Friday, May 07, 2010

GAI Guaranteed Adequate Incomes

Tommy Summer  and Un-electability

I have rewritten one of yesterday's essays, and renamed it, "Of Stoas and Street Smarts." You can find it at:

Tommy Summer

My ten-year-old son Tomaso came in the other day from playing in the neighbourhood, declaring that day the first day of "Tommy summer." What is Tommy summer?, I asked. It is the first day when you leave the house and it is warmer outside than it was inside. You are never too old to learn something new.

Monbiot on un-electability

I continue to follow George Monbiot's column. I especially liked this passage, particularly his use of the term "maximum wage." What an economical way of describing the Baha'i principle of economic equity! 

"It was Plaid Cymru that led the attempt to impeach Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq. It opposed the conflict in Afghanistan from the outset. It wants to scrap Trident and cancel the aircraft carrier and Eurofighter contracts. It would break up the banks, ban short selling, tax foreign exchange transactions, raise capital gains tax, raise income tax for the rich while reducing it for the poor. It would set a maximum wage and give workers seats on corporate boards. It seeks to re-nationalise the railways and curb the power of the supermarkets. It wants a living pension for everyone over 80, to raise benefits in line with average earnings and to scrap tuition fees. It would abandon ID cards, stop detaining asylum seekers and shift sentencing away from prison and towards restorative justice. Such policies are widely held to make parties in England unelectable. But in Wales they are considered mainstream."


Talking about minimum wages, recently there was a debate on TVO's The Agenda about guaranteed annual incomes, GAI. I heard for the first time a surprising argument, backed up by statistics, against the idea. It seems that this idea of a guaranteed minimum standard or living income has been rejected in North America because experience proved that it tends to be deleterious to the family. What happens is that couples find it a lot easier to split up and live on their own rather than stick it out together when there is no financial penalty for doing so. The result is that especially single men decide that it is easier not to work, and not to have a family. Among couple it is worse; the cycle of poverty is strengthened as kids in the next generation, raised by parents with an income but no job, follow their example. 

It seems to me that it would not be too hard to correct this problem. Why not fiddle with the numbers so that people who live with others get more, married, faithful couples get a bonus, and there are rewards for work, guaranteed, and sanctions for not working. How that would work is something I am still thinking about. One way is corvee labour, a form of taxes paid by work rather than paid in money. Stay tuned...


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