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GUY STANDING: Basic Income Possible within the Next Ten Years

Business Insider published an article based on an interview with co-founder of BIEN, Guy Standing, focusing on his analysis of the working class in the Western world.

Standing sees a growing class of “precariat” workers, caused by a political agenda promoting market-led competition since the 1970s. A significant group of this “precariat” is prone to listen to ugly voices playing on their fears and supporting neo-fascist populism as a result. This helps explain the election of Donald Trump in the US, but also Brexit and the popularity of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in Europe.

He refers to his book “The Corruption of Capitalism”, where he describes a growing group of wealthy citizens (the “rentier class”) who live on income from investments and property (including copyright and patents that often last for 20 years). This increases the gap between the rich and the poor.

According to Standing, at least part of the solution could be the introduction of a universal basic income (UBI), and he has seen growing support for this idea from both left and right wing politicians, economists and many others in the last few years.

“I see no reason why we will not have it within the next ten years — and maybe sooner.”


Standing states that a UBI can be seen as a matter of social justice, as a compensation for a system of property that results in a loss of natural inheritance, a point argued extensively by Thomas Paine, who introduced the idea of a citizen’s dividend back in 1795. It would also enhance individual liberty and give people a sense of security.

The affordability of a UBI is not a problem, Standing argues. It would replace other forms of public spending, and could be funded by the establishment of capital funds, like those derived from oil in Alaska and Norway, and the rental flows from patents.

The belief that UBI would remove the incentive to work is ridiculous, he further claims. Enough evidence is available to show it is the opposite:

“If you had a basic income, it would mean that everybody would have a base, on top of which their earned income would be taxed at the standard rate of tax. That would increase the incentive to take low-wage jobs.” 

The current Western systems of ‘social welfare’ discourage people from taking low-wage jobs. These systems are poverty traps, argues Standing.

“We must have a new income distribution system [as] real wages will continue to decline in OECD countries, insecurity will continue to grow, and rental incomes will continue to go to the top. That is a recipe for economic instability, political extremism, and a lot of other nasty things.”


Info and links

This article is the second in a two-part series based on Thomas Colson’s interview with Standing. The first article contained ambiguities that lead to inaccurate reports about the Indian situation. It was corrected in a Basic Income News article “Jumping the Gun in India“.

Special thanks to Josh Martin and Genevieve Shanahan for reviewing this article.

Photo: yinxu – oracle bones by Xuan Che, CC-BY-SA 2.0

About Hilde Latour

Hilde Latour has written 21 articles.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


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