Basic Income and Social Justice

Do we, as a society, wish to encourage the creativity and contribution of all our citizens? If so, we should be interested in a pilot scheme being run in Finland offering a basic income to a random selection of unemployed people.

A regular monthly basic income of €560 a month is paid to the individual for two years. There are no restrictions on payments, so the recipient can undertake a period of full-time study, get paid for part-time work or set up a business and still get the money.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)  is a think tank whose mission statement is “to enrich society through ideas and action.” They are supporters of the Basic Income philosophy.

The social security system in the UK often imposes sanctions on those trying to retrain or start a business. Those caught in zero hours contracts or offered work below a living wage would also benefit from a basic income strategy

Anthony Painter, a director at the RSA thinktank, paints a picture that will be familiar to viewers of Ken Loach’s film, I, Daniel Blake. “You are late for a jobcentre appointment – so you get a sanction. You’re on a college course the jobcentre doesn’t think appropriate, so you get a sanction. Your benefits are paid late, so you face debt, rent arrears and the food bank. That’s the reality for millions on low or no pay – they are surrounded by tripwires with little chance of escape.” [from an article in the Guardian].

Social Justice is defined as “Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” A level playing field is a rarity in society. Social advantage is perpetuated by education systems where selection determines who goes to the better schools. Tuition fees and long-term debts deter students from poorer families applying for university places. The class system and institutionalised racism play a part in society’s inequalities and ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Tweets from the Centre for Social Justice highlight many areas of concern in the UK @csjthinktank

The ideas of two radical thinkers about Basic Income in the 18th century, Thomas Paine and Thomas Spence are well contrasted in this link.


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