Thirty years ago a workmate gave me a book on the theory of Universal Basic Income.
Then a few weeks later I managed to find another book on the subject together with a book written in the 70s titled To Him Who Hath, authored by (wait for it) ... Frank Field, together with Molly Meacher (then wife of the late Michael) and Chris Pond.
As you would expect, the arguments against introducing a universal basic income came from the Thatcherites (Neoliberals) – 'giving away other people's money', and 'it would create a disincentive to work', etc.
The Left was actually silent on the issue, most hadn't even heard of it, but when the idea started to catch on, mostly due to the internet in the late 1990s, and organisations were formed promoting it, then the Left also acquainted itself with the theory and subsequently poured scorn on it.
Socialists argued that UBI would replace the social wage. That public services would be phased out and workers would have to pay for healthcare, etc. out of their basic income. They also argued that UBI would help capitalism to exploit workers even more as it would undermine trade union solidarity and collective bargaining.
During the last 20 years, since the Left first made these arguments, UBI has not been introduced, but all of the other prophetic warnings about our public services have become a reality. Today, instead of having a universal basic income, we have the most draconian form of means tested (non-universal) welfare system called 'universal credit'.
The version of universal income that I have been arguing for over the past 3 decades is one that could be used as the basis for a transitional programme, from capitalism to socialism, and would accompany the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, beginning with the re-nationalisation of health and care services.
It's not often one gets to say 'I told you so', but after all of these years, we not only have prospective Labour leaders calling for this on the back of the Covid19 crisis, but we have Marxists echoing this call.
⏭ Mike Craig lives near Moneymore, Co. Derry. He is a retired electronics technician, a social campaigner, and since 2016, a Labour Party activist. Born to atheist parents in the 1950s, he has 11 grandchildren and 3 Great Grandchildren.
UBI would wipe out the oppressive obligations and perverse incentives of the benefit system which is not fit for purpose for 21st century society.
At least that's one thing we agree on.