Related to Ontario’s Basic Income pilot project there will be a lively 2 day panel discussion Oct 19, 2017, 7-9 pm followed by a Q&A at University of St. Michael’s College, in the COOP section of Brennan Hall, 81 St. Mary’s street, Toronto Ontario. Then Oct 20, 2017 also in the COOP section from 9 am to 5 pm,, there will be a Multi-Faith perspective on Basic Income entitled the Case for Solidarity examining employment, faith and social justice as related to a Basic Income. Both are free and registrations can be found at https://stmikes.utoronto.ca/event/the-case-for-solidarity-multi-faith-perspectives-on-basic-income/ Or
In an online interview, Olaf Michael Ostertag, a member of the German socialist party Die Linke , speaks with Professor Michael Howard, co-ordinator of USBIG in the U.S. and Punita who immigrated from India to Germany a decade ago. While Michael Howard has long been associated with the Basic Income movement in the U.S. and abroad, Punita has only recently become aware of the subject and has many questions, concerns and some very insightful observations on the subject. Olaf himself also has a long involvement in the BI movement in Germany and does an excellent job of bringing the initial, albeit modest, ongoing BI efforts of many different nations around the world into the conversation.
Olaf presents a most engaging discussion which, along with Michael’s depth of knowledge and insightful observations regarding UBI efforts both in his country and in others, and Punita’s sceptical but open minded and intuitive grasp of of the subject, all come together to make this interview a must see for any individual or group that wishes to learn more about Basic Income for themselves.
This paper represents a massive undertaking by both University of Melbourne Australia faculty and an independent agency called the the Brotherhood of St. Laurence dedicated to social Justice. It looks at a collection of BI pilot projects, as well as other projects which can be considered close approximations of a BI, from around the world. Government projects which have been run in the past as well as private and government projects currently being implemented.
The paper provides a number of graphs and and analyses aimed at comparing and contrasting the examined projects while underlining the incredible number of variables affecting both the design and the outcome of any such project that must be attended to. But the main focus of this paper is to determine how a BI can ensure equity of income, improved efficiency of governance and an end to the stigma of social supports.
While considering the concept of a BI to be attractive for a host of reasons, not the least of which are equity and the automation of the workplace, the paper is decidedly cautious and suggests careful consideration of “… broader issues and the intersecting domains and policies” which one can only assume refers to the social and economic ramifications of such a project. A very bureaucratic summation of some extremely crucial social concerns.
Scott Santens. Credit to: Singularity Bros.
Scott Santens, writer and long time UBI advocate, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum 2017, views the Alaska Permanent Fund as a foundational aspect for the funding for a Universal Basic Income – a UBI. Santens, and a growing number of people all over this planet are coming to the conclusion that something like a UBI is required in order to provide an effective counterbalance to the inequality of wealth distribution that currently plagues the world’s populations and the human ramifications of automation, robotization of the workplace.
Santens points out that, in a democracy, all citizens are deemed equal under the law and the Alaskan fund offers an excellent example of how the wealth being extracted from a communities resources must first and foremost benefit the people that comprise that community. The Alaskan fund extracts a percentage of the wealth being extracted from its resources and that money is then used to fund Alaska’s social programs as well as annually depositing as much as a thousand dollars or more into the pockets of every Alaskan citizen. A sort of pay to dig policy. That Alaskan Fund is now worth some fifty billion dollars. Conversely, in a similar but more aggressive manner, some years ago Finland was adamant that its offshore oil resources must benefit all of the Finnish people. Finland took money off the top of the oil profits and put it into what is now a trillion dollar fund that is currently benefiting everyone in Finland.
But for Santens, resource funding is only one of a nation’s assets from which a UBI can produce a revenue flow that can both enrich and empower the populations it will serve.
Santens points out that a related resource, land itself, needs to be re-evaluated. Land is not just where we build our homes, grow our crops and where our businesses and factories operate from. Land is where wealth is invested and from which wealth is extracted. People can hide their money and their wealth, but they can’t hide their land. Therefore a Land-Value Tax would provide “… an extremely progressive tax on both corporations and individuals because land is so unequally distributed towards the top.” Instead of the value of the land being decided by the owner, the land would be valued for the wealth it represents. A vacant downtown lot would then be as valued as the next door highrise and further motivate the owner to develop the land.
Secondly, for Santens a strong, social motivator for a UBI is the ever shrinking workplace where employees are increasingly being undervalued and then victimized by the threat of automation and robotization these days. Santens provides graphic representations of how the decline of collective bargaining, worker’s rights and our wages – which not too long ago had almost balanced out income distribution – have been declining proportionate to the increase in income inequality for years now. Santens understands that a UBI is not just an income supplement whereby workers canweather technological changes in the workplace, but a means whereby we finally achieve the freedom to refuse to take work that is unsafe or underpaid and, instead, achieve an equality of empowerment when bargaining with prospective employers. An equality of needs as it were.
