Saturday 25 September sees the penultimate day of the 14th International Basic Income Week ‘Basic Income: Forward to a Better World’ with Basic Income Marches in many cities. Although concentrated in the US and Europe, events will also be held in Jakarta, Indonesia and Brisbane, Australia.
The day will also be commemorated with an epic non-stop 24-hour Online Basic Income March broadcast which will feature 65 speakers and news in several languages from around the world. This event, organised by World-Wide UBI Advocates, will start at 12:01am GMT 25 September and end 11.59pm GMT. You can participate during the day on Zoom, using the password BIAtMove. The programme, subject to minor last-minute changes, can be found on the IBIW website.
The Alaska Permanent Fund was started in 1982 to make sure Alaskans directly benefit from its resources in the wake of its oil boom in the 1970s. Part of the proceeds from investments of the principle, which is held in trust for the state and invested by an independent board, is shared yearly with all Alaskan citizens as the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). This is as close to a basic income by BIEN’s definition as has been achieved world-wide. It is paid equally to each individual regardless of age or financial status, without means tests or other conditions and regularly every year, although the amount differs depending on how the APF’s investments do over a five year period. It has inspired campaigns in many other countries, including Mongolia, South Africa and Goa, to share the profits from resource use as a basic income or dividend to all citizens. The PDF is under particular threat at the moment as a result of recent deficits in the State’s budget, which some legislators want to plug by taking the dividend payments away entirely.
BIEN News interviewed a board member from the Permanent Fund Defenders about the situation. Joe Geldhoff, a lawyer in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, said that “while it is in our constitution that Alaskan citizens should benefit from the state’s resources, the dividend itself is only in legislation.” The PFD allocation for Alaskan citizens needs to be approved by the state legislature every year. For the first thirty years it was paid equally from a fixed 25% share of the fund’s average profits over five years. In the past six years state politicians have whittled down the amount of dividend paid, “despite big promises at election time, which are often unrealistic.” There are worries that there might be no dividend paid out this year, despite the Fund making a profit of some $18.6 million, and large Federal subsidies to the state, especially since the Covid crisis. The PFD competes with state services and projects for priority, since the state government levies neither income nor sales taxes to cover its own spending, which also comes from Permanent Fund proceeds. “This should be a lesson for people advocating basic income schemes all over the world,” Mr Geldhoff said.
The Defenders want the eariler formula from Permanent Fund investments restored to the dividend, and enshrined in the State constitution to protect it from other budget demands and political maneuvering. Mr Geldhoff said that the current special session will be deciding this year’s dividend allocation, and may not pay it at all. The legislature may also consider a constitutional amendment to protect it and restore the original formula which, if approved, would then go out to be voted on by all state citizens. He expressed the worry, however, that there “aren’t enough adults” amongst state politicians, and that they could be too divided to see the latter option through.
“Young people have become very cynical about the political process,” Mr Geldhoff said, so the Defenders are working to educate all Alaskans about the role the dividend has played in “lifting people out of poverty, supporting private enterprise and combatting income inequality” and how they can get involved with saving it. He said that while those with higher salaries in the state’s large public sector have tended to save their dividend to send their children to university, the dividend has enabled people in rural areas with little cash to maintain and buy equipment for subsistence farming, hunting and fishing. Women in particular have used their dividend to get away from relationships which have gone bad, and to train for better jobs. “It’s really about whether you trust citizens to spend the money well or the politicians who tend to give contracts to their cronies,” he said. “This is our common wealth from which we all should have a direct share.”
A recording of our interview with Joe Geldhoff will be available soon. In the meantime people can support the all-volunteer Permanent Fund Defenders in getting their message out to Alaskans on their GoFundMe page. More information about their campaign and the history of the PFD can be found on their website, and the latest news can be followed on their Facebook page.
With the theme, ‘From the COVID-19 Disaster to New Great Transition, Basic Income!’ the 3rd annual Basic Income International Conference was held in Gyeonggi Provence, South Korea, 28-29 April 2021. Hosted by the Gyeonggi Provincial Government, and organised by Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI), Gyeonggi-do Market Revitalization Agency (GMRA), KINTEX, and the Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN), it featured panel talks and discussion by many researchers from BIEN, including Chair Sarath Davala, Hyosang Ahn, Philippe Van Parijs, Guy Standing, Annie Miller, Troy Henderson, Louise Haagh, Almaz Zelleke, Julio Linares, Roberto Merrill among others. Economist Joseph Stiglitz gave a keynote speech on the second day.
On 23 April 2021, Diana Popescu, Otto Lehto, and Emil Panzaru from Department of Political Economy, King’s College London – organized a full-day online academic workshop called “The Ethics of UBI in a Changing Economy” that tackles the normative justifications and practical feasibility of UBI.
The program and rough times: 00:00:00 Otto Lehto Opening words 00:08:45 Guy Standing (SOAS) Battling Eight Giants 00:56:10 Christian Schemmel (University of Manchester) Just Workplaces: Asset equality vs workplace democracy? 01:32:46 – Martin Sticker (Bristol) Is a merely national “Universal” Basic Income just? 02:05:34 – Otto Lehto (King’s College London) UBI as a Discovery Procedure 02:41:23 – Deryn Thomas (St Andrew’s) Basic Income and the Collective Good of Work 03:18:47 – Nika Soon-Shiong (Oxford) Cash, Citizenship, and the Contemporary Politics of Belonging in India 03:44:48 – Jim Pugh (Universal Income Project) and Jamie Morgan (Brandeis) Accelerating Equity and Justice: Cash transfers and generational wealth 04:17:30 – Diana Popescu (KCL) How much Dignity is enough: Appearing in public without shame and UBI 05:07:30 – Bernhard Neumärker (Freiburg) UBI in Times of Crisis (Note: Due to technical difficulties, Prof. Neumärker’s presentation is missing the first few minutes. The presentation finishes in Part 2.)
The Great Transition Initiative (GTI), which promotes the ‘exploration of concepts, strategies, and visions for a transition to a future of enriched lives, human solidarity, and a resilient biosphere’ has published a collection of essays from scholars and activists on basic income which are pro, anti and in-between. The essays are divided into two groups: ‘The Case is Strong’ and ‘Caveats and Alternatives’. Thirteen writers on the pro side include Guy Standing, BIEN Chair Sarath Davala, USBIG’s Michael Howard, Almaz Zelleke, and UBI Europe’s Ulrich Schactschneider. The fourteen writers on the more sceptical side include Halina Brown, professor emeritus at Clark University, Andreas Bummel, Anna Coote from the New Economics Foundation, Anke Hassel from the Herte School.
All the essays together cover a lot of ground. The contributions span ideas about basic income developing the caring economy, its potential to help alleviate the environmental crisis and economic insecurity, to monetary reform, basic services, and worries that basic income will promote commodification and privatisation.
GTI is funded by the Tellus Institute, a think-tank based in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US.