New Book: “Universal Basic Income: Pennies From Heaven” by Paul O’Brien

New Book: “Universal Basic Income: Pennies From Heaven” by Paul O’Brien

Author and academic Paul O’Brien explores the arguments for and against the idea of Universal Basic Income and explains how it might work in practice.

Paul O’Brien is a member of Basic Income Ireland, an affiliates of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). The book—published on the 26 May 2017—explores themes that the group have been discussing for some years.

The book is now available from bookstores and online retailers.

Space funding for Universal Basic Income

Futurism, August 6, 2017

Could we use space to pay for a Universal Basic Income? Tom Ward addresses this question in a Futurism article. The article discusses the idea of using space to fund a Basic Income; the money being generated from future space tourism and mining. The argument—akin to that of a citizen’s dividend—is that space belongs to us all, so we should all benefit from it.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is planning to make commercial spaceflights before the end of 2018. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and others are also looking to monetize space tourism.

Companies are also trying to capitalize on the enormous potential of space mining.  Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are two such companies mentioned in the article. According to Ward, “Space mining also has the potential to be a billion — if not trillion — dollar industry” citing an asteroid containing five trillion dollars of platinum that passed by earth in 2015.

The article concludes by suggesting that the United Nations Outer Space Treaty which entered into force in 1967 would appear to support this type of approach:

“The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 states that “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind.” Using the profits from space exploration, travel, tourism, and mining to provide financial relief for the world’s citizens would certainly meet that criteria.”


References and further reading

Tom Ward, “Could We Use Space to Pay for a Universal Basic Income?”, Futurism, 6 August, 2017,  <>

Patrick Caughill, “Virgin Galactic CEO: We’ll Be Ready to Send Tourists Into Space in 2018”, Futurism, 9 May 2017, <>

Jacob Haqq-Misra, “Could space pay for a universal basic income?”, Boston Globe, 23 July, 2017, <>

Photo: Space, CC BY 2.0, Sweetie187

Thanks to Caroline Pearce for reviewing the article

IRELAND: Social Justice Ireland Endorses EU-wide Basic Income System

IRELAND: Social Justice Ireland Endorses EU-wide Basic Income System

Comments to European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) consultation on the Future of Europe in Dublin, Ireland, June 7, 2017

Social Justice Ireland, an independent Irish think tank and justice advocacy organization, has endorsed proposals for the introduction of an EU-wide basic income system. Speaking at an EESC event held in Dublin on June 7th, Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, identified two key areas eroding confidence in the EU:

“1.1. Failure to address the ongoing vulnerability of many EU citizens.

1.2. Failure of the European Commission to protect small countries against its larger, stronger members.”

Addressing the first point, Dr Healy referred to recommendations made in May 2017 by a UN expert group meeting on “Strategies for Eradicating Poverty to Achieve Sustainable Development for All”:

“The social welfare systems in developed countries are no longer fit for purpose. There should be an adjustment of the paradigm including promotion, and openness to study new ideas around a new social contract that is more appropriate for the 21st century. This may entail moving towards a universal basic income system, supporting a living wage rather than a minimum wage, recognizing all work (not just paid employment) as meaningful, and ensuring that all government decisions are subjected to a poverty-proofing process. While the centrality of employment and decent jobs to eradicate poverty is well recognized, employment growth has not been sufficient to absorb the growing labour force, particularly in those countries and regions with large youth populations. Further, there has been a divergence between productivity and wages growth, as well as growing employment insecurity and casualization in all countries.”

In his speaking notes, Dr Healy agreed with the UN expert group’s analysis and recommendations, adding that the EU has consistently ignored these issues. According to Dr Healy, none of the five options provided in the EU White Paper on the Future of Europe address these points, going on to note that:

“An alternative option is required that will protect the vulnerable and move towards a future that effectively addresses poverty, unemployment, inequality and exclusion. The EU needs to become, and be seen to become, a caring Union.”

In the context of Irish politics, universal basic income (UBI) has been endorsed by some of the main political parties. The Green Party has long been in favour of the establishment of a basic income, while Fianna Fáil—the country’s second largest party—has talked about the idea for many years. Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on social protection, Willie O’Dea, has called for radical reforms of the welfare system. The veteran politician and basic income advocate has said that, if Fianna Fáil were in office, a government-established commission would report on the idea within six months. Writing about UBI in a news article in January of this year, he said:

“While the broad concept of UBI has been around for a while, the challenges facing us today – particularly the changing and often precarious nature of work, not least the threat to jobs posed by automation and short-term contracts – make it a realistic and workable response.

