AIMS: Agenda for Intelligent Modern Society

Agenda for an Intelligent Modern Society: AIMS

Summary

1                    The number of MPs must overall reflect votes cast

2                    The failed welfare state must be replaced by a basic UK Citizen Income

3                    As it passes responsibility back to citizens, Government must reduce the tax take by 50%

4                    Strong green tax strategies and low carbon action by government are now long overdue

5                    UK has to take the lead in reversing the population explosion

6                    Prison has to be reinvented for the 90% it fails to rehabilitate, and made harsher for the hardcore

7                    Social Enterprise is ready to take the place of Government in most areas.

These are key issues for the Enterprise Sector because:

  • Business in common with the population at large is crippled by the burden of Government
  • Business, especially the 99% which are small businesses, cannot compete with welfare to create jobs
  • Without a clear lead from Government, Business cannot afford to implement green, low carbon or social enterprise strategies
  • Business cannot absorb even the population we have now; with 10 bn people there is just not enough to go round
  • A mob of hungry, homeless, marginalised, unemployable people; unrepresentative pseudo-democracy; and a state in which 0.01% of the population is allowed to make everyone else’s life a misery; is a recipe for civil unrest which is not a context in which enterprise can flourish.

We also need less lawyers, career politicians and debating specialists; and more engineers, creatives and action-oriented leaders.

These changes create a society where everyone has every opportunity to contribute and responsibility is rewarded.

This Agenda has 7 main components: 

1                    Real Representation

2                    Citizen Income

3                    Small Government

4                    Sustainable Economics

5                    Population Management

6                    Prison Reform

7                    Social Enterprise

Real Representation

The number of MPs must overall reflect votes cast.

We have a pseudo-democracy.  No Government since 1945 has secured a popular mandate or represented more than 20% of the electorate.  As a result no Government has had the authority to make the radical changes which the massive shifts of the C20th demand.  Liberals and Greens command substantial support – variously 20 to 35% of votes cast and, if those votes counted, a great many more; 20% of the votes regularly gives Liberals 8% of MPs; 8% of votes has just delivered the Greens its first, one and only MP.  This is a travesty and a swindle.  In 1998 Blair shelved Roy Jenkins’ Commission proposals for AV+, in spite of accepting there was “a powerful case”.

Under the AV+ electoral system, proposed by the exhaustive Jenkins Commission in 1998, and accepted as “a well-argued and powerful case” by Prime Minister Blair, the number of MPs will more accurately reflect the proportion of votes cast.

Politicians are mystified why 40% don’t vote; they are in denial when told there is no point voting because most votes don’t count.  Many, even most, voters vote tactically to keep a party out, rather than to support what they really want. 

 AV+ overcomes all these injustices.  First Past the Post (FPTP) continues to elect 80% of MPs as now, and a really popular local Independent candidate can still thus get into parliament.  But 20% of MPs are selected from regional lists to top up the regional disparity.  As a result Tories in Scotland and the Northern Cities, Labour supporters in the Home Counties and Shires, Liberals and Greens everywhere have their views represented in Parliament and even Government.  There are then no more “wasted votes”, and turnout can be expected to rise sharply. 

The current system always delivers minority one party government with no mandate for its manifesto … until 2010 when the Tories had to accept a coalition with the Liberals, and some tempering of their policies.  The main objection to PR generally is that it tends to produce coalitions – those who make this objection prefer Governments supported by, at the very most, only 25% of the electorate, behaving as if they had won a mandate.  A tiny difference in votes can produce a completely unrepresentative landslide.  In North Africa and the Arab Spring countries, this absence of democracy has been a key cause of protests and rebellion.

If government is to recover any validity, and gain the authority to, if necessary, force through legislation on climate change and other elements of this Agenda, we must have proper Proportional Representation.  There are some very big radical changes that are now urgently needed.  It will take Governments that represent more than one narrow, partisan constituency to see them through, especially in the face of opposition from the treasury and civil service; smaller, simpler government means less power and smaller budgets for bureaucrats.

Politicians opposed to democracy are playing a cynical game over PR; to avoid the real debate (on AV+), they set up a completely irrelevant referendum on something else (AV); they then deployed an underhand campaign of lies and sophistry to scare the electorate.   The No Vote in the referendum on AV on May 5 2011 destroyed any prospect of democracy in Britain for a generation.

Politicians have been “debating” (ie filibustering) on this for 50 years, and most people are angry with the unaccountability and sleaze of politics.  Real representation could have saved the day.

