Paul Spicker’s summary of his recent reports on Basic Income, and a response

Paul Spicker has published a series of reports on Citizen’s Basic Income, and he has issued a blog post containing a summary:

Some reservations about Basic Income

Yesterday I was at the launch of the report from a seminar series organised by the Scottish Universities Insight Unit in conjunction with Citizen’s Basic Income Scotland.  My role has been as the resident sceptic; I prepared a series of background papers and a paper outlinging the reasons for my doubts, and how they might be overcome.  The results are in the report, Exploring Basic Income in Scotland, available here.  There are my papers on Basic Income and Human Rights and Equality on pp 12-17, Care  on pp 47-52, Housing on pages 62-65.  The longer paper on Reservations about Basic Income is on pp 90-104.

The summary of those reservations goes like this:

Even if we accept all the arguments for Basic Income in principle, there are
serious issues to resolve relating to cost, distribution, adequacy and practical

  • Basic Income schemes are all very expensive. The first question to ask is not whether we can afford BI, but whether we should – whether the money would not be better used in some other way.
  • All the Basic Income schemes which have been developed to date make some poor people worse off. That mainly happens because they try to pay for BI by cutting or reducing existing benefits. Any scheme which does that it is going to benefit some people on higher incomes more than it benefits people on lower ones.
  • The treatment of existing benefits and of current tax allowances cannot work as intended. Basic Income cannot meet all the contingencies currently covered by social security benefits. It should not even try to do so.
  • BI will not be without its complications. It is time to address them.

Basic Income cannot be ‘adequate’, but it does not need to be; it only needs to be
basic. A modest income could be provided without damage to poor people, so long as it does not affect the status of other benefits.

A response appeared as follows:

Dear Paul
As I’m sure you know, the objections that you lodge against Basic Income are in fact objections to particular Basic Income schemes, and not to Basic Income. There are of course Basic Income schemes that are very expensive, that make poor people worse off, that don’t allow for different people’s different needs, and that would be difficult to implement. However, there are also Basic Income schemes – containing genuine Basic Incomes – to which the objections do not apply: for instance,’s-basic-income-scheme (updated research using the EUROMOD microsimulation programme will be available soon). If there is a single Basic Income scheme to which none of your objections apply, then none of the objections apply to Basic Income.
Best wishes
Dr. Malcolm Torry, Director, Citizen’s Basic Income Trust, and Visiting Senior Fellow, London School of Economics