Jobs Vs Security – Part 2

Craig Dalzell

One of my major frustrations with some elements of the Modern Monetary Theory group isn’t in their broad economic theories (which make a lot of sense and do a lot to show up the current climate of Austerity and forced inequality as the deliberate political choice that it is) but in the policies that are sometimes drawn from that theory. One major one that is more strawman than fact is the line extending from the MMT point that currency-sovereign governments don’t tax then spend but spend then tax. The straw man takes that point and claims that MMT says we don’t need to have taxes. Plainly not true, but some in the field could do better to explain how tax should then be used to absorb excess accumulation in the private sector and to redistribute wealth and inequality.

My more direct confrontation comes from the subset of MMT advocates who have an almost irrational dislike for direct social security payments and especially the Universal Basic Income (UBI) – preferring instead an alternative policy of a Job Guarantee Scheme (JGS). It’s a topic I’ve written about before. First in my 2017 paper on social security where I laid out the idea that these are two separate policies designed to do separate things. UBI is social security – it is a cash payment given unconditionally to everyone, no matter their other income, and is designed to ensure that everyone can maintain a decent standard of living no matter their circumstances or life choices. JGS is economic policy – it is an alternative to jobseeker’s benefits which offers anyone who wants one a job guaranteed by the government and is designed to maximise employment, minimise unemployment, to act as a floor against wages and standards (on the basis that if your current job is lower paid or otherwise worse than the “government job” then you’ll quit and take that instead) and to fill gaps in the economy not met by the “jobs market”. As I wrote in a newsletter article last year there’s a very good case to say that we need both.

Nevertheless, the debate around the merits of one versus the other still continue and several MMT-aligned Common Weal supporters have been sending us this series on Bylines Scotland by prominent MMT economist Ellis Winningham in which he has laid out a series of ten articles (nine written at the time of writing this response) in which he directly attacks the concept of a Universal Basic Income and advocates the sole use of a Job Guarantee Scheme as a driver of social security.

Obviously I can’t take on such a series by addressing every single point within it – it could take a series of articles to respond thus to each one of Winningham’s ten – so by necessity I will try to distil each part down to its essence and respond to that. Just know that if there’s a point in there that I miss, it’s not for lack of trying on my part but do let me know if I miss something that you think is absolutely fundamental and deserves a response and I’ll do so in the comments.

Part I – Terms Matter

Winningham bases his argument against UBI on the pilot schemes being trialled in various places – particularly a recent one started in England this year. His argument is that because these are limited trials, that they are not truly “universal”, then the results of them cannot be translated into the real world impact of a true UBI and thus shouldn’t be used to justify one. He is correct here but this is only an argument against the concept of yet more limited trials designed to test something that has already been tested elsewhere. Some MMT advocates to consider the idea of a conditional basic income (i.e. means-tested benefits) or a minium income guarantee (effectively a top up of income up to a certain “liveable” threshold) and this seems to be what he is nudging his audience towards. However, terms also matter the other way. To my knowledge there have been even fewer limit pilots of a Job Guarantee Scheme and none of them have been universal on a national scale either. The closest examples are India’s MGNREGA scheme which, as its name suggests, is focused on rural employment and the ongoing pilot study in Marienthal municipality, Austria (which while it applied to all long term unemployed people within the municipality, this only actually translated to 62 people, albeit within a geographically concentrated area). It’s fair to say that Winningham’s advocacy of JGS is based on evidence that is substantially weaker than that which he dismisses for UBI.

His final comment is another attempt to poison the well of discussion. By saying that if I support a basic income but oppose giving it to the likes of Elon Musk, then I, by definition do not support a Universal Basic Income. Except UBI advocates, including myself, do support Musk getting the UBI. We’ll be taxing him a fair bit more than he receives but it’s still worth him getting it because him being invested in the system incentivises him to help campaign for it to be as high, not as low, as possible and anyway he never knows what tomorrow will bring. Say he tanks a social network he overpaid for, drills a hole in the finances of his car company by making a bad parody of a truck and blows up one too many rocket ships. He might need that basic income fallback sooner than he thinks and he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would find it easy to navigate the complex bureaucracy of a job centre without having his Universal Credit sanctioned.

