Event: Annie Miller A Basic Income Handbook Launch

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Annie Millers Basic Income Handbook, hosted at one of my favourite places in Edinburgh, Lighthouse Books.

Annie Miller has a long history in the basic income movement. She’s been doing her work for around 30 years and was a co-founder of the Basic Income Research Group and the Basic Income European network in the 80s (now an international network, as of 2004). It was so lovely to hear her speak about her inspirations and her findings. I found it particularly refreshing to hear someone who could talk about an issue with economic elements, without entirely boring me to death. She gave off such a warm vibe and was immediately likable as she discussed her earlier realisations of some of the daft inequalities that exist.

Basic Income has become a part of mainstream economic and political conversation in the past few years. In the recent general election, the Green Party were particular proponents of the concept. You may have heard of the recently released book by Guy Standing, a colleague of Annie Millers, and another person at the forefront of the movement. Both Annie Miller and Guy Standing have constructed excellent, accessible materials so that more of us can start considering Basic Income, how it could happen, and how it could help.

wine and books
Wee glass of wine at the launch

So what is Basic Income?

I’m a 21-year-old psychology student, I don’t expect my audience to have an in depth knowledge of basic income, particularly because I myself do not know a lot. A Basic Income scheme would be a system where all would receive a regular unconditional sum of money, independent of other income, from the government or a public institution. The goals of this, as outlined in Annie’s book, are as follows:

  • Valuing individuals for their own sakes
  • Help provide financial security
  • Reduce income inequalities and help to heal a divided society
  • Restore work-for pay incentives, balance power in the workplace, more choice over work-life balance
  • Simplify social security system

These are very brief summaries and explored much more in the book.

Basic Income is certainly an interesting idea to me in this world of increasingly doubtful equality and respect for individuals and groups throughout society. Where it seems increasingly difficult to work hard enough to keep afloat, and where those who need support are having to jump through more and more hoops to get it, this is exactly the sort of idea we need to know more about.

Which brings me to my talking point of this post (I won’t drag it out, I promise). It seems in politics and policy we are becoming more and more divided on every issue. And while I respect the opinions of others, it scares me to hear people I know blindly support policies they don’t understand because they think it’s the side they stand on. Some people I know seemingly vote directly in opposition to what could benefit them.

I think policy and proposed policy changes need to be communicated better to the general public, and every person needs a better grasp on what is going on when governments implement policies that could change their lives.

Think about the health bill Trump (thankfully) failed to pass just a day ago. No one knows what it entailed. The changes weren’t clear. I’ve seen a thousand tweets about how no one voting on the bill had time to read a thing. Honestly, what the fuck? These are the people that are supposed to understand everything! How are we supposed to make informed votes as members of the public when even our elected officials don’t know what’s going on?

The Basic Income Handbook has a bright yellow circle on the front that clearly states ‘For citizens and policy makers’. Accessible to all. Useful for all. The font isn’t painfully small and everything is so clearly laid out. It might not be the most thrilling read at times, but I get it. I can think about it critically without even one undergraduate degree under my belt. It would be amazing if I could do this with more policies I support (or don’t) so I feel more confident making up my own mind. If I write to or call a representative I can properly offer my opinions and feedback without doubting myself (usually very difficult, as someone with anxiety). Giving the public facts and figures to back up their opinions when Twitter is becoming a source people legitimately use is so important. I hope to see more books like this, or well-referenced pamphlets and articles, that allow me to understand what the actual fuck might be going on in politics these days.

Annie Miller was a lovely speaker and a lovely person. I particularly enjoyed a little dig she made at some of our existing policy makers, though she asked not to be quoted on that – so I’ll keep it a secret. I appreciate the years of work she’s done building her idea and making it available to everyone, and I hope many will consider following in her foot steps. I highly recommend spending some time on her preface, which is wonderfully thought out.

If you want to learn more about Basic Income, make sure to pick up a copy of the book when it is released on Monday. And if you’re interested in your future, make sure to stay educated about policy when you can.

Check out basicincome.org for more info