Opinion; The Independentarian


This essay was originally published in the USBIG NewsFlash in September 2009.


Many people believe that the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is an idea ready to export—a model that should be copied around the world. Two U.S. Senators have gotten the idea that the Alaska model is ready to be copied, not by the country over which the U.S. Senate has jurisdiction but by Iraq instead.

Last January, John Ensign (Republican-Nevada) introduced the “Support for Iraq Oil Trust Act” of 2009. According to the official summary of the bill, it would force the U.S. State Department to present a plan for an oil trust fund (based on the Alaska model) to the Iraqi government, and it threatens to reduce U.S. aid to Iraq if the U.S. Secretary of State fails to do so.

The bill picked up one cosponsor, Senator Evan Bayh (Democrat-Indiana). No further action has been taken on the bill since it was referred to committee in January, and probably the bill will die in committee.

But the bill has received negative attention from press in the Persian Gulf region. Saadallah Fathi, writing for GulfNews.com (based in Dubai) sees the bill as an effort to pressure the Iraqi government to adopt a policy that is not well-suited for Iraq’s situation.

Whatever the value the Alaska model might have for Iraq, this bill is probably the wrong way to export the idea. The U.S. government could make a greater effort to lead by example. If the Alaska Permanent Fund is a model to be copied, the Senate might consider copying the model itself by creating a Federal U.S. Permanent Fund. Copying the model yourself seems much more reasonable than trying to influence someone else (a sovereign foreign government) to copy the model.

The United States is resource-rich. It has the potential to create a very large Alaska-style fund using taxes on resource exploitation, such as mining, drilling, forestry, carbon emissions, and real estate. If the senators are right that the Alaska-model is ready to be copied, they might consider implementing it first in their own jurisdiction.

-Karl Widerquist, Doha, Qatar, August 2009

For Saadallah Fathi’s article in the Gulf News, go to:

Karl Widerquist

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 929 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing 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 now serves as vice-chair. 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, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. 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.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/). More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

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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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