Scotland has become the latest country to explore the possibility of providing a Universal Basic Income or UBI to all citizens.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Basic Income are developing a UBI scheme that will be tested in the county of Fife, The Independent reported. The scheme would replace welfare benefits and tax credits with a universal flat rate payment.
The network and civil servants were scheduled to discuss the scheme with the Fife Council which would authorize it. If the test in Fife is successful the scheme would be rolled out across Scotland. Before its adoption the scheme would have to be approved by Scotland’s parliament.
Basic income has become a hot topic in British politics the opposition Labour Party has discussed the concept. The governing Conservatives also discussed such a plan but ruled it out in September.
The politicians are interested in basic income; because two thirds of Britons looked favorably on the idea, an Independent poll from May indicates. Although other polls have found there might be less support than that for UBI.
Why the Brits are Interested in Basic Income
Under a basic income system the government provides every citizen whose income is below the poverty line with a cash payment. The idea is popular in Britain as a replacement to country’s costly, bureaucratic and often ineffective welfare system.
Her Majesty’s Government is in the midst of a welfare reform program that’s been stalled. Much of the support for UBI comes from popular frustration with the existing welfare system in the United Kingdom.
A successful UBI program in Scotland would put pressure on the British government to roll the system out to the entire country. It would also serve as an example that other English speaking countries like the United States, Canada and Australia might follow.
Unions Oppose Basic Income
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has come out against basic income. The Union’s president Warren Thomas issued “a cautionary statement” on a basic income program that the province’s government is looking into.Thomas denounced basic income as a right-wing plot of privatize welfare and destroy social services, Basic Income Earth Network reported. He is particularly worried that basic income would “reduce the government’s role in providing services.”
Translation it might cost some welfare bureaucrats their jobs. The biggest problem with the current welfare system in most countries; including the US, Canada and the UK, is the massive bureaucracy that administers it. Much of that bureaucracy is little more than a “make work” program for bureaucrats.
Instead of basic income Thomas supports expanding existing social assistance programs. In other words hire more bureaucrats who will pay more dues to Thomas’s union. Whether that would actually help the poor is debatable.
Ontario Wants to Test Basic Income
Thomas’s remarks were prompted by an Ontario government discussion paper; called Finding a Better Way: A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario, prepared by Hugh D. Segal of Massey College. In the paper recommends that Ontario a test of a basic income scheme to see how it would work.
It’s easy to see why Thomas is wary of Segal’s proposal. A copy of the paper posted online contains this language:
“The main purpose of a Basic Income Pilot must be to test replacing the broad policing, control, and monitoring now present in Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), with a modestly more generous Basic Income, disbursed automatically to those living beneath a certain income threshold.”
It sounds as if Segal wants to scrap the existing welfare system and go to Basic Income. If that were to occur; a lot of welfare bureaucrats might find themselves looking for a job or applying for basic income.
Segal’s pilot would run for three years and test the replacement of existing welfare and disability payments with a basic income. Some of the specifics of the program include a negative income tax of $1,320 a month and a $500 a month payment to the disabled. If Ontario’s government accepts Segal’s suggestion the test could begin as early as March 2017 just next year.
It looks as if basic income might soon become a reality in at least one English speaking country. If it does expect to see a lot more resistance from government employees’ unions and their apologists in the media, because bureaucrats will always fight to the death for their right to a cushy job.