Tag Archives: Green Party

Introducing a Citizen’s Income

It is the Green Party’s policy to have a Citizen’s Income – an unconditional set allowance for all citizens. This is a policy that I agree with, and while I am standing against Paul Jeater from the Green Party in the General Election in May of this year, I think it is right for rival politicians to work together when they have similar views and not simply disagree for the sake of it. To quote from the Green Party’s website:

“Citizens’ Income

EC730 A Citizen’s Income sufficient to cover an individual’s basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits (see EC711). A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work.

EC731 The Citizens’ Income will eliminate the unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work (See EC400). The Citizens’ Income scheme will thus enable the welfare state to develop towards a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.

EC732 When the Citizens’ Income is introduced it is intended that nobody will be in a position that they will receive less through the scheme than they were entitled to under the previous benefits system. Children will be entitled to a reduced amount which will be payable to a parent or legal guardian. People with disabilities or special needs, and single parents will receive a supplement.

EC733 Initially, the housing benefit system will remain in place alongside the Citizens’ Income and will be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments (see HO602). This will subsequently be reviewed to establish how housing benefit could be incorporated into the Citizen’s Income, taking into account the differences in housing costs between different parts of the country and different types of housing.”

This Citizen’s Income would obviously go to the very rich as well as those who really need it, but readjusting the income tax brackets accordingly would effectively cancel this out. This would be simpler than means testing, and because everyone would receive it regardless of their personal circumstances, there would not be any stigma attached to receiving it.

But wouldn’t this encourage people not to work? I don’t think it would. People out of work do in most cases receive money from the state anyway, and the Citizen’s Income simply guarantees this and removes any uncertainty. More importantly, most people out of work do want a job, and not just because it means they wouldn’t have to make regular trips to the job centre. The lecturer in this video discusses and rebuts the potential problems such as the possibility that people might decide not to work. In summary, he says that most people are worried that other people would give up work, but that this worry is misplaced because very few would want to give up work themselves.

Since humans took up agriculture thousands of years ago and settled in permanent locations, we have been able to produce goods more effectively and haven’t all had to spend our lives simply hunting or foraging for food and making sure we have some sort of shelter for the night. This is why nowadays most people have jobs that seem to have no connection to making things that are essential to our survival. Given this excess, we should all be able to live with a certain amount of comfort and without every person having to be in work at any given time. And yet, many people still live in poverty.

On top of this, we’re told that people have been getting exponentially wealthier, so why is it then that people still have to work the same number of hours just to have enough to get by? Well, even if the average wealth per person has gone up, inequality has been increasing, so this means that many people haven’t seen any increase in their own personal wealth, while those at the top have taken more than their fair share.

The Citizen’s Income should go some way to addressing this by providing everyone with this basic minimum allowance. By having a Citizen’s Income, people would be able to pick where to work without being forced into undesirable and exploitative jobs through necessity, and they would be freer to choose their own paths in life. There is enough wealth in the country to allow for this, but it is currently very poorly distributed. It is time for this to change.


The European elections approach us

I have always felt a bit ignorant about European issues. But I don’t think it’s just me. With the European elections fast approaching, it’s difficult to get any sensible information on the European Union. What goes on in the European Parliament? Is being in the EU a good thing?

I was, perhaps naively, looking forward to the Nick Clegg v Nigel Farage debates on our EU membership, and I was expecting to get more in-depth arguments rather than the simplistic one-liners that we’ve been used to. But I was disappointed. There was very little, if any, in-depth discussion, and it was basically just a highlights package of the rhetoric and points scoring that we’ve been hearing for the last few years. Apparently Nigel Farage won. But I think we all lost.

On one hand we hear that the EU has brought too much immigration to the country, and that our laws are no longer in our own hands or democratically implemented, and on the other hand we hear that immigration is good for the economy and the country as a whole, and that the EU allows for better cooperation and trade between countries.

