This essay was originally published in the USBIG NewsFlash in May 2005. 

While the Namibian government balks at the difficulty of raising the $200 million it would need to provide its citizens with a minimum income of a little more than 50 cents ($0.50) a day, it is important to put that cost into the first-world perspective. At an interest rate of 5%, a permanent Namibian BIG could be financed by a bond with a one-time cost of $4 billion. At that price, according to Forbes Magazine’s rankings, 48 Americans could fund this Namibian BIG single-handedly, 35 of whom would still be billionaires afterward. In other words, any one of these 48 people could afford to finance a basic income for 1.7 million Namibians, not just for one year, not just for the rest of our lives, but for all the generations to come forever—or for as long as money makes interest.

If Bill Gates donated half of his fortune to Namibia, he could finance a permanent BIG six times the size that the Namibian BIG coalition thinks its government could afford, and Mr. Gates would still have $24 billion left to support his family. A BIG this size would give every Namibian a minimum income of $3 per day. It doesn’t sound like much until you remember that 3 billion people worldwide live on less than $2 per day. It would free Namibia from the abject poverty that three-fourths of its citizens have known since colonization. That is what only one man could do, how much more could a concerted effort on the part of first-world governments do?

-Karl Widerquist, Oxford, UK, May 1, 2005

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 983 articles.

Karl Widerquist is a Professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University-Qatar. He specializes 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 a member of the BIEN EC for 14 years. 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. He is a cofounder of the journal "Basic Income Studies." 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.” Most of Karl Widerquist's academic writing is available at his research website (Widerquist.com). For more information about him, see his BIEN profile (https://basicincome.org/news/2016/12/bien-profiles-karl-widerquist-co-chair/).