On 28th September 2018, the Elkarrekin Podemos party registered an initiative in the Basque Parliament to organise a parliamentary discussion in order to study the effects of robotisation and digitalization, distribution of employment, and Basic Income.
This initiative will soon be discussed in a Plenary Session of the Basque Parliament. However, before taking this step, the party requested two appearances on the “Employment, Social Policies and Youth Commission” of the Basque Parliament: Daniel Raventós, head of Red Renta Básica, BIEN’s Spanish affiliate, and Ángel Elías, Dean of the School of Labour Relations and Social Work at the University of the Basque Country.
In his appearance on the 5th of February 2019, Daniel Raventós explained why many meetings of international forums (e.g.: the WEF in Davos and the International Monetary Fund) are now talking about Basic Income. According to Professor Raventós, there are three main reasons for this. First, the vertiginous speed of automatisation of jobs and the potential destruction of employment in the not-too-distant future. Second, it is deterioration of the material conditions of the non-rich majority of the population. And third, Raventós mentioned the structural failures of minimum income schemes.
In the second appearance, on the 12th of February 2019, Ángel Elias explained that, in the present unfair distribution of wealth, fewer and fewer people are accumulating greater and greater fortunes, at the cost of diminishing the resources needed to guarantee people’s access to decent living conditions. He shared his views on transformations in the labour market, and analysed possible solutions. Elías stressed the need for a Basic Income that would guarantee the material existence of all citizens, together with a fairer distribution of employment for everyone.
Elkarrekin Podemos officials are convinced that the destruction of employment deriving from processes of digitisation and robotisation requires urgent analysis with a view to finding solutions. Furthermore, social protection models need to be rethought. In this framework, the universalisation of the right to an income should be seen as an alternative, in the face of a reality where the fusion of robotics, information technology, and artificial intelligence is unstoppable.
The Red Renta Básica association (official section of the Basic Income Earth Network) announces the offer of two scholarships, covering part of the costs to start the Interuniversity Postgraduate course in Analysis of Capitalism and Transformative Policies (from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Universitat de Barcelona). The purpose being to enable access to suitable students who are in a difficult economic situation.
In the Interuniversity Postgraduate course in Analysis of Capitalism and Transformative Policies, the main ideas of republicanism, socialism, anarchism, environmentalism, feminism and the theories of justice and the commons will be discussed. Capitalism, jobs, trade unionism and both traditional and the most recent proposals of social policies will also be analysed. Moreover, there will also be several explanations about the most relevant political and social processes. Several members of the Red Renta Básica association will be teaching in the Postgraduate course and some of its lessons will deal with basic income.
Applications are already opened, and more information can be sought at Red Renta Básica. The deadline for submitting applications ends on June 30th, 2018. The jury in charge of selecting applicants winning the scholarships is composed by three members of the Red Renta Básica board: Julen Bollain, David Casassas and Francisco Ramos.
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark have just published a new book titled “Against Charity”.
Both authors argue for an unconditional universal basic income above the poverty line and paid for by progressive taxation to both eradicate poverty and empower recipients—the result being the human right of material existence. The burning issue is not charity, but justice.
Raventós and Wark affirm that charity is not a gift. In their own words, “gift-giving implies reciprocity, an ongoing relationship. When requital is impossible, the act of giving remains outside mutual ties and charity becomes yet another manifestation of class structure, a sterile one-way act upholding the status quo”.
Vacuuming up all the profits thanks to a weak labor movement, lower taxes, and tax havens, the global elite then turns around and remakes the world in its own image, distributing charitable donations that can hardly be mistaken with generosity. In the book, postmodern versions of nineteenth-century charity are described as trying to keep wealth and power in a few hands, countering people’s desire for greater income equality.
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark present a thorough analysis of charity from the perspectives of philosophy, history, religion, and anthropology. They conclude that charity is an unequal relationship, presupposing the persistence of poverty and serving as a prop for capitalism.
Daniel Raventós and Julie Wark, “Against Charity”, CounterPunch, 2018
The Spanish publisher RBA has just released a new book by Daniel Raventós, Renta básica contra la incertidumbre (Basic Income against Uncertainty), in its “los retos de la economía” (Economic Challenges) collection. The book updates the most important developments in basic income and discusses recent writings. The collection, in which the book is included, is not academic, but one which presents the basic elements of today’s concerns (inequality, the welfare state, and so on) to non-specialist readers, in such a way as to serve as a basis for further study.
