A mix of Dutch speakers from different fields, all in favor of a basic income, interactively discussed the concept of a universal basic income (UBI) during the symposium “a basic income, full speed ahead!!” [“het basisinkomen, volle kracht vooruit!!”] on January 23rd . The aim was to gather ideas about how to progress to make UBI a reality in the Netherlands as soon as possible. The symposium was organized by “Basisinkomen2018”, the organization behind the petition signed by more than 66,000 citizens (a number that is still growing).
Johan Luijendijk, co-founder of “Basisinkomen2018”, announced a few activities his organization will be organizing and/or funding in the Netherlands such as competitions between universities and informative movies aimed at countering negative preconceptions about a basic income.
He states that supporters can be found in left as well as right wing populations, but the image of a basic income is that of a left wing idea. There is still a lack of understanding of the concept of a basic income and many still believe it will make people lazy. There is also an obstinate, Calvinistic opinion in the Netherlands that one has to work for every penny, argues Luijendijk.
The audience expressed the need for a clear overview of each political party’s stance on basic income in the Netherlands. (On March 15th, the country’s Parliamentary elections will take place).
“Overall, the idea of a basic income is very much alive in the Netherlands, and Basisinkomen2018 will continue to invest in explaining the concept to the people,” Luijendijk assured the audience. An explanatory animation about basic income was introduced during the meeting, including strategic instructions about how to share it (not all at once).
According to Reinier Castelein, chairman of a Trade Union “de Unie” (financial sector), very few trade unions focus on a basic income because they are traditionally focused on work. However, he went on to say:
“An ever-increasing number of people are living on social benefits. Unemployment is increasing and will continue to increase, especially if you realize you disappear from the statistics when you don’t apply for jobs anymore. In the financial sector alone, 60,000 jobs have disappeared and more are expected to disappear. Due to the misbehavior of some people at the top of some banks, there is no empathy for these people in society.“
“More and more people are working in multiple small jobs in order to earn enough money for a decent living. With a basic income, unemployment can be abolished.” Castelein continues, “a basic income would contribute to a redistribution of work and income with less working hours a week, creating possibilities for participation in caring roles or other (currently unpaid, but useful) work.” People from the audience complemented these expected results with positive effects on health, decreasing criminality, and more room for creativity and contribution to solutions for the problems in society.
Employees can better focus on their work if they are not distracted by the struggle to make a living and the quality of work will improve under such circumstances, argues Ton Stuy, an employer in the transportation sector.
“With a basic income you can take away discontent and it is an answer to Brexit and Trump’s protectionism. Furthermore, a basic income creates room for lowering wages and it will not cost more than the crazy things we spend money on now, “ he states.
With respect to the affordability of a basic income, Stuy argues: “If you invest in the well-being of people, it will come back and therefore it will not cost anything, but will even be profitable. Employers who treat their employees well should get more attention.”
Liesbeth van Tongeren, a politician from the Green Left party (“GroenLinks”), compares the discussions about basic income with the discussions about the abolishment of slavery and the discussions about women’s empowerment in the past. In both cases, people originally argued it would be unaffordable and an unachievable goal. Eventually both turned out to be achievable and affordable.
The concept of a basic income also touches the question of what is appreciated: effort or the economic benefits? Many people say, “My job is a useless job, nothing would change if I didn’t do my job.” In reaction to the remark of Ton Stuy, who thinks a basic income will have a decreasing effect on wages, van Tongeren argues that the effect will be in both ways: some jobs will be paid more and others less. It will change the established hierarchy in society and it will also change the interrelationship of many men and women. These effects cause anxiety, according to van Tongeren.
For van Tongeren, the reality is that more and more people are falling out of the system. At the same time, 90 billion euros a month are created and spent in Europe in the context of quantitative easing. This money could instead be divided amongst the European citizens, which would be a good start. It would help if the IMF would make a statement about it in this context, van Tongeren states.
George van Houts, from the theater group The Seducers (“De Verleiders”), shares his experience with the audience and explains the role theater can play in the discussion about the current financial system. His theater group played several pieces around this topic and attracted full theatres. “We are informed by a group of scientists (Our Money, “Ons Geld”), who check if the information is accurate.” Van Houts explains that money is made by commercial banks, as debt.
