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GERMANY: Major non-profit research organization hosts basic income debate

On December 1, 2016, the Volkswagen Foundation (VolkswagenStiftung) hosted a panel discussion on unconditional basic income in Hanover, Germany.

Not to be confused with the Volkswagen Group (the unaffiliated auto manufacturer), VolkswagenStiftung is a non-profit organization dedicated to research and education. The foundation is Germany’s largest private funder of research in the humanities, social sciences, and science and technology.

As part of its mission, VolkswagenStiftung hosts public events to keep the public informed of developments in a variety of fields. One of its recent events was on the topic of unconditional basic income (“bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen”):

Its advocates demand for each citizen an income independent of work and personal need. In Germany it should be between 800 and 1500 euros. The arguments of the advocates: the stigmatization of the unemployed can be eliminated, freedom for self-realization can be strengthened, and social bureaucracy can be dismantled. The opponents predict, however, that the future of the welfare state is endangered if income is no longer linked to personal performance. The principle of mutual assistance based on the principle of reciprocity would be undermined.

VolkswagenStiftung’s basic income event began with talks from two professors — Michael Opielka (Institute for Social Ecology and the Department of Social Affairs at Ernst Abbe Jena University) and Stephan Lessenich (Department of Sociology at the University of Munich) — both of whom are members of the Scientific Advisory Board of BIEN’s German affiliate, Netzwerk Grundeinkommen.

Following their opening lectures, Opielka and Lessenich joined a panel discussion and debate with two critics of basic income: Jutta Allmendinger (President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center) and Michael Sommer (former National Chairman of the German Trade Union Federation, DGB). An article on the event from Netzwerk Grundeinkommen points out that Allmendinger has opposed UBI in previous discussions, including an exchange with the billionaire entrepreneur and UBI proponent Götz Werner. Allmendinger worried that a UBI would either be too small to be impactful or too large to be financed and to continue to incentivize work. Sommer has attacked UBI for discounting the value of work.

Audio recordings of VolkswagenStiftung’s events are available on its website.

Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan 

Photo: Herrenhäuser Gärten, CC BY-SA 3.0 John D.

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 500 articles.

I was a statistician, then a philosopher, then a journalist for a certain Basic Income News, and I have never been the sort to wed myself to any specific position or career path. (I have always chosen to remain in the precariat for this reason: my sense of duty is strong enough that I’d risk imperiling my own self-development if I were to accept a permanent position.) If you want to learn more about what I’m about, and how I see my ideal roles in the basic income community going forth, read the “cover letter” of sorts that is my Patreon homepage (updated November 2017).

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