Most people don’t even want to think about the system, let alone how it should be reformed. Fear and ignorance reinforce each other. But reasons for reform grow stronger and stronger every day. Besides the massive criminality and corruption that go unpunished even in the complacent West, there are troubles which may not originate in the way we create money, but which are mightily fed by it: war, inequality, unemployment, mental health, drug abuse, environmental destruction, climate change; unaccountable power in governments, corporations and wealthy individuals; loss of moral freedom; misuse of assets and human resources; booms and busts of the ‘business cycle’: the list could go on and on.
Greece is trying to provide a situation in which people, between the ages of 50-65, can remain attached to the job market even during (potentially extended) periods of joblessness.
The solution? A Guaranteed Basic Income.
Here's how it works. A basic income is a payment from that state that is granted to individual citizens, without means testing or having a work requirement. To its supporters it is a way of providing a basic standard of living to all citizens in a non-bureaucratic and direct fashion.
Last saturday, the board of the Green league (Finnish Green Party) presented its political platform for the next general elections, which included a proposal for a basic income in Finland.
In line with the current level of social security systems in Finland, the party has estimated the level of basic income at 560€ for all adults. It would replace most of the existing minimum social benefits such as the unemployment benefit and the minimum parental allowance. The party, who supports basic income for a long time already, has updated its model and has made the details available on its website. The survey concluded that 79% of Finns support a basic income policy if it “guarantees minimum subsistence, reduces bureaucracy and encourages work and entrepreneurship”.
Far from wasting the cash grants, as officialdom predicted, villagers invested them in renewing their houses and building latrines; bulk buying of foodstuffs; paying school fees and sending their children to school in uniform; investing in seeds and pesticides, goats and oxen, and at least one Jersey cow – which led to a significant shift from paid labour to self-cultivation; buying sewing machines for “own account” businesses making blouses, petticoats; treating unaddressed illnesses, such as TB and blindness, and remedying injuries. Often they pooled the extra cash, for example, to buy a communal television set, to repair the spire of their temple, to create a credit union. “This is our story,” said one woman who had been sceptical. “We have learned that we can always trust the poor”.
Does this mean that the basic income itself is not a realistic goal? On the contrary. Political goals of this nature are more or less realistic depending on how feasible the route to implementation is. In fact, it would be possible to move toward a scenario approximating the basic income, provided that sustained economic growth returns. However this would require a different path to implementation.
The aim in this sense is essentially to grant income security for all citizens without imposing stigma and demeaning controls on the poor. The basic income is simply one possible instrument of social policy for achieving that aim, among many others. It would be advisable for the proposal’s supporters, therefore, to adopt a strategy which avoids generating strong political opposition. Instead of pushing for a universal and unconditional basic income, it would be better to frame the discussion around the principles of welfare reform, income guarantees, the simplification of minimum income benefits, fostering personal autonomy, and poverty relief (without the stigma that comes with blaming the poor and the unemployed for their situation).
By adopting this strategy, we would quickly find ourselves in a situation where different sides of the debate would be defending the same goals that the basic income is intended to achieve, but within a frame that does not generate the same degree of opposition and which connects far more readily with citizens’ conceptions of ‘common sense’. We could also leave to one side the somewhat mundane debates over what is ‘truly’ a basic income – a purely ideological question that is largely irrelevant given the chances of implementing a ‘pure’ basic income at the level of the poverty line are essentially zero.
Only the poorest Croatians are eligible for the program, which is intended to reach about 60,000 people. Debt relief recipients must earn less than 1,250 kuna per month — about 15 percent of the average national wage — and have debts smaller than 35,000 kuna ($5,100). Forgiving such debts will cost between $31 million and $300 million. That total will fall on a mixture of government treasuries and private companies, including multiple banks, telephone companies, and utilities, who will hope to benefit in the long run from improved economic conditions that could follow the debt forgiveness.
In fact, it’s more than doable. Economists Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim came to this conclusion by calculating the effects of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — that’s far higher than what the president and congressional Democrats have proposed, and is more on par with rates paid in the other Washington.
The public venture funds’ share of profits from the commercialization of new technologies would be returned to ordinary citizens in the form of a “social innovation” dividend – an income stream that would supplement workers’ earnings from the labor market. It would also allow working hours to be reduced – finally approaching Marx’s dream of a society in which technological progress enables individuals to “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner.”
The first thing I thought when I finally paid off my student loans was not so much the elation of having achieved something, but that I just got a raise.
I've had at least $100 every month subtracted from my earnings for two decades, and with this burden finally gone, I now have over $100 more to spend every month. This should be obvious, but I don't know how obvious it really is.
Right now when a student graduates from college, they are losing about $242 per month ( on average) out of their earnings to this debt. Meanwhile, 16.5% are paying about $450 and 8.5% are paying about $750 or more. This is money not being spent on restaurant meals, or movie theaters, or concerts, or new clothing, or vacations, or gifts, or services, or art, or furniture, or cars, or home appliances, or home improvements, or even homes. This is money not being spent into the economy.
In other words, and most importantly, this is money not being spent to create each other's incomes.
After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn't make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn't just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren't even a convenient way to get around.
Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A U.K. study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots.
Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.
Leisure activity in consumer culture is usually ready-made and pre-designed – and within it’s predicable banality it’s no wonder that the ‘magical’ has grown in popularity and most importantly, profitability.
Where’s the fun?
The ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ magical options are astounding in their variety – the Crowley-ites, Queens of the Nights, fey Renaissance fairs, the law of attraction, tricked out tantrikas, the burning people – all kinds of allure from ordinary reality – a little love and light, or a little light bondage will bridge the gap between boredom and consumption.
Consumer culture loves the mainstreaming of the occult. It sustains and maintains what it needs most to thrive – our energy, self-absorption and our self-interest. The mainstreaming of magic offers a ‘more’ real world of the esoteric – a clever choice for sophisticated audiences who poo-poo what is ordinary.
You said that having an unconditional basic income has radically altered your life. How so?
After I stopped working earlier this year and started living off the approximately $1,300 I get out of my company, I just wanted to put my feet up and do nothing. Instead, I found a crazy drive to do things. I had a million new business ideas, I take care of my daughter, and I work for a local community radio. I buy less shit, I live healthier, and I'm a better boyfriend and father.
Because you have more time for your girlfriend and daughter?
Because I'm more laid-back. The pressure is gone. My working conditions were great even before, because I was running my own company and could pretty much do what I want. But making money was tied to conditions. Now, I do everything I do because I want to—and all of a sudden it’s twice as much fun.
With all this activity around the world, interest in the formation of an American political movement for Basic Income is growing. Toward this effort the USBIG Network will host an open meeting for anyone interested in a political movement for Basic Income in the United States. Everyone is welcome to attend. All points of view are encouraged. It will be an open discussion with no preset agenda and no list of speakers.
Let’s get together; talk it over; and see what happens.
PACT: Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency (formerly Online Party of Canada)
The newest registered federal political party, promoter of Participatory Democracy, Online Voting, Referendums, Live Leaders’ Debates. Just what a majority of Canadians said they want, as per a recent Ipsos National Poll.
This is a grassroots political organization that represents the Canadian voters in the most inclusive, fair and accurate manner, eliminates partisanship by focusing on individual Issues, and whose representatives are being held responsible for their actions by instant vote and count, based on our own, first and only, ‘PACT Accountability Oath.’
This is a revolutionary introduction of Internet technology to the political process. It operates online and promotes an innovative internal election system based on the leadership and accountability of its Representatives. This system compels all Representatives to support the Party’s official position on each of its issues, determined in a purely democratic manner, namely, as the simple majority opinion of all (verified) Canadian registered voters!
A universal basic income that has the ambition to ban poverty from the world, is then immensely expensive. That doesn’t need to surprise you. To give the poor (a minority in society) a basic income, you have to also provide a basic income to the large majority that doesn’t need it. This leads to new problems. The working majority receives a basic income that stands loose from labor efforts, but will have to pay extra taxes (and not a small amount) on their labor incomes. And that is the best way to weaken work incentives.
Conclusion: The only realistic system is one where the basic income is limited to those who need it. A universal basic income will never happen.
The momentum behind Basic Income has been gaining ground for some time now, with more and more media attention including articles in publications such as The Economist and the Washington Post and a community on reddit that just passed 20,000 subscribers and is still growing. That’s not to mention the huge amount of signatures collected for the European Citizen’s Initiative and the successful campaign for a Basic Income referendum in Switzerland.
Imagine the government started handing out $10,000 annually to every adult in the country, or implemented a negative income tax rate so that low earners and people out of work would receive tax money instead of paying it.
Sounds like the ultimate socialist scheme, doesn’t it? Exactly the sort of thing the business community and conservative economists would label a job-killing farce destined to create a nation of lazy, uncompetitive good-for-nothings.
But a growing number of economic thinkers -- and not only on the left -- are saying it could be the exact opposite: that it could be the policy idea of the century. While not exactly a silver bullet to solve all ills, it could eliminate poverty to a great extent, and set the stage for a healthier and more productive society.
And if that idea appeals primarily to those on the left, there is one principal reason why it would appeal to those on the right as well: It promises to reduce the size and intrusiveness of government.
This article was not written by a robot. But a decade from now, it could well be.
When people hear the now-familiar refrain “robots are taking our jobs,” they tend to think of robotic arms replacing assembly line workers. But let’s face it, that’s so last century. The robots — or apps, or drones, or whatever other form they may take — of the 21st century will be far more ambitious. They’ll be gunning for our best jobs.
Despite the range of economic, ethical and social justice arguments being made for a basic income, environmentalists seem to have largely missed the idea’s implications for sustainability. This should change. A basic income would remove the tension between saving the planet and supporting the working classes. Any economic structure which removes the financial incentive for ordinary people to destroy the planet is a good thing. People who depend on their environmentally destructive jobs for survival can hardly be blamed for dismissing the concerns of environmentalists. A basic income would give them the economic freedom to take climate change seriously. If the miners in Pride could have relied on enough money to remain in their community even after the pits closed, then the story might not have been so sad.
The mainstream political consensus has for decades now suggested that inequality is a price worth paying for economic growth. But new research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows definitively that this inequality/growth trade-off is false – adding to a growing body of research showing that inequality actually prevents economies from growing. This points to a fundamental structural flaw in the economy: if the proceeds of growth are not shared, the pie stops growing.
The pursuit of higher returns for the already wealthy within this dwindling pie cannot persist forever. With wealth refusing year on year to trickle down, debt has been used to plug the wage-consumption gap for the rest. The signals are showing quite plainly that this pursuit of growth, via inequality, is ineffective and unsustainable.