“We performed a play around this topic at the Dutch central bank (“De Nederlandsche Bank, DNB”), and we were not argued against, but Klaas Knot (President of the DNB) asked why we would worry the people. ”Many top bankers know something will have to change, as the system is about to burst, according to van Houts. The responsibility of the creation of money should be given back to the government and it should not be created as debt, which is the case now.
Van Houts indicates a parallel system is already in place: the DNB-coin (similar to the bitcoin). This system can function parallel to the euro and people could be given a bank account at the DNB, which could be used for a basic income, for example. This could then be managed by a public organization that is not dependent on ‘voters’ favour’.
A basic income is inevitable, according to Jan Rotmans, Professor in Sustainability Transitions at Drift (Erasmus University Rotterdam). He supports this prediction by comparing the current stage of the “digital revolution” with the industrial revolution of the 19th century. “We live in a time of chaos, anxiety and social inequality, but eventually, the optimists were right.” The most important resistance comes from within, Rotmans explains. “It is better to have one small success story than many meetings trying to think it all through in order to implement it on a large scale. Just start doing it. Examples of such small scale initiatives in The Netherlands are the crowd funded basic income project in Groningen and the initiative in Terneuzen.” (The city council of Terneuzen thought they had found a way to implement a basic income for a small group of citizens on social benefits, but a few days after the symposium the central government claimed it was illegal). The technological developments are causing a battlefield in the middle part of the working-class and this is likely to cause a downward spiral of fear that “it will happen to me”. “Can we keep everyone at work? No,” so radical solutions are necessary, according to Rotmans, one of which can be a basic income.
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Special thanks to Josh Martin and Jenna van Draanen for reviewing this article
Photo: symposium a basic income, full speed ahead!!, January 2017, Rotterdam the Netherlands by Hilde Latour (at the desk from left to right: George van Houts, Jan Rotmans, Liesbeth van Tongeren and Johan Luijendijk)
Business Insider published an article based on an interview with co-founder of BIEN, Guy Standing, focusing on his analysis of the working class in the Western world.
Standing sees a growing class of “precariat” workers, caused by a political agenda promoting market-led competition since the 1970s. A significant group of this “precariat” is prone to listen to ugly voices playing on their fears and supporting neo-fascist populism as a result. This helps explain the election of Donald Trump in the US, but also Brexit and the popularity of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in Europe.
He refers to his book “The Corruption of Capitalism”, where he describes a growing group of wealthy citizens (the “rentier class”) who live on income from investments and property (including copyright and patents that often last for 20 years). This increases the gap between the rich and the poor.
According to Standing, at least part of the solution could be the introduction of a universal basic income (UBI), and he has seen growing support for this idea from both left and right wing politicians, economists and many others in the last few years.
“I see no reason why we will not have it within the next ten years — and maybe sooner.”
Standing states that a UBI can be seen as a matter of social justice, as a compensation for a system of property that results in a loss of natural inheritance, a point argued extensively by Thomas Paine, who introduced the idea of a citizen’s dividend back in 1795. It would also enhance individual liberty and give people a sense of security.
The affordability of a UBI is not a problem, Standing argues. It would replace other forms of public spending, and could be funded by the establishment of capital funds, like those derived from oil in Alaska and Norway, and the rental flows from patents.
The belief that UBI would remove the incentive to work is ridiculous, he further claims. Enough evidence is available to show it is the opposite:
“If you had a basic income, it would mean that everybody would have a base, on top of which their earned income would be taxed at the standard rate of tax. That would increase the incentive to take low-wage jobs.”
The current Western systems of ‘social welfare’ discourage people from taking low-wage jobs. These systems are poverty traps, argues Standing.
“We must have a new income distribution system [as] real wages will continue to decline in OECD countries, insecurity will continue to grow, and rental incomes will continue to go to the top. That is a recipe for economic instability, political extremism, and a lot of other nasty things.”
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This article is the second in a two-part series based on Thomas Colson’s interview with Standing. The first article contained ambiguities that lead to inaccurate reports about the Indian situation. It was corrected in a Basic Income News article “Jumping the Gun in India“.
Special thanks to Josh Martin and Genevieve Shanahan for reviewing this article.
Photo: yinxu – oracle bones by Xuan Che, CC-BY-SA 2.0
David Piachaud, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and an associate of The Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), published a discussion paper on Citizens’ Income (CI) in December of last year.
