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The Sickness of Insecurity

Three apparently unconnected things. A paper published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and Royal Society of Arts Scotland adding to the growing debate about universal basic income (UBI) and, more generally, the way we think about social welfare. An article by blogger and iScot columnist, Jason Michael McCann, extolling the virtues of the ‘safe space’. And a former BBC China editor giving evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into BBC pay.

What links these three things is the concept of security. Or, perhaps more pertinently, insecurity. Allow me to explain.

UBI, also called unconditional basic income, basic income guarantee, citizen’s income or any of several other names, is simply a form of social security involving all citizens being paid a regular, liveable and, crucially, unconditional payment independent of any other income. The idea has been around since the late 18th century and tends to divide people into two camps - those who cannot get past the notion of unaffordable ‘free money’ permitting (other) people to indulge their ‘natural’ disinclination to labour; and those who immediately see the benefits of doing away with the massive, complicated and expensive administrative costs associated with traditional social security systems.

The first category commonly focus on the cost to the state of providing every citizen with a basic income, the ‘illogic’ of giving money to wealthy individuals and the conviction that people would simply stop working. The second category point out that the simplicity of the system along with consequential benefits could actually reduce the cost of social security, that a properly progressive tax regime would make the system self-financing while automatically clawing back payments made to the rich and that people freed from the stress of inappropriate employment would be healthier and better able to realise their potential.

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March 2018 Issue number 39 The only independent Pro Scottish magazine on sale today