The Icelandic Pirate Party — which has proposed to launch an investigation into ways to implement an unconditional basic income in Iceland — has been granted the authority to form the country’s next government.
Iceland’s Pirate Party (Píratar) gained 10 seats in Iceland’s parliament (Alþingi) in the October 2016 general election (which was held a year early, after the Prime Minister resigned in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks). This put the party in third place in parliamentary representation, behind the center-right Independence Party and the Left-Green Movement.
In Iceland’s political system, the president invites the leader of the winning political party to negotiate with the other parties to select new members of the government. If the party does not succeed, the president passes the mandate to the second most dominant party, and so on. In this case, neither the Independence Party nor the Left-Green Movement succeeded in negotiations; thus, on December 2, President Guðni Jóhannesson handed the mandate to form the government to Pirate Party leader MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir.
This marks the first time — in any country — that the authority to form a government has been handed to a party officially committed to investigate the possibility of basic income.
Píratar does not officially endorse any specific form, amount, or funding mechanism for a basic income guarantee, and the party believes that more research is necessary before moving forward with any such policy. Moreover, neither implementing nor researching a basic income appears on the party’s manifesto for the October 2016 parliamentary elections.
However, Píratar has actively promoted research into a basic income guarantee for Iceland, and plans to continue to do so with the new government. MP Halldóra Mogensen drafted a proposal calling on the Ministry of Welfare and Ministry of Finance to form a working group tasked with “looking for ways to ensure every citizen unconditional basic income” (“skilyrðislausa grunnframfærslu”), which she submitted to parliament in November 2015 along with the other two Pirate MPs, Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir and Birgitta Jónsdóttir. In setting out the case that Iceland should investigate the possibility of a BIG, the proposal reviews the results of past basic income trials, especially in Manitoba (the Mincome experiment) and Namibia, and the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. It also outlines philosophical arguments for basic income, discusses the potential for a basic income to simplify the welfare system, and presents new concerns surrounding automation and the future of work.
Mogensen tells Basic Income News that she will “definitely” put forth the basic income proposal again during the new parliamentary session and “look[s] forward to continuing the conversation in parliament and warming the new MP’s up to the subject.”
Overall, she says, “the conversation [about basic income] is ongoing but no concrete plans have been made regarding implementation or testing.”
Meanwhile, the immediate objective of the Píratar, after forming the government, is to ratify its new constitution.
BIEN Iceland — which is non-partisan but founded by another Pirate, Albert Svan Sigurdsson (Statistics Iceland) — will launch officially on Saturday, December 10 (Human Rights Day).
James Rothwell (December 2, 2016) “Iceland’s radical Pirate Party asked to form its next government,” The Telegraph.
Agence France-Presse in Reykjavik (December 2, 2016) “Iceland’s Pirate party invited to form government,” The Guardian.
Paul Fontaine (November 18, 2015) “Pirates Submit Proposal For Universal Basic Income In Iceland,” Reykjavík Grapevine.
Halldóra Mogensen, personal communication.
Past Basic Income News reports on Halldóra Mogensen’s proposal:
Stanislas Jourdan (November 25, 2014) “Interview: No one in the parliament had heard about basic income before”
Tyler Prochazka (October 6, 2016) “Iceland: Will Pirate Party push basic income?”
Albert Svan Sigurdsson talks about basic income for Iceland at BIST2016:
Article reviewed by Dawn Howard.
Cover photo: Government House in Reykjavík, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Damien Mórka.
Many photos of Pirate Party members unavailable for use in this article due to copyright restrictions.