‘It must be ours like the air and the sunshine.’

A universal basic income is not a new idea: E Mabel Milner and Dennis Milner’s ‘Scheme for a State Bonus’ was presented to a Yearly Meeting committee in 1918. Joseph Jones finds some extracts.

‘In order to produce a healthy race everyone must have access to the primal necessities of life, namely, food, shelter, and liberty.’ | Photo: ClaireLucia on iStock

Britain Yearly Meeting’s Spring letter to the prime minister called for ‘a liveable income for all’ in the wake of the pandemic. This has been a Quaker concern for some time: Friends have been considering national income schemes since 1918, when a country of slums and industrial unrest was approaching the aftermath of the first world war. Mabel and Dennis Milner’s Scheme for a State Bonus: A rational method of solving the social problem was first presented to the War and Social Order Committee of the Yearly Meeting that year. Although it was never enacted, the scheme was to become very influential in the labour and trades unions movement, and is now recognised as the first modern full-blown proposal for a national basic income.

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