Dear Editor (letter to New Zealand Herald 1 May 2020)
While Mathew Hooten’s recent article purports to be an overview of the concept of Universal Basic Income, it is factually incorrect. These untruths distort the picture and devalue the concept.
Hooten’s statement that UBI ‘ would need to be set somewhere just below the current dole’ misleads the public, making it appear that this is a merit-worthy agreed evidence-based calculation. It is nothing of the sort. On the contrary, the base level for UBI is a current topic of political debate.
Furthermore relating it to the word ‘dole’ with the associations that raises is a manipulative attempt to have the public believe there is an issue related to incentives to work. On the contrary, unlike our current ‘dole’ which is reduced if someone gets a job, the whole point of a UBI is that everyone gets to keep it even if they earn income: there is no disincentive to work. The concept of UBI also eliminates stigma during the times of job losses and retraining that are an inevitable part of our future, ensures nobody falls through the cracks, it honours unpaid work such as that of carers and parents.
Moreover, to state that Friedrich Hayek, co-founder of the neoliberal political model, which has led to the massive rise of inequality around the world over the past 30 years, proposed and supported the UBI concept is patently untrue! For Hayek, “some provision for those threatened by the extremes of indigence or starvation due to circumstances beyond their control” was required ‘be it only in the interest of those who require protection against acts of desperation on the part of the needy.’ This is so far from the concept of UBI that Hooten’s statement of Hayek as a ‘prophet’ for UBI is laughable. Conversely, a universal basic income is the opportunity to begin to reset the havoc that the adoption of Hayek’s theories have wreaked on our social, cultural and environmental wellbeing here in New Zealand.
I expect the NZ Herald to take up its responsibility to put these factual inaccuracies straight.