Why we should put ‘basic’ before ‘universal’ in the pursuit of income equality – John Quiggin
Photo: Paul Harris
John Quiggin, an economist, Professor and Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, has written a recent article for The Guardian on how a functional conception of UBI would look despite the current and successional neoliberal course. Quiggin argues that the political cautiousness of centre-left parties has resulted in their failure to provide radical alternatives to neoliberalism since its inception in the 1970s. The article outlines that the UBI offers a potential alternative to the present economic standing. The question is, how to introduce it in such a way as to render it achievable.
Where many proponents of UBI stress the “universal” aspect of the idea, Quiggin suggests that our emphasis should instead be on the “basic” aspect to begin with. That way we could start by providing a sufficient income to those most in need with the intention of expanding it to the entire population. This would meet the objective of ensuring that everyone has at least a basic income from the outset, and it could be achieved by building on structures that are already in place.
Quiggin claims that it would be more effective to introduce sufficient income support in a model more likened to the “guaranteed minimum income” which would then become universal incrementally, rather than starting with a small universal payment and increasing the level over time, until an adequate level of income is reached. This would significantly reduce the risk that the program would be disbanded or derailed before meeting the target of being adequate enough to live on, which would likely take several decades. Quiggin explains “Of course, an attempt to expand access to income support will be politically difficult, more so than advocacy of a small universal payment. But, in an environment where the economic and political order is breaking down around us, political caution is a road to oblivion. Social democratic parties need to break with their current role as the responsible managers of the status quo, and offer a radical vision for the future. An expanded, and ultimately universal, basic income is such a vision.”
To read the full article click here