A New Play about Thomas Paine

A New Play about Thomas Paine

Guest Contributor: Jeffery J. Smith, co-founder of the US Green Party and author of the play

Thomas Paine—not Tom Paine as his detractors addressed him—added his voice to the chorus of prominent thinkers calling for an extra income for everyone sourced from ground rent. In the 18th century, Paine’s was a popular voice, inspiring revolt everywhere. His opponents dubbed his career “the Age of Paine”.

Leading reformers advanced “physiocracy” (nature’s rule). To them, it was obvious that the distribution of natural rent created class, decided one’s wealth vs one’s poverty, and conferred political power as consistently as a natural law. Physiocrats dominated debate in the three nations where Paine promoted justice.

In France, Quesnay and Turgot formulated “l’impot unique” (the single tax) on land. Mirabeau the Elder prophesied their discovery would be a “social advance equal to the inventions of writing and money.” (The equal of fire, too?) Voltaire’s character Candide declared, “The fruits of the earth are a common heritage of all, to which each man has equal right.” Rousseau added, “You are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to no one.” The first French Republic used land rent exclusively until the cost of war impelled them to tax commerce, too.

In Britain, Adam Smith wrote, “Ground rents seem a more proper subject of peculiar taxation.” William Blackstone judged “The earth, therefore, and all things therein, are the general property of all mankind.”

In America, two famous friends of Paine shared the same belief. Thomas Jefferson: “Everyone may have land to labor for himself may exact for it such compensation as not only to afford a comfortable subsistence, but wherewith to provide for a cessation from labor in old age.” Benjamin Franklin, bankrupted by his speculation in land (bailed out by friends), converted to physiocracy. Today, the US Social Security Administration recognizes Paine’s proposal as the precursor of the Social Security pension. 

Paine’s Common Sense spurred the American colonies to rebel, his American Crisis kept them at it while the war went against them. For these achievements—plus Rights of Man, Age of Reason, and Agrarian Justice—the US Congress bestows the Thomas Paine Award upon authors of clear, inspiring political prose.

In our era, it’d not be books but other media that’d shift a popular paradigm, likely entertainment media. Recall how Gandhi helped the anti-nuclear weapons movement, what Malcolm X did for civil rights, what Milk did for gay marriage, etc. A movie about Paine could do the same for an extra income for all.

A step toward the silver screen is a new stage play, Tom Paine’s Bones, which unlike previous attempts, relates his exciting life—he faced death seven times—in order to reveal his humanitarian ethics as a way to convey his geonomic policies. That is, entertain to enlighten.

To bring the play to your town and enjoy a night at the theater, please get in touch. To help make its premiere in Portland Oregon a success, join the crowd funding campaign. Thanks for you consideration.

Negative Income Tax (NIT) is Preferable to UBI

NIT, UBI, Guaranteed Income et al, are ultimately functions of our tax, fiscal, and monetary systems. Whatever initialism is used the same end results will be realized. A NIT is the most appropriate way of describing how a UBI etc. will be implemented and ultimately paid for. 

The Case Against UBI

The image that pops into mind with UBI is that of a monthly cheque showing up at everyone’s door whether requested or not. Such a program will not come to pass.

UBI, through the magic of the internet and social media, has come to represent for many, the tip of the government’s spear into control over the individuals daily affairs. This negative branding has lost a sizable percentage of “never will buy into the idea” citizens. 

The universality of UBI, like government-paid healthcare, is a non-means-tested entitlement with the only caveat being a citizen has to want it and ask for it. In other words just because open heart surgery is “free”, most healthy individuals won’t seek it out or want it. This caveat puts an end to the notion of an unrequested cheque showing up (or worse being automatically deposited into a bank account.) Why? Taxes, clawbacks, and the associated paperwork. A great many will still want, request, and be quite happy to fill out any required slips in order to receive what they determine to be as needed additional income.

How much monthly income is too much income is up to the individual to determine. Therefore, this amount will and should vary between $0 and a maximum (universal) amount, as determined by program administrators. As with most other forms of income, a government provided income will be taxed, and at the end of the tax year, tallied.

The behemoth that is the government’s tax department is not going anywhere anytime soon. The tax avoidance programs that higher income individuals enjoy are not going anywhere anytime soon. Government income is next to impossible to not declare, but there do exist systems of deductions and tax credits that can be used in order to reduce (avoid) tax obligations.

A standard, universally-understood tax reduction device that is built into the income tax system is the basic personal tax credit (usually the first line in the tax deduction portion of a tax calculation form). This “credit” assumes that the tax filer has in essence prepaid this amount, and therefore may reduce this from his or her taxable income. The personal credit reduction is available as a whole number, not an integer, i.e. not allowed to go into the negative and therefore not refundable. Enter NIT.

By allowing the Basic Personal Tax reduction to enter into the negative, lower and zero income tax filers will find a tax refund that will reach up to the total amount of the stated tax credit. (The personal tax credit amount usually hovers around a nation’s poverty line.) These tax refunds theoretically could be returned as a lump sum, but it are more likely and preferably to be returned as a monthly installment. Here we have the basic framework of a guaranteed monthly income program, albeit based on a persons previous year’s situation.

By tweaking the regulations in the tax system, a monthly, taxable prepayment of a refund (based on a zero income for the current year assumption) can be made available to all.