Part II – Automatic Stabilisers

This is a core idea of economic management. Say you (and many others) lose your job. Your income drops. You can’t spend in shops. They lose a customer and so have to reduce their output and fire workers. This causes their spending to decrease…and the economy enters a downwards spiral. But if, when you lose your job, your income is at least partially maintained via unemployment benefits then that shock is dampened. The logic behind a JGS is that if you lose your job, you just get another one and it functions as a similar kind of automatic stabiliser (though we’ll see later why it isn’t that simple) but the argument against UBI here is that it is not an automatic stabiliser because it doesn’t “kick in” when you lose your job so it can only act as additional spending in the economy which would have an inflationary effect.

There are two missing factors in this analysis. The first is that for people with an income, tax will reduce the “additionality” of their UBI (and for people on high incomes, they’ll probably pay more in tax than they receive in UBI). Thus losing their income via unemployment means not paying the tax on that income, meaning their UBI will in fact act as an automatic stabiliser (indeed, my 2017 model was designed specifically at a level equivalent to then Jobseeker’s Allowance though I consider that number to be far too low in today’s climate and would instead advocate for something closer to the Real Living Wage or the UK Minimum Income Standard). The second and perhaps more crucial point is that in today’s low wage economy plenty of low income people do not earn enough to overspend in the economy. Never mind spending on comparative luxuries, if you are one of many who have cut back on home heating or food in recent times then that cut back is already negatively affecting the economy in a manner similar to if you lost your income entirely. A UBI sufficient to allow everyone to meet their basic needs should and must be a human right of society. An economy that cannot handle that basic level of spending because it would be “too inflationary” is one in which human poverty and suffering is not a flaw in its system, but a malicious design feature.

Part III – Production and Prices

This is a perennial argument against UBI. That because it is an unconditional payment decoupled from your productive capacity as a worker, then you might not do useful work in the economy. In other words, folk who are against a UBI are terrified that you’ll take the money and sit on the sofa doing nothing. Of course, when asked if THEY would take the money and sit on the sofa doing nothing, the answer is almost never “no”. Just as an economy designed to create poverty as a design feature should be abhorred, so should one that reduces you to your “productive output” and implicitly threatens you with destitution if you don’t meet your quota. Elsewhere in this series, Winningham, rightly, decries conventional capitalist economic theory’s reduction of the human condition to a mere consumer of goods, “Homo Economicus”. I would warn “JGS only” advocates that they risk making a similar argument, reducing humans not to their consumption capacity but to their productive capacity, “Homo Fabricans” perhaps.

Part IV – The Fallacy of Composition

Two issues stand out in this section. The first is a repeat of the prior argument that the results of a limited pilot cannot be extended to a universal policy – which I’d once again point back at the lack of an equivalent JGS beyond limited pilots or schemes, and the other is a complete strawman stating that because one of the benefits of UBI is that it would simplify the welfare system then it will be used as an excuse to eliminate the welfare system. This is patent nonsense because, as stated at the start, the UBI would BE the welfare system. At least in great part. Certain elements, particularly needs-based care packages including disability benefits will and must remain. This trope plays off the idea that not everyone who advocates UBI is a left-leaning socialist or social democrat but there is a strand of right-wing conservatives and libertarians who also advocate UBI as a means of eliminating the State. Why have public schools when you can use your UBI to pay for tuition from the private sector? Arguing against those people isn’t arguing for or against UBI, it’s just democracy at work. But it is worth mentioning that a similar strand exists in JGS circles too. For every socialist looking to guarantee the right to work, there’s a libertarian who doesn’t believe in you having the right to exist unless you work – usually for them.

