On 18 May 2016, Mein Grundeinkommen raffled off four one-year basic incomes, with each winner receiving €1,000 per month for the next year. Since announcing its first winner in September 2014, Mein Grundeinkommen has announced a total of 42 winners.
Mein Grundeinkommen is a “micro version of a basic income,” which – according to its website, at the time of writing – has crowdfunded more than €520,000 from more than 44,400 people. The success of the Mein Grundeinkommen initiative has inspired similar crowdfunding initiatives in the Netherlands, Ons Basisinkomen, Switzerland, Grundeinkommen für dich, and the USA, My Basic Income.
Despite its success, however, the crowdfunding approach is unlikely to tell us much about the macroeconomic effects of introducing an unconditional basic income. For example, we won’t learn much about the effects of a basic income on aggregate demand, the labour market or inflation.
Nevertheless, these experiments can offer us “persuasive anecdotes,” which can teach us more about the effects of a short-term basic income on the employment, social participation and health outcomes of particular individuals.
Speaking to the LA Times, Michael Bohmeyer, Mein Grundeinkommen’s founder, said “the one thing that everyone tells us is that they’re able to sleep much better … But, ostensibly, not a lot changes: The students keep studying, the workers keep working and the pensioners are still pensioners. But there is a big change that takes place in their minds. People feel liberated and they feel healthier.”
So, what would you do if you were guaranteed €1,000 per month for the next year? What dreams would you dust off?
Mein Grundeinkommen’s next raffle will be held on 7 June 2016. For more news and stories check out the Mein Grundeinkommen website: https://www.mein-grundeinkommen.de/start
Credit Picture CC Raven Jelks
The Scottish National Party (SNP), Scotland’s largest party and the UK’s third largest party, agreed to a motion supporting the introduction of a basic income in Scotland at its spring conference, held on 12-13 March 2016.
The motion, which was submitted for agreement by the Cumbernauld SNP branch, explicitly opposes the UK government’s approach to social security and proposes an alternative formed around the introduction of a basic income. The motion states that the “conference believes that a basic or universal income can potentially provide a foundation to eradicate poverty, make work pay and ensure all our citizens can live in dignity.” Ronnie Cowan MP (SNP) argued that a basic income could “be the flagship policy for a socially just independent country.”
The SNP is not the first group to support the introduction of a basic income this year.
In February 2016, Reform Scotland, an Edinburgh-based free market think tank, published The Basic Income Guarantee. In the report, Reform Scotland argue that the introduction of a basic income guarantee is the best way to resolve fundamental problems with the current social security system in the UK. On the other side of the economic discourse, Common Weal, a Glasgow-based social democratic think tank, is also advocating for the introduction of a basic income as part of the social security system for a newly independent Scotland.
Indeed, interest in a Scottish basic income stretches back even farther, to before the Scottish referendum on independence. In preparation for the possibility of a vote in favour of an independent Scotland, the Scottish government established the Expert Working Group on Welfare to explore possible social security systems. In June 2014, the group stated that, “the case for a Citizen’s Basic Income was prevalent throughout the responses to our Call for Evidence.” Nevertheless, the group went on to conclude that, “we would not recommend the introduction of a [basic income] at this time. However it is an option that could be revisited in the future.”
With a consensus now forming around the basic income idea in Scotland, perhaps the time to revisit this option has come.
Moreover, the SNP’s support for a basic income does not stop at the borders of an independent Scotland: the SNP is also emerging as a key force behind campaigns for a UK basic income. In January 2016, Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) tabled an Early Day Motion before the UK parliament on the topic of a basic income.
Of the 32 MPs that supported her parliamentary motion, 23 were from the SNP. In light of this development, it could be that the SNP, though championing a progressive vision for an independent Scotland, ultimately succeeds in creating a progressive, unified United Kingdom.
On 30 January 2016, BasisInkomen, the Dutch association for a basic income, hosted the International Congress on Basic Income Experiments in Maastricht, Netherlands, to celebrate its 25th anniversary. This was an opportunity for those interested in the idea of a basic income to come together to reflect on recent developments – particularly in the Netherlands, Finland and France – and look towards the future. Keynote speakers included Julia Backhaus, Sjir Hoeijmakers, Stanislas Jourdan, Markus Kanerva, Otto Lehto, Philippe van Parijs, Bono Pel, Guy Standing and Nicole Teke. This article is a summary of the key points from the congress.
