Image credit: The Basic Income Podcast
Last month’s TV1 series “What’s Next?” felt like the teaser of an important future-looking conversation for all New Zealanders. However, it disappointingly omitted exploration of a number of critical high-level issues. One of them (despite coming agonisingly close with banter on the pros and cons of technological redundancy) was structural economic violence.
As if to ram home what was obvious by omission, in the following weeks a cluster bomb of information concerning structural violence emerged: (1) the National Party's botched cover up of MP Todd Barclay's unlawful electorate office serious misconduct, including the Police who shut the case down despite obvious evidence of a crime (isn't that obstruction of justice? In hindsight it's easy to imagine Key's rushed exit late last year as PM was because he clearly recognized the risk of a scandal); and (2) regarding alleged Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) system failures, staff incompetence and downright dehumanizing conduct (much of this data randomly finding its way to me from third parties with direct experience as WINZ clients).
At the same time, support for the once-but-now-not-so radical transformative idea of Universal Basic Income was increasing from the likes of well-known captains of industry; international organizations; economists; futurists; and countries like Finland, Canada, the UK, the State of Hawai’i and others. Feminists would argue that the UBI is a mechanism to help equalize gender income (and therefore power) disparities while we recall that the Greens and other political parties have already included the UBI in their policies. All this makes those who don’t ‘get with the program’ look like laggards.
The theory is that a properly implemented UBI would eliminate the need for WINZ, thereby saving countless millions in agency operational costs and freeing citizens from the degrading and humiliating experience of being a WINZ client. Expert modelling indicates that a few tweaks to taxation and other policies could help fund the mechanism (which is more a transfer of wealth from the ‘have’s’ to the ‘have nots’ rather than a new “cost” per se).
Other studies show a more engaged and empowered citizenry provides profound benefits for society overall – including increases in individual, community and civic wellbeing that translates into significant savings to offset UBI costs (not to mention the elephant in the room: why so much cruel speculation about ‘lazy’ poor people, while elite wealthy get to lounge around all they want with impunity?).
In the coming months, folks will have the opportunity to elect a progressive Government who supports mechanisms like the UBI that create a more equitable distribution of wealth and increased freedom for citizens…or vote for the demonstrably failed and oppressive status quo. I hope they vote wisely.
(Post script: the version that made the 5 July 2017 Northern Advocate 'letters to the Editor':
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