Op-Ed; Opinion

TAIWAN: Basic Income is feasible and an imperative


The Unconditional Basic Income has been springing up around the world as a new human rights movement, protecting everyone’s fundamental right to life. In addition to basic human rights, traditional Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism shows us the fundamental nature of humanity is good, in that all beings originally are Buddhas, all are endowed with Buddha nature (1), so each human being deserves equal respect and care. The Unconditional Basic Income is a manifestation of this ideology of benevolence.

Around 2,300 years ago, China’s Mencius wrote in King Hui of Liang, due to a lack of constant property, the common people also lack unwavering perseverance. This will lead to a dissipation of propriety, causing a tide of lawlessness. Waiting until a citizen breaks the law, and utilizing punishment to handle him is essentially like using a fishing net to ensnare the populace. How can a benevolent monarch think this type of policy can be put into practice? As such, a wise monarch will formulate property for the people, giving them the ability to serve their parents and provide for their spouse and children. During a year of prosperity, a family can eat well and during years of shortages, they can still avoid starvation. Then enlightenment can be put into practice, urging the populace to perform good deeds, making it easier for them to follow the enlightenment. This is what Mencius meant when he said “Establishing property of the people, make them have sufficient food and clothing; first support (the people), then teach (the people).”

Thus, each of the basic income experiments around the world allow us to realize that after a person receives a guarantee for their livelihood, crime goes down, educational outcomes go up, economies grow, physical and spiritual health improves, families and societies become more harmonious, and parents have more time to accompany and take care of their children. Society is created by each family unity. Creating more harmonious families will make a more harmonious and safe society. In today’s turbulent world, implementing a UBI is of the utmost importance.

Inspired by the news surrounding Switzerland’s basic income referendum, this February I worked with the respected teacher Chunchi Tsao, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, to start a new organization Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan. On Facebook, I recruited 30 people to found the organization to apply through the government to become an official organization. I hope that we can cooperate with the global movement to push the basic income, free education, social housing, free vegetarian restaurants for environmental protection, etc. in order to implement social welfare.

The honorary president of our association, Taiwan University’s School of Law European Union Law Research Center (EULRC) Dr. Lukas Lien said, “When the country’s founder, Dr. Sun Yatsen said ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ the genuine meaning was a country of social welfare, instead of the Nationalist KMT party’s idea of exploiting the people. No. The real meaning is to give all of the resources to the people and then the government can attain so-called legitimacy. Otherwise what can they rely on for legitimacy to levy taxes? The purpose of taxes is for educating the people, ensuring everyone has food, clothing, housing, transportation, and then the most important element is ensuring the most basic right to life. In German it is not called UBI. It is called the most fundament, the most basic right to life. That is to say, at the very least, is that no matter the circumstances, no one will face starvation.”

The purpose of government’s existence is to take care of the people. If a government does not take care of the people’s food, clothing, shelter, education and their fundament right to life, then a government is no longer needed, and in fact no longer has legitimacy to levy taxes and legislate to regulate the people. Since ancient times, both the East and the West have followed the ideology: “The will of the people is the will of Heaven,” and “The people are God.” The Book of History puts forward “Heaven sees what the people see, Heaven hears what the people hear,” and “That which the people desire, Heaven must abide by.” In Latin it is, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, or “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

Dr. Lien also quotes the last Pope: “because all are created in the image of god, so we must protect people, in the same way that we protect the image of God. In his Christian Socialism course, Dr. Lien quotes Matthew 25 verse 31-46, the story of the judgement day: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” That is to say, we push for the basic income in order to push for world peace.

The practical way to achieve this is through the basic income, free education, and social housing as social welfare protections in the constitution and legislation. Educate the people about the ideology and law behind these basic rights is the first obligation. Revolution has to start from the mind. Once the people have the understanding of the ideology and law, then we will be able to choose and create a government of benevolence, as well as understand how to use legislation to push for these social benefits.

Collecting the revenue for the basic income has many different methods, for example taxes and printing money, cutting and integrating general welfare spending, generating profits or raising money. As science and technology continues to progress, humanity can already gradually use automation and robots to substitute human labor. This will give people more time and energy to pursue artistic and creative endeavors, entrepreneurship, spiritual development and realize their own dreams.

Our organization already conceived of some methods to fund the basic income: develop autonomous robotic national industries in order to produce food and other necessities and allocate the profits to all people. The American economist Milton Friedman 1969 popularized the satirical idea of throwing cash from helicopters and letting people collect it. In reality, the Central Bank could print money and directly give it to the entire population. In the second year, the basic income could be matched with a consumption tax and some of the money that was issued could be absorbed back into government coffers. From this, an uninterrupted source of finances could supply the revenue for the unconditional basic income to smoothly operate over the long-term. Certainly, there are many more methods for financing the UBI, which could all be properly tuned and applied.

Universal unconditional basic income is not only feasible; it is an imperative.

Annotation: 1. All beings are originally Buddhas – The Chart of Mortals, Saints, Delusion and Enlightenment

Written by Juku Shenguang: Founder, Vice-president and Secretary-General of Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan.

Translated by Tyler Prochazka

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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.

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