Basic Income as a Common Dividend

Having, at last, read the report by Professor Guy Standing on ‘Basic Income as Common Dividends’ for John McDonnell, I have to say it is a very impressive document and no wonder John McDonnell has said Labour would institute trials.

It is a really comprehensive review of everything about a basic income (and even why some basic services might have advantages but not, if they are to be set against each other, as many as a basic income – ie the good should not be the enemy of the best).

It is a tour de force and argued in comprehensive detail. Its introduction is well worth reading in full (as is the report itself). Some wonderfully interesting points are:

The Charter of the Forest of 1217, one of the two foundational documents of the British Constitution, the other being the Magna Carta, sealed on the same day. The Charter asserted that everybody had a right of subsistence, realisable in and through the commons. This is a human or citizenship right, not something dependent on specific behaviour or some indicator of merit-worthiness.

This is some of the information we all need, in order to counteract the likes of Ress-Mogg with his often superior pseudo historical ideas.

Then follows something that Ress-Mogg will know all too well (his family being former Somerset coal mine owners):

The wealth and income of all of us are far more due to the efforts and achievements of the many generations who came before us than to what we do ourselves, and if we accept the practice of private inheritance, as all governments have done, giving a lot of ‘something for nothing’ to a minority, then we should honour the principle of social inheritance.

Quite so.

He then follows up with something the majority of us can also identify with:

If one accepts the existence of the commons –the common resources bequeathed to us as society, natural or social in origin –then one should accept that over the centuries–and savagely during the austerity era–there has been organised plunder of the commons by privileged private interests at the cost of all of us as commoners.Seen in this way, those who have gained from being given,or who have taken,the commons should compensate the commoners in general for the loss.


A basic income would also strengthen social solidarity, because it would be an expression that we are all part of a national community sharing the benefits of the national public wealth created over our collective history. It is essential to revive that, since in recent decades, there has been an erosion of social solidarity linked to excessive individualism and competition. Although a basic income would be paid individually, it is not individualistic, because it is universal and equal, in stark contrast to means-tested social assistance or tax credits.

For me this is really very encouraging stuff – even if bizarrely, I’d suggest, it is based on tax and spend.

The unexpected advantage of this is tax and spend idea is that it is, calculated in these terms, as I’ve already indicated, automatically non inflationary.

Who can imagine what Guy Standing would suggest when we finally all realise that we spend and tax?


  1. Paul Wright -

    The millionaires media will do their Labour hatchet job on this.

    Mail, Express, Telegraph, Times, FT, Sun, Metro, and probably the Saudi funded Independent, plus a few chums on the Observer and Guardian will cry Loony left!

    Just like the green new deal or QE, any suggestion of MMT, renationalisation, LVT, or Local Authority issuing bonds, this will be ferociously attacked by the media.

    Goebels would be proud. Until people understand that English (so called) Newspapers are propaganda machines for the ruling class and not independent news, the better. If you want news go to Reuters or the net.

    However Its heartening that the academic left is vibrant with ideas, and you can tell from the ferocity of of media attacks that the establishment is a bit rattled.

    This is a brilliant idea, one can only hope for a Labour government so that John Macdonnell can deliver it, and all those other initiatives.

    Onwards and upwards

    Regards Paul

  2. Bill Hughes -

    I agree it is good that John McDonnell is prepared to trial a basic income scheme. The problem will be with most Labour MPs leaning to the right, they will be terrified of the mass media assault on the idea with the mantra of “How are we going to pay for it?” It may be difficult for Corbyn to get a cabinet prepared to “take the risk”. It will be interesting to see whether the proposal will be in their election manifesto.

    1. Peter May -

      I certainly hope so. It would, I like to think also move the ‘Overton Window’. If of course we can keep the deceiving press at bay…

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