Part V – Automation Arguments are Nonsense

This is a topic that we’ve covered in a policy paper here but in brief it goes that automation has always eliminated jobs – horse farrier jobs were greatly reduced by the invention of the car, for instance, and ice cutters eliminated by refrigeration – and that UBI advocates are concerned that workers will see their job replaced by a robot (I’ll write an article soon about my experiment in trying to replace my own job with a robot). I agree with Winningham that I have faith in human ingenuity to come up with new jobs as technology marches on but there’s an absolutely critical flaw in his suggestion that a JGS is the solution here and that is that I do not have faith in a centralised government bureaucracy having the innovative mindset to create those jobs perfectly and assign them as required. There’s also the problem that his JGS – like most of the schemes out there – are designed as “wage floor stabilisers” (i.e. Minimum Wage) first and foremost, not as vehicles for the “Just Transition”. What’s the difference? Well, I used to be a laser engineer – quite a highly paid one – and while it wasn’t automation that took my job I don’t think the impact of losing that job would have been much easier on me than it was if the best a JGS government job would have offered to me would be a minium wage job that almost certainly would not match my skillset (As I say here, JGS is much better at dealing with the frictional unemployment of people moving between similar jobs than it is someone moving between different jobs and skills – especially if their job is fairly niche). The threat of losing my laser job for a minimum wage Government Job wouldn’t have been significantly different from the threat of losing my job for minimal unemployment benefits. To quote Winningham back at himself, if you’re afraid, they can end welfare and benefits by giving you a JGS that is doomed to fail, but will result in a massive upward transfer of income and wealth to themselves. Automation might well “free up labour from drudgery and outdated jobs” but a JGS of the kind that Winningham advocates may well see those jobs not just protected, but become government policy.

Part VI – The social considerations of UBI

The argument of this section is that a UBI is somehow antithetical to social cohesion as part of the “social purpose” of a job is to bond with one’s work colleagues – effectively to form a tribe of shared experiences through one’s work. Now, I’m not saying that I have never done this – several of my closest friends I met through my laser jobs and I met my now wife through Common Weal.

But the flaw in this plan with regards to Winningham’s JGS is that by its very nature, these are temporary jobs. The Government Jobs are not designed to be career-forging paths. They are explicitly designed to be minimum wage, “non-essential” (i.e. not organisationally load-bearing) jobs that exist as an alternative to you being unemployed until the moment that you find something better. With you and your colleagues all in jobs that are designed to be jobs that you don’t want to be in, what hope is there for social cohesion around that shared experience? You can’t even unionise and demand better pay and conditions, because minimum pay and conditions is a design feature of the Job Guarantee. The private sector is supposed to be the one bidding for your labour at above that minimum level.

A UBI, on the other hand, offers choice. Once paid at a sufficiently high level that you can afford to quit your job without losing your means of basic existence you find that more and more around you are in the job they want to do, not the one they have to do to survive. It’s THAT positive experience that will build the tribe, not the drudgery of trying to find a reason to quit. This isn’t a system dependent on individualism and competition either. Some people, given the option, will actively seek out and choose community and collaboration – collaboration that might not be possible if everyone is scrabbling to meet basic needs or is too tired to think after yet another shift of minimum wage clerical work for a government project that you know will happen whether you do this job or not.

Part VII – Redefining Work

Here is where Winningham unwittingly makes the case for UBI over JGS more strongly than he does the opposite (I still say we need both). “the main problem with our view of work is that it is tainted with market-based nonsense which leaves us with a very narrow, ignorant vision of work, and deliberately so” leads to “Work is what we do. In fact, all living things work. Breathing is work. Sleeping is work. Eating is work. Giving birth is work. Thinking is work.”

I completely agree and this is why I advocate for UBI. It frees you from someone else’s definition of “work” and allows you to find your own should you choose to. JGS by necessity creates those narrow definitions of “work” as it will only ever offer you a Government Job from the list of approved Government Jobs. If what you want to do isn’t on the list, tough luck. Winningham brings up the example of an artist being offered a JGS job to “teach community members how to paint and sculpt” and I think this is the very example of the perfect job that needs a UBI rather than a JGS. Being an artist isn’t a 9-to-5 job. It’s not one where you sit on a production line making art. It’s a job that often isn’t even waged (gone are the days of the King’s Patronage for artists) but is piece-work. If you paint something that sells for £10,000 (yes, I hear the sound of every artist who’s tried to sell their work to someone who doesn’t want to store it in a Freeport but bear with me) then it doesn’t matter if it took you ten hours or ten years to paint, the payment is the same. And does that time include the time spend walking in the forest till the light hit that tree just so and sparked the inspiration for the painting? Would it if you were waged?

