Opinion: Resistance against Basic Income

basicincome-trap

Most readers here will agree, that Basic Income would be a good way to solve many problems which exist in our societies, but why is the idea not supported by the populace? Even worse! It seems there is a strong resistance against.

Isn’t it strange, that an idea, which suggest to benefit every individual, cannot find broad support? For instance: more than 311 million people in the United States live, but the USBIG-Network has only around 300 Facebook-fans and roughly 250 official members – and not all of them are from the States. In other countries the situation is similar. The portion of people who are active BI-supporters seems to be in the scope of one thousand or even less…

Of course, we could say, quantity does not equal quality – it is better to have some hundreds of high qualified scholars than millions of followers believing in their personal advantage. But this view misjudges the reality of our democratic systems with their majority voting.

At all times every great thought, every good idea which shook the world later, had to walk a hard and sometimes dangerous way against existing resistances. But the democratic system makes it even more difficult. While to contradict a monarch requires some courage, to disagree with a current opinion, the risk of being considered as insane or in the worst case, to be banned, extends the needed courage ad infinitum.

In the past, Basic Income had many more supporters – for instance in the time of Martin Luther King and the citizens’ movement of the 1960s. But we still have nowhere a country-wide Basic Income scheme and maybe hence only orthodox believers kept the idea alive.

Does it mean we who support Basic Income are all brave and open-minded heroes, because we fight the good fight? Or does it rather mean, we are only too dense to find a way of making people more interested in the idea?

I think, this does not reflect the truth. Of course, it would be great to have catalysts in terms of people like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga or George Clooney who are publicly known for their social commitments and who represent a kind of authority for many youths.

But globally people are searching for alternatives to the current systems. And the number of BI-supporters grows slowly, but steadily. More and more supporters suggest how to bring the idea into the general public, out of the often so called “ivory tower of science.”

One of the main problems is that there is no specific target group which is essential for marketing strategies. Another problem is that those who are affected by poverty are too busy to survive. And other people can choose between countless leisure activities. Most of them do not want to think about social solutions in their rare spare-time. Much less if the idea sounds utopian and for the near future not practical. Furthermore they elected a government exactly for the reason that it would deal with such issues.

Now we could say, it is the fault of governments not implementing a Basic Income scheme. But frankly speaking, governments are not elected to make trials. And there should be no doubt that Basic Income for all would change a lot; it might even cause people to begin to rethink the purpose of their life.

Further I want to question the necessity for governments to promote Basic Income. They got the mandate to maintain their respective society and not to affect the life of millions of potential voters.

As long as their is no insight into the necessity of the end of Basic Income, there is no reason to support this idea. The strongest resistance against Basic Income is the current situation which is considered as unchangeable and while we are powerless it is not wanted, but accepted with all its injustice.

However, the more people get acquainted with alternatives, often caused by their own circumstances, the more they question the given condition.

Maybe we should take this quote from Chekov to heart:

It is unfortunate that we try to solve the simplest questions cleverly, and therefore make them unusually complicated. We should seek a simple solution.

About Yannick Vanderborght

has written 311 articles.

8 comments

  • Edward S

    An essential issue – in fact, the key issue – for anyone concerned about the chances of ever introducing a BIG.
    There is just this huge disgust among a majority of citizens about taxpayers funding “layabouts”: the so-called right to be lazy. And the opposition is as strong or stronger among the working poor.
    On being elected the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Ed Milliband toured Britain, to have a direct contact with workers’ concerns. What was one of the main complaints of a group of shopworkers in these times of big business abuses? It was “welfare scroungers” – one of the reasons the present UK government came to power.
    I believe the author is correct in thinking that other eras were more receptive to the idea; e.g., the 1960s, with the hippy movement, but that associated the idea with drugs.
    What can be done to change mentalities?
    – confront the disgust head on, and make the case for a right to be lazy. I understand a Bertrand Russell pamphlet-book gained popularity among Argentinians during their crisis;
    – mobilise around petitions: that gives activists a purpose in engaging on the issue with citizens;
    – make further local trials or local permanent schemes;
    – propose local schemes or a national scheme on a trial basis: “All we are saying, is give BIG a chance!”

