Devolved, Democratic Budgeting

Challenges: Inequality of Opportunity, Democratic Alienation

Proposal: Universal Basic Income, Devolved, Democratic Budgeting

This normative goal would be realised through a radically new approach to spending and taxes. Yet there is a prior question of framing that needs to be addressed. In the common imagination, both that of the most and least economically advantaged in society, taxation is often viewed as a punishment, imposed upon the populous and misused to favour the powerful. Equally, spending, and especially the concept of benefits, has been misconstrued as a hand out for those who are reluctant to contribute to society. These conceptions have come into being as the result of divisive, authoritarian ideology championing an extreme individualism that pits communities against each other. As a counter, our proposal seeks to reframe spending and taxes through the lens of contributions and welfare, in which citizens get a greater say as to how it is spent. This would imply that taxation, rather than being a punishment, is an opportunity for those most fortunate in society to easily contribute. Rather than taking away from the individual, it is giving to society. Equally, spending and benefits, reframed as welfare would recentre the purpose of government spending as being fundamental for the well-being of the populace, removing the stigma and embarrassment surrounding users of the benefits system, the material reality directing the culture.

This is founded on a universal basic income to provide a minimum economic capacity for all people within a nation. A system centred around capital accumulation and incessant production views citizens as economic units; their value determined by that which they produce economically. This ignores the value we bring to a society outside of our traditionally productive capacities. As such, within the context of a common good economy, a universal basic income is necessary to ensure freedom for all people to explore and pursue their own and their community’s well-being, whilst diversifying their democratic culture, without the constant pressure brought about by a production-centric system. This allows the most vulnerable individuals in our society, those who are not necessarily capable of adhering to the strict standard of what is traditionally productive, to thrive. The ‘universal’ aspect of universal basic income serves to combat the stigma that exists in traditional welfare models; as everyone would benefit from such a policy. This is the material manifestation of the cultural shift which would bring society together around the tenant of a universal basic income. Essentially, a universal basic income allows us to act as human beings, as opposed to merely productive beings, enslaved to a fundamentally discriminatory system.

Ultimately this would serve to strengthen procedural fairness, the principle by which, even if there is not universal agreement on decisions, the fact that there has been a tangible input process ensures greater satisfaction and acceptance of policy, even amongst those who disagree thereby tackling disaffection, and creating a perceptible link between contribution and welfare.

Of course, to talk of contribution and welfare necessitates a consideration of the practicalities of how such welfare proposals should be financed. This is neither a new consideration, and more importantly, nor a radical one. Widespread, new welfare policies have been rapidly implemented before, this in reference to the post-war period and the heavy implementation of Keynesian economics to address a welfare crisis. Ultimately, this proposal is founded on the need to tackle a welfare crisis of our own. As such, a variety of radical contribution measures are necessary to fund both a Universal Basic Income and feedback-based spending measures. This would be necessarily multifaceted, requiring an overhaul of conventional contemporary taxation systems, no single tax measure sufficing to properly fund these proposals.

In this regard, it would include a radical progressive taxation, beginning at the point beyond Universal Basic Income as this would negate the need for tax-free income on the first portion of wages. This would seek to tax high wages at a high rate in order to ensure that each individual has the opportunity to contribute as much as possible to society with ease. Alongside this, a sizable wealth tax, ensuring that inherited wealth cannot lead to societal inequality and marginalisation. Furthermore, there would need to be a resolution to both capital gains and tax havens to ensure that contributions would be equitable and enforceable across all sectors of society and income streams as well as unavoidable. Furthermore, by taxing capital gains effectively, tax havens would be directly combatted, something that could be further regulated by improving transparency on international financial transactions. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list of potential measures, the general concept of radical taxation is essential to follow this proposal.