Towards a Humane Individualism lecture to John Stuart Mill Institute, by Samuel Brittan

This pamphlet breaks with past tradition and includes three texts by Sam Brittan: In Defence of Individualism, Making Common Cause; How liberals differ and what they ought to agree on; and Redistributive Market Liberalism. The latter will be of particular interest to supporters of a Citizen’s Income and is an edited version of the John Stuart Mill lecture delivered by the author at the National Liberal Club, London, in November 1997.
Brittan reminds us that sensible redistribution may involve a minimum income, but that, in his view, should not be confused with the minimum wage, which serves only to price people out of jobs. Brittan goes on to explain the differences between a Negative Income Tax (NIT) and a Basic Income (BI). He concedes that the absence of any work test in determining entitlement to the Basic Income is not a concept readily accepted by the general public, although it should be if we wish to help people avoid being complete “wage slaves”. He believes both NIT and BI would need to be assessed on a “willing to work” test, which could be expanded to include voluntary work or activity in the arts or sports. Furthermore, he argues that a full Basic Income would “go someway to combat Frank Field’s fears about the dependency culture”. In speaking of Basic Income to this distinguished audience, Brittan hoped to follow the late Professor James Meade’s example of “being prepared to discuss ideas which are not yet practical ‘in the present state of humanity’ but to whose realisation we should look forward”. (Pamphlet available from the John Stuart Mill Institute, 1 Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE, published 1998, ISBN 1 871952 15 6, price £7.50)