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Berlin, Germany: Basic income experimentalism at the micro level

[Claus Offe]

Thanks to the initiatives of  29 year old Berlin-based freelancer Michael Bohmeyer, there has been a recent wave, probably unprecedented in its size, of media attention to basic income issues in German local and national media. What gathered wide attention is a project Bohmeyer started which can be seen as a remote relative to, or micro version of, a proper Basic Income (BI). What Bohmeyer shares with most proponents of the latter is one moral intuition: A person’s access to income must be unhinged from his or her prior market-tested productive contribution. His experiment is designed to demonstrate that people who receive income (of Euro 1000 per month for the modest duration of just one year) will still, even in the absence of any work incentive or “equivalence conditionality” attached, make an effort to perform useful activities – be it for sale in markets, be it as “free” services to communities.

Michael Bohmeyer, Mein Grundeinkommen

Michael Bohmeyer, Mein Grundeinkommen

Contrary to BI schemes, there is no legal entitlement of citizens to the transfer, but a random selection of recipients from a pool of applicants. Also, the income granted is not tax financed, but “crowd funded”, i. e. derived from voluntary donations of supporters and, hopefully, charitable foundations. Furthermore, there still seems to be some soft test attached which is to provide evidence (to donors and potential future donors, that is) that recipients are in fact doing something “useful” and respectable while enjoying their “unconditional” benefits. Finally and unsurprisingly, the number of “basic incomes” thus generated is miniscule, with currently just five recipients being served in Berlin. All the greater is the favorable media resonance highlighting the two astounding (if not outright “scandalous”) facts that there are in fact people out there who donate money without thereby purchasing an equivalent, and that there are also people who receive that money without stopping to engage in some kind of useful activity. It is this demonstration effect that may work as a mild antidote to deep-seated market liberal popular assumptions.

For more information (in German), see Mein Grundeinkommen [My Basic Income] at: Mein-grundeinkommen.de.

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