Finland so Far – A Couple of Cautionary Articles

As the Finnish experiment gets underway the American leftwing magazine and website Jacobin analyses how the experiment has been diluted and narrowed. It is only being given to unemployed people because “the primary goal of the basic income experiment is related to promoting employment.” The UBI Bait and Switch article concludes that schemes conceived with the best will in the world can be implemented conservatively, “forcing unemployed workers into bad jobs while undermining organized labor, earnings equality, and the welfare state.”

Declan Gaffney in the Guardian considers that even in Finland, the idea of a universal basic income is too good to be true. He argues that in order to fine tune a system to people’s needs, e.g. differing rents in different parts of the country, long term sickness and disability, you need to incorporate means testing and assessment, which bring the UBI nearer to existing social security. He ends with a nuanced paragraph round the notion of UBI being a thought experiment:

The ad hoc changes to UBI needed to overcome these problems bring it much closer to what existing social security systems already do, however inadequately. And this may be no bad thing: it may be better to think of UBI and other basic income proposals as thought experiments, allowing us to test our intuitions about subjects such as fairness, inequality, property, markets and risk. Outside the confines of the thought experiment, UBI needs to be made much more like existing social security to be feasible. But the thought experiment might also lead us to conclude that existing social security systems need to be much more like UBI to be equitable and efficient.

Reminds me of how tension holds a rope together in my  Harmony post.

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