Charles Eisenstein: basic income as “technology of reunion”

Charles Eisenstein: basic income as “technology of reunion”

Charles Eisenstein is a degrowth activist, speaker and author of several books including “Sacred Economics,” and “The Ascent of Humanity” (some of which are available online for free), as well as a long time proponent of “alternative narratives,” political and economic ideas that challenge our current system. His work combines an interest in ecology with biology, earth healing, and the psyche. His podcast “A New and Ancient Story” airs every few weeks.

In a recent article on his personal website, Eisenstein asks, what is technology? “A fix,” Eisenstein suggests, maintaining that technology has become an addiction for our society, incapable of solving the problems we face today. “The entire scientific-industrial system has created” a “mindset of quantification, engineering, and control.” Eisenstein suggests that instead of pursuing the traditional “technology of separation” we must begin to pursue the “technology of reunion:” an expanded definition of technology. We must transcend the “story of separation” and enter instead into “the story of interbeing,” where “humans are not separate from nature,” and where “what we do to the world, we do to ourselves.”

Included in his examples of technological reunion are regenerative agriculture, homoeopathy, as well as the truth and reconciliation process. Alongside these, he places a “universal basic income (UBI) and community-based forms of resource sharing.” According to Eisenstein, the Society of Separation is sceptical of UBI, asking, “If basic needs were met, what would compel people to work?” He suggests UBI instead should be thought of as a way to support the impulse to grow and create things for the betterment of society, something Eisenstein believes one must take as given before UBI can be considered. UBI also supports “contributions that are hard to quantify,” such as lovingly raising children, caring for the elderly, or creating art and music.

UBI then fits into Eisenstein’s larger narrative of “the new and ancient Story of Interbeing”. “Some of these technologies will sound outrageous,” admits Eisenstein, who includes alongside UBI “sacred architecture; sound healing; hypnosis and mind/matter techniques; nonviolent communication; compassionate listening; sociocracy, holocracy and other group decision-making methods.” They may be difficult to take seriously because, on Eisenstein’s view, they “come from outside the boundaries of what we as a society have agreed to be real.”

For Eisenstein, UBI is a part of a new conception of technology, one of restoration rather than separation.


Article: Charles Eisenstein, “Institutes for Technologies of Reunion.”, April 5 2017.

Credit Picture CC Taco Ekkel

ARTICLE: Jason Hickel on Why Basic Income is a Birthright

ARTICLE: Jason Hickel on Why Basic Income is a Birthright

In a recent article for The Guardian, Jason Hickel writes that “a basic income could defeat the scarcity mindset, instil a sense of solidarity and even ease the anxieties that gave us Brexit and Trump.”

Hickel argues that a basic income is not just a privilege, nor just a nice idea – instead, basic income is a birthright.

Hickel begins by reflecting on the Charter of the Forest, 1217, a companion document to the Magna Carta, which enshrined the right of Englishmen to access royal lands, “which they could use for farming, grazing, water and wood [collecting].” Hickel argues that the Charter defended the right of individuals to access the resources necessary for survival.

This understanding of grazing rights has with time fallen out of usage. This decline began in the 15th century with the enclosure movement, which drove peasants displaced by enclosure into the labour market, “to sell themselves for wages for the first time.” It became necessary for low income farm labours to move into urban areas and become workers in order to survive. Hickel reminds us that the global south understands this scenario very well: a legacy of colonialism having taken away lands that were once common, and divided them into private allotments. For these countries, which Hickel does not note specifically, any attempt to undo this process of driving populations into the capitalist labour market was undone by the post-colonial country’s indebtedness to international corporations and creditors.

Hickel goes on to argue that first the global south has had its land taken away with the promise of employment, and in the future it risks losing its jobs to the rise of automation. For him, employment is no longer a secure economic alternative to the livelihood disparities created by the private ownership of once common land. Automation threatens jobs everywhere throughout the world, Hickel says. The solution, he argues, is an understanding of wealth where earth’s natural resources belong to everyone, where the basic necessities are understood as a birthright, and where a basic income is a way to implement this vision.

The solution, he argues, is an understanding of wealth where earth’s natural resources belong to everyone, where the basic necessities are understood as a birthright, and where a basic income is a way to implement this vision.

With the above in mind, Hickel presents a universal basic income as the most appropriate answer to the rise of automation. UBI, Hickel argues, offers a solution to inequalities that in the past were mitigated by free access to the resources necessary for livelihood. It is a return to the principles of the Charter of the Forest; a “de-enclosure” where every resident receives a dividend of what is commonly held: natural resources. For example, Hickel points to a carbon tax and dividend system.

Possible pushback is explained away by a move up in scale: he proposes a global fund, a trust for every human being rich or poor, and an expansion of our mindset so that again, natural resources and land cannot be simply understood as enclosed and private, but instead as common and vital to every individual’s survival.

De-enclosure is for Hickel an alternative to the road of further labour market integration, an alternative threatened by automation. For Hickel, we avoid considering UBI at our peril.

Article: Jason Hickel, “Basic income isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a birthright,” The Guardian, March 4, 2017.

Reviewed by Sarah Harris and Jenna van Draanen

Photo: As the covered heads move in, Credit Picture CC Veeresh Malik.

US: Undoing poverty’s negative effect on brain development with cash transfers

US: Undoing poverty’s negative effect on brain development with cash transfers

Kimberly G. Noble, associate professor of neuroscience and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has published an article in Nature which summarizes her research background and an upcoming experiment into brain development and poverty. Noble asks whether poverty may affect the development, “the size, shape, and functioning,” of a child’s brain, and whether “a cash stipend to parents” would prevent this kind of damage. Noble here describes the background and methodological underpinnings of a larger experiment not yet begun; the development of which Basic Income News has covered in the past.