A Citizen’s Income, or a Basic Income, is not a new idea but it has been receiving
increasing attention. There is confusion about the idea and an attempt is made to
distinguish different concepts. Then a full Citizen’s Income is examined in relation to four key criteria: the justice of an unconditional benefit; the possibility and fairness of a simple individual benefit; economic efficiency; and political feasibility. On all four criteria, Citizen’s Income fails. It is concluded that Citizen’s Income is a wasteful distraction from more practical methods of tackling poverty and inequality and ensuring all have a right to an adequate income.
Piachaud first acknowledges that a CI, or a basic income, is attractive in its simplicity, and he cites article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948: “Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family.”
Piachaud states, “A Citizen’s Income could ensure that right was achieved.”
He then describes four different concepts of a Citizen’s Income (CI):
- Bonus CI (a basic income based on a dividend)
- Partial CI (a basic income for particular groups only)
- Supplemental CI (additional income alongside a social security system)
- Full CI (an unconditional basic income adequate to live on to all citizens)
In the rest of his paper, Piachaud examines a full CI (which in his definition is not based on dividend but fully financed out of taxation) in relation to four key criteria. Through his analysis, he concludes that Citizens’ Income fails all four of these tests:
- The justice of an unconditional benefit
Piachaud discusses Philippe Van Parijs’s paper “Why Surfers Should be Fed: The Liberal Case for an Unconditional Basic Income” and argues that it is unfair (and therefore unjust) for healthy people to live off the labor of others.
- The possibility and fairness of a simple individual benefit
A full CI is intended to ensure (in a simple manner) that needs are met, but not everyone has the same needs. Piachaud gives examples related to disability, diversity in housing costs, and diversity in living arrangements (people living alone or with others). Basing a CI on individuals and assuming their needs are identical, is therefore unjust, Piachaud argues. “The social security and in some ways the tax system attempt to take these factors into account, however inadequately.”
- Economic efficiency
Piachaud defines a full CI as an unconditional income fully financed out of taxation. With respect to the economic efficiency, he argues:
“A full CI goes to everyone unconditionally, whereas social security is targeted at certain groups who in the absence of social security would be most likely to be poor. In consequence, a full CI that replaces social security is far more costly than social security, and this has to be paid for from higher taxes on all incomes with far-reaching economic consequences. The inevitable conclusion is, therefore, that a targeted social security system was, is, and will be more efficient and equitable than a full CI.”
- Political feasibility
Piachaud finds it very unlikely any political party will adopt an unconditional CI as a policy proposal either in the full or supplemental forms
After this analysis, David Piachaud concludes, “Citizen’s Income is a wasteful distraction from more practical methods of tackling poverty and inequality and ensuring all have a right to an adequate income.”
Info and links
The full paper can be found here.
Special thanks to Josh Martin and Danny Pearlberg for reviewing this article
Photo: diversity by Nabeelah Is, january 2012, CC-BY-SA 2.0
On December 15th 2016, the ‘committee for citizens’ initiatives’ decided not to allow a discussion in Dutch Parliament about the proposal, organized by Basisinkomen2018, to implement a universal basic income (UBI) in 2018.
Although enough citizens signed the citizens’ initiative (more than the threshold of 40.000), UBI will not be discussed in Parliament because it already has been discussed in reaction to the ‘note of initiative’ (“initiatiefnota”) of the member of parliament Norbert Klein in September last year.
The rule is that a topic cannot be forced onto the agenda by means of a citizens’ initiative if it has been discussed in the past two years.
Klein’s proposal was submitted after the start of the citizens’ initiative, it was only discussed (and not decided about) in a meeting of the committee of social affairs and did not concern an implementation of a UBI (it asked for more research). Nevertheless, the ‘committee for citizens’ initiatives’ (one of its members being Norbert Klein) decided the proposal did not meet the criteria to be admitted for discussion in Parliament.
In reaction to this decision, Norbert Klein spoke in the House of Representatives, “To the 65,000 people that signed this citizens’ initiative, the procedural side is of course subordinate to the content. That’s why I consider the great support for the basic income as especially valuable and as a support for me to continue to push for a basic income. The basic income is on the agenda and will remain on the agenda in 2017.”
