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The Netherlands: the aversion towards an unconditional basic income, summarized in seventy objections

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Credit Picture CC Flickr.com / Foam: Futures of the Universal Basic Income

 

Reyer Brons, editor-in-chief of Vereniging Basisinkomen (Association for Basic Income), the Dutch branch of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), and also member of the Network for Political Innovation (NPI, a Dutch think tank), has, in recent months, collected about seventy objections that people might bring up in discussions about (the introduction of) an unconditional basic income (UBI). All objections are subdivided into twelve themes and provided with a short explanation and a refutation or relativisation.

The intention of the work is to give people some background information which can help them in debates about the UBI with supporters and opponents of the policy. As the complete work is rather comprehensive and written in Dutch, only the themes and objections will be presented in this article. An overview of all objections is given (unfortunately only in Dutch) on the website of the NPI with links to the full descriptions. The arguments are also published on the website of the Vereniging Basisinkomen, in a special category of objections (‘Bezwaren’).

In this article, a first example is presented, a short description of an argument with its concomitant explanation and relativisation. Then, some other themes and objections are listed.

For instance, one of the arguments under the theme ‘Implementation’, states “We cannot oversee the long-term effects”.

The objection is followed by a short explanation, that notes:

“It is probably true, that disadvantages of the introduction of a basic income will become obvious in time. However, it will be regarded as an acquired right by that time and therefore it is to be expected that negative developments will evoke opposition among the general public. For example, lowering the level of the basic income would lead to major problems, because many people will not be prepared to face the reduction.”

Subsequently a refutation is given:

“This type of argument is fatal for every policy change. Of course, there will be unforeseen effects, but what policy has none? There are many examples of unexpected consequences, but it did not stop progress. Who could have thought that the exploitation of gas fields in Groningen [a province in the north of the Netherlands] could cause serious earthquakes after decades of drilling? Or that fatal traffic accidents could increase again as a result of the introduction of the smartphone?
In the course of time, society will change in a variety of ways due to the introduction of the policy. Proponents look forward to experience with an unconditional basic income. In their eyes, the effects will have a strong positive influence on society. Furthermore, it is also possible to model the long-term effects (e.g. via micro simulation studies).
If undesirable long-term effects arise, further measures must be developed to counteract the unfavorable consequences. This also applies to the current welfare system. It must be understood that the adverse effects of the current system can hardly be tackled, until that system is thoroughly addressed. When economic conditions deteriorate in a given society, it cannot be ruled out that the basic income payment must be lowered, but the same applies to current benefits. On the other hand, it also cannot be ruled out that the payment will increase over time.”

All objections are listed below, arranged by theme:

1. Common misconceptions

  • Basic income is a utopian dream or a fantasy
  • Basic income is a hype or a cult
  • Basic income means free money and that is not possible
  • Basic income is a new and still immature idea
  • Basic income is a new label for the same old social security system
  • Basic income is unaffordable or antisocial

2. Values and philosophy of life

  • Reciprocity is necessary for the legitimacy of the social state and its moral support, that means that an unconditional basic income cannot be solidary
  • Having a paid job gives dignity, status and a sense of social integration, basic income will make people lazy
  • With basic income, young people no longer take the trouble to study
  • Only a small group of people is capable of handling freedom well
  • Basic income leads to an increase in the use of alcohol and drugs
  • Basic income is bad for the emancipation of women
  • The basic income lowers the participation of women at the labor market (they might stay at home to look after the children or take up other unpaid care work)
  • Talents remain unused
  • Basic income promotes overpopulation
  • People always want something more than they see with someone else, therefore they will begrudge someone a basic income
  • The group consisting of free-riders, maladjusted or anti-social people will grow, if there is basic income for everyone
  • Many are annoyed by the behavior of free-riders, profiteers and anti-socials. Those people are not worth to get a basic income. If they should receive the payment, it would be disastrous for its acceptance

3. Social vision and ideology

  • The idea of a basic income goes in the direction of communism, and that is bad
  • Basic income is a socialist idea, that cannot work
  • It is a reprehensible neoliberal idea
  • Basic income creates an undesirable class distribution in society or a strengthening of it
  • Basic income increases the chance of ghetto formation
  • Basic income increases the power of the state and makes citizens passive and dependent
  • Basic income requires unjust redistribution and is actually just theft
  • Basic income is a Trojan horse, as soon as it is introduced, massive savings on government spending will be realized

4. Economy

  • Basic income is unaffordable
  • Basic income does not use sophisticated information and is therefore cumbersome and limited in its goals
  • A basic income causes a huge inflation
  • Introduction of the UBI will lead to higher taxes and that is bad for innovation and industry
  • Basic income worsens the position of the Netherlands on the international market
  • Basic income will boost the informal economy, illegal transactions and fraud
  • Basic income promotes consumption and is therefore a catastrophe for the environment
  • Basic income means that fewer people will accept work, hence the economy will stagnate or shrink

5. Job market

  • Nobody wants to accept unpleasant work after the introduction of an UBI
  • Many people will be satisfied with the basic income payment
  • The loss of income due to unemployment will have a much greater effect with a basic income than in the current situation without a basic income
  • If you give people a basic income, that means that you let them down
  • Paid work is no longer necessary, so the meaning of work will ebb away. Which fulfilling, decent activity will replace it?

