Opinion; The Independentarian


This essay was originally published in the USBIG NewsFlash in October 2003. 


A few years ago on April 1, a New York public radio station did an interview with a woman who wrote books entirely by downloading bits and pieces of other people’s writing from the internet. That interview was an April Fool’s Day joke, but as any post-modern artist or Hip Hop DJ can tell you, it is quite possible to do something that’s new and creative by piecing together bits of already existing material. And that is exactly what Vancouver audio-author Matt Fair has done with his new audio production, “The World Owes You a Living.” The audacious title is a reference to a Brian Mulroney speech complaining some “Canadians, and there are a lot of them, who believe the world owes them a living.” Matt Fair spent years collecting audio clips, mostly from the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and splicing them together in a way to make Mulroney’s lecturing of the poor look ridiculous.

This work does not pretend to be an academic inquiry and does not contain a single line of argumentation from premise to conclusion; ideas come and go, and most of the quotes are unattributed. It is instead a strong artistic statement in favor of the basic income guarantee. It slides from topic to topic, juxtaposing for example, society’s desire to punish criminals with the market’s ability to punish nonconformists. Statistics of the growing prison population, come up next to an employment consultant saying, “You’d better be prepared to take any job that’s available or the market will punish you.” Although the author claims no direct influence from Rap music, he uses sampling techniques common to Hip Hop as the consultant returns saying, “punish you, punish you, punish you,” between statistics on poverty or homelessness.

The audio production is about seven hours long and is sold in a six CD set. It would make an excellent radio program, but if you’re interested in the CD’s they are available on the web at:



About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 954 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/). More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

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.

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