They went and broke citizens income, so what's next?

by / Filed under Politics

I had 700 words queued up yesterday evening, full of optimism over Syriza and how, over here, citizens income (CI) finally appeared to be getting some serious coverage. All despite Natalie Bennett’s dismal showing on the BBC.

My basic argument was it’s time to drop the idealistic CI will change your life and allow everyone to become artists rhetoric and concentrate on specific, practical areas; for example, how CI can make work benefits more efficient and better at helping people work. I thought I’d been very clever and suggested we could even use a bit of hardworking rhetoric around them. The time seemed right for CI.

I even published the damn thing and was about to tweet a link when this Guardian article announced the UK’s main CI proponent, Dr Malcolm Torry, had found some serious problems with the maths. Very serious, in fact – it turns out a fifth of the poorest 20% of the country would be around 10% worse off.

Dr Torry has made two alternative proposals, both of which involve some element of means testing. Of course, the beauty of a ‘pure’ CI is that there’s no means testing at all: everyone gets it.

People really like CI’s purity. Your first reaction to it is either that’s insane or that’s genius, why didn’t I ever think that? Take away the universality and it becomes just another idea.

This is undeniably disappointing. There’ll be other CI proposals, but Torry’s seemed the most cogent and achievable in our benefits–hating climate – and people were beginning to talk about them.

So what next? Do we ditch Torry’s ideas altogether, or do we accept the alternatives, acknowledging compromise is inevitable in the real world, that we’re never going to achieve purity?