Basic income, also called Universal basic income (UBI), Citizen’s income (CI), Citizen basic income, Basic income guarantee, or Universal Demogrant in different countries or regions is a capitalist reform project, a proposed periodic cash payment delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.
The income will be:
(iii) non withdrawable i.e. basic income will remain unchanged irrespective of increase or decrease in income.
(iv) Individual, beyond the age of 18 years, not per house hold
(v) as a right to every legal resident.
In some less developed countries basic income is directed to the poorest section of people, then they are called ‘Guaranteed minimum income system’.
It’s not a new idea, in fact it’s of medieval origin. The first Muslim Caliph, Abu Bakr (573-634 CE) introduced a guaranteed minimum income granting each man, woman and child ten Dirhams which later increased to twenty. The idea of state sponsored basic income was also proposed in” Utopia“by Sir Thomas More in early 16th century.
In this crises ridden capitalism, UBI has been projected as a panacea for the working class. Reasonably the proponents are billionaire oligarchs of capitalism but surprisingly some” left liberal” economists and intellectuals are also supporting the idea of basic income, some even claimed that it’s the beginning of post capitalist economy where human labour can be separated from the means of subsistence from the capitalist economy . What a ridiculous claim! Can the relation of capital and wage be replaced by maintaining the capitalist mode of production?It’s not a rocket science to understand the underlying planning of this project, it has been proposed by the minority ruling class so that it must be in the interest of that class to perpetuate the exploitative system of capitalism. We have to understand why they are so eager to hand over the working class and unemployed population a fixed amount of money without any strings attached.The reasons are multiple , most importantly the certainty of massive unemployment due to the recent development in the fields of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics is making the ruling elites worried off course not for the interest of the working class but from the fear of losing the potential buyers of their products. Already capitalism is suffering from the epidemic of over production, they need a working class population just capable of reproducing their physical and mental energy to serve as wage slaves and can act as consumers to sustain the system, moreover the other obvious interest is to reduce the discontent among the working class to tame the class war This is just another ploy to enslave the working class in exchange of the regular supply of payment checks. Being socialist in true sense we don’t advocate reforms of any kind as the capitalist system can’t be reformed to serve the interest of all. But we can tell certainly that it will be detrimental for the working class as UBI will certainly replace the existing social security programs. In USA,for the proposed UBI for every adults 10,000 dollars per year would cost more than three trillion dollars, consuming more than three quarters of federal budget. This would require historical high taxation, yet we rarely hear wealthy UBI advocates calling for their taxes to be raised, they more likely advocate cutting existing social –welfare programs that benefit the most impoverished population.
It will also exert a huge downward pressure on wages and over time real wages would on an average fall by the amount of the “basic” income. In other words, it would essentially be a subsidy to the employers.
It’s actually a cheap reform, for those who are employed it is nothing but like a tax rebate up to the value of basic income. Anyone paid enough to pay more taxes than the basic income will then subsidize the unemployed. The state then abolishes all other welfare benefits, since the “basic income” gets declared as enough to live on. It then becomes a constant struggle for the ruling class to hold the basic income at or just below the level of subsistence, so people are forced to low wage work, another bounty for the employers. The capitalists and their states need us (working class) to be impoverished, indebted and UBI will also be framed within the logic of capitalism which will permit a reform which fits in the agenda of the employing class. It will definitely fail to satisfy the unfounded hopes and expectations of our fellow workers and if it can be done under the disguise of so called ‘socialism’ then the subsequent disillusionment and disappointment will not be with capitalism and owning class but with the term socialism and those recognized to be “socialist”.
The proposed UBI will make no good to the working class and is perfectly compatible with alienation and oppression of the working class.
So the only scientific way is abolition of wage slavery, production for social needs and a world of free access to all social wealth created by the working class.
Partha Pratik Mukherjee is a pediatric surgeon by profession and social activist.