101 Reasons for Citizen’s Income

Reason of the Day


A Citizen’s Income would be institutionally feasible

The question is this: given what we know about the ways in which social policies travel through the policy process, from idea to implementation, can we envisage ways in which a Citizen’s Income would be able to negotiate that journey? (‘Institutional feasibility’ is about the institutions of the policy-making process. Other writers call it ‘policy process feasibility’ or ‘strategic feasibility’.)

Policy ideas reside in all kinds of places: books, the internet, think tanks, political parties, university departments, and government departments, to name but a few. To be implemented, ideas need to be able to travel through a complex institutional network, and particularly along the routes through think tanks, political parties, government departments, governments, and parliaments. Think tanks are particularly interesting as they enable political parties to hold internal debates without laying themselves open to accusations of disunity. The journey will be influenced by public opinion and by such self-interested players as computer companies; and certain policy characteristics might facilitate the journey, for instance, continuity with existing policy, and coherence with stated government priorities. Feasibility tests will usually need to be passed – but not always very thoroughly if a government wishes to implement a policy for political reasons. Electoral advantage will always be a factor.

Sometimes a government or a think tank will carry out a pilot project. We have seen Citizen’s Income pilot projects in Namibia and India, but no true Citizen’s Income pilot in a developed economy. (Negative Income Tax experiments in Canada and the USA have provided us with useful information, but they were not Citizen’s Income pilot projects.)

There is plenty of written material on Citizen’s Income schemes, and a global network of informed individuals is in place. Given the number of reasons for taking the Citizen’s Income idea seriously, detailed consideration by think tanks and government departments is not difficult to imagine. This could generate further media attention, and we can envisage sufficient numbers of ministers, shadow ministers, and members of parliament, in a variety of political parties, being persuaded that means-testing and other complexities have had their day and that an extension of universal benefits should be given a try. Public education would lead to sufficient public understanding, and this would provide the conditions for ministerial commitment and then legislation.

So we can see how a Citizen’s Income could successfully negotiate the policy process. A Citizen’s Income is institutionally feasible. Whether a Citizen’s Income scheme will succeed in making the journey from idea to implementation is of course another matter.

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About the Book

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.