“UBI would replace virtually every non-pension welfare payment except disability and housing benefits. Scrapping the myriad complex and often contradictory welfare codes would mean the end of welfare administration and expensive means-testing, an end to pointless and unproductive Intreo/job-centre interviews and hated sanctions. The biggest long-term saving, however, would stem from ending the poverty trap disincentives built into the current system, where taking a job can leave you financially worse off.”

The current government, which was formed following the appointment of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach (prime minister) in June 2017, comprises the largest Irish political party, Fine Gael, and several independents, and is propped up by Fianna Fáil – Fine Gael’s historic rival – in a confidence and supply agreement. Fine Gael have been critical of Fianna Fáil’s basic income proposals and they do not currently have any proposals for the introduction of UBI. The Irish budget for 2018 will likely bring about increases to existing social welfare payments without any of the radical reforms proposed by rival parties.


References and further reading

Dr Seán Healy, Comments to the EESC Consultation on the Future of Europe, Social Justice Ireland, June 2017, <>

Expert Group Meeting, “Strategies for Eradicating Poverty to Achieve Sustainable Development for All”, United Nations Headquarters, 8-11 May 2017, <>

Willie O’Dea, “Basic incomes for all would end the welfare poverty trap and give people greater control of their lives”,, 19 January 2017, <>

European Commission, “White Paper on the Future of Europe”, European Commission, March 2017, <>


Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan

Photo: Irish flag, CC BY-SA 2.0 by jcdcv

BRAZIL: Maricá approves changes in basic income program

BRAZIL: Maricá approves changes in basic income program

Mumbuca Card –  Photo by Michel Monteiro

Maricá approves changes in basic income program

Maricá, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), 19th June 2017


The city of Maricá, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, has voted on changes to their basic income program, Renda Básica de Cidadania (RBC). The program, which was initially introduced in 2015 by former mayor Washington Quaqua, has been expanded under his successor Fabiano Horta. Quaqua and Horta are both members of the left-wing workers party, Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), that currently controls the municipal government of Maricá. A virtual social currency, created to pay welfare under Quaqua, called the Mumbuca, is used to distribute the payments to citizens. The initial value of the payment was ten Mumbucas per month; equivalent to R$ 10 or approximately US$ 3.

The municipality of Maricá sent the city council proposals for the readjustment and increase of both its Basic Income (RBC) and Minimum Income (Programa Renda Mínima or PRM) programs. The combined increases, which were approved unanimously on June 19, means recipients of the Minimum Income (PRM), will be entitled to at least 130 Mumbucas per month beginning in July — equivalent to roughly US$ 41.

The value of the RBC payment will increase from 10 to 20 Mumbucas (R$ 20). The PRM, which is aimed at poor families with a household monthly income of up to three minimum wages, will increase from 85 to 110 Mumbucas (R$ 110). Beneficiaries of the PRM, are also entitled to the RBC program, so in total will receive 130 Mumbucas.

Beginning last year, the Basic Income program was extended to all citizens; having initially been distributed to 14,000 families, or about a third of the population. The last increase to the Minimum Income was made in 2014.

The proposed increase was discussed by the Marica council before being brought to vote.

During the council discussion, the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) councilor Tatai asked for more government supervision of the city’s trade due to some unintended effects of the basic income program. He alleged that merchants are changing the prices of goods on the eve of topping up recipients’ Mumbuca cards. That is, if the money is due to be paid on day five, on day four many traders increase the prices of their products. For example, meat that had cost R$ 14 Reais on day 4 is increased to R$ 30, according to Tatai. Democrat (DEM) councilor, Marcio da Silva Carvalho—who is also president of Maricá’s consumer protection commission—insisted that irregularities will be monitored.

Opposition councilor, Fillipe Poubel, said that the program will be a great success when more people do not need it. The Workers’ Party (PT) councilor Aldair de Linda countered that the idea is to double the number beneficiaries, in part because the program has been effective in boosting commerce. Many businesses that were closing are now sustaining themselves and generating jobs, he asserted.

Despite concerns from some councilors, the council voted unanimously to increase the benefits.


References and further reading:

Davi Souza, “Segurança: Proeis volta a funcionar em Maricá a partir de julho”, Maricá Info, June 20, 2017 <>

O Dia, “Moeda social de Maricá é premiada”, O Dia, June 28, 2017 <>

Andre Coelho, “BRAZIL: Maricá municipality continues on course for basic income implementation”, BIEN Basic Income News, April 20, 2017 <>

Reviewed by Kate McFarland