Friday, 12 January 2018

UBI - Universal Basic Income

I have noted an increasing commentary around the planet about a universal basic income (UBI). A UBI is where a country's government pays all citizens a base salary that can be lived on - say $20k/$30k per annum for EVERYONE. Children from birth. People can go and get themselves a paying job as well, or run a company, or work for a charity, or have a family, or paint, or become an engineer, retire at 15, or read to the blind: but, because they are a citizen, they are fully supported throughout their lives by their country. I had thought that Switzerland was going to vote in a UBI a few years ago, but the proposal was defeated.

The idea is that this is funded from company taxes. Any companies that trade in your country have to pay their due taxes for the privilege of selling to your people, creating waste etc. The government then passes those taxed company profits back to the citizenry. Robotics, AI, all those issues go away, as does social welfare, to a large degree, as people do not need to be employed: they have enough to live on. The 'ordinary person' gets more than minimum wage, but can chose to go and earn more if they want to. There is no personal income tax: this is funded from commerce. GST would probably carry on though.

Of course, the trick to this system is getting companies to pay their fair amount of tax in the first place. If companies did pay their intended amount of tax instead of wasting resources in avoiding it, countries would have enough money in government coffers to cover a UBI easily. But we would have to globally clamp down on companies being able to avoid/evade local taxes - by being registered offshore, or in tax havens - for this to work.

It is an interesting idea, and one I hope to see develop over time. It is going to mean some quite radical change to inter-governmental co-operation though. And I can't see that happening in a hurry.

Sam

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