and when did the idea of Citizen's Income come from?
Paine recommended that every citizen should receive an income
from the state, in compensation for the inequitable division of
land, which he regarded as belonging to every citizen.
1920, Major C.H. Douglas proposed Social Credit or National Dividend
as a remedy for unemployment. Variations of this idea entered
the economic and social policy debates of the inter-war period
and were advocated by several leading economists associated with
John Maynard Keynes.
then Beveridge's report and the subsequent legislation for the
welfare state as we know it included a provision for Family Allowances:
an allowance for every child except the first in each family (
- Child Benefit later extended the benefit to all children). Beveridge's
system of contributory benefits backed up by a means-tested safety-net
soon became a means-tested safety net to which contributory benefits
contributed, because the means-tested benefit-levels were set
too close to those for contributory benefits, and means-tested
benefits included housing costs and contributory benefits didn't.
The stage was therefore set for ideas aimed at reform, and the
example of Child Benefit offered a possible way forwards.
How did the Citizen's Income idea enter the mainstream welfare
through his career the late Professor James Meade of Cambridge
University (winner of the Nobel prize for Economics in 1977) advocated
the introduction of what we now call a Citizen's Income.
Britain, during the 1930s, he advocated what he called a Social
or National Dividend which would be payable to all citizens. But
the idea of an income paid to individuals and replacing existing
cash benefits and income tax reliefs is believed to have originated
from the "New Social Contract" advocated in 1943 by
Lady Juliet Rhys Williams as an alternative to the Beveridge Report.
Her "contract" was close to a Citizen's Income but differed
in that it depended on a work test. Professor Meade later developed
Lady Rhys Williams' ideas, abandoning her work test, and financing
the scheme through income tax. He was particularly concerned about
Citizen's Income as a method of helping a return to full employment.
He argued that a Citizen's Income served three purposes: "(1)
It relieves poverty by guaranteeing for every citizen a sufficient
Minimum Acceptable Level of income. (2) It does so without destroying
incentives to work if it is not withdrawn as the citizen earns
other income. (3) It provides a universal supplement to earnings
which is aimed at justifying any restriction of rates of pay which
is needed to ensure full employment." A few months before
his death in December 1995, Meade had once again returned to this
theme in his book Full Employment Regained? ISBN 052155697X.
Income is also the logical conclusion to Richard Titmuss' famous
1955 lecture in which he drew attention to similarities and inequities
between social security benefits, tax reliefs and occupational
benefits. In 1962 in their book "Capitalism and Freedom",
Milton and Rose Friedman proposed negative income tax as a way
of escaping work-status benefits. But negative income tax is not
the same as a CI because the assessment unit is the family or
household and not the individual and the amounts payable depend
on the income of family members.
Have British Governments thought of introducing basic income schemes?
1972 the Government of Edward Heath put forward detailed proposals
for a tax-credit scheme. It would have replaced most income tax
allowances and some social security benefits with tax credits
payable in cash where they exceeded tax liability. These tax credits
resembled a Citizen's Income in some ways but did not cover the
whole of the population. In 1979 child benefit which is a Citizen's
Income for children in all but name was introduced.
Are the political parties interested in the idea?
from all the major parties have shown interest in the concept
of CI. For a period the Liberal Democrats accepted it as official
policy but have since modified their support. CI remains official
policy of The Green Party. The independent Commission on Social
Justice set up by the late Labour Party leader, John Smith, said
that it would be "unwise" to rule out a CI for the future.
7. Have any academic institutions shown interest in researching
A CI has a great deal of support in the academic world where much
work is being done to assess the exact impact of a CI on our social
and industrial life, its costs and benefits.
Has the idea spread abroad?
Holland the Dutch were discussing "Basisinkommen" in
the late l970s. In Belgium, France and Germany the debate is mainly
restricted to academic institutions. In Canada in 1985 the MacDonald
Commission recommended a Universal Income Security Program with
a low guarantee income level, a low tax-back rate, and special
"top-up's" for those who are unable to work. The membership
of the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) has become increasingly
world-wide. And now the Government in Ireland is seriously considering
a substantial Citizen's Income.
What is the future for the idea?
across Europe the debate about the future of welfare and social
security benefits is opening up. Rising unemployment and prolonged
recession have put serious strains on national economies. Unfortunately
many Governments are seeking to solve their economic and financial
problems at the cost of civilised standards of social welfare.
A Citizen's Income is the sort of long-term solution which should
be advocated in these circumstances. It combines the possibility
of increasing economic efficiency whilst providing a basic level
of support which allows the individual maximum freedom.