Tony Blair is right on Europe – Jonathan Calder makes some wise points on how a referendum on Europe would be a disaster for this country.
Try, try again – Why forcing tests on children and telling them they’re failures repeatedly, isn’t good for them.
Mediocre Failures – Another take on why expecting some children to be branded as failures is a terrible idea.
Is the future of America a crummy service job stamping on a human face, forever? – When Presidential candidates from both sides seem to think nobody is complete without a job, is there another way?
‘Distraction is a kind of obesity of the mind’ – Interesting Guardian interview with writer Matthew Crawford about how quiet space has become another commodity available only to the wealthy.

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mphbasicA few weeks ago, I mentioned that a poll had shown 36% of people in the UK supported the idea of a basic income and promised to look in some more detail at the results when ComRes released them. Unfortunately, that slipped my mind for a while thanks to other things going on, but I’ve now found the details of the poll and a PDF file of the more detailed results, broken down by demographics.

The question asked was one of a series of Green party policies that respondents were asked if they supported or opposed (there was also a don’t know option) but the policies were presented without any party labels attached. The general question was “Do you support or oppose each of the following possible future Government policies?” with basic income posed as “Introducing a ‘Citizens Income’, giving every single person in the country £72 per week irrespective of their working status or income”. There don’t appear to be any questions before this that would have primed or influenced respondents to answer that in a certain way. There were just over 2000 respondents, which is a decent sized sample and means the margin of error for the full sample is around 2.5%. As we saw, the result here was that 36% were in favour, 40% against.

What the details of the poll give us is some information on how different demographics responded to the question, and that’s very interesting. However, we do need to be slightly sceptical of the results at this level, as they’re small sub-samples of the larger set which means the margin of error is bigger (much bigger in some cases) but I think they’re still interesting.

First up, there’s no real difference between men and women on the issue: men respond 37% in favour, 41% against, women are 35% in favour, 40% against, which are so close they’re well within the margin of error and show us nothing significant.

Where things get interesting is when we look at the breakdowns by age, which are broken into six groups:

  • 18=24 year olds are 39% in favour, 36% against (total sample 240)
  • 25-34 year olds are 50% in favour, 31% against (total sample 339)
  • 35-44 year olds are 42% in favour, 28% against (total sample 339)
  • 45-54 year olds are 41% in favour, 34% against (total sample 358)
  • 55-64 year olds are 33% in favour, 45% against (total sample 299)
  • 65+ year olds are 18% in favour, 61% against (total sample 438)
  • Again, the smaller sample sizes mean these aren’t as reliable (the margin of error is around 5 or 6%) but the trend they show is very interesting with those up to 54 having a slight tendency to be in favour of basic income, while those 55 or above tending to oppose it.

    We also see a pattern in the breakdown by social class (for those not familiar with this system of classification, some details are here). These break down like this:

  • AB social groups are 30% in favour, 51% against (total sample 539)
  • C1 social group are 35% in favour, 41% against (total sample 558)
  • C2 social group are 41% in favour, 35% against (total sample 438)
  • DE social groups are 41% in favour, 33% against (total sample 478)
  • There’s not as much variation here, but there’s still a trend for those in the ‘lower’ groups to support it more. As these groups tend to correlate with income, that indicates that those on lower incomes are more likely to support the idea of a basic income.

    A final breakdown indicates that those working in the private sector are possibly more likely to support basic income (41-35) than those in the public sector (37-37), but the sample sizes there don’t make that a very reliable result.

    I thought the original result was interesting, and this extra information confirms that. The important thing to remember here is that most people have had no information about the idea of basic income as it’s something rarely discussed in the media. However, the general idea does have support, and even seems to appeal to a plurality of younger people. We’d need some more detailed polling with a larger sample to know more, but this suggests that there could well be a receptive audience out there for basic income and arguing for it and promoting it may not be as hard as we might think.

    Now, is there anyone out there who wants to fund some more detailed polling to find out?