Johan Luijendijk, Pieter Parmentier and Michael Amendeone from Basisinkomen2018 are disappointed but remain positive:
“We will invite the political parties ourselves. We organized a symposium: Basic Income, Full Power Ahead (“Het Basisinkomen, Volle Kracht Vooruit“) that will be held on January 23rd. We are honored that a union leader (Reinier Castelein), a scientist (Jan Rotmans), a theater man (George van Houts) and an entrepreneur (Tom Stuij) want to contribute to the discussion as convinced ambassadors of a UBI.”
No more seats are available for this symposium, which emphasizes the popularity of the concept of a UBI in The Netherlands.
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NETHERLANDS: 58,800 people sign petition calling for a parliamentary debate on basic income [Florie Barnhoorn]
Special thanks to Josh Martin and Danny Pearlberg for reviewing this article
Photo: The plenary hall of the Tweede Kamer (“Second Chamber”), the Dutch Parliament by JVL, CC-BY-SA 2.0
At the party’s congress on December 17th, members of Dutch political party Green Left (“Groen Links”) were given the opportunity to vote on amendments to its election program. This document will be released soon, in advance of the country’s parliamentary elections, which will be held on March 15th, 2017.
In the draft version of the election program, a basic income was only mentioned as a possible means to reform the social welfare system.
Two amendments concerning a universal basic income (UBI) were voted on at the party’s congress:
- Implementation of a UBI
“Green Left supports the (eventual) implementation of an unconditional basic income for everyone, high enough to live decently from. Unconditional economic security will lead to possibilities for a fairer distribution of paid jobs, caregiving, volunteer work and income. In addition to that, it will facilitate entrepreneurship. Starting point is that the lowest incomes will not decrease and the basic income will be co-financed through progressive income taxes. Existing additional financial support for citizens in specific circumstances can continue to exist.”
- Experimenting with a UBI
“Implementation of a national representative experiment of a universal basic income, to be conducted on a large-scale and over several years, aimed at a better understanding of the effects on people’s behaviour.”
Before the voting took place, the board of the party advised members to reject both of the amendments, arguing:
“an unconditional basic income is a bridge too far, as an unconditional basic income uses tax money to support people who don’t need it”.
But the members decided differently: approximately 80% of those present, voted in favour of the second amendment: to start a nationwide experiment of a universal basic income.
The first amendment, concerning the implementation of a UBI failed in a much closer vote: 53% rejected this proposal.
“We now are working hard to make changes in the text of the election program and the definite version will be available soon”, Christel Kohlmann (Head Strategy and Information of the party) explains. It could not be confirmed whether the experiments would really be aimed at a UBI for everyone, however.
For comparison, the currently planned experiments in The Netherlands, although they will test elements of basic income, are not examining a representative sample of the entire population. The social security experiments expected to start this year, for example, will examine only a group selected from people currently receiving welfare benefits.
Green Left is now the second Dutch elected political party that is already in Parliament and now in favour of experimenting with a real UBI. (That is, its members are in favour, and with a convincing majority). The Party for the Animals (“Partij voor de Dieren”) is also in favour of a serious experiment with a UBI and has formulated that in their program. In addition to these two parties, sitting Member of Parliament Norbert Klein will participate in the upcoming elections with the Cultural Liberal Party (“Vrijzinnige Partij”). Klein is now in Parliament as an individual member, having left the 50plus party after the last elections. The Cultural Liberal Party is also in favour of research with a universal basic income, and has even produced a rough calculation on how a UBI should be financed.
Compared to the former elections, support for a UBI has clearly spread and grown in The Netherlands. More than 65.000 people already signed a petition and this number is still growing. In the upcoming month, more political parties will have their members voting for amendments to their party programs in advance of the upcoming elections in March.
Info and links
The amendments on a universal basic income can be found on page 75 of the Green Left congress paper (in Dutch).
The election program of Green Left can be found here (when ready and in Dutch).
Information about the upcoming experiments with social welfare can be found here and here (in Dutch).
THE NETHERLANDS: Party for the Animals wants Universal Basic Income to be investigated
NETHERLANDS: Debate about unconditional Basic Income in Parliament
Photo: Euro by Alf Melin 2012, CC BY-SA 2.0
Special thanks to Josh Martin and Kate Mc Farland for reviewing this article