Guy Standing opened the congress by reflecting on the journey that the basic income idea has made over the previous 30 years: from the impossible to the ridiculous to the absurd and now perhaps even to the cusp of the inevitable. Two key themes ran through Guy Standing’s presentation: the necessity for further experimentation in order to gain political legitimation and, moreover, the importance of designing these experiments based on normative principles of social justice, such as wealth redistribution and social emancipation. If political legitimation can be won, based on principles of social justice, then a basic income will provide a pathway toward a dignified life for individuals within a good society — a society in which the collective wealth of the community is shared equally within and across generations, and in which each individual makes a moral commitment to actively participate in society. The idea of a basic income represents a rejection of the opportunistic politics of today in favour of a positive vision for tomorrow’s good society.
After Guy Standing’s expansive introductory speech, discussion turned to the details of social experiments currently being planned in the Netherlands, Finland and France. In each case, recent developments demonstrate broad support for some type of basic income across the political spectrum.
In the Netherlands, nineteen municipalities are currently developing some form of social security experiment, which will remove the condition that beneficiaries must participate in workfare schemes, and tackle the poverty trap that beneficiaries experience when transitioning between the social security system and work. While many of these municipalities initially proposed introducing a basic income as part of the experiment, current legislative restrictions have limited this number to three. Four municipalities have lobbied the Dutch Ministry for Social Security and Employment to revise these legal restrictions, though the government has yet to respond. Despite this legal scuffle, the proposed Dutch experiments reveal widespread support for a basic income experiment across the political spectrum, with each major political party represented among the nineteen municipalities.
In Finland, the government has proposed a number of social experiments, including a basic income experiment. The government’s aim is to better align social policy with societal demands, as well as to reduce disincentives to work and decrease the role of bureaucratic processes in social security. A research consortium led by Kela, a government agency responsible for social security payments, is responsible for designing and implementing the basic income experiment. A first hearing for the basic income experiment was held on 5 December 2015, while a preliminary report will be released on 30 March 2016 and a final hearing will be held on 15 November 2016. A budget of €20 million has been allocated to the basic income experiment, which is expected to begin in 2017 and last two years. Different variations of a basic income are currently being considered, including a ‘full’ basic income, a ‘partial’ basic income, a negative income tax and a participation income. The models propose a basic income of between €400 and €1,200 per participant per month, with many models retaining supplementary allowances. One major challenge is the constitutional requirement to treat all citizens equally. To meet this requirement, participation in the experiment will be voluntary. A basic income experiment enjoys broad public support across voters of all major political parties in Finland, and recent public opinion polling indicates that more than 50% of the public supports the idea.
Nicole Teke (Credit to: MFRB)
In France, parliamentary support for a basic income has been increasing. Current proponents include Jean Desessard MP (Green Party), Frédéric Lefebvre MP (Les Républicains), and Gaetan Gorce MP and Delphine Batho MP (Parti Socialiste). Furthermore, the Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs Emmanuel Macron expressed support for the idea of a basic income and a government agency on digital affairs recommended introducing a basic income experiment. In addition, the Sirugue Commission, a parliamentary working group led by Christophe Sirugue MP (Parti Socialiste), is under increasing pressure to examine the case for a basic income experiment as part of its comprehensive review into the existing social security system. Meanwhile, the regional coalition government in Aquitaine is developing its own proposal for a basic income experiment. However, social security policy is a departmental rather than regional competency, and the regional governmental tier is currently being restructured with welfare allowances likely to become a central government competency, which might pose difficulties for regional experimentation.
All such experiments, however, will be limited in what they are able to prove. In his presentation, Philippe van Parijs challenged the audience to reflect on three such limitations. First, an individual is likely to make different labour market decisions depending on whether the basic income is temporary or permanent, which will distort the effect on labour supply. Second, participants receiving a basic income within an experiment will only account for a small fraction of the total labour force rather than the whole labour force, which will distort the effect on labour demand. Third, voluntary participation in the experiments will likely attract net beneficiaries rather than net contributors, which will distort the effect on financing. Philippe van Parijs then articulated the social justice case for a basic income: a basic income is an intergenerational redistribution of the currently unfair and uneven allocation of the efforts of previous generations as well as accessible natural resources. Furthermore, a basic income is a gift, which deserves a counter gift. If this counter gift were a commitment to actively participate in society, it could nurture a renewed ethics of responsibility. This is a strong case for a basic income, which exceeds the scope of the experiments planned in the Netherlands, Finland, France and elsewhere.
In all, the congress was one of optimism buoyed by a sense that the basic income movement is on the cusp of something momentous. The various developments in the Netherlands, Finland and France were also a reminder that if we truly want change, we can find a form for that change that fits our unique circumstances. We are not restricted by whether our political systems are centralised or decentralised, majoritarian or multi-party, left or right, a republic or a constitutional monarchy – we our restricted only by our imaginations and our tenacity.
More information at:
Basisinkomen.org, “Interviews and Lectures about #basicincome from Maastricht 2016”