    (Update: Have changed image at the top of the post. As someone pointed out, a similar slogan has been used by fascists and I wasn’t comfortable with the possible implications that might be drawn from that)

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    Doorsteps, Dogs and Doughnuts – A Dozen Worst and Best Election Moments – I think many of us will have sone election memories similar to the ones Alex Wilcock recounts here.
    Could a ‘citizen’s income’ work? – A long and detailed report looking into the issue from the Joseph Rowntree foundation.
    Global warming and the death of a magical sports tradition – How a change in the climate has made an epic Dutch ice skating challenge very unlikely to ever happen again.
    Wherefore art thou, Honest Abe? – It’ll take more than a few words from a Great Man of history to keep the United Kingdom together, according to Lallands Peat Worrier.
    Why UK politicians could learn a lot from the Pirate party – I personally think the Pirate bubble has burst (not that it ever inflated much in Britain) but the wider points Paul Mason makes here about the people having vision while the politicians are obsessed with minutiae are good.

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    Here’s something interesting I noticed on Twitter earlier today:


    It appears to come from a ComRes poll testing support for Green Party policies while doing some other polling on the party for ITV news. However, from what I can see, this is a poll based on the general voting population, not Green Party supporters or any other subset, but I’ll need to wait until the full data is on ComRes’s site to confirm that.

    However, for those of us who are supporters of basic income, it’s a very interesting statistic, especially as there are only 40% opposed to the idea (a further 23% are of no opinion, making the breakdown of those who expressed an opinion something like 47% in favour to 53% against). What it shows, I think, is that there is a substantial amount of people out there who are amenable to the idea of a basic income, and that it can be a policy that could get widespread support for a party that proposed it. (I’m looking here at my fellow Liberal Democrats For Basic Income)

    I’ll write some more on this when I’ve seen some more of the data behind it, but it is worth noting that the question is phrased in a very positive way for basic income, by mentioning actual cash rather than keeping it theoretical. However, that’s also a lesson to those of us who support it about how important it is to get the messaging right when promoting the idea. If only we had a basic income-supporting version of Lord Ashcroft who’d fund a series of survey questions on the issue…

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    Anti-Business – Chris Dillow on why being ‘anti-business’ isn’t a bad thing, and the difference between business and markets.
    Universal Basic Income as the Social Vaccine of the 21st Century – An interesting new way of thinking about the idea of basic income.
    The narrow politics of slogans and symptoms – Alex Marsh follows on from one of my posts and looks at the lack of content behind the slogans.
    The tyranny of the short-term: why democracy struggles with issues like climate change – Not sure how much of this I agree with, but an interesting look at some of the problems with our current mode of democracy.
    The mystery of Mingering Mike: the soul legend who never existed – Fascinating tale of a made up musical career that’s now an art exhibition.

    And as a visual bonus, take a look at this graphic of exploration in the Solar System.

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    After it flared up into media prominence over the last week, the Telegraph today eagerly covered the news that the Green Party won’t be including Citizens Income as a policy in their General Election manifesto.

    However, there seems to be a problem with that news: it’s not true. Reading an account from a Green Party member, it seems that the party’s conference has insisted that the policy is included in the manifesto, and the Telegraph’s report is merely extrapolating wildly from some comments by Caroline Lucas. The member’s account suggests that she has opposed the inclusion of it in the manifesto, but even with that news, the Telegraph appears to be stretching her words. It reports that she said:

    “The citizens’ income is not going to be in the 2015 general election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8th. It is a longer term aspiration; we are still working on it,”

    The key point they’re not factoring into their story is ‘as something to be introduced on May 8th’, instead focusing on the first part of the sentence. Let’s be honest, I don’t think even the most hardened support of a basic income scheme thinks it could be introduced quickly, and it helps to show the ignorance of reporters who believe that is the case.

