There is a very interesting article ‘Can we have UBS and UBI?’ on what appears to be a new site devoted to Universal Basic Services (UBS). UBI is of course Universal Basic Income.
When we think about how to transition to a 21st century future that will deliver a larger life for the ordinary person in a sustainable and resilient society we have to pay attention to what we think the “people” in this imagined future will be willing to contribute to the social effort.
Which leaves me unclear as to whether they are taxing and spending or realise that they should be spending and taxing.
Be that as it may.
Because what we do have, in any competition betwen UBS and UBI is that UBS will always give you a refund of revenue because it will always involve employing people who will, of necessity, pay tax. UBI always has the danger that it will be completely and freely spent, so might be subject to sales taxes but otherwise might miss out on coming back to the government in any obviously direct way.
This must mean, I suggest, that UBS is probably always better ‘value’ than UBI. Indeed the world’s principal UBS, the NHS, is reliably reported to bring as much as six times expenditure back to the government – and four times is considered a good summary.
I’ve suggested before that proper freedom isn’t the ability to ‘access the market’, but rather the ability to reduce the area in which it operates. It is true that UBS helps that but it is still a difficult call – even if we all get free internet connection that’s not much use if you cannot properly feed your children. And some UBS schemes are very difficult to make practical.
So I suggest that we really do need both UBS and UBI, but actually UBS will ‘cost less’ which, being translated, means simply that it will be less inflationary than we thought.
That should allow us to try a measure of both.
So, in so far as (I hope) the UBS Hub are treating tax as inhibiting inflation, I broadly agree with the article’s penultimate paragraph:
So why are people proposing to use tax increases to fund cash distributions when we would get more for our money if we used that to fund increases in basic public services? Because UBS is harder. Harder to describe, harder to model, and harder to do. UBS will require changes not just to taxes but also to configurations of social, political, and economic power. You can write a report that models taking away some money and then handing that money back out quite easily and it all fits in a spreadsheet. UBS doesn’t fit so easily in a [?Philip Hammond’s] spreadsheet because it is a simple concept but has embedded in it a complex and sophisticated evolution of democratic power, social security, and environmental responsibility.