Article by Ward Smith

2023 BIEN Congress: Call for papers

2023 BIEN Congress: Call for papers

Article by Minseo Cho

The 22nd BIEN Congress will be held in Seoul and Jeonnam, Korea in an online and offline hybrid form, from August 23 to 26, 2023. We invite academics, researchers, policy makers, advocates and activists interested in UBI.

The theme of the Congress is “Basic Income in Reality”. With this theme, we want to make it a contest to look at the lessons left by the basic income movement and agenda, such as the various basic income pilots and institutionalization efforts that have been attempted so far, and to seek a future directions for a new start.

We hope the 22nd BIEN Congress could serve as a forum for rich discussions with academics, researchers, policy makers, activists, and supporters interested in basic income. Please mark your calendars, spread the word, and consider submitting a proposal. Application deadline for the papers to be presented is March 31, 2023. You could apply here: https://biencongress2023.org/call-for-papers

COP27: An opportunity for basic income

COP27: An opportunity for basic income

Leaders from around the world are attending to discuss climate change, its consequences, and how to face them. This event is COP27 which took place in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. One of the focuses of the recent climate conference is how to support countries, especially from the global south, which are suffering the most through climate change. 

In the past, developed nations had promised to support countries suffering from climate change consequences with yearly $100 billion USD to deal with the effects of climate change. While most of that money has been given in the form of high-interest loans, which might force some nations into debt traps, even those $100 billion has not been provided completely. This is especially tragic as most of the emissions causing climate change have been emitted from the industries of developed nations that profited through them and gained more wealth. 

At the same time, countries across the global south are the primary victims of climate change. Floods in Pakistan this year, as well as droughts in the Sahel region in Africa, are already destroying hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives. It can only be expected that those numbers will continue to rise.

All those circumstances show the necessity of a global universal basic income, especially now. Providing the population of the regions suffering the most from climate change with a basic income will help them rapidly. People who are facing new challenges every day as a result of climate change will threaten their homes, their sources of income, and their sources of nutrition would have a reliable basic income. 

Having a guaranteed basic income would not only improve the mental health of those people by reducing their stress levels, as many studies have already shown and are continuing to show. It would also give people an opportunity to think about the problems they will face in the future instead of only focusing on issues they have to survive through today. A Universal Basic Income would give people a fighting chance 

For this to happen, politicians have to be cooperative and fair. They have to bare responsibility for causing climate change and support through their wealth which was based on emissions directly or indirectly, a basic income to the countries which are hit hardest by climate change. If they refuse to do that, they will continue suffering from climate change. All that does not have to happen if we take the necessary steps to save millions of lives and take the opportunity to take massive steps toward the future.

Written by: Ahmed ElBaz

Dutch guaranteed income pilot shows reduced financial stress

Dutch guaranteed income pilot shows reduced financial stress

My name is Jonathan Berg. I have been working as a medical anthropologist doing research with people living in poverty and marginalization since 2012. I currently work at the Erasmus University. In the past few years I have been involved as a researcher with an experiment in the Netherlands which I think might be of interest to BIEN website visitors.

For a period of three years, a group of 14 people under forensic psychiatric care (meaning having a criminal history and a severe mental affliction), received an almost rule-free extra income to find out if taking away their financial stress (scarcity theory) would reduce the amount of public nuisance they caused and crimes committed. All they had to do to keep receiving the money was: 1) not be incarcerated, 2) have an address in the city where the experiment took place, and 3) talk to researchers every 6 months.

We did a longitudinal qualitative study using the case history method to carefully map all developments and thus were able to study and describe the lives of the participants and observe changes in their behavior. When we first met the participants, many of them were living in in cycles of: poverty, debts, violent or criminal behavior, psychiatric troubles, and drug use. With little to no perspective of any improvement, many lacked the ability to see a future for themselves and some saw only death as a way out of their misery.

Since these participants often had a history of substance abuse, there were worries that they would spend the income of alcohol and drugs. However, a negligible amount the money actually was thus spent. Instead, they spent it making their houses more livable, and on food, self care, medical costs, transportation, and social activities. For most of the participants the money meant a world of change and we noted an overall improvement in their mental wellbeing and a decrease in the risk of recidivism.

We saw three ways in which the steady extra income helped reduce violent or otherwise criminal behavior. Firstly, the extra money provided income security. This made them less dependent on undeclared work and crime to make ends meet. Secondly, they had less financial stress, so they could control their impulses better and were better able to cope with setbacks that would have otherwise triggered, for example, violent behavior. Thirdly, they cherished the improved quality of life due to the extra income, and did not want to risk loosing it. Therefore, they were more thoughtful about any behaviors that might come with the risk of incarceration, since that would (temporarily) stop the monthly payment.

Unsurprisingly, during the experiment the participants did not turn into model citizens and we observed many other influences inhibiting them from living in the ways that they wanted. But, as one of the participants said: “Money is not everything, but everything is money”. It seems that for people living in extremely marginalized situations, like forensic psychiatric clients, a guaranteed minimum income could help shape preconditions needed to escape their chains of poverty, psychological afflictions, stress, and criminal or aggressive behavior.

Our research report, including all the inspiring and sometimes confrontational stories of the participants, is currently only available in Dutch. We will work on publishing it in an international academic journal at a later stage, but that will take some time.

The initiative for this experiment was taken by Irene Veldhuis and Wouter Boekweit, who at the time both worked in forensic psychiatric care. The Research was done by Jonathan Berg and Dorien Mul.

Jonathan Berg
PhD candidate
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management
Mobile: +31 634402726
Email: berg@eshpm.eur.nl