Nick Boles MP states that “mankind is hardwired to work” (Tories should morally object to universal basic income, says MP, 29 December). This claim is based in ideology, not evidence. Some jobs may have associated benefits, such as physical activity (unless you are a desk worker) and social contact (unless you are a lone worker or bullied by colleagues), but the term “work” is too all-encompassing to assert that evolution has hardwired us for it. There were no oil rig workers, cardiac surgeons or train drivers when the evolution of the modern human brain was under way.
By contrast, the need for sleep really is hardwired, yet the world of work does not cater for the body’s natural rhythms of sleeping and waking, and most of us depend on a psychoactive drug (caffeine) to get us through the day. Sometimes this is supplied by our employer. There would be less sickness absence if people were able to sleep more (the afternoon siesta in some cultures is related to the body’s natural rhythms). However, such is the Tories’ lack of care about real human needs that it now appears that they are planning to scrap the working time directive (Report, 18 December). Progressive thinkers should view increasing automation as an opportunity to rethink work, including an expansion of leisure time for all and a universal income to support those displaced by robots in finding new work.
Dr David Hardman
Trustee, London Hazards Centre
• By Nick Boles’s argument, why allow anyone to inherit or accumulate enough money to “not feel the need to work”? The evidence shows that most people provided a basic income will work to improve their status. We are also hardwired to support community members, which is essential to survival for most primates. With our communities now national and global, we should focus on that part of our heritage and not draw the community boundary around our social class.
Issaquah, Washington, USA
• If Nick Boles’s Tory mind revolts at the idea of giving people “summat for nowt”, maybe the handout could be renamed? In the 1980s the Conservative government introduced an Enterprise Allowance, which I understand enabled many people well-known in today’s creative industries to make a decent living. Furthermore, as the MP seems unaware of what is involved in “nurturing plants”, I invite him to help pick the sawfly larvae off my raspberry canes in summer (gloves provided if squeamish).