  • BIS

    I think it is mainly a communication issue. MLK e.g. used a language, words which reached the people. As long as the topic remains an academic one, with its typical language, it will not gain attention. It needs creative ways and a more direct approach to people, they need to feel inspirated to participation, not to simple support. This means also speaking _with_ people instead of to them.

  • Perce Harpham

    There may be several things coming together which will help.
    The Spirit Level has brought the issue of inequality into the popular mind. So has the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement.

    The Precariat has also struck a chord with some people.
    The rise of individual contracting to give employers flexibilty has highlighted the insecurity for workers.

    It has long been recognized that some unemployment is needed to provide flexibility in the job market. Our capitalist system really needs people to be “on standby” or “on call”. So it is reasonable that unemployed people and their support persons – in fact all persons – should be paid a standby wage.

    This is necessary for unions to survive. It is only if there is a basic wage that unions can balance the employers power to dismiss or lock out. Only then can unions bargain and if they cannot bargain there is no point in a union.

    Individual contracts without a basic wage will completely destroy unions. So hopefully as unions recognize this they will come in behind the movement.

  • Edgar Z. Friedenberg:
    “Ressentiment is the free-floating disposition to visit upon others the
    bitterness that accumulates from one’s own subordination and existential
    guilt at allowing oneself to be used by other people for their own
    purposes while one’s own life rusts away, unnoticed.”

    The work ethic as we have known it was beaten violently into generations, the (usually) father’s arm and hand the monotonous pendulum of ressentient revenge that swings all through history. The “work ethic” is bound up psychologically with centuries of trauma. Now we go against all that with an argument for a free lunch, which we’ve been brutalized into believing does not exist (except through inheritance). We must extend the concept of heritage, because it is technological heritage that offers us the BIG, which in turn offers a freedom long dreamed of.

  • Hamid Tabatabai

    That’s a good question. But there is good news too: it is no longer the case that “we still have nowhere a country-wide Basic Income scheme”. Iran has had one since December 2010. Every month, each household head gets the equivalent of about $40 multiplied by household size (e.g., $200 for a couple with three children). Over three billion dollars are paid out every month and 73 million people are covered. This de facto basic income is called ‘cash subsidy’ because it replaces price subsidies on fuel that are being cut off. The scheme proved to be the simplest way of compensating the population for the loss of price subsidies. It emerged because the resistance to basic income was overcome in clever ways (justified as compensation, not as hand-out; universal because everyone is hurt by subsidy cuts; financing assured from higher fuel prices, etc.). Most of all, because it helped solve a national problem (wasteful fuel subsidies) that everyone agreed had to be solved. The fact that it wasn’t called a basic income helped too! No-one was looking for it anyway. It came through the backdoor, which was the only way it could get in. There may be lessons in there for basic income advocacy. For further information: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/bis.2011.6.issue-1/1932-0183.1172/1932-0183.1172.xml?format=INT

  • I’m working on a project that might help here. The goal is to promote the idea of the BI to people who have never heard of it before… but not by teaching them scientific facts (=boring).

    Instead we ask them a simple question about THEIR life, make them think about the BI related to their own personal situation. The question is so simple and direct, one can’t resist thinking about it:

    ‘What would YOU do with a Basic Income?’

    This question can actually be answered at our website: people can submit videos, pics, songs… vote (‘like’) other submissions, discuss it… and at the end we compile it to viral movies.
    We combine our question with a strong call-to-action:
    ‘UNLEASH YOUR LIFE!’

    The results (hopefully): participation, strong engagement, an overwiew of what people actually think about the BI, …

    Check out our project: http://life-unleashed.net

    Could this be a solution? 🙂

  • I approach Basic Income from the perspective of citizen owners. Citizens, as owners of their country, should receive income raised from common properties (such as oil, land, telecommunication wave, etc.) This avoids the unpleasant idea of taxing the rich to give to the poor.

    In sharp contrast, a citizen income is returning income to the rightful owners – the citizens. It is giving everyone, including the poor, what is rightfully theirs. Governments have misappropriate citizen income away from their rightful owners. This is more in accord with the Alaska Permanent Fund, with income from sources other than oil revenue, such as sovereign wealth fund or land sales.

  • Those advocating for Basic Income need to consider where the money is going to come from. We need to work with those advocating for carbon fee-and-dividend as a way to control global warming – in other words, Citizens Climate Lobby

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