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Money for everyone

Money for everyone: Why we need a citizen's income

Malcolm Torry
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  • Book Info
    Money for everyone
    Book Description:

    Due to government cuts, the benefits system is currently a hot topic. In this timely book, a Citizen’s Income (sometimes called a Basic Income) is defined as an unconditional, non-withdrawable income for every individual as a right of citizenship. This much-needed book, written by an experienced researcher and author, is the first for over a decade to analyse the social, economic and labour market advantages of a Citizen's Income in the UK. It demonstrates that it would be simple and cheap to administer, would reduce inequality, enhance individual freedom and would be good for the economy, social cohesion, families, and the employment market. It also contains international comparisons and links with broader issues around the meaning of poverty and inequality, making a valuable contribution to the debate around benefits. Accessibly written, this is essential reading for policy-makers, researchers, teachers, students, and anyone interested in the future of our society and our economy

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-1126-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. xx-xxii)
    Guy Standing

    For those with a troubled conscience about the direction of our social policies and the gross inequalities in our society, please read this book. As someone who has advocated a Citizen’s Income – an unconditional, non-withdrawable income for every individual – for rather longer than I would wish to admit, I welcome it with enthusiasm.

    It is written by someone with a sense of compassion, by a ‘man of the cloth’, as British people used to say with a sense of respect. One does not need to be a Christian or to belong to any religion to recognise the value...

  2. Preface
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    Malcolm Torry
  3. CHAPTER 1 Imagine …
    (pp. 1-16)

    The banking crisis has happened. The government – and this could be any government – has bailed out the banks, so there is less to spend on public services. Jobs are not as secure as they were. People without jobs are struggling to get back into work, and people with jobs are worrying that soon they might not have them. People are still spending, and they are getting into debt; or they are not spending, and they are just about getting by.

    There is at least one good piece of news: inflation is low – so the government decides that...

  4. CHAPTER 2 How did we get to where we are now?
    (pp. 17-28)

    In our first chapter we found ourselves arguing for a Citizen’s Income from two different directions: from criteria for an ideal benefits system, and from the problems experienced by our present system. In order to understand the present system we need to see how it evolved in all of its complexity (this chapter) and then focus on previous attempts at radical reform of the tax and benefits structure (Chapter 3). Readers from countries other than the UK might wish to study the histories of their own benefits systems, and particularly the history of any current universal benefits.

    In the UK,...

  5. CHAPTER 3 Why do some reform proposals succeed, and some fail?
    (pp. 29-48)

    We have already studied two related successful reform proposals: the UK’s Family Allowance and Child Benefit. We shall begin this chapter with some proposals that did not succeed, and then discuss some current proposals likely to reform the UK’s benefits system. I invite readers from other countries to seek comparisons and contrasts in their own past and present social policy histories.

    Child Benefit happened, and it is still with us: but other attempts at major reform of the tax and benefits systems have not reached the statute book. Why not?

    In the early 1970s a Conservative government proposed a genuine...

  6. CHAPTER 4 How might we implement a Citizen’s Income?
    (pp. 49-64)

    I have drawn the following lessons from the history of the UK’s tax and benefits systems:

    The proposals that have changed the system have been for identifiable groups of people.

    Those proposals that have changed the system have benefited from longstanding and widespread debate and a reasonable level of public understanding of what was intended.

    Those proposals that have become Acts of Parliament are those that have not reduced the number of civil servants, and those that have not become Acts of Parliament would have reduced the number of civil servants.

    If you have drawn different conclusions from your own...

  7. CHAPTER 5 Has it ever happened?
    (pp. 65-80)

    In the UK, we already have Child Benefit, which functions as a universal benefit for children. The UK’s NHS is a universal, unconditional and non-withdrawable benefit, and it is highly efficient, but because it is not a cash benefit it is discussed in the website appendices rather than in the body of this chapter.159In this chapter I shall discuss the social dividend (a form of Citizen’s Income) distributed in Alaska, a recent Citizen’s Income experiment conducted in Namibia, Iran’s new cash benefit, and a current experiment in India.

    Since 1977, the State of Alaska has been receiving royalties from...

  8. CHAPTER 6 Criteria for a benefits system: coherence and administrative simplicity
    (pp. 81-98)

    In Chapter 1 we recognized that there are two ways to argue towards benefits system reform: we can invent tax and benefits systems, and then compare our current systems with the systems that we have invented; or we can ask how we might solve the problems that the current systems have bequeathed to us. Here we begin an exploration based on the former method. We shall list criteria for a good benefits system and then test both a current system (in this case, the United Kingdom’s benefits system) and a reform proposal (in this case a Citizen’s Income) against those...

  9. CHAPTER 7 Criteria for a benefits system: the family, then, now, and in the future
    (pp. 99-112)

    In this chapter we shall explore our third criterion for an ideal benefits system:

    Our tax and benefits structure should reflect today’s family and household patterns, and should remain serviceable as household and family patterns continue to change.

    We shall begin with a discussion of the ways in which households and the family have changed during the past half century and then ask what kind of benefits system today’s family requires and how that compares with the benefits system constructed in an era with rather different social structures.

    Whereas a generation ago someone might have lived with their parents until...

  10. CHAPTER 8 Criteria for a benefits system: incentives, efficiency, and dignity
    (pp. 113-130)

    In this chapter we shall explore the next three items in our list of criteria for an ideal benefits system:

    Our tax and benefits structure should not disincentivise public goods such as enterprise, training, long-term relationships between parents of children, and providing financially for oneself and one’s dependents.

    Our tax and benefits structure should incentivise the efficient allocation of resources and so contribute to an efficient economy.

    Our tax and benefits structure should treat people with dignity and not stigmatise individuals involved in any part of the system.