But that JGS job teaching art. Sure, we need art teachers but the job of art teacher is very different from the job of artists. Not every one can or wants to be the other (I know plenty of very skilled musicians who can barely read music, never mind teach music theory). And what happens to the students of the JGS art teacher if they can’t support themselves until they can produce sellable art? Do they take a Government Job as art teacher too? Is that really the intention for a JGS, to just self-perpetuate the teaching of the same skills without applying them?

A UBI allows artists to create art. It allows them to create art without worrying about selling them. It also allows people to be able to afford that art. My wife once created a pro-UBI artwork specifically to illustrate this. In material costs, the embroidery of a UBI logo surrounded by flowers and plants was “worth” a token amount but the time spent to make it, paid at Artist Union rates, would put the “fair” value accounting for the labour of the artwork into the region of almost £1,000. Very few people could afford to pay that much for that work, which is why almost no-one on the Etsy craft stores of the world charge what they should for their art and crafts. And anyway, the point of the art was to show that art shouldn’t be about the money involved anyway, it should be about adding joy and wonder to the world without having to consider its impact on GDP. A minimum wage JGS as an art teacher won’t help artists make art. It won’t help people buy art. It won’t allow artists more time for more art to be made (indeed, quite the opposite). Breathing is, indeed, work – but while a UBI will pay you to do it, a JGS will not. Once again, UBI is social security. JGS is economic policy. Both are needed, but confusing the latter for the former is to court injustice and poverty by design.

Part VIII – The NAIRU Economy

In short NAIRU is a technical economics terms that essentially means that the current economy not just implies but demands a certain level of unemployment. What keeps you from demanding better pay and conditions but the threat of being replaced by someone who won’t? If there are more jobs than there are people who want jobs then people will “bid up” their wages by threatening to quit. You can see this misguided philosophy in everything from the Bank of England’s insane sinking of the economy via interest rates rise through to some CEO’s just outright saying the loud bit out loud. I have little to argue about with Winningham in this section other than his persistent implication that a UBI would only act to concentrate wealth in the top end of the inequality scale as if the current non-UBI economy doesn’t already do that and that it can’t be prevented or redressed by other policies such as wealth taxes. I agree that the concept of NAIRU has to be gotten rid of for the wellbeing of society but I’m not sure either a UBI or a JGS or even both alone would solve it. It will require a complete restructuring of our economy along true wellbeing grounds (perhaps something like the society we envisage in our book Sorted: a Handbook for a Better Scotland) and this is one that will very likely require both a UBI and a JGS alongside other economic policies designed to make life better for all of us, not just those who manage to grab enough capital to keep it from the rest of us.

Part IX – The Job Guarantee

The final part of the series as of the time of writing (I may add an annex covering Part X once it’s published if it says something that requires a response). Winningham lays out his vision for a JGS and it is indeed the classic type of a minimum wage, relatively unskilled job. It’ll offer the “freedom” to choose your own hours but we’ve all seen exactly how that works out in the Gig Economy. The role of this job scheme is, in his words to “[guarantee] the jobs of the low-skilled working-class, and as a result, it will create a vibrant job demand for skilled, highly skilled, and highly educated people.”

This is the very opposite of breaking down class inequality. It is designed explicitly to entrench classism as government policy as the role of the working class in this scheme is specifically to be minimum wage consumers and producers for the educated middle classes (so much for replacing Homo Economicus with Homo Fabricans, at best workers have to become both). It is designed against being a mechanism for the Just Transition from jobs made obsolete by automation or by changing circumstances like the climate emergency. Just as a highly paid laser engineer replaced by a robot isn’t going to be happy in a minimum wage job, nor is an oil worker replaced by a renewable sector that didn’t allow them to move over for lack of training. A Job Guarantee may be a valuable mechanism for frictional unemployment but this scheme would do nothing for the structural unemployment that would result if, despite the series’ claim, a disruptive element like technology or climate wiped out an entire job sector.