    However, I think this comes back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago about how journalists don’t understand how policy making within parties actually works. As someone with experience of seeing similar things in the Lib Dems, it’s almost pleasant to see another party being similarly misunderstood. Journalists like to believe that all political parties are run from the top down, not the bottom up, and of course ‘senior party figures’ are always happy to encourage this impression. So, when Caroline Lucas says something (and it’s misheard) it’s easy for them to leap to ‘the party has changed its policy!’ rather than ‘hmm, better check that for accuracy.’

    It does make me think about the Iron Law of Oligarchy – the idea that all political organisations will progress from democracy to oligarchy over time – and whether the media have a role in encouraging and fostering that process. Could one even argue that social pressures and the expectation that an organisation will be run from the top are as much a pressure making it happen as the role of bureaucracy concentrating power in the organisation? Something else to add to the list of things I need to think about and write about some more…

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    This was the future, once.

    This was the future, once.

    Amidst all the coverage of the Greek election last week, one line from a report stood out for me:

    The ruling New Democracy party is still wondering how its platform of Endless Suffering For Everyone was defeated by Syriza’s competing message of Maybe Not That.

    Yes, it’s from the Mash, but as so often one line of satire gets closer to the truth than thousands of pieces of punditry. When traditional politics and traditional parties neglect to offer a positive vision of the future, there’s a natural appeal to anyone who can offer something that resembles a vision. Even if it’s just ‘Maybe Not That’, it’s much more appealing than offering people nothing more than the status quo, perhaps with slightly better gadgets.

    This links to what I was saying yesterday – if all that mainstream politics can offer is a red, blue or yellow-tinged version of the elite consensus, and that consensus doesn’t offer a positive vision of the future, then why are we surprised that people are looking for alternatives?

    What we don’t have, and what no one seems to be offering in the upcoming election, is a positive vision of the future. David Cameron has been touting the ultimate uninspiring managerialist vision of ‘Britain living within its means’, while Ed Miliband offers ‘maybe that, but not quite that’ and Nick Clegg promises ‘that or that, but perhaps slightly less of it’. Meanwhile, when confronted with any vision of the future, Nigel Farage runs screaming to the past and while the Greens at least acknowledge the future is likely to be radically different, their vision for it is short of hope.

    We used to dream about the future. Yes, there were things in those dreams that were never going to happen like flying cars, jet packs and double-digit Jaws sequels, but there was hope in those visions. We had futures where the whole wealth of world knowledge was at our fingertips, instant worldwide communication was simple and the need to work was reduced or even eliminated by robotics and automation. We’ve got those, but the world we live in now resembles a cyberpunk dystopia rather than the utopian dreams of the future we had.

    What we need is to reclaim and reinvent the idea that the future can be better and different than today. Our politics and culture aren’t offering that vision anymore, instead retreating into expecting tomorrow to look much like today and offering purely managerial solutions to try and keep things running much the way they have been. The problem, I think, is that even if people can’t articulate it, they know that vision doesn’t work. It might not be as obvious in Britain as it is in somewhere like Greece or Spain, but keeping things the same equates to keeping everyone at the same level of insecurity they’re already feeling. That’s not a future anyone would want to sign up for. Merely offering people endless workism from now until the end of time isn’t a vision, it’s a punishment for sins we never committed.

    This is why I think ideas like basic income are important. As Paul Mason explains here, it’s too often seen through the prism of our current system, not as a transformative idea that would change the way our society works. It’s getting back to those old visions of the future, where technology has made fulfilling our basic needs – food, clothing, shelter, heat, light – such a simple task that they’re available to everyone without question or effort, just something you get by dint of being you. Instead, we often end up discussing it in terms of how we’d implement it through current systems as though they’re the only way of doing things.

    The future doesn’t have to be about basic income, but I think there is a yearning out there for someone, be it politician or artist, who can provide a vision of something different and better, a future that we hope will come about, not one that we dread finally coming to pass. We have occasional moments when we recognise the importance of hope – even the audacity of it – but then we forget about it, or think that what people hope for is more management and more targets to regulate their lives. That might be some people’s vision of the future – a human finger, clicking off the items on an assessment checklist, forever – but surely we can come up with something better?

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