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Battle for the Economy: Universal Basic Income: Workfare or Freedom?

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Lecture Theatre 8, Saïd Business School

Park End Street

Oxford

OX1 1HP

United Kingdom

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Taking the spirit of no-holds-barred debate across Europe and around the UK, the Weidenfeld Hoffman Trust Scholars and the Battle of ideas team are taking on the Battle for the Economy, looking at the Universal Basic Income.

With automation threatening swathes of jobs, there’s growing momentum behind the idea of a universal basic income (UBI): an unconditional payment from the state regardless of any other income. For those unable to perform or find paid work, it would provide enough to live on. For those who can work, it would allow an escape from the ‘poverty trap’, where the loss of welfare benefits makes low-paid work uneconomic.

Can UBI really work in practice? Some argue it would require an unacceptable increase in taxation. Others question whether it really could replace all welfare benefits. More fundamentally, does everyone, no matter how rich, deserve it – or should it be means-tested? And above all, should we ask for something in return – using UBI as the basis of a new relationship between citizens and society?

The debate around universal basic income is not confined to the developed world. Recently, developing countries like India, Brazil and Kenya have considered various proposals for universal basic income as a way to alleviate poverty. Is universal basic income feasible in a developing economy? What are the pros and cons of such a policy in the context of a developing economy? These questions are of contemporary significance across the globe today.

But is this realistic? Do we really want to have a society where people only take part if they’re paid to do so? And what if they prefer to spend their time making music, or caring for their kids – or enjoying a drink while watching daytime TV? Do we withdraw their income, turning them into a new underclass of ‘undeserving poor’? Or do we encourage participation with bonus payments for good, active citizens?

A diverse panel will debate on this issue and the audience will get a chance to weigh in their views as well

Chair: Phil Mullan (economist and business manager; author, Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance)

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Lecture Theatre 8, Saïd Business School

Park End Street

Oxford

OX1 1HP

United Kingdom

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