Citizen Income (CI)

The failed welfare state must be replaced by a basic UK Citizen Income

The welfare state now costs us £180 bn pa, 25% of Government spend – that’s £8000 from every single household in the UK.   And this system has failed because it still leaves millions in poverty, demeaned, humiliated, discouraged … and criminalised if they attempt to secure a living.  It is the C21st’s answer to the Victorian workhouse and only ensures the perpetuation of an under-class.

The solution, a key feature of Liberal and Green manifestos for decades, is to scrap the whole convoluted mess and replace it with Citizen Income, a sort of tax credit paid to all UK Passport holders aged 16 and over.

There are so many benefits to CI (and no downsides) that it is hard to know where to begin … and harder to understand why no Government has introduced it.  It would have spared Gordon Brown his humiliation.  And polls have consistently shown that 50% of MPs and Lords support it.

The main beneficiaries are some 20 million adults who for one reason or another have too little income to take care of themselves and their families; this includes not just the unemployed, but the ill and incapacitated, carers of all kinds and those on low incomes including many pensioners.  Students, their parents, the self-employed and those nearing “retirement” also benefit.

Low income marginalises people, and most of our social ills emanate from poverty and the poor start it gives some 15% of our future citizens.  So we all benefit if those, even temporarily, in need are provided with an immediate, unconditional, non-means-tested, administratively simple safety net.

Currently the unemployed are paid a derisory benefit and pursued by fraud inspectors if they use their initiative to supplement this.  Even with the latest (IDS) reforms, their benefit may be withdrawn at any time and meanwhile they are taxed at 65% on their earnings.  A Citizen Income would instead pay them say £72/week (see below) which they would continue to receive in perpetuity; their additional income would be taxed at 35% (inc NI).

The benefit is perhaps most marked for those drifting in and out of employment.  On losing your job, you slowly realise that the dole is designed to cater only for long-term “claimant professionals”; you cannot claim for 8 weeks each time you leave employment, so if you take a 3 week job, you lose 8 weeks of benefit; some benefits, eg council tax reduction, can take up to 12 months to come through; and you are not allowed to seek assistance from  a Job Centre without an appointment which you have to make by telephone … and the Job Centre telephones are unmanned most of the time..

CI is in marked contrast to the nightmare of sanctions, incentives, job seeker schemes and mean-spirited means testing.  You are receiving CI while you have a job, so the day you lose it, you still have CI; if you find some part-time, seasonal or self-employed work, you keep all your CI and pay tax on your earnings.  CI is flexible – it reflects the modern ebb and flow of employment, whereas the present system fails to cater for the vast grey area between the long gone “job for life” and the dole.  CI is the incentive to “get on your bike”.

Those on “incapacity benefit” have an especially poor deal from the present (and revised) system.  Many, even most, of the 800,000 who claim this benefit want to work and indeed can work … just not all the time or as reliably as employers reasonably require; so they have to claim incapacity to get any income at all and are then barred from working (or claim the dole and get taxed at 65%).  Under CI they receive £72/week and when they can work they are not penalised for supplementing their income.  Those left, in genuine disability, are then more clearly identifiable for assistance.  CI particularly helps those doing a little work with Social Enterprises; at present they cannot be paid anything, which is demeaning and vindictive; it undermines their vulnerable self-esteem.

As Galen said nearly 2000 years ago, “Work is the Therapy”.  For the 4 million in the categories above, taking an initial low-paid, part-time job should be incentivised not penalised, as that job will restore self-esteem and health, and could be the first step back on the ladder.  CI ensures “it always pays to work”, without all the impenetrable complexity of the present “system”.

CI delivers similar simplicity to times off work for sickness; it replaces SSP but also removes the sanctions on what you can and can’t do while off-sick.  Like “incapacity”, sickness is not always total.

The latest (IDS) reforms remove the Byzantine complications of Working Tax Credits, but parents combining work with child care get an even better deal from CI, because they can choose more flexibly and seasonally how they organise their lives.  Under CI, this flexibility also applies to couples starting families; instead of maternity and paternity payments, CI enables couples to choose more freely who will do what work when.  They no longer need to fear they are breaking any of the morass of rules and means tests.  And they can run their own lives, instead of having to do it the Government’s way.

Another group of carers continue to have an extremely raw deal – the 1.5 million carers of the elderly, without whom the NHS would have collapsed long ago.  CI would for the first time recognise their contribution and give them a non-means-tested allowance.  Parents being cared for by their young children similarly benefit.

