Episode 164 – 30th November 2012

This week: ZOMBIES at the LHC, who won the first annual Good Thinking Soc Science Blog prize, we speak to sci-fi writer Jasper Fforde, who was a judge on the Royal Society’s Winton Prize, we check in with Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta about his new book, try to save the naked scientist, posit a radical idea for changing benefits and find out why Argos is powered by nanotechnology.

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Science Blogging Awards (1:57) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre, Suzi Gage & More)
The Winton Prize (17:14) by Liz Lutgendorff (ft Jasper Fforde)
Decay (23:35) by James O’Malley (ft Luke Thompson, Clara Nellist and Michael Mazur)
Young Atheists Survival (32:23) by Salim Fadhley (ft Hemant Mehta)
Universal Basic Income (40:24) by Steven Sumpter
Naked Scientists (48:36) by Kat Arney
Argos Conspiracy (53:46) by Sean Ellis
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy and Brian Two

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4 thoughts on “Episode 164 – 30th November 2012

  1. Another great podcast!
    ‘Universal Basic Income’ from my own bitter experience with unemployment in the past, as well as stories I have heard. I can fully understand why such a system would be an improvement on our current one.

    I could easily write a whole blog post on this, (maybe I will!) but I do disagree on one important point. A U.B.I. policy would only work if it replaced *all* benefits, including disability ones. Disability would still be means tested, still require lots of administration, and an excuse to keep a huge bureaucracy rolling.

    If you paid everybody their tax allowance, which would be set at a minimum wage x 35hrs a week. This isn’t as harsh as it sounds; even if you are quite disabled you could still do one or two days a week.

    The NHS currently provides an ‘equipment loan service’ to provide equipment. which could be improved or replaced with a grant system for capital costs, but all living costs for both disabled and just about coping people should be met from the allowance.

    It’s a good idea. I’m not sure I will live long enough to see any politician with the balls to try it.

  2. Strictly speaking, DLA isn’t means-tested – everyone gets the same amount regardless of their income or savings. Yes, it would need to be administered, but being-disabled is a relatively stable status (compared to being-unemployed), so the costs of bureaucracy would be pretty light.

    Has anyone done a proper economic analysis of UBI? Could we genuinely produce enough stuff to feed, clothe, house and entertain ourselves etc.?

    My ill-informed addition to the proposal would be that we scrap all taxes except VAT. Yes, VAT is regressive, but the UBI should compensate for that; and think of the advantages of getting rid of tax loopholes!

  3. The main criticism of Basic Income is: “If they get it all paid for them then they just won’t work, Mate!” But the idea that people need a whip-cracking negative incentive to work is a myth. It’s a myth very widely-held in Britain unfortunately and is promoted by much-respected political figures and some of our best-selling newspapers. EG Norman Tebbitt: “Get on your bike!” And it’s an insulting myth! Duiring recession of the 1980’s unemployment rose to over 4 million, yet after that receson, in the late 90’s, it fell to less that 500,000. Why do people suddenly and mysteriously stop being lazy scroungers only interested in sitting in front of the TV swilling Special Brew during boom-times? I moan about having to go to work sometimes, but last year, when I was off sick for several weeks, I couldn’t wait to get back! The truth is: in a stable, secure and just society nearly everybody would still take the option of earning their own living and pulling their weight.

  4. You have no idea what a powerful idea the Citizens’ (Basic) Income is. I am 78, but I still hope to see hundreds of thousands of er, scroungers in cities all over the country carrying placards with the graph on my blog

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