Universal Basic Income (UBI), Citizen’s Income (CI), Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), or Universal Demogrant (UD) is a capitalist reform project. It is a proposed periodic cash payment delivered to all on an individual basis, without means testing or work requirement.
The income will be:
(iii) non-withdrawable (i.e. basic income will remain unchanged irrespective of increase or decrease in income)
(iv) individual (beyond the age of 18 years, not per household)
(v) a right to every legal resident (In some less developed countries basic income is directed to the poorest section of people, and then they are called ‘Guaranteed minimum income system’)
This is not a new idea, in fact it is of mediaeval origin. The first Muslim Caliph, Abu Bakr (573-634 CE) introduced a guaranteed minimum income granting each man, woman and child ten Dirhams which later increased to twenty. The idea of state sponsored basic income was also proposed in “Utopia” by Sir Thomas More in early 16th century.
In this crisis ridden capitalism, UBI has been projected as a panacea for the working class. Its proponents are billionaire oligarchs of capitalism and, not surprisingly, some “left liberal” economists and intellectuals are also supporting the idea of a basic income. Many even claimed that it is the beginning of post capitalist economy where human labour can be separated from the means of subsistence from the capitalist economy. What a ridiculous claim indeed! Can the relation of capital and wage be replaced by maintaining the capitalist mode of production anyway?
It is not rocket science to understand the underlying planning of the UBI project. It has been proposed by the minority ruling class in order to perpetuate the exploitative system of capitalism.
We have to understand why they are so eager to offer the working class, including their unemployed segment (“reserve army of labour” or “industrial reserve army” or “relative surplus population” in Marxian parlance), a fixed amount of money without any strings attached.
The reasons are multiple, but most importantly is the near certainty of massive unemployment due to the recent technological development regarding automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. This is making the ruling elites very worried. Not for the interests of the working class, but for their obvious fear of losing the potential buyers of their products.
Already, capitalism is suffering from “the epidemic of over-production”; capitalists need a working class population just capable of reproducing their physical and mental energy to serve as wage slaves and thus act as perpetual consumers to sustain the economic system. Moreover, the other glaring elite interest is to mitigate the discontent among the working class in order to tame the brewing class war. This is just another ploy to maintain the enslavement of the working class in exchange for a regular supply of payment cheques.
Genuine socialists do not advocate reforms of any kind since the capitalist system cannot be reformed to serve the interest of all. Furthermore, we apprehend with all certainty that it will actually be detrimental to the interests of the working class if UBI is set to replace the existing social security programs. In the USA, the proposed UBI for every adult person $12,000 a year would cost more than three trillion dollars (consuming more than three quarters of federal budget). This would require massive taxation and yet we rarely hear wealthy UBI advocates calling for their taxes to be raised. Instead they more likely advocate cutting existing social welfare programs that benefit the most impoverished populations.
It will also exert huge downward pressure on real wages and, on average, would probably fall by the amount of the “basic” income. It would essentially boil down to a national subsidy for employers.
It is actually a cheap reform, for those who are employed it is nothing but a tax rebate up to the value of basic income. Anyone who has paid enough to pay more taxes than the basic income will then subsidize the unemployed. The state then obtains the opportunity to abolish all other welfare benefits since the “basic income” gets declared as enough to live on. It then becomes a constant struggle for the ruling class to hold the basic income at or just below the level of subsistence (so people are forced to accept low wage work, another bounty for the employers).
The capitalists, and their puppet states, need us working class people to be impoverished, to remain impoverished, and perpetually indebted. Additonally their UBI will also be framed within the logic of capitalism which will permit a reform befitting to the agenda of the employing class. It will definitely fail to satisfy the unfounded hopes and expectations of our fellow workers and, if it can be done masquerading as ‘socialism’, then the resultant disillusionment and disappointment will not be against capitalism and the owning class, but rather against the term socialism and those recognized to be “socialist”.
The proposed UBI will not make any real difference to the working class’ existing situation, and is perfectly compatible with their ongoing alienation, exploitation and oppression.
The only scientific way towards forging a path for freedom and happiness is the abolition of wage slavery, production for social needs, and a world of free access to all social wealth created by the working class.