Pensioners only benefit from CI in that if they have been thrifty and accumulated savings that produce an income, they will not lose a £ for every £ over the threshold.  At least initially, pensioners’ CI might need to be higher than the £72 suggested, perhaps from age 70.  But on the plus side, CI does introduce greater flexibility and freedom.  You might carry on working or work at something new; you might semi-retire earlier and free up a job for others; you could take sabbaticals and retraining years throughout mid- and later- life.  CI is a sort of pension that starts at 16.  Work, if it’s not gruelling physical work is good for our health, fitness and mental agility.  The pension was originally supposed to provide for about 5 or 10 years, so now improvements in medical care enable us to live to 85 or more, a higher Pension CI at 75 is generous.

Students face depressing choices under the present system – stay on at school to get better qualifications … and have nothing to live on; burden themselves with crippling debts in order to go to university; take on a low skill, low-paid job with no prospects; or enter the benefits poverty trap.  CI provides young people with some basic survival money, to be topped up with whatever work they can fit in around their studies.  It welcomes them to adult life instead of inflicting a depressing first experience from which many never recover.

CI provides incentives and support for all to work and make their contribution, but none more so than the self-employed.  CI gives a significant boost to the Enterprise Culture because it provides basic support to get started, and keep going through the difficult first 3 years.  The 80% failure rate (inside 2 years) can be expected to drop sharply.  And as self-employment usually involves reskilling and training, CI provides support during this time as well.

CI is a non-means-tested dividend, so the current disincentives to save and secure one’s own home are removed; you no longer lose your right to “benefit” just because you’ve not blown all your money on holidays and luxuries

CI helps businesses in 2 main ways.  It transforms a disaffected, over-stressed workforce into an enthusiastic pool of initiative.  Especially smaller businesses have difficulty justifying full-time and permanent jobs; but knowing a potential employee is already receiving £72 a week makes it easier for them to feel good about offering part-time or less well-paid work which can lead to better things.  The current 65% tax militates in exactly the opposite direction.

CI also removes the need to calculate, adjudicate and collect SSP, maternity/paternity pay, working tax or universal credits and NI (which needs to be integrated with income tax); with personal allowances abolished, everyone is taxed the same (35% up to £37,500 pa).

So we all benefit from a fairer distribution of the nation’s resources, replacing penal sanctions on effort with encouragement of responsibility and initiative, poverty with possibility, complexity with simplicity and transparency, an impenetrable maze of benefits (and 1050 allowances) with one simple Citizen Income.  We all benefit through increased dignity and self-respect, and less envy and negativity.  This will transform society, and empower government who will no longer need to juggle the conflicting claims of various disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

How Citizen Income works

For the sake of argument, let us start by distributing the £180bn welfare budget to the 48 million adults who qualify.  That’s £72 a week, £3750 pa.  All benefits and personal allowances are scrapped, and a combined tax and NI charge of 35% is levied on all income – a 4% point rise on present levels.

At £10,700pa, the tax/NI take equals the new CI (tax credit), so the tax system gradually recovers most of the Citizen Income paid out.  A couple can earn £21,400 without effectively being taxed, and those on the average income of £25000 pay about £800 less tax too.  But the government is no worse off; in fact it receives an extra £59bn by scrapping personal allowances, and £21bn from taxing incomes up to the national average wage at 4% points more; a similar increase on incomes above this raises another £10bn.  So the exchequer recovers nearly half the cost of the old welfare budget/new tax credit straightaway, and almost certainly a great deal more as millions on benefit are freed up to earn more … and spend more.  Compared to recent heavily unpopular and resisted “cuts”, Citizen Income is a massive money-spinner.

Small Government

As it passes responsibility back to citizens, Government must reduce the tax take by 50%.

David Cameron invites us to take personal responsibility (and Blair invited a partnership in his New Dawn speech).  Most of us would relish this, but it does mean government releasing control, relaxing its excessive responsibility for everything … and releasing the budget that goes with it.

 

The Bigger Society starts with very much Smaller Government.  The government currently spends (and therefore collects from us tax payers) £720bn pa; that’s £32000 per household, £15000 from every adult voter.  For starters a quarter of this will be returned to the tax payer as a Citizen’s Dividend.  For starters.  As responsibility is handed back to the people, the burden of tax and government should reduce by a further 10% in real terms for at least the next 4 years.

