings attached. Hughes’s Economic Security Project will pay for 100 people in Stockton, California, to get $500 a month for 18 months. Y Combinator ran a small-scale test in Oakland, California, last year; beginning in 2019 it will give $1,000 a month to 1,000 people over three to five years, in locations still to be determined.

This momentum figures to keep building as AI and robotics make even more inroads. Legislators in Hawaii are beginning to study the prospects for a basic income. The lawmaker who has led the effort, Democrat Chris Lee, worries that self-driving cars and automated retail checkout could be the beginning of the end for a lot of human labor in Hawaii’s service-based economy. If machines can handle tasks in tourism and hospitality, Lee says, “there is no fallback industry for jobs to be created in.”

But there’s an important difference between that vision for a basic income and the experiment in Ontario. The Canadians are testing it as an efficient antipoverty mechanism, a way to give a relatively small segment of the population more flexibility to find work and to strengthen other strands of the safety net. That’s not what Silicon Valley seems to imagine, which is a universal basic income that placates broad swaths of the population. The most obvious problem with that idea? Math. Many economists concluded long ago that it would be too expensive, especially when compared with the cost of programs to create new jobs and train people for them. That’s why the idea didn’t take off after tests in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s largely why Finland decided not to extend a small basic income trial.

If any place can illuminate both the advantages of basic income and the problems it can’t solve, it will be Lindsay. The town is prosperous by some measures, with a median household income of $55,000 and a historic downtown district where new condos and a craft brewery are on the way. But that masks how tough it is for a lot of people to get by. Manufacturing in the surrounding area, known as the Kawartha Lakes, has declined since the 1980s. Many people juggle multiple jobs, including seasonal work tied to tourism in the summer and fall. Technology is part of the story too: robots milk cows now.

• ALSO CHECK OUT Caledonian Voice Debate (1) – Universal Basic Income For Scotland? http://nationalliberal.org/caledonian-voice-debate-1-universal-basic-income-for-scotland

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