The hardship relief measures of the coronavirus crisis have shown us that there is general acceptance that all British citizens are entitled to the necessities of life. We should contemplate introducing Universal Basic Income (UBI) under which every adult citizen receives from the government enough to pay for the basics of food and shelter, whether they need it or not.
Contrary to many people‚’s initial reaction, UBI is cheaper and more efficient than the existing benefits system since those not in need would have it largely taxed away. It has many other advantages particularly in preparing us for the elimination of jobs by the rise of Artificial Intelligence and robotics.
People would have to prove that they are British citizens and to open a special bank account to receive UBI payments. This would allow us to introduce two unconnected, but huge, reforms.
This is an ideal opportunity to set up (or verify the existing) Register of British Citizens and Resident Aliens. This would be used by most government departments as the basis for their own ‚’customer lists‚’ and would greatly improve government efficiency in the same way as the efficiency of the government of Estonia is based upon a single register of citizens.
In addition, the new bank accounts could be the cue to introduce wide ranging reform of the taxation system. Instead of a tax on income we could have a tax on personal expenditure. And we could arrange that this is collected by the banks as part of the functioning of the accounts set up to receive UBI. In time we could go for wholesale review of the tax system.