Thirdly, Santens offers that a “annually rising intellectual property fee could be added to any intellectual property wishing to be monopolistically excluded from the public domain, with the revenue returned to citizens universally for their co-ownership of the government granting such protection.” Santens uses the example of data miners like Google and Facebook that extract information from their hundreds of millions of users for free, and then they sell that information to third party profiteers, as the reason why that information must come with a price to the data miners. When you profit from us you pay us for the privilege.
Then there is the creation of money itself. Not that long ago only the state could create new money but corporate and financial lobbyists were able to convince many governments that the commercial banks could be trusted with this responsibility. Santens wants governments to take back this responsibility and thereby put themselves back in charge of first determining the value of the money and secondly setting the value of the money significantly above the cost of producing it so as to ensure adequate funding for that nation’s UBI.
For Santens these three pillars, resource and land value funding, worker empowered bargaining and intellectual property/data mining are all keys to diminishing and, hopefully, continuing to bring greater balance to the economic inequality we see today. But Santens cautions that none of these changes will ever occur, or if they do they will not survive the reactive response of the wealthy set. For without real, effective democratic reform none of these progressive ideas will survive for long. Santens points out that “barriers to voting must be torn down, and the franchise must be expanded” if we wish to implement such radical but much needed changes to the inequality that is plaguing this planet’s populations.
The 2017 publication Europe’s New Social Reality: the Case Against Universal Basic Income by Sage and Diamond – which can be downloaded from Policy Network online – cites an earlier 2015 Policy Network report which was most concerned about a “growing social, economic and political divergence” developing between the EU nations. In particular, the 2015 report suggested that slow economic growth and the increasing inequality of wealth were causing significant strain on EU governments and even the fabric of democracy itself. Sadly, their latest 2017 report indicates that little has changed.
The 2017 book focuses on the left, right and especially center posturing of the EU’s various political parties regarding economic inequality, but offers nothing tangible to reduce the tensions and differences between these competing interests. Instead the book seems to want to emphasis political divisions by singling out the ‘center left’ of the EU’s political spectrum as the principle promoter of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).
However, the reality is that a UBI is not the property of any one political group. In fact, the idea of subsidizing the needs of the citizenry appears to have developed during the Renaissance era as a more effective means of dealing with poverty than executing the poor who were often simply attempting to gain enough sustenance to survive. Over the succeeding 600 years the idea has come and gone in various nations and under a variety of political ideologies.
Most recently a BI has been considered by Republicans on ‘the right’ in the U.S., Canada’s Liberals ‘on the left’ and various centralist parties in the EU. The BIEN link History of Basic Income is a valuable read in this regard.
Sage and Diamond’s book provides the reader with all kinds of graphs, explanations and theories to support the long held belief that politicians and bureaucrats know what’s best for the economy and, by inference, what is best for the citizenry as well. If they just ‘tinker a bit with this and adjust that’ everything will be fine. So they scrap ‘old policies’ and implement ‘new policies’ and we all wait to see some change. Of course this is exactly the same sort of tired old pedantic rhetoric that surfaces every time a UBI discussion has appeared on the horizon over the last 600 years.
Yet despite the centuries of debate, the endless fiddling and tinkering with social programs and the never-ending promises that ‘new programs and policies’ are all that is needed, the fundamental problem of economic inequality has not only not been resolved, but it is worse now than it ever was. This, in a time when the world is awash in wealth counted in the trillions. Yet with a mere 7 billion people depending on that wealth, half the world’s human population is now destitute and desperate when just a single century ago there seemed to be abundance everywhere.
Sadly the Sage and Diamond book seems to be just another example of the hubris that ‘those in authority’ know what is best for the rest of us. Many UBI critics are stuck on the idea that a UBI is about ‘welfare and poverty’ or about ‘unemployment’ in a rapidly evolving workplace. But those are only the most obvious victims of economic inequality. The real concern is about the economic survival of whole populations and is immediate. It cannot wait for more paternalistic tinkering and adjusting.
Sage and Diamond’s book offers nothing new – with the possible exception of their graphs and charts – while the problems remain largely the same and a major contributor to those problems is still economic inequality. This book is simply representative of the anachronistic anchor that is holding progress back while ignoring the potential offered by a population freed from the specter of destitution and homelessness by the implementation of a UBI. Instead, Sage and Diamond offer yet another paternalistic response. A response that is akin to wearing a different suit of solutions while hanging onto the same faded, tattered and smelly underwear of paternalistic policies.