Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- John O'Farrell argues that a basic income provides a needed starting point for innovation and entrepreneurship by people who don't enjoy the advantage of inherited wealth:
But in fact it is the current situation that prevents initiative and holds back entrepreneurs. Anyone who ever invented or created anything did so with a modicum of financial security behind them. That’s why so many of our statues are to upper-class white men; that’s why Virginia Woolf needed “a room of her own and £500 a year” (slashed to £27.85 after that spare room fell under the bedroom tax). For centuries we have tapped the potential of only a small proportion of the British people; the rest have been powerless to initiate or discover where their true talents lay. With the UBI, innovators would be given the room to experiment knowing they would still have something to fall back on; it would see more small businesses and less grovelling on Dragons’ Den.

Vitally, it would begin to redress the chronic imbalance in today’s labour market. There’s a reason why call centre workers sound so miserable when they claim to be sharing really exciting news about your phone tariff. Since the decline of the unions, workers have been increasingly powerless to refuse longer hours and less money, with only the food bank to fall back on if they walk away from an exploitative job. With a guaranteed state income to keep the wolf (or Wonga) from the door, employees would regain the bargaining power to demand civilised working conditions and reasonable rates of pay...
For all the apparent expense of the UBI, we would save the small fortune that the state currently spends mopping up the mess of social problems caused overwhelmingly by chronic poverty.

Of course, there are complex reasons for increasing homelessness, for bulging prisons, for growing mental health problems – but desperate financial pressure is a major factor in all of them. Every decade sees us spending increasing billions trying to tighten the lid of the boiling cauldron. It might be so much cheaper just to turn down the temperature a bit.
- Meanwhile, Maria Konnikova discusses how we learn about fairness - as we naturally notice and complain about being on the wrong side of unfair circumstances, while learning to identify our own privilege takes significant work.

- Claire McIlveen comments on the need for a far more secure system of retirement income than we can currently claim.

- Pamela Cowan talks to Ryan Meili and Tom McIntosh about the importance of a national pharmacare program as part of a fully functional public health care system. And Moira Donovan weighs in on the dangers of ambulance fees in discouraging people from calling an ambulance even when needed. 

- Finally, Lee Berthiaume writes that a Saudi arms deal seen as an unqualified plus for a cynical, militaristic Con government is something else entirely for anybody who even pretends to care about human rights. But Steven Chase and Daniel Leblanc report that the Libs may not bother keeping up the charade much longer, as they're not only pushing through the sale but suppressing human rights assessments to do it.

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