Noble writes that “poverty places the young child’s brain at much greater risk of not going through the paces of normal development.” Children raised in poverty perform less well in school, are less likely to graduate from high school, and are less likely to continue on to college. Children raised in poverty are also more likely to be underemployed when adults. Sociological research and research done in the area of neuroscience has shown that a childhood spent in poverty can result in “significant differences in the size, shape and functioning” of the  brain. Can the damage done to children’s brains  be negated  by the intervention of a subsidy for brain health?

Noble summarizes her 15 years of research into this subject. This most recent study’s fundamental difference from past efforts is that it explores what kind of effect “directly supplementing” the incomes of families will have on brain development. “Cash transfers, as opposed to counseling, child care and other services, have the potential to empower families to make the financial decisions they deem best for themselves and their children.” Noble’s hypothesis is that a “cascade of positive effects” will follow from the cash transfers, and that if proved correct, this has implications for public policy and “the potential to…affect the lives of millions of disadvantaged families with young children.”

Paper: Kimberly G. Noble, “Brain Trust,” Scientific American 316, 44-49, March 2017

Photo Credit: Childhood CC Farhad Sadykov

BitNation: Recent Advances in Cryptocurrency See Basic Income Tested

BitNation: Recent Advances in Cryptocurrency See Basic Income Tested

Johan Nygren, a basic income activist, is currently exploring if basic income can be implemented using cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency are digital currencies whose value and number of units are regulated by encryption techniques, outside of any central banking system. Understandably, not everyone is going to have a clear idea as to what cryptocurrency is all about, but this is why sites like exist. Doing a bit of research is better than doing none at all, especially when it comes to something as interesting digital currency.

If this is something that you are interested in then you can find out how to buy cryptocurrency here.

You might also have heard about Ethereum. Put simply, Ethereum is a global, decentralized platform for money and other applications. Using Ethereum – a block chain network – you can write code that controls money, and build applications accessible anywhere in the world.

Currently, cryptocurrencies can be used as a means of payment in various spheres. Additionally, freelancers who work in digital industries also accept cryptocurrency as a means of payment. If you’d like find out more information about becoming or hiring ethereum freelancers, the Freelance For Coins is a useful resource that can put you into contact with freelancers where you are.

A cryptocurrency-based basic income will be funded with taxes grown within a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. P2P is an architecture for building computer networks that’s focus is on equality and sharing among peers, each user consuming and supplying information to the network. Nygren’s experiment aims to use decentralized ‘swarms’ of users to distribute a basic income through what Nygren calls ‘dividend pathways’.

A dividend pathway is “the world’s first peer-to-peer financial security,” where every transaction opens up a pathway, to a global network of connected users. RES, Nygren’s crypto-currency, is then shared through a branching scheme with all who are connected to the pathways – those on the BitNation network. The branching scheme is analogous to our network of veins, pumping information instead of blood.

This model tests whether a network can electronically divert income to users, in this case using a small tax levied on financial purchases and exchanges made over a system called BitNation; the process is called Swarm Redistribution. Nygren writes that “the whole experiment is public, transparent, auditable, [and] includes a close-down switch in case a bug is discovered.”

BitNation, a Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation (DBVN), provides public services to its naturalized citizens. As a virtual jurisdiction, the main difference from traditional governments is voluntary allegiance to its constitution – membership is open to anyone and involvement limited only by the user. As a blockchain-based structure, government activities are transparent. Its mission, according to founder Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, is to “get rid of geographical apartheid” and offer “better and cheaper governance services.”

Nygren’s swarm redistribution theory assumes that ongoing transactions with the crypto-currency RES will infuse BitNation’s cybereconomy with a branchwork (think the blood analogy) of paid-forward value additions. This would mean extracting essentially a value-added tax (VAT) along the way and pooling a coffer for the basic incomes’ distribution. The model theorizes that growth is incentivized by the desire for personal return and altruism, or a desire to contribute to social resilience (more information can be found here).

BitNation’s current population of nearly five thousand users with roughly fifty thousand daily transactions involving the cryptocurrency ETH could eventually provide the structure for a basic income for its users.


Article: Edwin G. Dolan on why libertarians should take Basic Income seriously

Article: Edwin G. Dolan on why libertarians should take Basic Income seriously

In his first piece for the Niskanen Centre, Edwin G. Dolan presents “three types” of libertarian who might be sympathetic to the idea of a universal basic income (UBI).

Dolan writes, a “UBI is a policy for pragmatic critics of well-intentioned but ineffective government, for classical liberals, and for advocates of personal freedom.”

For libertarian pragmatists, the issue with government – philosophical concerns aside – is that it so often does not get done what it sets out to get done. A UBI would dismantle today’s policies which diminish work incentives. With no benefit reductions, you would pay nothing but income tax which itself is low for those in poverty. UBI could also replace the benefits afforded to middle and upper class households. The result, for Dolan, would be no impact on the federal budget with a general streamlining of the system.

Secondly, Dolan argues classical liberals are more open to the legitimacy of the social safety net than we might imagine. For classical liberals the appeal of a UBI is its administrative efficiency. UBI administered as a universal demogrant is even superior, in the eyes of Dolan’s classical liberal, to Milton Friedman’s negative income tax.

Finally, the appeal for the lifestyle libertarian is the freedom to utilize the UBI as he or she sees fit. The UBI, for Dolan, stands in contrast the “nanny state mentality” of today’s policies, and offers a strong incentive for libertarians to ditch their rigid opposition to the redistribution of wealth.


Credit Picture CC khrawlings

Reviewed by Jenna van Draanen