Announcements from Finland and the Netherlands on the launch of basic income pilots are making ripples across Europe. In France, the Southern Region of Aquitaine might well be the next place where experiments are conducted to assess the viability of basic income.
Last Monday, July 6th, the regional Council based in Bordeaux voted through a motion marking the start of a process towards running basic income pilots in the region.
Despite a heated debate before the vote, the motion proposed by Green Council member Martine Alcorta was passed unanimously. In fact, several political groups opposed the motion, but decided to abstain when it came to a vote (see the video of the plenary here).
The president of the Council, Alain Rousset in particular rejected the proposal, which he believes is “against the work ethic”. But in the end he also stated he “could not oppose generosity”.
The motion was obviously supported by the Greens, but also with enthusiasm by the radical left coalition “Aquitaine Région Citoyenne” and by one right-wing member and deputy mayor of the city of Bordeaux, who explained her position to the online newspaper Rue89:
« I have always been in favour of the thinking around basic income. Many people don’t get by despite the number of benefits and social assistance schemes. We have to simplify everything: both administrative procedures for citizens and the workload for social workers.
Basic income is not an incentive not to work. On the contrary, it reveals people’s capacities once freed from pressures. We have to launch new experiments with a new spirit. We need new proposals, new models from what currently exist, and to think of a new system. »
So far, the adopted motion only commits the Council to start a call for projects to assess the feasibility of basic income pilots in the region. Under french law, such pilots could only be conducted under the direction of a voluntary department (sub-sections of regions in France), with the agreement of the government. The region would only provide financial support.
The initiator of the motion suggests that the pilots should be based on a proposal drafted last March by BIEN’s Affiliate, the French Movement for Basic Income, to reform the existing means-tested minimum income in France, the “Active Solidarity Income” (RSA). Under this proposal, the RSA would be automatically distributed with no work requirement and along with a taxation system more friendly towards part-time workers.
The current system suffers from many flaws. It is complex, discriminatory, household-based, and moreover it discourages people from pursuing paid work – or encourages them to instead pursue undeclared work – because of its threshold effects. Because of this, the RSA is neglected by the very people who need it. The take-up of RSA is only just over 50% of those eligible.
The proposal being pushed forward is certainly not a perfectly unconditional basic income, but it would constitute a solid step in that direction.
“This is a unique and unprecedented decision in France,” said Green local representative Marc Morisset. The Green Party of France has officially supported basic income since November 2013. Its members have been increasingly active in the promotion of the idea. Last February, another Green regional council member in Rhone-Alpes made a similar proposal, but unsuccessfully.
After this historic vote, the next step will be to finance a feasibility study, find a voluntary department and locate possible areas for experiment.
Inasmuch as I am somewhat familiar with and do respect your work, I would like to discuss with all of you, at your convenience, some of the opportunities presented by the general public’s increasing awareness of the always present but growing economic inequalities throughout every country, corner and continent of our potentially pleasant Spaceship Earth.
Socioeconomic Democracy is here offered as a peaceful, effective and democratic resolution to humanity’s present and needless systemic problems and sufferings. Socioeconomic Democracy will further be found to satisfy the increasingly acknowledged need for a “Next System Project”, advocated by, among many others, Gar Alperovitz.
The crucial question is whether humanity has yet evolved sufficiently to understand and peacefully resolve the utterly unnecessary obstacles to further healthy development and evolution.
It is here respectfully suggested that all of humanity seriously confront the multitude of needless problems created by the growing and unjust distributions of monetary income and far more importantly monetary wealth, within and among every country on this planet.
Fortunately, this appears relatively easily accomplished by simply recalling and reconsidering just a few insights and observations of writers and thinkers down through the decades, centuries and millennia, starting somewhat arbitrarily, to be sure, in ancient Greece.
Plato, in his last and most mature Laws, preferred equality of personal property but realized that was difficult, if not impossible, to precisely define. He therefore thoughtfully suggested limits on both poverty and affluence. Plato’s attentive student, Aristotle, suggested, with admirable specificity, that “No one should have more than five times the wealth of the poorest person.” Prior to Plato, Thales of Miletus provided a reasonable assessment of the situation: “If there is neither excessive wealth nor immoderate poverty in a nation, then justice may be said to prevail”.
Reluctantly neglecting all too many other important contributors to the increasing understanding and advancement of an economically and psychologically healthy humanity, may it briefly be mentioned that a powerful sequence of thoughtful humans, down thru the ages, considered and contributed to the discussion.
A valuable list of some of these people is available at “A Brief History of Basic Income” (see below). Of course, the rapidly increasing popularity of some form and amount of universally guaranteed income for all (by itself) leaves in question just how it is to be financed.
Nevertheless, this writer cannot constrain himself from explicitly mentioning two of the many contributors to this crucial conversation. First, the world-changing work and dedication of that Societal Engineer, Thomas Paine, who, in a later work following Common Sense entitled Agrarian Justice, proposed and discussed the virtues of a guaranteed income for all.
Then there was Henry George who, not unlike Paine, did time in a print shop to get his writings printed. One of Henry’s major contributions was to link financial assistance for the poor with a suggested tax or limit on personal wealth, then mostly being land property.
Over forth years ago this writer, and would-be Societal Engineer, was given the specific ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy. A history of the development and presentation of these ideas is available in our Bibliography (see below).
Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) is a theoretically consistent and peacefully implementable psycho-politico-socio-economic system wherein there exist both some form and amount of locally appropriate Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGI) and some form and amount of locally appropriate Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAW), with both the lower bound on guarantee personal income and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted periodically and democratically by all participants of a democratic society.
Socioeconomic Democracy is easily implemented with elementary Public Choice Theory. The median values of society’s preference distributions regarding these two crucial societal parameters peacefully, democratically and unambiguously resolve the matter.
Whether society realizes some appropriate form of Socioeconomic Democracy is a cogent question. Clearly, public dissemination and discussion of the suggestions presented here will prove determinative. An alternative to Socioeconomic Democracy as defined above would be where the two economic boundaries discussed here were considered and established by, say, the legislative branch of a “Representative” Democracy.
This planet’s trivially eliminated or significantly reduced societal problems, by realizing Socioeconomic Democracy, include but are by no means limited to, those familiar ones associated with Automation, computerization and robotics; Budget deficits and debts at the personal, national, regional and global levels; Contempt for much presently practiced politics; Costly crimes and costly prisons, both governmental and corporate profit-motivated; Corporate profit-motivated as well as general publicly expensive exogenous pollution; Inadequate public education for all ages, “races”, and both sexes of humanity; Oversights and confusions of some, but certainly not quite all, Economists and Politicians; Ignoring the elderly, to whom we all owe our very existence; International costly conflicts; national costly conflicts; Involuntary employment; Involuntary unemployment; Lack of access to necessary physical and psychological healthcare, causing unnecessary harm to the individuals themselves, their “close” relatives, and any “innocent bystanders”; Pay injustices to both sexes, all ages and all “races” of our human family; Corporately profitable yet publicly costly “Planned Obsolescence”; Political non-participation, carefully planned, designed, legislated and realized by some, but not all, power-intoxicated politicians; Population explosions; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) traceably caused by “patriotic” and/or pathetic human-killing wars, as well as all the PTSD created by all the other unnecessary societal problems; Voting district gerrymandering; Needless and obscene poverty, racism, sexism, and everything else that effectively opposes, neglects or negates the General Welfare.
Break Time: Consider and enjoy “Rapids of Change” at
Responses to this communication are welcome and sought.
“A Brief History of Basic Income Ideas”
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A Bibliography of Socioeconomic Democracy is available at
Robley E. George, Founder and Director
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies