I was walking round sheep this morning and Sal suddenly went into ‘hunting mode.’ When you’re a small dog and there is a lot of long grass about, this can be tricky. This is especially true as Border Collies tend to be very visual dogs. So she tackles this by either springing up into the air as she runs along; or even by standing up on her hind legs.
Then, when she’s spotted whatever she suspects is there, she’s down on all fours and she’s off at speed. At this point you might as well write her a strongly worded memo as shout instructions. Whilst she’s still looking you’re in with a chance of maintaining control, but once she’s off, she’s off.
And this morning Sal set off at a run. Suddenly two cock pheasants took off almost in front of her; these are obviously what she’s seen. She followed one, but it was airborne, over the hedge and away. She nosed about the general area, and I could see the other pheasant, running and hugging the ground at the same time. Suddenly Sal noticed it, spun on the spot and ran at it. The pheasant was airborne and away.
Well Sal had doubtless had an interesting interlude but she’d not got a pheasant. Indeed you could argue that by going for both at the start she’d got neither.
Sal’s antics occurred as I was pondering universal basic income. There’s yet another video circulating on facebook at the moment.
It strikes me that it’s a nice thing for sensible middle class and working class people who need a buffer. Not only that but they are the people who feel they pay out an awful lot of money and never see any of it back. For them I can see the basic income being a good thing
But having spent time in and around Foodbanks I would ask a number of questions.
But would it work for some Foodbank clients? Seriously those with mental health issues and substance abuse issues aren’t going to be helped by it. I know enough alcoholics to know that the money would just go on alcohol and not the rent. So whilst it might help the easy cases, the people who’re willing to engage, it won’t help the hard cases.
But you cannot have universal basic income without simultaneously considering the tax system. Otherwise like Sal, you’ll go for two pheasants and get neither.
Now obviously the universal basic income will have to be paid for. Some of it will be paid for by the fact you don’t need other payments. But which other payments? Will basic income mean no child benefit? Will it mean no more free prescriptions? Will it mean no housing benefit? No more free school dinners? No more university tuition fees?
And who gets it. Does a family of two adults get two basic incomes, even through their housing costs could well be lower per head than two people living separately? Do children get it and from what age?
Then there is the issue of tax rates and thresholds. Our current system can produce a cliff edge.
I had a year when my lady wife calculated I was paying 87% tax, because the previous year we’d had a year with no farming income (with milk prices down to 14 pence per litre we’d made a loss.) So under one of Gordon Brown’s schemes we got family credit (or whatever it was called)
Next year I managed to get some contracting work. That year I was on the equivalent of 87% tax because we lost the family credit and because our daughter was at university, we lost the money the government paid her in grant because of our low income.
So if you are not careful you could end up with the situation where basic income will actually become a trap, it’s not worth people trying to earn more. Personally I think it could work best if it were linked to a flat rate tax. That might come in anyway. It has a lot going for it in the business sector, rather than hitting companies with all sorts of taxes that are not linked to income of profitability (like business rates) and taxes on profits which are effectively voluntary for major international businesses, they would just take a flat percentage of turnover in the UK.
Then you get the problem of working hours as well. We know companies are paying the minimum wage and offering very low hours because they can. This is basically because the benefit system is picking up the rest.
So I think we have to make offering low hours expensive.
I’d say that somebody on any contract of employment, no matter how few hours, is a full employee, gets full holiday and sick pay entitlement and the company has to pay full national insurance, even if the person is on one hour a week.
Also if they’re on less than 16 hours, once they’ve worked for the company for six months THEY, not the company, decide when they work those hours. (Obviously it has to be when the place of employment is open.) That way they can fit two jobs together and make a sensible living.
Me, I’ve nothing against a basic income. But you cannot just introduce the basic income. I suspect it’d have to be part of a major overhaul of all sorts of things. Mind you, if done right, there’d be major savings because you could cut the number of employees in the DWP and HM Revenue and Customs by well over seventy percent.
I suspect that anybody introducing it will have to fight against a lot of vested interests.
Oh yes, and I mentioned Sal. Some of her exploits appear in
As one reviewer said
“Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”