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Reform Magazine | August 21, 2017

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The benefits of grace

The benefits of grace

What if the UK benefits system did a better job – and embodied the Christian Gospel too? The economist Malcolm Torry introduces the radical proposals being considered for citizen’s basic income

Citizen’s basic income – also known as universal basic income – is a simple idea: it is an unconditional income paid to every individual. It can vary with someone’s age, but not otherwise. In particular, if earnings rise, the citizen’s basic income does not change.

You might have noticed that the idea is increasingly mainstream and global. In the UK, a number of thinktanks have published reports on the subject, political parties have either signed up to it or plan to study it, and press and other media interest is increasingly positive. Substantial literature on citizen’s basic income now exists.

The present UK benefits system was established by the 1942 Beveridge Report, against the background of what Beveridge called ‘a revolutionary moment in the world’s history’. We are at another such moment today. Communication and information technology is dispensing with jobs of many different kinds; employment patterns are increasingly diverse and precarious; and family structures are increasingly diverse. Our benefits system, designed for a different era is increasingly unable to cope. A rapidly changing context requires an income maintenance system that does not need to adapt to changing circumstances – which means that the only candidate is the radically simple citizen’s basic income…

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This is an extract from the December 2016/January 2017 edition of Reform.

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