Updated: Jan 15
“Wealth flows from energy and ideas.” - William Feather
When it comes to free handouts and entitlements it’s fair to say that the United Kingdom is crippled by them and any individual running for political office dare not mention making alterations to the welfare state. However, coronavirus proposes new challenges and has given us a chance to press pause on the record. Throughout lockdown, we will all have had different experiences, some negative and some positive, from loneliness to more family time to learning new skills and even seeing the world from a different perspective. But coming out of lockdown we must all come to realise that the way things were pre-COVID-19 cannot be as we emerge from lockdown to the deepest recession (Depression) in 300 years.
Following lockdown when the majority of measures have been rolled back and we begin to return to the surface of post-apocalyptic Britain, will have a lot of tough decisions to make when facing these new post-pandemic anxieties and the welfare system amongst others like tuition fees in Scotland are very unlikely to survive that recovery process. The current chancellor Rishi Sunak has ruled out introducing a Universal Basic Income saying it’s not the “right response” to the coronavirus pandemic and defended the existing humiliating welfare system. However, I’m going to put forward a conservative case for introducing the ambitious growth model alternative to the current welfare system, the introduction of a basic income scheme where all UK citizens age of 18 years or older regardless of employment status would receive a set amount of money from the government per month and would allow us to rebuild the country and create a more inclusive, prosperous and healthy society going forward.
So, lets first get this out of the way for those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a UBI scheme is an economic model that provides all eligible citizens of a country or geographic area with a set sum of money, regardless of income, resources or employment status. The main purpose of the model is to reduce poverty and increase equality and opportunity amongst people. The Conservative party is supposed to be the party of opportunity, you build your future. It isn't handed to you! So the idea of entitlement like UBI should send a shiver down one's spine (like when drinking a fresh pint of beer or a cold soft drink) but the problem is, work hard, play by the rules it doesn’t guarantee success and the best way to help maximise the chance of success is through opportunity and giving people the tools, so the introduction of UBI would give people the tools to do just that.
Arguments are made that such a system would lead to the UK population losing its incentive to work and that working would become a meaningless task resulting in mass numbers of people withdrawing from the workforce and living solely on this basic income. However, I would make the case that firstly a large majority of people find self-worth and purpose in their work so the idea that someone would just leave their job for some side cash is hogwash and those who have the productivity of a koala bear ( Sleeping 16 hours a day) are a drain on the workforce and the absence of such workers would likely boost productivity if replaced by new labour or automation. The basic income money would allow these individuals and others to gain capital to have the opportunity to learn new skills, explore those business ideas and become productive in other industries where they are better placed (thus improving customer service).
The current welfare system is out of date just like the NHS it needs to be re-evaluated and simplified for the modern times because even before coronavirus millions of people were stuck in unfulfilling jobs as well as those who so desperately wanted a job but couldn’t get one, just imagine how intensified things will be during the deepest recession in 300 years!
A basic income scheme would allow those that cannot afford to take time off work to ease the pressure improving mental health as well as allowing them to be free to pursue the positions and goals they are interested in, rather than having to take anything just to keep afloat. The extra money for those already in work would allow people to learn skills that would allow for expansion into more creative, or simply more enjoyable and fulfilling positions thus opening these roles for those at the bottom of the ladder looking for work and to ascend from the darkness.
Now the introduction of such a scheme would carry a hefty price tag and to pay for it we would need to rethink our Social protections, health, education and even foreign aid, everything will need to be opened up and re-evaluated and this is the perfect time to open up these out of date systems and re-build a new structure suitable not only for this current recession but for the future as a whole.
The necessity for change in this country couldn’t be clearer after the recent Brexit referendum and trying something new can’t be neglected. People want to live in a country without fear and right now it's a very scary time to be alive and most people are already struggling to put food on the table. If the introduction of a universal income was successful, we could reinvent a new industrial and technological revolution in this country and level up our communities not just print it in a manifesto. If we at least attempt to fix things and fail, then we can admit it frankly and try another. Above all, we must try something because the current systems are not fit for purpose and more people are going to die from poverty than Coronavirus if we don’t do anything.
Some have said that such changes to the economic system and new income levels would surge money within the economy causing high levels of inflation thus rendering the basic income to less value, but let's be honest here it really depends on the numbers and how we implement it but yes, absolutely we will likely cause inflation that's how it works. It's a redistribution of income but it doesn't add large sums of new money to the economy because it's already there it just changes who gets to spend it, it won't create overall inflation because the customer behaviour will be changing the same products. A basic income scheme (what we need to fix the economy and fix society), will allow many people to leave the unaffordable big cities and seek a simpler and slower life in the rural areas and towns. Small cities and towns like my own that are currently collapsing into poverty will see growth and development and sense of new life. Frankly, the cost of living in small towns all across the nation will inflate due to the inrush of income created by everyone there receiving a UBI. While the mass exit from the big towns will cause the cost of living there to collapse. Life in small towns will be revitalized while living in a big city will become more affordable.
So, a UBI does not add new money to the system, so at the macro level, no inflation. At the macro level, the government would supply to stabilise overall inflation, and a UBI will not stop the Treasury from doing their job. But at the local level, there will be lots of changes in prices. Including changes in wages — wages will go up for the low-end jobs due to lack of labour but that's inevitable because these unattractive jobs pay too little for anyone to see value in the work and post Brexit these jobs are going to be hit the hardest. Let's be honest, that’s how a UBI works there's always going to be winners and losers but locally, it will have many inflations and deflation effects which all balance out.
The biggest problem is what we conservatives hate more than anything else, which is a reliance on state and we value freedom and individual responsibility so I can see where people are coming from when they say that such a system makes the public reliant on the government, however, the scheme would allow individuals to spend the money how they so wish and they are responsible to focus such funds on areas of individual priorities. The current welfare system creates a lifestyle and is very humiliating for individuals not to mention that the UBI scheme allows freedom and individual responsibility whilst the current system does not and is managed by busybody groups that decide what people need. Money saved in such an area could be used to create better programmes that have the possibility of actually benefiting people and returning a profit.
Overall I refer back to my opening quote by William Feather that “Wealth flows from energy and ideas” not by continuing the status quo if we are to meet the future challenges of automation and technology whilst preserving our heritage and values we need that new energy and ideas and to rise to the challenges we face even if it means a possibility of failure.