Raventós’ book not only discusses the theoretical issues of basic income, but also gives an account of the social and political situation which has led to this proposal becoming widely known and regularly debated in social movements, the media, political parties and trade unions. Just a few years ago, this was unimaginable. Some people were complacently asserting that basic income could never be openly recommended because it would “shock” or “repel” the population, or at least a good part of it. It would have to be introduced, if at all, through the back door.
Well, we have lived to see the day! Here we offer an extract from the introduction of Renta básica contra la incertidumbre, which will soon appear in an Italian edition. The book has six chapters in which Raventós discusses the normative aspects from the standpoint of political philosophy (with particular reference to property and freedom); how basic income has been received in social movements like feminism and environmentalism, as well as in trade unions; how to finance it; experiments with basic income in various parts of the world; the role of basic income in an increasingly unequal world, in which mechanisation is advancing at a dizzying pace; and the paradox of support from both the right and left.
“Basic income will be paid out to people simply because they exist as citizens or accredited residents, independently of gender, ethnic group, income, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or lack thereof. Hence, like universal democratic suffrage, basic income is a proposal with the formal characteristics of laicism, unconditionality and universality.
Basic income has to confront considerable intellectual, social, philosophical, economic and political resistance, often in the form of questions. Is basic income a just proposal? Do people who disdain a salaried job have the right to an unconditional cash transfer? Will it abolish poverty? Aren’t the usual welfare state conditional cash transfers a better way to combat poverty? Will people get or stay in jobs if they have a basic income? Wouldn’t it be better to aim for full employment? Would workers have better bargaining power if they received a basic income? How would basic income affect migratory flows of impoverished people from poor countries to rich countries? Would everyone, both rich and poor, gain with a basic income? Would or wouldn’t women benefit from a basic income? Given the threat of robotisation in many areas of work, does basic income have something to offer?
Since inequality between a tiny minority of extremely rich people and the rest of the population is constantly increasing—as Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-Prize-winning economist and others have pointed out and studied—would basic income be a good idea? If basic income has supporters on both the right and left, are they advocating the same thing?
Then there is the most frequently repeated objection, also in the form of a question. Can basic income be financed? In fact, it would be more precise to say that it was “most frequently repeated until recently”. Although there are not many studies which demonstrate in detail and with technical competence how basic income can be financed, those that have been published are compelling. Whatever they might have in common, each region and each country is different in economic terms, but financing a basic income would have to take the form of changes in budgetary priorities and reforming tax systems. For example, there are proposals advocating the introduction of special mechanisms for taxing financial transactions.
These reforms would bring about a substantial reduction in inequality of income distribution and allow for simpler, more coherent tax and welfare benefits systems. Basic income is not a panacea or a quick-fix for all the world’s social and economic problems but, in view of many who study and espouse it, this measure would mean that people would be better equipped to participate in productive activities, social inclusion would improve, communities would be stronger, political and social participation would be revitalised, and there would be a significant reduction of poverty and all the problems that go with it.
Basic income is not a political economy, per se, but would be part of one, as well as a general project aiming to guarantee and underpin the material existence of the whole population. It might also be seen as a kind of indemnity for past and present wrongs since it requires more privileged citizens to contribute towards achieving the right of existence for everyone. And herein lies one of the main political obstacles for basic income.
This is also the point which makes it possible to explain the apparent paradox of left and right support for basic income. The book notes that the difference depends on financing. The left focuses on additional taxes on the rich, while the right wants to trim down existing welfare to pay for basic income.
“In other words, the left-wing position does not entail any cuts to existing social services or social rights, in education, health, support for dependents, housing, etc., all of which are essential in any welfare state worthy of the name.”
Image obtained at https://www.sinpermiso.info
“Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction.
First: It’s completely impossible. Second: It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing.
Third: I said it was a good idea all along!”
Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008)
Like any serious social programme, basic income must pass two tests represented by the questions (in the following order): is it fair and is it technically feasible? This article written by Arcarons, J., Raventós, D. and Torrens, L., builds on their previous work here, and addresses these two questions.
First it rebutes many other articles and authors who have criticised the Unconditional Basic Income previously. Secondly, it responds to one of the most common criticisms of basic income, which is that it would be impossible to finance, or that it would mean a “big tax hike”. The authors show financial figures and demonstrate that a basic income can be financed in Spain and, of course, that it would not entail a “big tax hike”.
For the detailed proposal, see the following source: Daniel Raventós , Jordi Arcarons , Lluís Torrens: La renta básica incondicional y cómo se puede financiar. Comentarios a los amigos y enemigos de la propuesta [Unconditional basic income and how it can be financed. Comments to friends and enemies of the proposal]. December 1, 2016, www.redrentabasica.org