Labour pains: Elizabeth Coleman on a universal basic income

‘We are a rich country, and have enough to give a modest but adequate income to everyone.’

'Universal basic income...would not only reduce the desperate situation of those at the bottom of the pile, but would also allow for creativity and happiness.' | Photo: by PxHere

‘Try to discern new grouping points in social and economic life’ (Advices & queries 33).

When I was a student in the late sixties, we learned to anticipate the ‘problem of leisure’. Production would become more and more automated, and so fewer and fewer workers would be needed. In 1953, Ford in Dagenham had 40,000 workers, but now it has less than 2,000. While there have been changes in what is produced, let’s say that current output is comparable to 1953. Our late-sixties logic would go as follows: we do not need an infinite number of engines, so at some point, we do not need the labour of most of the workers. But we have the money to pay them since we are still producing as much. So they can have good wages, but have to deal with the problem of not going to work each day, with the sense of purpose and comradeship that that provides.

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