Lord Robert Skidelsky, professor emeritus of political economy at the University of Warwick, has written a new column on universal basic income (UBI).
Skidelsky describes support of UBI as derived from “a somewhat uneasy mix of two objectives: poverty relief and the rejection of work as the defining purpose of life.” Those who promote basic income on the basis of first objective do not necessarily question or critique the value of paid employment; they simply deny that there are enough stable and well-paying jobs to expect people to rely on them to obtain an adequate income. Proponents who take the latter tack go further to argue that we should not want more work:
As technological innovation causes per capita income to rise, people will need to work less to satisfy their needs. Both John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes looked forward to a horizon of growing leisure: the reorientation of life away from the merely useful toward the beautiful and the true. UBI provides a practical path to navigate this transition.
According to Skidelsky, “Most of the hostility to UBI has come when it stated in this second form.”
Skidelsky goes on to recommends UBI as a way to “check the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich and exceptionally entrepreneurial” and “ensure that the benefits of automation go to the many, not just to the few.”
Robert Skidelsky, “A basic income could be the best way to tackle inequality“, The Guardian, 23 June 2016.
Image: Robert Skidelsky (Oct 2014) CC Jwh