I will start with the question of democracy. We hear all the time that our powers are being taken by the EU and that too many of our laws made there, although there seems to be little agreement on what proportion of our laws are set by the EU. We elect MEPs, and these MEPs pass laws in Europe just as national MPs do in Westminster, so there is a level of democracy, although how democratic the system is is disputed. However, one reason for the poor perception of the EU’s democratic status is that there isn’t the same media coverage for the European Parliament as there is for the national Parliament. So if our powers are silently slipping away, the media have to take their part of the blame for this. MEPs are elected and then disappear into this black box. Obviously some MEPs, such as Nigel Farage, do get media coverage, but not for what they do in the European Parliament. If there were more media coverage of what went on in the European Parliament, then the public’s views on the EU would be more informed and we would be able to see it for what it is, without everyone individually having to do their own research or make baseless speculations.

Then there is the question of immigration. We hear the economic argument for immigration. But increasing the size of the economy or even the average wealth per person doesn’t mean that everyone individually gains from this, and if those who lose out are already the poorer members of society, then this isn’t something that can’t simply be ignored.

For example, many British workers are concerned that there are fewer jobs available for them because the jobs are going to immigrants, partly because they work for lower wages. Most of those that would consider themselves to be affected are lower paid workers, who are already marginalized by the inequality that we have in our society, (I have discussed inequality here and here), so if the country worked towards having a more equal society generally with a properly enforced higher minimum wage, we should be able to improve this situation without having to place further limits on immigration.

There is still a legitimate question over how much immigration is good for the country. If there is no limit, then that would be an argument to open the borders to people from all countries, which I don’t think many people would agree with. Otherwise there must be a point where more immigration would be bad for the country, and there’s no reason to suggest that the optimum amount ties in with the amount we get from other EU countries. So clearly it is overly simplistic to just argue that unconstrained EU migration is a good thing on the basis that immigration is good for the country.

Having said that, I think any talk of a population crisis is premature. But population increase generally, whether through net immigration or the birth rate being higher than the death rate, needs to be properly managed, through improvements in infrastructure and building more houses. Everyone needs affordable accommodation.

One argument for more controlled immigration is that we should be able to just take the “brightest and best” from other countries. But a lot of the countries that these people would come from are much poorer than the UK, so this could create a “brain drain” and cause these countries to suffer, and could delay their development as nations. We shouldn’t just be looking at the selfish interests of our own country. We should want to be part of the wider international community where we look out for each other’s interests. Immigration shouldn’t be about poaching talent from other countries and leaving them to suffer the consequences.

This is not to say that skilled workers should not be allowed to emigrate from poorer countries. But their ability to do so could be offset by better incentives for people to help out in poorer countries, to develop their infrastructure and provide vital services. Many people come to the UK because conditions are better than in their country. If there were more international cooperation to enable all countries to reach higher standards of living, it would help everyone out, and migration between countries would then become more balanced. I think this would be a better long-term approach than to leave the EU for good because of the 2014 levels of immigration.

We also get a warped sense of perspective of the EU and in particular of immigration from the overexposure of Nigel Farage and UKIP in the UK media, including on the supposedly neutral BBC. People’s views are formed in part by what is in the papers and on television. The rise of UKIP isn’t simply a response to the public’s views; their level of media coverage has turned many people against the EU and immigration, and it’s hard to see what justifies the level of coverage that they’ve received. In contrast to UKIP, the Green Party receives relatively very little media coverage despite having an MP (unlike UKIP) and also having MEPs, albeit not as many as UKIP.

International cooperation is clearly a good thing, but is the European Union the right institution to provide this? Well, I think the name is limiting because I think international cooperation should be encouraged to grow globally and ultimately shouldn’t be dependent on location. But that’s not to say we should throw away the EU based on its current name. It should ultimately be open to all countries that fit the relevant criteria and be open to a name change at some point.

I’m not going to get into the details of what all the relevant criteria are, but EU countries are subject to all sorts of regulations and this is seen as undemocratic, and this is one reason why some people want the UK to leave. We need to look in detail at exactly which regulations are required for the continued functioning of the EU. Arguably the EU is too undemocratic at the moment and has more powers than it strictly needs to over countries’ laws, but these are areas that could be reformed. International cooperation on matters such as climate change and global inequality is very important, and the EU is a very good starting point for this. It might not be perfect, but it’s better to work from this platform than to start again with our international relationship with individual European countries from scratch.

I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of every party, but I think the Green Party probably takes the most reasonable stance on Europe of the main parties. It is in favour of staying in the EU while acknowledging that there are changes that need to be made, and they support a referendum on our continued membership. If I were to give my support to any party in the European election, it would be the Green Party.