Tue Jan 8th, 2008 at 01:38:01 PM EST
Every time I get a phone call from a telemarketer getting minimum wage for telling people like me that my number has been randomly selected to receive a brand new camera mobile phone, I cannot escape the conclusion that this person and I would both be better off if they were at home, on benefits.
There are so many people being paid crap to do unnecessary, even harmful, jobs that paying them crap to stay at home cannot possibly be worse. In fact, maybe they'll do something useful with their free time!
So, I propose
A guaranteed living income funded by taxing wealth.
Note that a "living" income doesn't have to be a "comfortable" income, just a "decent" income. It just has to be enough to cover the bare necessities of life: decent clothes, housing and food. For the definition of "decent", refer to the Scripture:
Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations
By necessaries I understand, not only the commodities which are indispensibly necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably, though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person, of either sex, would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France, they are necessaries neither to men nor to women; the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend, not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people. All other things I call luxuries, without meaning, by this appellation, to throw the smallest degree of reproach upon the temperate use of them. Beer and ale, for example, in Great Britain, and wine, even in the wine countries, I call luxuries. A man of any rank may, without any reproach, abstain totally from tasting such liquors. Nature does not render them necessary for the support of life; and custom nowhere renders it indecent to live without them.
So, for definiteness, assume the guaranteed living income is set at the conventional relative poverty threshold of 60% of current median income.
What would be the consequences?