Enterprise (and Finance) makes the money; government spends it.  At 55% of GDP, Government, the admin function, is far too big.  As each department grows, it proliferates bureaucracy which adds cost out of all proportion to output.  Throwing money at for instance the NHS or schools simply increases this proliferation; the bigger the hole the faster it swallows money.  In the world of Enterprise, shortage of funds and diminished margins force creativity and inventiveness; government lacks this mechanism, but the way to make the public sector more efficient and productive is to starve it of funds and borrowing.

The target is to halve government spending by 2015, though half of this reduction is achieved through scrapping welfare and replacing it with a basic Citizen Income.  CI is therefore the first priority, and once it is in place (2012) and responsibility has been handed back to the people, CI can be increased and charges can be levied for health care in particular.  There are some areas from which government will withdraw altogether, such as industry and enterprise – it will simply create an intelligent level playing field and leave Enterprise to do the rest, with the handcuffs off.  Other areas, such as policing and the judiciary, can be shrunk as an intelligent prison system targets hard core crime and the fat that has accumulated is worked off.

Work expands to fill the time available; most of this work is non-essential and can be quietly dropped.  To prove this point: in Rank Xerox in the ‘80’s, a sizeable group of senior managers were invited to go self-employed and work part-time for Xerox.  They were offered the various reports and monitors they had always had … but at a true cost of production eg around £650 for a monthly sales report (30 years ago!); none decided they still needed these reports and better solutions were found.

Sustainable Economics

Strong green tax strategies and low carbon action by government are now long overdue.

We need to use fewer resources every year, not more.  Commodities like copper, silver, rare metals, phosphates and timber will soon go the way of oil.  We simply have to temper our greed and acquisitiveness, our “affluenza”, and stop turning more and more of the planet into rubbish.  Recycling is still embryonic and taxation still fails to discriminate against virgin materials and built-in obsolescence.

 

If we had acted on what was obvious 50 year ago, we in the UK would now be leading the world in green, solar, low carbon production, and the skilled engineering workforce dumped by Thatcher in the ‘80’s would have been diverted into the only industry we can afford to have grow – what again in the ‘80’s was described as the SHE economy, “Sane, Humane, Ecological”.  Otherwise and overall, we need to move towards zero growth as our target.  Someone has to take the lead on this, and it’s us.

Something like 40% of the general public now take serious energy-saving measures.  The green agenda has been promoted and pioneered for over 50 years, and has now passed from the usual ridicule and resistance to be clearly visible on the political radar.

Government now has to instigate the policies which will create a clear, level playing field for business; it must also set a good example in the pressing necessity of cancelling the Carbon Footprint.

In deciding the order of priorities for government, account has been taken of ease of application, economic effectiveness, degree of environmental impact, prejudice and continuing resistance.

 

The Green List for Government

1 Cut street lighting by 75% – half the lamps for half the time.  This on its own exceeds our Kyoto commitment

2 Transfer the burden of taxation onto unsustainable production and distribution operations, high-energy use, and processes using virgin raw materials (paper, copper, glass etc).  Tax petrol/diesel rather than the Road Fund License; make recycled paper and glass cheaper than virgin materials; make high food mile products more expensive than locally produced

3  Promote community-based third sector Social Enterprise, through a 5 year rolling plan of funding and support (instead of turning the tap on and off every 3-6 months)

4  Ban tropical hardwood and biofuel imports, patio heaters and peat products; during the 5 year withdrawal period, tax them increasingly heavily

5  Devolve planning and taxation powers to local communities

6  Promote measures of Quality of Life and personal evolution such as The Happiness Index instead of GDP; measure key determinants of the sustainability of the natural environment – air and ocean pollution levels, forest area increase, population changes – and announce all these measures at the same time as the monthly base rate update

7  Cancel the Carbon Footprint.  In the end the only way to reduce the carbon footprint is to reduce the number of footprints (see Population Management).

Population Management

UK has to take the lead in reversing the population explosion.

When the writer was born there were 2bn people on the planet, now there are 7 and we are threatened with 10.  We are become a plague.  Reducing the carbon footprint means reducing the number of footprints.  Otherwise we face shortages of (and conflicts over) water, food, land and housing.

 

The UK is a heavily overpopulated island, so we should follow the lead of catholic Italy which has managed to reduce its population.  The goal is quality of human life, not quantity of human lives however miserable they are.  Nothing Draconian is needed, just awareness and removal of incentives to procreate.

