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RSA Model for Basic Income

The RSA released a report on basic income, including their own proposal to implement a basic income scheme in the UK. The report is very much worth reading, since it approaches the issue of basic income from a big number of angles.

I would like to hear what you think about that model. Do you think that is the right way to introduce a basic income, or does that model need some definite changes?

Creative citizen, creative state: RSA Report on Basic Income in UK and my response re: people with disabilities

Recently the Transhumanist Party UK welcomed a report by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) with regard the argument for a Basic Income in the UK.
First things first: I myself firmly support the principle of Basic Income and the RSA publication. However, I am concerned that little mention was made of how this would work in principle for people with disabilities that preclude them from working. There are many references to support for Carers and ‘care’ that I’ve taken the liberty to mark here:

  • A Basic Income would help people care for their relatives, friends and neighbours without having to account for their actions to the state.
  • Basic Income allows people to more easily take time off, reduce their hours, or take short career breaks to care for an elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable person.
  • It mitigates or eliminates losses that particular groups might experience.
  • Carers currently receive financial support but it is a very bureaucratic system. These allowances are means-tested and rules bound (eg you have to care for at least 35 hours per week in order to receive it). For this reason, the benefit is under-claimed by almost £1bn per annum. Basic Income allows people to more easily take time off, reduce their hours, or take short career breaks to care for an elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable person. These needs will increase over coming decades so greater flexibility will be necessary. Basic Income is very helpful in this regard.
  • It also allows parents, carers, and learners to have a basic level of security to pursue their lives without interference.
  • Expressed in the terms of Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory, the UK’s current needs-based system contains elements of care, reciprocal altruism, loyalty (to expressed community virtue), authority and sanctity.

The report does mention disability, however, aside from exempting it from the current proposals, it makes no reference as to how/what the implementation of Basic Income would mean for people with disabilities who are unable to work. Would things remain as they are? How would that reconcile itself with the broader proposals outlined here? For reference, I’ve included the mentions made specifically about disability here:

  • Our proposal is based on the Citizen’s Income Trust 2012–13 scheme with some important fiscal adaptations. Housing and disability are not included in the model as a consequence.
  • From removing benefits, tax reliefs and allowances (excluding those relating to disability and housing), the Citizen’s Income Trust estimates total savings of £272bn (see Table 3).
  • As with the Citizen’s Income Trust47 proposal, the RSA Basic Income model outlined above excludes any reform of housing or council tax benefits (and, for the record, disability payments).

My concern is that ‘excluding’ disability payments from Basic Income will make for a more bureaucratic system rather than lessen it. The current disability benefits in the UK include Incapacity Benefit (being phased out), Employment & Support Allowance which includes a contribution-based benefit, an income-based benefit, a work-related activity group where people with disabilities who ‘may’ be capable of work are mentored (some would say coerced) to ease the transition back into work together with the support group where the disability is regarded as so severe as to mean that this person is not fit for work and is unlikely to be for the foreseeable future. I myself am currently in this group. The report removes those of us with disabilities from the general conversation by glossing over what would happen to us and how we could benefit from the Basic Income.

This is further exacerbated by the somewhat conservative tone underlying the RSA report that again diminishes the role of people with disabilities in society:

  • This explains a recent increase in interest in the ‘contributory-principle’. In common parlance, this means that as you put more in you should get more out.
  • The demand is not for ‘more for more’ as contributory systems offer. It is for ‘less for less’ — a lower income for less contribution.

If things for people with disabilities are to remain as they are, Basic Income will do little to impact on our lives – even the incentives for Carers to have more flexibility for their caring duties makes little difference for those in need of constant care - and thus the RSA proposal does little to remove the social stigma and coercive nature of the current system. Far from removing sanctions against those with disabilities, things will stay just as they are, in which case I fail to see how the following comment by the RSA re: Basic Income is anymore progressive than where we’re at now:

  • These sanctions have led to demoralisation, deleterious mental health impacts, indebtedness, poverty, learners being removed from vocational courses close to their completion and an expansion of food banks. What began as an exercise in reciprocal altruism – where benefits apply only to those who ‘contribute’ - has become inhumane.

I realise that the report is excluding ‘disability and housing’ in order to put forward the basic tenets of Basic Income without overly-complicating things at this stage. However, as a person with a long-term severe mental health disability which has led to me losing my job and in all likelihood remaining unemployed for the foreseeable future, I have to admit that the report does make me feel marginalised rather than empowered.
Just to be clear – I do support Basic Income and believe it is the best way forward morally and with regard to the massive social changes emerging technologies will bring to the marketplace.
I just wish the RSA had had more to say about how Basic Income will affect people with disabilities rather than excluding them from the proposal, even at this early stage. Things as they are now for people like me also need to change. We’re just not being told how.
Sorry this is overlong, but just wanted to get it off my chest.
Any comments/opinions welcomed.

Thanks for your honest comment on the RSA basic income model!

Just some formal preliminaries: You’ve started your post as your own topic, but since I’ve already started a topic on the RSA model, I thought that it would be better to merge both topics. I also took the freedom to improve the formatting of your post a bit.

The RSA model does indeed come as a bit of surprise in its details. It is clearly a political compromise between progressive and more conservative views. As such, it does not follow the model of a truly unconditional basic income, which is demanded by many, if not most basic income advocates. You’ve rightfully noticed that this comes with some problems for certain groups of the general population.

In some aspects the RSA model would be better than what we have now, but in other respects it fails to deliver the full benefits of a real unconditional basic income.

It may be the case that the RSA model simply intends to increase the incentives for work. And the RSA model does seem to be quite optimized for that purpose. Those who possibly might work, should do that, according to the incentive situation of the RSA basic income. This includes the unemployed, but also pensioners and people with disabilities. The purpose of the RSA basic income seems to be to make people work more, regardless of their actual situation. That’s pretty questionable policy, from my point of view.

There seems to be the reasoning behind the RSA model that enforced reciprocation enhances collaboration and fairness. I honestly don’t see that happening. It’s just another bureaucratic system that makes people jump through unnecessary loops just to keep them in line. The basic income model of the RSA is a more intelligent system, but it’s still a system that uses indirect coercion: If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t get any money.

Yes, but that’s exactly the point: It’s a system that is optimized for being compatible with the current level of conservative thinking. It’s only moderately progressive. And that’s pretty much on purpose, because the RSA probably expects that a compromise that respects the mindsets of the whole political spectrum has a higher chance being actually implemented than one that it markedly progressive.

Perhaps we are moving in the right direction, but progress only seems to come in small bits and pieces. It’s a reformist approach, not a revolutionary approach by any means.

I had a response from one of the authors of the piece stating that all he could say at this stage is that it is their aspiration to see further work done in relation to disability and Basic Income. He said one of their main criticisms of the current system is the coercive nature of conditionality so it would be perverse to remove that across the system and not in the case of disability. He further said that disability support is obviously needs-based and not universal and would remain so under Basic Income. How that could/should operate in practice alongside BI he suggested is an open discussion he would like to see occur and thanked me for initiating there.
I think that’s fair enough given the early stage we’re at. It will be something I’ll be keeping an eye on and will update you if and when anything interesting happens.

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