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Basic Income for Canadians

Evelyn L. Forget

"Basic Income for Canadian: From the COVID-19 Emergency to Financial Security for All",  Evelyn L. Forget

Evelyn Forget’s proposal for basic income is definitively not UBI, being neither universal nor unconditional. From a tautologous and therefore invalid claim that ‘all serious basic income proposals in Canada reject this (UBI) model’ (p207), she proposes a targeted basic income which is essentially a minimum income guarantee. This leaves her with the problem of tapers of all means-tested welfare schemes which generate infamous poverty and unemployment traps, and which Forget rightly critiques within the Canadian Covid income support scheme.

She is equally dismissive of the argument for basic income from technology and automation, writing ‘there is little evidence that technology will do away with the need for human labour’ (p81), a negative she doesn’t even try to prove, that ‘basic income is essential, not to distribute money to people whose labour is no longer needed, but rather to offset the consequences of growing precarity’ (p84), that ‘one change we need not fear is the elimination of work’ (p89). She asserts that ‘technology will create more jobs than it will destroy (p92), and that ‘technology will not eliminate the need for human labour’ (p95). All of this without any evidence, and airily dismissive of the serious research findings to the contrary of Frey and Osborne (p93), and of a research project at the Institute for Policy Research at Bath, UK which shows a positive correlation between technology and reduction in the labour share. She in fact ends up with no proposal with her closing words ‘What kind of basic income is right for Canada?’ (p212), which is rather disappointing given that the title of the book suggests the presentation of a concrete proposal. She does include interesting material on the positive health and gender impacts of basic income, and some poignant personal vignettes.

Whilst Forget does highlight the problem of excessive household debt taken out to replace lost income (p9,16), she does not directly offer basic income as its replacement. Nor does she compare her targeted basic income scheme to other refined targeted benefit schemes. She entirely omits well founded claims that high tech economies are experiencing a structural shift whereby technology is sucking aggregate income out of the economy and sucking in excessive household and government debt. The only remedy for this is an unconditional universal basic income (UBI) funded by debt-free sovereign money. Many central bankers are now positive to the debt-free sovereign money proposal which has been vindicated during the pandemic by central banks buying huge amounts of government debt, which, since the central bank is owned by the government, is zero net debt, i.e. not debt at all. It’s disappointing that Forget is so easily and airily dismissive of such fundamental paradigm shift proposals for UBI.

The book is available here.

Geoff Crocker
Editor ‘The Case for Universal Basic Income'

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