    We shall again ask whether the current system or a Citizen’s Income...

  11. CHAPTER 9 Criteria for a benefits system: the labour market, then, now, and in the future
    (pp. 131-148)

    In this chapter we shall explore our final criterion for an ideal benefits system:

    Our tax and benefits structure should reflect the labour market of today, and should remain serviceable as the labour market changes in the future.

    We shall begin with a discussion of the ways in which the employment market has changed during the past half century, and then ask what kind of benefits system today’s employment market requires, and how that compares with the benefits system constructed in an era with a very different employment market.

    I grew up in Dartford, on the edge of London, and...

  12. CHAPTER 10 Would people work?
    (pp. 149-160)

    The question which this chapter will tackle follows naturally from the discussion in the previous chapter, and it is this: Would a Citizen’s Income make it more or less likely that someone unemployed would seek employment, or that someone in employment would seek to increase the hours they worked?

    The vast majority of people wish to be in employment or self-employment. An important recent piece of evidence for this is that people with multiple needs still wish to be in employment even if society regards them as people who ‘can’t work’.385An important piece of evidence for the fact that...

  13. CHAPTER 11 Would a Citizen’s Income be an answer to poverty, inequality, and injustice?
    (pp. 161-186)

    First of all we shall disucss what we mean by ‘poverty’ and what we mean by ‘inequality’; then we shall need to discuss the bookThe spirit level, by Wilkinson and Pickett, because it has had such an important effect on current debate about inequality; and finally we shall need to ask what a Citizen’s Income would do about poverty and inequality.

    First of all, what is poverty? We shall consider two fictional people:

    Edna lives in a turn-of-the-century local authority house. She lives on Income Support as her husband, who is now dead, worked in the building industry and...

  14. CHAPTER 12 Who should receive a Citizen’s Income?
    (pp. 187-210)

    A ‘Citizen’s Income’ is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income for every citizen: but who is a ‘citizen’? – and what does it mean to be a ‘citizen’? This matters, because, as Tony Fitzpatrick has pointed out, ‘the ideological debate concerning [Citizen’s Income] is, at its heart, a debate about citizenship’.486

    A ‘citizen’ is ‘a member of a state,’487but ‘citizenship’ can also have a broader meaning in terms of our membership of a variety of communities.488Some countries’ residents are formally citizens but have few rights, and it must be asked whether they really are citizens at all. In most of...

  15. CHAPTER 13 Is a Citizen’s Income politically feasible?
    (pp. 211-240)

    In Chapter 3 we reached the conclusion that a Citizen’s Income would be difficult to implement because it might reduce the number of civil servants. Civil servants construct the reports and statistics that ministers read, and it is not difficult to write a report that proves that a Citizen’s Income is an unrealistic proposition.

    Civil servants are examples of what De Wispelaere and Noguera term as ‘readily identifiable actors with distinctive interests, roles, capacities, and intentions’.559Other such ‘identifiable actors’ are members of parliament and government ministers, and they might be considering the following questions in relation to a proposal...

  16. CHAPTER 14 Can we afford a Citizen’s Income?
    (pp. 241-254)

    There are two parts to this question: In order to know what we are funding, we shall need to know precisely how large a Citizen’s Income we are attempting to fund. We shall also need to know how to calculate the costs of a Citizen’s Income. Once these questions have been answered, we shall need to study the funding options.

    There are several ways of answering this question:

    Ease of implementation: Turning existing tax allowances into a Citizen’s Income, and reducing means-tested and most contributory benefits by an amount equal to the Citizen’s Income, would be the easiest way to...

  17. CHAPTER 15 Alternatives to a Citizen’s Income
    (pp. 255-264)

    In this chapter we study three proposals for reform with characteristics similar to those of a Citizens’ Income: a Negative Income Tax, genuine Tax Credits, and a participation income. (Additional alternative schemes can be found in a website appendix,

    In Chapter 3 I described a Tax Credits scheme proposed by the UK’s Conservative government in 1972. This was close to a genuine Tax Credits scheme because it allocated a credit that was paid out if there were no earnings, and was withdrawn as earnings rose, up to a breakeven point, after which Income Tax was deducted. We noted some...

  18. CHAPTER 16 What can a Citizen’s Income not cope with?
    (pp. 265-274)

    A universal benefit is precisely that: the same for everyone. As we have seen, there are some very good reasons for universalising benefits as much as possible. The higher the proportion of benefits that are universal, the more we shall increase choices in the labour market, the more efficient will be our economy, the more choices people will have over relationships, over household structure, and over how their household organises its income-generating activity, and the more we shall know ourselves to be members of a single society.

    But there will always be some aspects of household budgets that cannot be...

  19. CHAPTER 17 A brief summary
    (pp. 275-278)

    A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, automatic and non-withdrawable payment to each individual as a right of citizenship.

    A Citizen’s Income is sometimes called a Basic Income, a Universal Grant, or a Universal Benefit.

    A Citizen’s Income scheme would phase out as many tax allowances and as many existing state financed cash benefits as possible, and replace them with a Citizen’s Income paid automatically to every man, woman and child.

    The Citizen’s Income attack on poverty is three pronged. Such a scheme would

    ameliorate the poverty and unemployment traps, hence boosting employment;

    provide a safety net from which no citizen...

    (pp. 279-280)

    Hermione Parker concludes herInstead of the dolewith some words of Barbara Wootton:

    The limits of the possible constantly shift, and those who ignore them are apt to win in the end. Again and again, I have had the satisfaction of seeing the laughable idealism of one generation evolve into the accepted common-place of the next.718

    In the UK during the 1920s, family allowances were ‘seen as an issue for cranks and utopians’, and the 1930s were a time of recession and rising unemployment; but by 1946 every family with more than one child was in receipt of family...