I think of communities in Scotland torn apart by the loss of a keystone employer and wonder what would happen to them if all that could be offered was minimum wage gig jobs. A UBI alone might not be sufficient in those circumstances either but this is the value of both. If your basic needs are met then your needs and desires above that are entirely within your power. The government could then come in with a bespoke job guarantee scheme designed to meet the structural unemployment needs of your community, or to co-invest with entrepreneurs in the community who have an idea of what they can do with their skills given that the risk of setting up a business is covered by their UBI.

The two policies of UBI and JGS need not contradict each other nor be in conflict with each other. MMT advocates for JGS and the exclusion of UBI must justify why it must be either and not both – I believe Winningham has failed to do so in this series – and that this justifiction must do more to show how this would improve society rather than merely entrench the status quo of class inequality and poor work for poor folk. The studies around JGS are encouraging – the Austrian study found positive impacts of poor people becoming less poor even though they explicitly said they couldn’t compare the results to, for example, a UBI paid at the same rate as the JGS – but if anything the studies around UBI are even more compelling. Can criticts maintain their stance in the face of that data rather than merely defend an economic model against uncomfortable moral implications?

Members of the SNP recognise this as they have happily voted to support both policies and support for UBI now has functional majority support across the Scottish Parliament with all parties except the Conservatives saying they’re in favour of it. The idea might not be in place yet but if the issue is that pilots can’t tell us more than they already have then perhaps that’s a sign that we’re ready now to try the full roll-out of a Universal Basic Income. Common Weal stands together with many other organisations in Scotland and beyond who are ready to support this and a Job Guarantee and all of the other policies we need to break down the injustice we face in the world. In short, we want a Scotland that works for all of us, not just one where all of us work.

Image Credit: Ellen Joëlle Dalzell

7 thoughts on “Jobs Vs Security – Part 2”

  1. Aye, you definitely need to chat. Lots to come at from many angles simultaneously to get a proper feel for what’s being said. Obviously your biggest constraint is what might stop any initiative dead in the water. If that happens, it doesn’t matter what plans you had for it and there is a good chance things might end up worse than before for political as well as macro reasons. There are a lot of assumptions in this whole area which need to be hammered out and examined.
    At least a lot of areas of agreement which is a starting point, now just to converge on the details.

  2. I have to say that this description of JGS is not my understanding of it…..”JGS by necessity creates those narrow definitions of “work” as it will only ever offer you a Government Job from the list of approved Government Jobs.” What I have read about JGS is that it is a de-centralised system not one where jobs are listed by central government. The JGS provides opportunities for folk who lose mainstream employment to be paid to do important work in local communities and that those opportunities are identified locally and local employment offices (run by government) play a role in linking people out of work with these roles in community organisations. To describe this as “non-essential” work is just wrong. Paying people to do this sort of work means community based initiatives rely less on unpaid volunteers to get things done. I am open to persuasion about UBI but one of the risks i see in it is that it will become a wage subsidy for private sector employers.

    1. “Non essential” doesn’t mean unimportant just not time sensitive or unable to be done flexibly

  3. Malcolm Reavell

    This looks like a typical straw man attack on the Job Guarantee where it is demonised as “workfare”, basically. Well surprise, surprise. UBI fans everywhere use this as a first criticism. UBI allows people to fulfil their potential, frees them from the necessity for involuntary employment, the need to just make enough money to live, am subsistence level bargain basement job you’re forced to take or starve/ become homeless. Typical and ill-informed to say the least.

    Newsflash: most people aren’t aspiring creatives with a burning passion to change the world through self-expression by writing, painting, sculpting, singing, dancing or whatever. Most people don’t have the sort of motivation that the UBI camp appear to share–the educated, well-motivated, resilient, self-reliant, career minded individuals who plan their lives, engage with society, and involve themselves in higher pursuits of arts, politics, do some research, or start their own business. Most folk just want a job that pays a decent wage so they can afford to pay all the bills, run a car, buy a large screen TV to watch Amazon Prime, the latest football club strip, go to the pub, buy a takeaway meal a few times a week, go to Spain for two weeks once every now and then, and maybe save a little. That’s most peoples’ lives.

