I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.
– Martin Luther King
This is the first Forward Thinking project I consider genuinely easy. What would I do for a safety net if I ruled the world? Simple. Single Payer Healthcare Free at Point of Delivery plus Guaranteed Income. And then look for anyone who slipped between the cracks or didn’t get the help they needed and fix that.
Sounds utopian? Possibly it is. The NHS is quite simply much more cost efficient than almost any other healthcare model out there with the possible exception of Japan. Its main problems stem from having two thirds the per capita funding of France or Germany and less per capita government funding than the US healthcare model; I’ve been into this in more detail on my blog previously. And trials of Citizen’s Income/Negative Income Tax such as Mincome (Canada) and BigNam (Namibia) have generally been spectacularly successful in terms of outcome to the recipients.
This is entirely in line with my understanding of human psychology. Give someone an investment in society (as a Citizens’ Income would) and they will work much harder for it. And most people genuinely like to work. And give them an ideal to stand behind (such as the NHS) and they will frequently move mountains, knowing that those mountains being moved will save peoples lives – and they can go to bed happy in the knowledge that they have genuinely made a difference. (Communism was different. People like to keep score – and the more major problems with communism included square pegs into round holes and “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”) Also any system with very simple rules (such as “Healthcare free at point of delivery” or “£X/week to everyone”) has low overheads. And cuts the incentives for crime or fraud because no one needs to steal. (Not that it will eliminate them, but the evidence shows that it cuts them). Also such methods are spectacularly good at keeping money in circulation, allowing a massive multiplier effect to the economy.
On the other hand many business owners hate Citizen’s Income (and minimum wage) because it prevents them cutting corners and using the threat of starvation to force low wages on people. And pharmaceutical companies hate the NHS licensing authorities because the NHS is too big a market to ignore – while they can make an example out of a single hospital. So although I don’t see any practical problem to my utopian ideals, it’ll be a hell of a fight.
And in a display of synchronicity I’ve just read Slactivist’s latest Smart People saying Smart Things. The first three are all relevant reasons I want this to happen.