Michael Taft wrote an excellent blog piece recently on why the trades unions and the left should champion the self-employed. He was rightly careful to stress that the self-employed people he has in mind are those who want to be self-employed, and not those forced into bogus self-employment by unscrupulous employers.
Any progressive state programme to support self-employed people will ensure that they get support when they have no paid work, when they are ill, when they want to take time out from work for a holiday or to study or to care for others. A universal basic income would be the most straightforward and administratively simple ways to provide the financial stability and achieve the outcomes Michael Taft mentions for self-employed people and small businesses.
Basic income would be a boost to existing small businesses run by the self-employed and families. It would also free people to try out business ideas, and the businesses would be viable as long as they made some small profit. In case of business difficulties the people involved would have their basic income to fall back on. Basic income would also allow social entrepreneurs, who are not motivated by profit, to thrive. It would be a particularly good support for cooperative and partnership ventures. This system, by providing basic financial security for self-employed people and all involved in a business, would help small businesses and self-employment to grow and thrive.
In the very recently published survey report, The Future of Ireland, 44% of respondents said that financial security was one of the key ingredients for happiness. Basic income achieves basic financial security for all and in addition it puts a floor of support beneath those who want to try out ideas for self-employment or small businesses.
Any state that is serious about supporting a diversity of self-employment should introduce a basic income. We could afford to do this in Ireland at this time, pegged to existing social welfare rates, without changing our tax and revenue system. Read more at www.basicincomeireland.com and Social Justice Ireland pages on basic income.