poverty religion social justice

The citizens’ income: Means to an end

Interest in the citizens income (or basic income) seems to be cyclical. It’s been discussed a few times in the past, got quite a long way in some instances, and then disappeared again. A few years ago there was very little about it on the internet, and it almost felt like a lost idea. That’s changed quite dramatically, partly because of the overloading of benefit systems in the age of austerity, perhaps helped along by successful cash grant projects in development contexts.

Today a number of countries are talking about the citizens income, with Britain’s Labour party the most recent addition to the list of people considering it. Campaigns are springing up, researchers are working out the maths of it, and the idea is resurgent.

If you haven’t come across it, a helpful 20 minute documentary came out last week that you may find worthwhile. It’s called Means to an End, and you can watch it below.


  1. The UK Labour Party taking up the idea may be an impediment to broad support. Given that the main opposition to this is the idea that it is giving benefits to people for doing nothing, Jeremy Corbyn (who is seen by the wider public as the scroungers friend) is not who you want promoting it. It will toxify the idea by association.

    To get a sheen of fiscal rectitude and anti scrounger toughness needs a senior Tory to be persuaded by the IEA to back it.

    1. That’s true, but I suspect it’s too radical for the Labour Party anyway. Ideally one of the other countries talking about it more seriously will go for it and prove it possible, and then it won’t divide unnecessarily down political lines.

      I realise people do it, but I’m slightly puzzled by the jump to rewarding scroungers. The whole point is that it’s universal, like child benefit. And if you set it lower than current benefit levels and abolish them in the process of bringing it in, it could work very well as a Tory policy.

      1. The perception problem it faces is that it violates both the contribution principle National Insurance is supposed to embody that you pay in when working, claim against that when not; and also the one that benefits are for those in need.

        Unlike child benefit it isn’t time limited or after a life of contribution as pensions. Instead any EU citizen could turn up and demand it. In the current climate that would be a big problem.

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