Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
The Green Party have received much attention of late: the Prime Minister demanded their inclusion in the television debates; their poll rating has vacillated between 4% and 11%; they are proving popular with nascent voters and their membership has swelled. Along with UKIP, the Greens show the traditional triopoly is fracturing. Prior to their inclusion in the televised debates, posters imploring “What are you afraid of, boys?” is indicative of the Green’s self-image as a progressive and modernist political party.
On the BBC Sunday Politics programme, the Green leader Natalie Bennett was extolling the virtues of the citizen’s basic income. According to the party website:
A Citizen’s Income sufficient to cover an individual’s basic needs will be introduced, which will replace tax-free allowances and most social security benefits. A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, non-withdrawable income payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It will not be subject to means testing and there will be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work.
The overall cost of this policy is precisely determined by the level of the universal demogrant. Whilst BBC interviewer Andrew Neil said it would be at least £72 per week for all adult citizens, the Scottish Greens suggested the basic payment would be £50 per week for children, £100 per week for adults aged between 16 and 65, and £150 per week for anyone older than 65. In practice, a citizen’s income rarely yields such large transfers: the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation divides dividends from Alaska’s oil extraction between its citizenry, with $878 per person in 2012 and $1,884 in 2014.
It is the expressed intention – rather than a side-effect – of the Green’s universal demogrant to weaken the pull towards full-time employment: “It will make full-time paid employment less necessary, and will encourage home-based and part-time employment, and work in the ‘third sector’.” Even after a costed proposal of this policy has been conjured into existence, this disincentive to work must be accounted for. As the tax base erodes, more monies must be extracted from people with lower incomes.
Their website also states: “Green policies are based on the principle that we need to reduce to a minimum the overall volume of international trade”, through trade tariffs and importation controls. This overthrows the notion of comparative advantage between nations, which economist Paul Krugman called “Ricardo’s difficult idea”. It is even noted that this “could have severe impacts on developing countries”. These tough restrictions on international trade must make the world poorer, diminishing the status of underdeveloped countries.
Alongside its desire for recession into rural idylls, the Green Party and UKIP are two distinct manifestations of the same phenomenon: revulsion at a globalised world. Whilst UKIP policies balk before Polish labourers and Romanian workers, the Greens are animated by the fear of German sausages and Korean televisions, polluting the green and pleasant land on their way to British houses.
Beneath the modern mask of the Green Party lie some ancient and unpleasant ideas.