UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Universal Basic Prosperity: Sustainable prosperity for the 21st century

Universal Basic Prosperity: Sustainable prosperity for the 21st century

8 February 2022

Percy, A; (2021)

Technical development of economies leads to a conflict between the rising cost of collective needs and motivation. Without increases in welfare efficiency, safety is reduced. Reduced safety causes participation decay, creates a tax trap, results in lost productivity, incentivises environmental destruction, and leads to financial instability. Developed societies will have to deliver effective safety efficiently, as a precursor to addressing other problems. Effective satisfaction of safety needs at a cost that does not erode motivation would revive participation, foster reciprocity, boost productivity, license environmental sustainability, and enable financial stability. Mal-adaptation to resource pressures in developed societies has caused macro instability across social, economic, and environmental dimensions. A conflict in developed societies, between social safety and motivated opportunity, has been unfolding for a century, and intractable for the last 40 years. Problems of insecure livelihoods, unstable finance, and environmental destruction are outcomes of failed attempts to resolve that conflict. To resolve those problems and prevent decline, developed societies will need to strengthen reciprocity in their tax systems, so that they can increase the efficacy and efficiency of their welfare systems. This paper sets out to first clarify the roles of safety, opportunity, and participation, and the binding function of reciprocity in their arrangement. It then reviews the path of taxation in developed societies as they progressed from industrial economies to technically advanced economies over the 20th century. It demonstrates how attempts to suppress taxation, while preserving development status, are connected to insecure livelihoods, unstable finance, climate destruction, and weakened reciprocity. The last section proposes options for establishing strong reciprocity by reforming tax, fiscal and welfare arrangements, to align with achieving universal basic prosperity in the 21st century. The National Contributions report, released as an adjunct report, details tax reform proposals for the UK that conform with the proposals in this paper.

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