    They can’t do that on a UBI because, let’s face it,
    1, it will not be paid at a level that will cover those things (but a Job Guarantee job could).
    2, it will be absorbed into the wage price spiral, eroding its value to the level where people are just as relatively poor as they were before the UBI
    3, It comes with no guarantee that it will not be used to remove all other cash benefits and (further) privatise basic services (education, healthcare, public transport…). In fact, proponents of UBI themselves say it could be used to entirely redesign the benefits system.

    “Oh, but we can regulate for that” is the UBI supporters’ usual response. Well, we already have lots of laws and regulations about minimum wages and so on, and guess what, they don’t work do they? We still have poverty and inequality. A UBI might work in a static economy with a limited money supply, but we don’t. The system is rigged so that wealth will always trickle up to the 1%. It is an institutionally skewed distribution system. What happens when you add input to a skewed distribution system? The distribution stays skewed, and it gets bigger. Those at the top will accrue more wealth and those at the bottom will still be just as poor but with slightly more money passing through their bank accounts every month.

    Wake up folks! The UBI is a Trojan horse policy that will be used to erase existing social safety nets we have and replace them with Thatcherite “personal responsibility”. The Job Guarantee provides a wage floor that sets a minimum wage without the need for legislation. Employers need to improve on the job guarantee wage if they want you to work for them.

    I am not going to go into the economics here as it would take too long, I’m prepared to write an explanation, but you have already read Ellis Winningham’s series and failed to grasp it.

    The job guarantee is derided as “make work’ without a clear understanding of the sound economic reasoning behind it, and that it is not work enforced by default to get people doing the lowest of menial tasks at poverty wage.

    The social and wellbeing aspect of the Job Guarantee is that it is locally administered and suited to you. You’re a musician? OK can you help youngsters with this project? Can you help put on this local carnival? Give these kids in a youth club some lessons on how to use a PA system. You want to fit it around your schedule? OK, are you able to do a series of ad hoc performances in old folks homes and hospitals? You get paid a living wage, not a subsistence level UBI.

    You’re not being given a shelf stacking job at Tesco—that’s what you’d have to do when you get a UBI.

    You have a relative who needs 24/7 care? Great – we’ll pay you to do that. The relative gets benefits and some sort of basic income and you’re paid to stay home and give personal care, and there’s still a social care network to support you. With a UBI that could all disappear.

    This kind of scheme also covers retraining. The need to transition to a carbon neutral economy is never going to happen if left up to the private sector. Remember the redundancies and depression caused by the closure of the coal industry? No, you’re too young maybe. The only way to make a transition happen safely and speedily is for government to assist the retraining and development of people in the skills and knowledge to make that happen, without forcing thousands of people into involuntary unemployment. These people will already be a responsibility of the public sector if unemployed, so why not do something positive with them? It’s good for them, it’s good for the planet.

    Unemployment is ultimately a responsibility of the state. Throwing some money at the problem and expecting the private sector to fix it will not work. Only government has the authority and capacity to ensure full employment, so why not proper meaningful jobs at a living wage? It’s not just their responsibility, it’s their duty. And as responsible members of society it’s our responsibility to in this social contract. If you aren’t interested in and still want to do your own thing that’s up to you, but you can’t expect money for nothing.

    At the moment our vision is limited by what we see in front of us. The UBI is just an extension of that limited scope for a wellbeing economy. We must understand the purpose on the state money system we use, and that giving away its money for nothing is not only economically illiterate but damaging to society. There needs to be structure and purpose, and that needs to be directed with care and empathy, so we are not talking slave labour. The solution to this problem is not the UBI; the solution is to understand that the UBI is an extension of the problem and to combat it we must change the narrative to one of empowerment for labour.

