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  • Pierre Madden

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Procedures and Institutions
Translated from the original Dutch by Pierre Madden

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   58. It is not in our hands, it is up to other people to decide on basic income

   59. The policy is too big to handle, governments only have a four year scope

   60. There are so many other urgent priorities on the political agenda. UBI is a distraction.

   61. Existing experiments are too small to assess the real effects of a UBI

   62. If a UBI is implemented, and it fails, we won't be able to get rid of it anymore

   63. Anyway, introduction of the policy in our country is impossible

58. It is not in our hands, it is up to other people to decide on basic income

Explanation

It's not up to us. Let others decide about Basic Income.

Refutation

This objection can be a killer. We do not want to be involved in the matter, let others do it and decide.


It can also be a correct position. For example, it is not obvious to initiate a discussion on basic income at the Ministry of Defence. Although the impact of basic income on this organisation cannot be underestimated!

Incidentally, basic income is a subject with such broad implications that it is not enough for one organisation to decide on it.

If an organisation declares that it is not going to go over it, you can do several things:

  • go to a body that does (or to a greater or lesser extent) deal with it.

  • discuss the impact of basic income on the functioning of this organisation.

  • enter into a discussion about the agenda and who you would need to put it on the agenda.


As far as the government is concerned, it is indeed such a radical policy change that it should not be left to a single body (or department). Nor is it wise to want to take a final decision quickly.

But you have to be able to make a start somewhere. This could be done by the joint planning offices (the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) and perhaps also the  Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)).


If they can show what is involved in a basic income, it will then become clear which institutions need to be involved. It would be helpful if the planning offices could include a plan to this effect that would make it clear what is expected of them and when.

59. The policy is too big to handle, governments only have a four year scope

Explanation

It is too big an exercise for us, we only have a four-year lifespan as a government.

Refutation:

The introduction of a basic income is undoubtedly a major operation.


It is a profound social innovation that affects a great many aspects of social life and public policy. It is also questionable whether introduction is possible or desirable in one fell swoop (see also objection 68. A UBI cannot be properly phased in), which makes it highly likely that the operation will cover more than one government mandate.


This means that the condition for introduction is that there must be a large majority in favour, so that the operation will not be cancelled immediately after a subsequent election.


Fifty percent plus one is not enough!


If the will is present, it is possible. We are also able to create and implement major infrastructure programmes (with the delta plan being a clear example of flood risk, which took many decades to implement) and we can occasionally buy new jet fighters. We are also capable of major social innovations: our welfare state also needed several governments, the EU several decades.

A good start is a government that puts the planning offices to work.


A social innovation seems to be easier to blow off than a more technical operation, but that does not work if there is a great deal of public support for it.


This support must, of course, be brought together for some time.


60. There are so many other urgent priorities on the political agenda. UBI is a distraction.

Explanation


UBI is a distraction from all the other urgent priorities on the political agenda.


Basic income takes away the focus from more important reforms, and can be used as an excuse not to implement them.

Refutation


Setting priorities is a matter of making choices. The many advantages of introducing a basic income justify giving it high priority. It can help tackle many problems such as poverty, inequality, the difference between paid and unpaid work, the position of flex workers and self-employed workers, unnecessary work, complex tax and social security systems. However, we do not think it is easy to weigh problems against each other, which could change priorities.


There are differing opinions about this and they should also be taken seriously.


Apart from that, the potential benefits of a basic income are such that it is difficult to see which other priorities would be preferable.

61. Existing experiments are too small to assess the real effects of a UBI

Explanation

Experiments with a basic income can never properly simulate its real impact, because effects on prices and wages for example will not occur in a small pilot environment. Therefore, we can never know exactly what a basic income will do, and the risk of disaster is too great to introduce it.

Refutation 

The experiments currently being carried out by Dutch municipalities (2017/2018) are small-scale and concern more low-regulatory assistance than basic income. It is true that the conclusion from these experiments is limited in scope.

 

We are currently seeing larger experiments in other countries, such as Finland, Canada, India and Kenya. Here, too, the significance for the Netherlands is probably limited.

 

It would be useful to design a number of good experiments for the greatest unknowns in the likely effects of Basic Income. But even then, any experiment with social legislation has borderline problems and unforeseen effects.

 

A well-designed study with simulations or similar techniques is also useful.

 

But there is also another approach conceivable. The abolition of slavery and the introduction of the state pension were carried out at the time because it was considered necessary without prior experimentation. You can therefore also opt for a different social system, in which social security is separated from the employment relationship.

62. If a UBI is implemented, and it fails, we won't be able to get rid of it anymore

Explanation

It is very difficult to abolish regulations that have been introduced already, even though there are many obvious drawbacks. Those who do benefit from regulation will often (and successfully) rebel and resist such a step backwards.


Examples of the problems: the state pension was introduced in the 1950s, while we now have discussions about flexible input dates, later input dates, etc. This was the case with the Disability Insurance Scheme (WAO), which has been the subject of policy measures for many years now due to a lack of manageability.

Many fear uncontrollable effects, e.g. attracting migrants, changing labour relations in companies, economic disruptions due to changes in supply and demand.

Refutation 


A requirement of a new policy proposal should always be that mitigating, stopping and reversing be discussed if the intended objectives are not achieved or enormous disadvantages (predicted or not) occur. This is difficult to do in practice - the wording of a policy proposal is often such a complex compromise that the parties involved cannot even think in detail about its possible negative effects and consequences.

This risk can be reduced by thorough research and a number of good experiments, which can show which potential bottlenecks and risks can occur, how you can avoid or alleviate them and how you can take retrograde steps where necessary.

 
Apart from this, the basic income can be organised in such a way that it can be adjusted over time. See, for example, what has happened to the state pension since it was introduced.
Another option would be a gradual phasing-in, with a step-by-step assessment of serious negative impacts.


This gradual introduction must, however, be designed in such a way that the disadvantages of a new emerging system, in addition to an old system in phasing out, do not dominate, so that a great deal of chaos is created.

63. Anyway, introduction of the policy in our country is impossible

Explanation

​​

Perhaps that basic income can be introduced in very poor African countries, or in countries with a lot of raw materials, such as oil. It is not possible in the Netherlands, however.

Refutation 

Each country has its own specific circumstances, which may influence whether or not to introduce a Basic Income. Some of these circumstances are only temporary, such as oil reserves in the Arab countries and Alaska and gas bubbles in the Netherlands. A country's relative level of prosperity can also vary over time. 


Such circumstances may mean that the transition to a basic income may be easier or faster in one country than in another, but the comparative advantage remains relative.

Incidentally, it is precisely our country that has extensive regulations regarding 'work and income' and all kinds of related regulations that are directly (e.g. tax system) or indirectly (e.g. health care) related to the issue. This has led to an extremely complex system with all kinds of undesirable effects that hinder rather than advance the intended policy objectives.


This system urgently needs to be overhauled. Basic income is probably the best way to achieve this.