The Case For a Universal Basic Income

  1. While some new types of jobs are emerging, it is a myth that in developed societies such as Canada secure, adequately paid employment is available for all. Therefore the risks of fragile work should be socialised rather than being borne increasingly by the individual.


    Canadian workers are underpaid and underemployed, says a report released yesterday by Ryerson Polytechnic University. The study, conducted by the Ryerson Social Reporting Network, observes that 52% of Canadians are paid less that $15 an hour, and that 45% of the country's workforce is engaged in "flexible" work, with people unable to find full-time or permanent jobs... The Ryerson study estimates that as many as 20.3% of Canadians are underemployed or otherwise lack employment security and an adequate level of wages.

    James Cudmore,

    The National Post (June 3,1999)

    Politicians praise training together with some type of on-the-job experience as the ultimate cure for unemployment and poverty. Bureaucratic insiders laughingly call this the "field of dreams" solutions – train the people and the jobs will come! Training may be the key in the short term for matching suitable people and some types of jobs, such as those that involve the latest high-tech skills or hands-on personal service. But there is some suspicion, even among those responsible for designing and implementing each new round of skills training, that over the longer term the hottest job market to emerge may be for job trainers.

  2. It is a violation of human rights to stigmatize and penalize people who cannot find enough paid work to support themselves and their families, and to participate fully in community life.

    Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

  3. There is no real moral or socially viable alternative to some form of UBI if society cannot ensure secure, adequately paid jobs for all who want them.
  1. If a few people withdraw from the competition for jobs, this will benefit rather than damage society, since there are not enough jobs to go around anyway. A UBI would make this possible.
  2. For people with no post secondary education or training, the prospects for earning an adequate living are especially bleak. A UBI would reduce the discrimination experienced by those with low academic aptitude.
  3. Since we cannot continue growth that degrades the environment, employment should no longer be tied mainly to production for the market. A UBI is needed to prevent a win-lose polarization of society and avoid creating a permanent underclass during this fundamental transition.
  4. "Economic democracy" requires that all citizens have sufficient resources to make uncoerced economic decisions. This requires a UBI so people can turn down undesired jobs.
  5. A UBI facilitates the growth of different kinds of useful non-market work and of productive time for personal development; both activities complement paid work in the era of the flexible workforce. The fact that more people will choose to study or pursue idealistic or artistic endeavours will benefit society in the long run.
  6. A UBI maintains consumer demand in the face of unemployment, part-time employment and inadequate wages.
  7. A UBI substantially reduces transaction costs and increases transparency by allowing most of the complex and costly welfare bureaucracy to be dismantled.
  8. The earth and its resources (as well as such achievements of humanity as the wheel, the mother tongue, the decimal system, etc., which have made so much wealth creation possible) are the common heritage of all mankind. Therefore everyone has a right to a share in this heritage in the form of a UBI, financed from the wealth created by those who have made use of these resources.
  9. An UBI is best adapted to an economy in which knowledge has become the main productive force.
  10. Canada needs a UBI because no social responses currently under serious discussion in Canada are fully adequate to deal with long-term structural unemployment, underemployment and the private sector's insistent demand for a flexible workforce.

(continued below or over)

"Handouts" to the Wealthy

THE TAX SYSTEM:  The principle of a progressive tax system holds that the level of taxation should be related to the ability to pay. In 1998 the average Canadian family paid total federal and provincial tax of $12,490 or 20.1% of its income. If our tax system was progressive in practice a family with income over $300,000 would pay more than 20.1%. In fact, families with income in excess of $300,000 paid, on average, 14.4%, or 5.7% less than the average family. Even with a flat (i.e. non-progressive) tax this amounts to a handout of $17,100 per family (i.e. 5.7% of $300,000).

FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING:  In 1984 Statistics Canada found that the richest 20% of Canadians held 75% of the nation's financial wealth (stocks, bonds, etc.). A more recent survey found that the richest 1% now hold 40%. Let's take 75% as a reasonable current estimate of the financial wealth held by the richest 10% of Canadians. As of 1999 Canada's chartered (i.e. private) banks have created – out of thin air please note – about 95% of our money supply ($557 billion) as debt, otherwise known as bank credit. The interest on this debt is at least 6% every year. If we assume that those banks are 75% owned by the richest 10% of Canadians, it follows that our government, by allowing privately owned banks to create most of our money supply under the fractional reserve system of banking (see `Fractional Reserve Banking or Usury' under General Economic Data), paid or "handed out" $25 billion to well-to-do Canadians (6% of 75% of $557 billion). Although the banking class would never admit it, this amounts to a $8,300 ($25 billion divided by 3 million well-to-do Canadians) "handout" for every man, woman and child in the richest 10% of the population.
        It should be understood that the public debt (federal, provincial, and municipal) is overwhelmingly owned by wealthy individuals, both Canadian and non-Canadian. The interest paid ($77 billion in 1998) on this public debt, not to mention the interest paid (?) on private debt is the consequence of having a debt economy, i.e. a system by which private corporations called banks create about 95 percent of our money supply in the form of interest-bearing bank credit. Now, allowing banks to create a nation's money supply is neither an economic necessity nor an enlightened social policy. Could we not then consider those debt payments as a disguised "handout," a sort of tribute paid to the financial elite that has been built into the economic organization of modern societies so skillfully that it is rarely detected, much less questioned? We think that you can, in which case the handout in question amounts to (using our earlier assumptions) $57.75 billion (75% of $77 billion), or $19,250 ($57.75 billion divided by 3 million well-to-do Canadians) for every man, woman and child in the richest 10% of the population. That's quite an impressive handout. Of course there's private debt too, but we won't belabour the point.

What Can You Do?

If you find the case we have made for a UBI persuasive, you can indicate below (by clicking only one of four buttons) whether you would be prepared to take some positive action to advance the cause of a UBI. Please click the button that corresponds to your level of enthusiasm and resources.

Check the Button that Corresponds
to Your Level of Commitment

Level 1:  I am convinced of the justice and wisdom of a UBI and I extend my moral support and best wishes to those who are engaged in the effort to make a UBI a reality in Canada and abroad.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] people have clicked this button.

Level 2:  In addition to the above I will print out a dozen handouts (print out six pages of the printed-one-side version, or three pages of the printed-both-sides version) and distribute them. One easy way of distributing them is to place them under the windshield wipers of cars parked on a street or in a parking lot. However, it is far preferable to post them in TTC shelters or on other public property where they are likely to attract the attention of those who are seriously interested. It's important always to keep in mind that one's audience is that small fraction of the population capable of understanding the issue, and sufficiently motivated to take a position. The great majority of people will follow those among their relatives or friends that fall into this category.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] people have clicked this button.

Level 3:  In addition to the above I will print out some of the arguments and economic data provided here and ask two people I know to read the material and give me their reactions. (Don't try to convince anyone against their will. Remember that a new idea is often resisted for no other reason than that it is unfamiliar; also that a powerful idea communicates some of its power even to the person who contradicts it.) I will challenge anyone convinced of the justice and wisdom of a UBI to repeat the process with two people in their turn.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] people have clicked this button.

Level 4:  In addition to the above I will write a letter (see example letter) indicating my support for a UBI, enclose any material from this web site that seems appropriate, and send it to four members of government, the Prime Minister, my federal MP, the Premier of my province, and my provincial MPP.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] people have clicked this button.

Return to Home Page

Click Here