LabourList: Neal Lawson: Despite its moral and policy challenges to Labour, the idea of basic income grows

I agree with Mr Lawson that “the aftermath of Brexit must be the creation of a 21st-century system of social security with BI at its beating heart.” But basic income is not the entire solution to the problems we face. There are two key areas that need attention if basic income is to work. The first is housing. The second is transport. Housing in this country is an expensive mess. If private landlords are the model we are going use to house those who are unable to buy a home, then we need controls on the renting market. We need a register of landlords, so unscrupulous landlords can be identified and barred from letting property. We need long term leases of five or ten year, so tenants have the security they need to plan a future. Finally, and most importantly, we need a ceiling on how much rent a tenant can be charged. We need to move rents away from a “market” led system that has turned average incomes into poverty wages. We need a system based on a tenets income. Rents should be capped at thirty per cent of a tenants income. Policies like this are the only way to make rents affordable. The second issue that needs attention is transport. Public transport is expensive. The price of season tickets rise as fast as service standards fall. Bus services are streamlined as sure as fares go up. Public transport needs to be cheap. If it were cheap it would become the affordable choice for most people. A secondary benefit of cheaper housing and transport is spending power. People would have more money to spend in the wider economy. We should not see Universal Basic Income as an expense. It should be seen as an investment. I think it would stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in people. The reason many people do not start their own business is the crippling consequences of failure. If you mitigate the consequences with a basic income, people would be much more likely to strike out on their own. Basic income isn’t new. The richest families have been using the system for years. Parents who fund to their children are offering a cushion that breaks the fall of failure. You’re much more likely to take a risk if your failure is mitigated by family wealth. Basic Income would offer that cushion to the many not just the few. It would free people to be creative, entrepreneurial, and much more productive.


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