Green policy #17 – The Citizen’s Income

(Want to play Policy Bingo? Just leave a comment or drop me a line: martinjdeane@gmail.com)

Thanks to Delia (at ImagineDPM) for asking about this one! – No.17  – The Citizen’s Income.

Green Policy #17 is – as luck would have it –  the Citizens Income! This is a basic income where everyone is given a weekly income by the state! Sound crazy? Think about it. It used to be called Unemployment Benefit, often called the dole, and now Income Support – which has its own message that you should be ‘out there’ earning money.  What if we turn it on its head and pay a basic income to EVERYONE.

What’s  that message? It’s one of respect, trust, valuing and equality.

This is the Green Party plan and it costs… about the same! It’s not means tested which will save a lot of money and the bureaucracy behind it. This largely pays for it. Job interviews, job centres, etc, all become optional and could be slimmed down in areas. A citizen can choose to do “formal” work on top, or not. At a certain level of income, ie. the better off, pay it back through tax codes.

Policy #17 is set at about £120 per week, all costed, and I can send you the spreadsheet if you like. In addition, we are exploring ways of factoring in housing allowance to this too since a place to live should also be guaranteed to its citizens by the state.

I like the Citizens Income because it changes the relationship of individual to the state – especially the mentality. It says explicitly: “We value you just for you being a citizen within society.” And in monetary terms too. And that that citizenship isn’t dependent on whether you have a formal job, 9 to 5 or whatever. Nor is it dole any more, with you having to be ‘available for work’ or to clock up so many interviews.

Instead of welfare, to stop you going under in a dog eat dog society,  it becomes a basic income giving you more freedom to live your own life, make your own choices and think about what calls to you as to how you spend your time or define your career. It gives independence rather than the paternalism of “We’ll look after you cos you’re skint”, etc.  It’s a real mark of trust in people and their decisions. And… it solves the problem of unemployment, doesn’t it?

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10 thoughts on “Green policy #17 – The Citizen’s Income

  1. This is, in my view, one of the most important policies that the Green Party has. I agree with everything Martin has said. Also, at a stroke, it will do away with a whole category of “crime” – benefit fraud. It just won’t exist! I think the Citizen’s Income scheme needs to be emphasised far more in Green Party publicity, together with some sort of rough costing, showing that it is quite feasible.

    Talking about crime, I think other whole categories that could be done away with would follw from the legalisation of drugs – being available only from approved outlets. The vast amount of theft that is fueled by those wanting money to spend on drugs would disappear.

    Other categories of crime that could be reduced. With citizens’ income and a sensible system of tax, there would be a far more equitable distribution of income and the desire to acquire “things” that other people have would be lessened.

    An important part of education would be human relationships – how to deal with conflict before it arose, personal relationships, international relationships – which would lessen the need to solve any potential conflict in a violent way.

    These could all be worked up into more detailed policies – probably the Green Party already has them. To be honest, I haven’t looked!

    • Thanks Philip – great point about benefit fraud. Now consider the propaganda – for example, the amount of benefit fraud is WAY outweighed by the amount that goes unclaimed, and as far as I am aware, always has been – like about 16 to 1 here – http://bit.ly/c890Sj

      We also have great stuff on Green philosophy of society, the role of politics, and on what education is really for, all here – http://policy.greenparty.org.uk

  2. I think the citizens income is a great idea in principle, and the idea dates back aeons within our party. It is an idea I would like to ‘sell’ but don’t as I am uncertain about the costings in our troubled financial climate. I am not quite sure how doing away with other benefits which are only payable to some, would be the same cost as introducing a payments payable to all adults between 16/18-65 at £120 per person. Any information regarding this would be appreciated.

  3. Hi Ian, thanks. I’ll get the updated spreadsheet and send it to you. The figures work out fine for Income Support/Jobseekers Allowance. In a similar way that tax codes can get the money back if you’re well-off, the same could happen with, say, Local Housing Allowance. We could explore giving everyone LHA and recovering it from the better-off through tax codes. The actual nitty-gritty isn’t that brave, it’s just making the sums work out. What is brave is that a society would pay its members just for being. It’s not a safety net; it’s sudden firm ground to stand on. I like the message it gives.

  4. I love this policy but have questions. You say that ‘everyone’ will be given the citizen’s income. Does that mean ‘everyone of working age’, or would children receive it too? What about the Child Benefit?

    I’m also wondering about pensions? Would the Citizen’s Income replace state pensions?

    • Hi Julie,
      CI is for everyone until retirement when the Citizens Pension kicks in – which we currently value at £170 a week (to fix elderly poverty). Children will be entitled to a reduced amount of CI, paid to parents or guardians, which would essentially be an enhancement of existing Child Benefit, to continue until 16 (our age of majority).
      Best,
      Martin

  5. £120 a week seems a lot to me for young people living with their parents. I think some would feel that they do not need to get a job, and that in the long run they might regret not having done so.
    But then I believe that having a paid job is good for people psychologically; being paid for what you do is proof that other people value your contribution and gives you confidence; at any rate that’s the effect it had on me.

    • As Caroline said this morning, we’re some way off being able to implement this. Mind you other parties have been thinking about it too. The practicality is that you could actually give every citizen £120 no questions asked (ie, not means tested) and it would be cheaper than running all the bureaucracy we have now!

      Overall the UK is quite a workaholic society with big figures for stress and days lost. The beauty of the policy, for me, is that it moves the idea of safety net, the dole, the “Jobseekers Allowance”, etc, into “Oh the state is going to pay me for being a citizen.” It’s a fundamental valuing of everyone rather than Big Brother breathing down your neck and making you jump through hoops. It also revolutionises capitalist society as suddenly people don’t have to do any old work to make ends meet. They are given some real choice and some real freedom. Jobs would have to be worth doing. People will be freer to move jobs rather than feel trapped. people can explore their vocation more – what would I like to do? What inspires me?

      Fundamentally it’s a sign of trust – by the all-powerful state – in its people. I like it.

  6. I think the Citizen’s Income scheme is one of the most important Green Party policies. It is, of course, possible that some people would be happy to live on £120 a week, but they may well contribute to society in non-monetary ways, by charity work, for example. And it would make it far easier for people to do casual work, as they needed extra money, without worrying about losing benefits or whatever. This would actually increase the number of jobs available, as employers would be able to offer a much more flexible work arrangement. It is difficult to know if the £120 figure is the right one to enable sufficient people to want to work to bring in extra income. Presumably, though, before it was introduced there would be a lot more study to determine what the correct figure should be.

    Philip

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