    1. Malcolm

      It’s important to make the distinction in these discussions between arguing for or against UBI/JGS in general and in principle (which I’m not doing) and critiquing any specific plan in particular (in this case Winningham’s specific JGS in the absence of and to the exclusion of a UBI).

      This particular model is based on the “wage floor” so, by definition, will only provide jobs at a defined minimum wage that is specifically set at a level lower than “higher skilled” jobs elsewhere in the economy. Why is there an objection to minimum wage laws as an alternative “wage floor” by the way? Perhaps in the US where laws and enforcement are weaker, there’s a case for that but folk like the Low Pay Commission have very good data to suggest that UK minimum wage laws do act as an effective wage floor (also that only around 5% of people in the UK are actually paid the minimum wage – in work poverty is more about the insufficiency of that wage – and, indeed, the current “market rate” for wages in general – than its absence). If anything, this merely highlights, as I say in the article, that neither JGS nor UBI not both are sufficient social and economic policies in themselves. We still need other policies around workers’ rights, union laws, rent controls, “rent-floor” policies such as social housing (whatever JGS does to increase the profit share of labour might not apply to wealth accumulation via rentierism) and others.

      In my 2017 paper I make clear the distinction between JGS and Workfare. That distinction lies in whether or not there is a monetary incentive to not opt out of the job and whether that opt out would cause financial hardship (thus, the prospect of opt out carries the threat of hardship). My worry about using JGS *as* social security is that there would be insufficient or no safety net below that. I don’t see that net in Winningham’s proposal though if your preferred JGS scheme does have one then that’s something worth discussing. I know that you have discussed the idea of a means-tested Basic Income in the past (which I shall take to mean a cash payment sufficient to meet Basic needs for those who otherwise lack other or sufficient income). I’m sure you’d also agree that there’s no mathematical difference between a perfectly functioning means-tested income that only those below a certain threshold receive and a universal system that sees those earning more than that threshold taxed back off them. (e.g. there’s no difference to your income between me not giving you £10 and me giving you £10 but taxing you £10 at the same time).

      If that’s still true, then we’re not really arguing about JGS vs UBI at all here because I think we’d both agree with the following principles:

      1) Everyone should have the right but not the obligation to work.
      2) Everyone should have the right to have their basic needs met.
      3) It follows that opting out of work – for whatever reason – should not compromise 2)
      4) Means-testing always carries stigma and the risk of policy failure in ways that can be avoided by making a policy universal. Thus a Universal Basic Income meets 2) and 3) more effectively than a means-tested Basic Income.

      If that’s the case then while we can still debate the ins and outs of various *specific* UBI and JGS policies, I think we can find common ground in saying that running both policies together strengthens and guarantees each of them. In other words, do both.

      1. Hopefully part X will clear up some of your queries. Again the JG is part of the economic framework and UBI is policy. Which might be more obvious after part X

  4. Wilson Logan

    UBI would be absorbed by increased prices.

    E.g. imagine all renters were given £200 a month.

    What would happen to rents?


    The point of a JG at a living wage is to force capital to pay what it can afford for labour, not what it can get away with.

    A free market in Labour would be one where both parties are free to set & offer prices.

    A market where either participant is forced by diktat or circumstance to accept less than the other party is willing to offer is NOT a free market.

    A free market in Labour would be one where the person offering employment offers that employment at a price that makes their effort & investment & risk, worthwhile.

    That would be a fair market. The person offering employment, sets a price they are happy to pay.

    An unfair market would be one where the person offering employment can set a price lower than they are happy to pay due to circumstances which FORCE the person seeking employment to accept a lower price.

    In real terms, it matters not whether that circumstance is armed government agents forcing them at gunpoint or a surplus of labour.

    The labours value to the employer IS THE SAME regardless of the price paid.

    Labour is the ONLY commodity with inherent value.

    There is a international market for all commodities with internationally agreed prices.

    Except labour.

    Gee… wonder why that is.

    The #1 goal of capital is to get your labour at the least cost possible.

    A bowl of rice a day.

    A JG sets a floor on wages AND provides work (which a minimum wage does not).

    Capital can NEVER provide full employment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top