6. Government and bureaucracy

  • Basic income makes us all too dependent from government
  • The provision of cash to people is not a task for the government
  • A basic income turns us all in benefit claimants
  • Basic income will never be high enough in order to eliminate all bureaucracy
  • Basic income promotes corruption of the government

7. Borders and migration

  • The Netherlands on its own is too small for a basic income
  • Basic income promotes immigration, especially of economic refugees
  • Basic income is discriminatory for foreigners, who want to settle here, if the payment is only for residents
  • Basic income promotes unwanted emigration
  • Basic income promotes the closing of borders

8. An unconditional basic income will not solve the really important problems

  • People with a lot of debt are no better off with a small basic income
  • The growing inequality will not be resolved
  • Introduction of an UBI is not good for the environment
  • It is a solution from the system world, problems in the real world will not be solved

9. Interests

  • Trade unions lose their position of power and are therefore against the policy
  • Employment at social security agencies is at stake
  • Basic income means a radical change in our common live as a society, which is of no interest for the ruling elite
  • Most people don’t like the idea of an unconditional basic income

10. Procedures and institutions

  • It is not in our hands, it is up to other people to decide on basic income
  • The policy is too big for us to handle, we only have four years as a government
  • Firstly, we have to do this and then that …, there are so many urgent problems that need to be addressed. The basic income case removes more important reforms from the political agenda
  • The design of existing experiments is too small, they can’t tell anything about the real effects of a basic income
  • When an UBI is implemented, and it fails to succeed, we can’t get rid of it anymore
  • Anyway, introduction of the policy in our country is impossible

11. Amendment and modification

  • Political decision making always leads to watery compromises that make our lives worse, not better
  • Under the flag of a universal basic income, we introduce a very different policy
  • People who really need a basic income will not benefit, others will benefit from it, rather than those for whom it is intended

12. Implementation

  • We should not start with the policy, the introduction of a basic income is far too complex
  • A basic income can’t be properly phased in, because if we do, we will have two concurrent welfare systems, which might lead to a lot of nasty implications
  • We start enthusiastically with the introduction of the policy, but ignore all warnings pertaining to possible implementation problems
  • We cannot oversee the long-term effects of a UBI

The reader will notice that some objections are in conflict with each other. For instance, some people may view an unconditional basic income as a ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ idea, while at the other end of the political spectrum, it is considered as ‘neoliberal’ policy. The idea is rejected for all of these reasons. After all, opposition to the basic income comes from different angles. The same is true for immigration. One person might say that a basic income promotes immigration, whereas another thinks that it inhibits the influx of immigrants.

About Florie Barnhoorn

Florie Barnhoorn has written 11 articles.

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The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

5 comments

  • UBI is a narrow minded concept that does not take into consideration the whole world. It is more an European thing.. Europe are mere <800 million people. The world is 7.5 billion. The numbers are against the concept.
    As soon as one implement the Asians Latin Americans will flock to Europe..
    Look to what happened in the past with the Welfare State. It attracted millions to these countries as the system was more humane than the ones people have in their countries' of origin.

    Then, there were jobs for these people to work and pay into a system that guaranteed a level of equality. UBI would exist, not only in a post industrial but in a post service economy.
    The migrants today contribute to their economy and remit part of their income back to their countries' of origin because they see their life in these advanced countries as non-permanent.
    European should not forget that their standard of living was achieved based on having the poorer countries subsidizing that standard of living. That was possible by importing cheap inputs and exporting high vale aggregated products.
    This is becoming less and less possible post globalization. UBI will only create the retired teenager who would need to live off the effort of the ones working and producing an output. Like today's retired live off the efforts of those of working age. UBI is a chimera. It has no grounds in the real economic world.

    • Andre Coelho

      Dear Osvaldo,

      Real change is always hard, and painful. But today’s reality is no better. UBI, at least, brings a promise of real change, for the better, as pilot projects already demonstrated.

      “Always look on the bright side of life” ~ Monthy Python

    • Dear Osvaldo,

      All of your comments are mentioned in my list and refutated or relativated!

  • Readers, who know missing arguments, that are not cited in this overview, are invited to contact Reyer Brons. He would love to hear that!

  • Probably most people writing against BIEN are those that have a paid job, and have to work their butts off. But they do not know all those people that are over 55 or 62 like me, that have to apply for work on a weekly bases and that get declined as soon as they have send their application.

    I would wish people would start using that grey mass they were given and see the problems we “oldies ” are coping with.. All we are good for is Voluntary work, would they know that all voluntary work has a 3bn price tag…..

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