India traded radios for vasectomies; China’s one child policy was notorious.  Their awareness of the need to manage population was creditable but nothing so violent is needed.  A campaign along the lines of the anti-fur or Clunk Click seat-belt campaigns will suffice to change awareness and behaviour.  We also need to scotch the sophistry that we need more people for economic growth and to pay for a growing number of pensions.  People do not create wealth, they just cost.  Enterprise creates wealth.  So there will be more resources to pay for pensions if there are fewer people, and in future therefore fewer pensioners.  In any case state pensions and elderly care are paid from the 23% of income we all paid as National Insurance.

The awareness needed is that every woman is entitled to (and encouraged to have) one child; and if every couple have 2 children, the population stabilises.  So instead of paying £25 per week for every child, there will be a first payment of £36 a week (half the Citizen Income rate, but in addition to the CI every woman receives) for the first child which is the one that incurs the most cost, and nothing thereafter.  Childless women might also qualify for larger pensions.  This is consistent with giving parents responsibility and choice; large families are a lifestyle choice.  As with CI, only UK passport holding women will qualify.

Policies such as are common in Australia and the USA, strictly restricting immigration and citizenship to certain jobs and ages, will be introduced together with a 10 year moratorium on all new citizenships.

If the UK can stabilise and then reduce its population to 60 million, and show that happiness and quality of life rises (as it assuredly will), other countries especially China, India and perhaps even Africa will see the logic and follow suit.

Prison Reform

Prison has to be reinvented for the 90% it fails to rehabilitate, and made harsher for the hardcore.

Prison Reform is part of these “AIMS” because prison deals with those who fail (often through no fault of their own. or as a direct result of poverty) in their responsibilities to society.

We have far too many people in prison, and most of them should not be there.  Some ¾ are either mentally inadequate and need to be cared for, or so driven to desperation by the hopelessness of their condition that they resort to crime simply to survive … and they are not very good at it.

Citizen Income will overcome or at least mitigate these problems by alleviating the poverty which causes most crime, and Social Enterprise will do the rest.  Many of these vulnerable people and most of the rest fall prey to drugs and drug dealers; Social Enterprise is again part of the answer.

The remaining 10% are the real core of what prison needs to deal with.  Prison needs to be a seriously harsh regime for the hard core of outlaws; this hard core amounts to just 6000 people or 0.01% of the population who make life a misery for the decent 99.9%.

Dante’s Inferno is the model for the new prison system.  Most will never enter it, but all first offenders will be shown what awaits them if they reoffend.

The first circle of prison is a high quality retraining and reskilling enterprise, open to all voluntarily as well.  The second circle is “prison proper” with most creature comforts removed; compliance wins the prisoner promotion to the first circle; deviance, violence, bullying, gang activities, attempted take-over, bribing warders, victimising, threatening or harassing other prisoners all take one further into the third circle, where all “human rights” are forfeited and Citizen Income is withdrawn.  Only compliance takes you back from there to level 2 and so on; further deviance takes one deeper with progressively harsher conditions.  Serious repeat offenders automatically start in lower circles and have to work their way out.  The 7th circle houses the most incorrigible 600 or 0.001%.

Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise is ready to take the place of Government in most areas.

Government bureaucracy is not good at detecting and solving social issues; the exceptions are probably quasi-social enterprises already.

Social Enterprises, charities, voluntary organisations and other ethical enterprises play a large part in providing care.

Especially those who currently swell the prison population quite inappropriately are better handled by social enterprise funded by government.  10% of the welfare budget or £18bn should be enough, and as each prisoner costs us £45000 pa (more than most public schools charge), that’s where the first £2.7bn comes from.  As it becomes clear that crime is a really nasty option, crime will reduce, and the cost of crime with it.

Those who need more support than Citizen Income are similarly best handled by Social Enterprise/charity.  The mechanisms are all in place, and useful local government initiatives can with advantage transfer out of the state sector.

Also many who are currently reluctant to do a bit of work for a charity will now join in, because no-one will be watching and reporting them to have their incapacity or dole money withdrawn.  Work is the therapy and these contributions to the local Social Enterprise will often lead to more gainful employment.

Conclusion

Government is increasingly distant from the people.  This Agenda brings us together inclusively; and stops us sleepwalking into disorder.  More people with more money in their pockets is a much better recipe for success.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens cannot change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”    Margaret Mead.

Andrew Ferguson

MA Oxon, FRSA, FIC, FCIM

Chartered Marketer, SFEDI Business Advisor

T: 020 7473 5544

E: andrew.ferguson@lifeshift.co.uk

www.LifeShift.co.uk

March 2011 (updated July 2011)

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