We will work towards the eventual creation of a new ‘Citizen’s Income’, payable to all irrespective of sex or status… Unpaid work will at last be recognised as valuable. Women caring in the home, for example, will receive an independent income from the state for the first time. The Citizen’s Income will be buttressed by a single benefit for those in need, unifying income support and family credit, with supplements for people with disabilities and for child-care support. These reforms will ensure that every citizen is guaranteed a decent minimum income, whether or not they are in employment.
So what bunch of crazed radicals came up with that policy? Well, it’s from the 1992 Liberal Democrat manifesto.
Yes, Citizen’s Income (also known as Basic Income and many other names) was Liberal Democrat policy for a while, until it got dropped in 1994. Despite some people wondering if it might make a return under a previous leader, it’s remained in the Home for Former Policies ever since.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed lots more people talking about the idea, especially in terms of thinking of new ways to run and organise the economy, and the more I read and think about it, the more I think it’s not only a good idea, it’s a great liberal one. What better way to free people from poverty, ignorance and conformity than guaranteeing a basic income for everyone? If you want opportunity for all, why not free them from worrying about how they’re going to meet their basic needs? A fairer society where people have the chance to use their opportunities to develop new ideas can lead to a stronger economy because people had the chance to get on in life rather than being ground down as they sought to simply support themselves.
And I’ve run out of party slogans to use here, but I think you get the point. What we need, though, isn’t just to sit around and agree that it would be a good idea, but work to actually make it happen. I think it needs to be more than something that just floats around in the ‘that would be a good idea’ cloud, but to get it into party policy, let alone getting popular support for it and making it happen, is going to require work to do so.
So, to try and push it forward, I think we need to find a way to get supporters of Basic Income within the Liberal Democrats together and talking about it so we can set out a path to achieving it. I’m open to suggestions on how we go about doing that – email lists, Facebook groups, blogs, forums, Twitter hashtags, posted newsletters, conference meetings and whatever else are all possibilities, depending on interests – but I think the important thing is getting organised and doing it, not waiting around for something to happen.
So, if you’re interested, say so in the comments here, or let me know some other way – there’s links to my varied social media contacts at the side – and we’ll come up with some way of getting us all talking and planning. If there’s enough of us, who knows what we might achieve?