Review: Guy Standing's 'Basic Income and How We Can Make It Happen'

May 21, 2017

 

The final chapter in this new book by Guy Standing is titled The Political Challenge: How to get there from here.

 

Standing’s writing often has literary allusions and with this final chapter title I think of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit' or 'There and Back Again.’ The connection between Basic Income and the wonderful Middle-earth fantasy is that both are grand adventures to achieve a better world.

 

The first paragraph of this book contains Standing’s definition of a Basic Income: 'A Basic Income can be defined as a modest amount of money paid unconditionally to individuals on a regular basis (for example, monthly). It is often called a universal basic income (UBI) because it is intended to be paid to all.'
 

The next sentence is: ‘This deceptively simple definition nevertheless needs unpacking.’ And so the book continues with a well-honed, comprehensive and meticulous discussion of Basic Income issues  from all angles and perspectives.

 

There is a poem in this new book: ‘I meant to do my work today- But a brown bird sang in the apple tree, And a butterfly flitted across the field, And all the leaves are calling me.’ Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)

 

This poem is a prelude to a section In Praise of More Idleness, part of a chapter ‘The Implications for Work and Labour’. Work and Labour is a massive component of Basic Income theory.

 

The many other facets of Basic Income theory are written about in multitudes of articles and books. Standing’s small volume on Basic Income brings together many of those theories and concepts into one resource. This book is of almost A5 size and dimensions and can be comfortably held in the hands while reading and pondering Standing’s simple and elegant discourse on Basic Income issues.

 

A feature of Standing’s writing which I enjoy very much is that one may open his books at random, at any page, and find a thought exquisitely clarified.

 

I am including at random a short quote from the fourth chapter ‘Reducing poverty, inequality and insecurity.’ 'Basic Income is not ultimately about eradicating income poverty, however worthy that aim. It is about other worthy objectives – social justice, freedom, equality and security. These would all be enhanced whatever the level of basic income, although the higher the level the greater the effect would be.'

 

This is a must read for all interested in Basic Income and the solution it can offer for the future.

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