The more I think about Universal Basic Income, the more problems I think it would address.
Here are 4 important ones:
#1 It would create employment choice. It would uncouple the necessity connection between employer and employee. For instance, in this pandemic as economies re-open, it would give workers the choice of accepting the opportunity of returning to work or of looking for different employment if their current work or workplace put them or their families at too much risk. Similarly, it would make it far easier to consider relocating to a different part of the country. For instance, people in poverty in the south east of England could relocate to the north, where housing is much cheaper; and people who would love to live in the countryside (where public transport links are poor) but who are tied to an urban job would find it easier to realise their dream.
#2 It would change beyond recognition the lives of people with hidden and undiagnosed conditions (including neurodiversity and psychiatric challenges or trauma), whose limitations make it impossible for them to manage a regular job in mainstream culture. Many such people are not only content with little, they actually have a profound need for a simple, quiet, boundaried existence. A small income allowing them to live in peace would be such a relief.
#3 It would strengthen the local economy, both regionally and nationally. Poor people spend their money on meeting their immediate needs — food and clothing, for instance — so their expenditure benefits their neighbourhood, creating employment in providing local goods and services. Rich people take money out of the local economy, because their lives are on a larger scale and because they absorb money from the localities where they trade and barrow it away to stash in a tax haven.
Of course, rich people would get UBI too, but as they already strip out so much from the common purse and remove it from circulation so it benefits no one but themselves, an extra few thousand a year from the common purse into theirs is only what’s happening anyway.
#4 It would do away the need for a significant tranche of welfare benefits admin, allowing their bureaucratic structure to be both streamlined and more effective. UBI should actually work out cheaper than the current welfare benefits system, and should also alleviate cost to the common purse in healthcare, by alleviating anxiety and poverty diseases (eg malnutrition). It would also give recipients the possibility of studying, and thus enhance their possibilities of further escaping poverty.
The sort of sum I am imagining is five or (even better) six thousand pounds a year (in the UK). It’s not much, but it would make the difference between being able to imagine a future and bleak despair, in many lives.