Wednesday, August 21, 2013

unconditional basic income

The concept of an unconditional basic income is one that I've only come across recently, but since I have it seems to be popping up all over the place! In a nutshell the theory is everyone gets enough money to get by on, not with a lavish lifestyle but with all the necessities met. Obviously people can earn more by working but if they can't work say for health reasons, caring for someone else etc or don't want to as they have far too much else they want to do with their life, including being useful to society as volunteers etc then they can still get by. The fact that most people want to work/earn more money means the required labour force is still there. It makes being an artist, crafts person, actor, musician for a living all the more achievable as you can focus on your art for its own sake rather than the balance sheet. For inventors and dreamers of all persuasions it gives a place of security from which to persue your goals and dreams - how much more could we achieve if energy was put into that rather than simply covering the bills? This has to be a good thing for the world as a whole.

The economics of it stack up pretty well. For a start you can scrap all the assessment bureaucracy around entitlement to benefits! There may still be a need for additional help for those with severe health issues as many of the services, medications, therapies and transport etc don't come cheaply, but generally most benefits would be come uneccessary, likewise state pensions. Administering a system where the vast majority of people get exactly the same would be far cheaper to run. Then of course you free up people to care, volunteer etc which generally reduces the financial costs to society.... you can see now why I've become quite keen on the idea! And then when I think of Jimmy and co at Generation Zero working crazy hours, to both earn a living and campaign, the unconditional basic income makes more and more sense.

I'm basically a stay-at-home carer who gets paid for an hour a day but does the rest for love. I have time to do a lot of gardening which reduces the cost to the taxpayer as fewer hours are claimed for paid gardening help via WINZ (I am boarding with a supergold/community services card holder!). I do a lot of voluntary work - helping out at the local under-funded council library for a start - if it wasn't for their volunteers they couldn't provide the services they do. I also volunteer for our local TimeBank (a local community service) as well as being a member of it and of course there's the usual portfolio of Quaker responsibilities at local, national and international levels. I am on the relievers list (supply teachers) for the local kindergartens but that work is sporadic and unreliable. I'm busy filling what time is left with a variety of crafts, homeskills etc which whilst not contributing to the economy particularly, are generally environmentally friendly.

Financially I'm okay for now, due to careful stewardship of my redundancy money, a couple of windfalls and some savings but it won't last forever, in fact realistically it won't last beyond this year. But I feel like I don't have time for a job! Every day is busy, full, meaningful and useful to society. I don't want to get a job for the sake of simply getting a job. If I'm going to be tied to being somewhere else for X number of hours a week I want it to be as meaningful (to me) as what I'd otherwise be doing in that same time. I love having the flexibility of being able to take on challenges such as take photographs for an early childhood journal; do an extra few hours at the library because they are short staffed that week; know I can accompany Phyllis to someone's house for an afternoon meeting as she's worried about negotiating some steps she hasn't had to face since her fall, without it complicating my day - and those are just a few recent examples.

Having worked with a strong sense of calling before, and known what is like when leadings carry you to where everything just falls into place it is both a blessing and a burden. It is hard to settle for second best! But it also gives me the faith to wait and keep seeking for what feels right rather than get trapped in the monotony of applying for jobs I don't especially want and probably aren't suited for just so I can say I've tried. I'm extremely grateful for the fact that I have a grace period in which to let life settle and there be time for the universe to unfold, no doubt exactly as it should. I just wish someone would drop me a line soon to let me know which direction it is going in as somehow I can't see the universal basic income being a reality before the year is out!

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