by Steve Cook
So here is a wild idea.
There are currently, at a rough guess, 1.5 million people on unemployment benefits in the UK (someone can correct me if I got the number wildly wrong).
Being unemployed if you actually want to work is pretty bad for one’s morale and, of course one’s, standard of living.
So how about we do this:
Without changing the benefits system in any way, we offer unemployed people (say) £100 per week for (say) ten hours work on envoironmental projects.
The reason I say this does not involve changing the benefits system is that the purpose of this idea is to give people on benefits a chance to make a bit of extra money doing something very needed and wanted for the country and the environment. I don’t want to go the route of using the unemployed as cheap labour by making them work for their meagre benefits – it is too open for abuse. Others may disagree and that debate is a separate issue that I don’t want to distract from the idea I am putting foward here and which can and should be discussed elsewhere.
So we offer people on benefits a hundred quid a week for agreeing to work for, say, ten hours a week – something basic but a fair enough exchange for their work – on an environmental project.
It is their free choice whether they take up the offer or not but if they do, it gives them a chance to supplement their dole with some extra money.
An example of an environmental project would be planting trees. We need more trees. Trees are the lungs of the planet, breathing in CO2 and breathing out oxygen. A major contributor to the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere – and a depletion of oxygen levels – has been deforestation and a concerted effort to reverse deforestation will help restore the natural recycling of CO2.
Of course we can plant other flora besides trees and there are plenty of other environmental projects that could be done. I am sure you can think of some but let’s use planting trees as our example here.
Let’s imagine that half a million people decide to take up the offer of joining the Environmental Rescue Task Force (ERTF) (I just made the name up). They each work for ten hours a week and are paid a hundred quid.
An awful lot of trees can be planted in 5 million man-hours a week
Where will the money come from? I hear you ask. The cost of paying all those people would be £50 million a week or roughly £2.5 billion per year, which is a fair amount of money and apparently very roughly the cost of running the Trident programme.
So one way of financing it might be to scrap the Trident programme (says he, controversially).
But here is a better idea:
Why not have the government just print the money and pay it out to people on the project?
But won’t that be inflationary? You can’t just print money!
Actually, “just printing money” is what the banking sector is doing all the time, day in and day out and then getting it into circulation by lending it to people. Currently the government prints a very tiny percentage (less than two percent I think) of all the money in circulation.
Printing a bit more will not be inflationary if the economy can absorb it. Currently the economy is extremely short of money (spending power) as evinced by the fact that everyone and his cousin has to borrow in order to buy all the goods and services available. They borrow off the banking sector through loans, credfit cards, hire purchase and so forth and the banking sector creates it out of thin air in order to lend it.
A few billion pounds a year is not going to cause inflation. Even if it did, there are ways to handle it, which I’ll not discuss here for fear of making this article extremely long.
So the government prints the money, pays it to the people working on the ERTF.
The people on the ERTF take the money and GO OUT AND SPEND IT.
What do they spend it on? They spend it on buying goods and services from industry: food, shoes, dishwashers, paint, car valeting whatever.
Industry makes more money and increased demand stimulates production , requires more workforce and thus boosts employment, helping get people off the dole.
The people on benefits get a boost to their morale and sense of stake in the society. The increased gainful work exerts a healing influence on mental health problems, crime, drug abuse and so on.
And while all that is going on, the environemnt is getting fixed up, which in turn provides another boost to national morale.
Supplying the economy with debt-free money created by the government and spent into circulation is what SHOULD be happening in any case and indeed WOULD be happening if we happened to be living in a sanely run economy. This project, to the degree that it begins the process of getting debt-free money into circulation will exert a downward pressure on currently astronomical debt levels (the existence of a stock of circulating money at the moment depends upon people, industry and government carrying debt).
This is a game where everybody wins.
Why not let’s play it?