There are many policies that would be desirable but not feasible. Free public transport, for everyone, and from anywhere to anywhere, would be such a policy. The policy would be desirable as it would get lots of cars off the roads, but trains and buses would be quickly swamped, new provision would be constantly required, and the public subsidy needed would be unsustainable. Public transport has to be rationed, and the price mechanism is one way of doing that. The practical solution is a balance between individual payment and public subsidy.
And there are plenty of policies that are feasible but not desirable. Reducing tax rates to zero and abolishing all public services would be feasible, but would not be desirable. There are many services that can only be provided efficiently as public services, so public provision, and the taxation to pay for it, is in general desirable. The practical question is where the balance should be struck between individuals providing for themselves and government bodies providing for everyone through tax-funded public services.
The policy that is both feasible and desirable is rare. A Citizen’s Income would be such a policy.
A Citizen’s Income would be desirable. It would improve social cohesion, would increase equality, would enable people more easily to earn their way out of poverty, and would give people more freedom over their personal relationships and their employment patterns.
A Citizen’s Income would also be feasible. It would be administratively feasible, because it would be easy to administer, and because transition to a benefits system based on a Citizen’s Income would be possible to manage; it would be financially feasible, because revenue neutral schemes are available, and some of those schemes would impose no losses on low-earning households; and it could be politically feasible, because every mainstream political ideology can find reasons for supporting the idea. Once implemented, a Citizen’s Income would be psychologically feasible.
There are some aspects of a Citizen’s Income that would serve both its desirability and its feasibility. For instance, the administrative simplicity of a Citizen’s Income would contribute to its feasibility, and a Citizen’s Income’s administrative simplicity would mean that it would be transparent – that is, everyone would know how it worked – which is a desirable characteristic of any social policy and of any benefits system.
The fact that a Citizen’s Income is both feasible and desirable is a characteristic to be treasured. It is unfortunate that this unusual combination will not on its own ensure the implementation of a Citizen’s Income scheme.
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101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income offers a short, accessible introduction to the debate on a Citizen’s Income, showing how a universal, unconditional income for every citizen would solve problems facing the UK’s benefits system, tackle poverty, and improve social cohesion and economic efficiency. For anyone new to the subject, or who wants to introduce friends, colleagues or relatives to the idea, 101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income is the book to open up debate around the topic. Drawing on arguments detailed in Money for everyone (Policy Press, 2013), it offers a convincing case for a Citizen’s Income and a much needed resource for all interested in the future of welfare in the UK.