ONTARIO, CANADA: New Government Declares Early End of Guaranteed Income Experiment

ONTARIO, CANADA: New Government Declares Early End of Guaranteed Income Experiment

Photo: Ontario Premier Doug Ford (CC BY-SA 2.0 Bruce Reeve)


Ontario’s new center-right government announced on July 31 that it will “wind down” the Canadian province’s experimental trial of a type of guaranteed minimum income.

The experiment, which has been providing 4,000 low-income Ontarians a guaranteed annual income of C$16,989 for single individuals and C$24,027 for couples, had been launched in April 2017 and originally slated to continue for three years.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced the project’s cancellation during a press conference on the recently elected government’s plan to address poverty and reform social assistance (video below).

Her spoken remarks were accompanied by a News Release and Backgrounder from the Government of Ontario Newsroom.

YouTube player

The experiment had been created and launched under the province’s previous government, led by Premier Kathleen Wynne and the center-left Ontario Liberal Party. On June 7, 2018, the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party emerged as victors in Ontario’s general election, with Doug Ford as new Premier.

However, despite the government’s shift to the right, there was no initial anticipation that the guaranteed income experiment would be cancelled after the Ford government assumed control on June 29.

On the contrary, as recently as April, a spokesperson had told reporters at The Star that the PC Party would continue the guaranteed income pilot. In an article dated April 24, the Toronto-based newspaper states that party spokesperson Melissa Lantsman replied, “Nope, as mentioned we look forward to seeing the results,” when asked if a PC government would “kill the innovative experiment.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, however, MacLeod unexpectedly announced that the provincial government has established a 100-day deadline to develop a “sustainable social assistance program that focuses on helping people lift themselves out of poverty,” which is to focus on the reintegration into to the workforce of those who are able to work.

After castigating the preceding Liberal government for creating a “mess” and “patchwork system” of programs, MacLeod stated, “We are also going to wind down the Ontario basic income research project, which is clearly not the answer for Ontario families.”

In another controversial announcement, MacLeod declared that the government would increase support to those who enrolled in the province’s existing social assistance and disability programs, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, by 1.5 percent — in contrast to the 3 percent promised by the previous government.

Following her prepared remarks, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services fielded questions on the government’s decision to discontinue the guaranteed income trial. When pressed to provide data or specific examples to corroborate her claim that the piloted program is “clearly not the answer” for poverty in Ontario, she offered no details, stating only that the pilot is “not doing what it’s intended to do,” “quite expensive,” and “for the amount it was costing … certainly not going to be sustainable.”

Similarly, initial announcements released on the Government of Ontario Newsroom said only that the Ministry will be “winding down” the research project “in order to focus resources on more proven approaches,” and that “three-year study of no-strings attached payments is not the answer Ontario families need.”     

MacLeod initially divulged no details concerning how or when the project will be terminated, stating only that she wanted “to assure Ontarians on the pilot project right now that we will do it ethically.” On the following day, however, a news report from the Canadian Press noted that experimental participants “received an email Wednesday saying their payments would continue through August but got no further details about how the project would be phased out.”

MacLeod has defended the government’s decision to cancel the pilot in the face of opposition and dismay from anti-poverty advocates, other Ontarian politicians (including the leaders of the left New Democratic Party and Green Party), and the program’s beneficiaries (see, e.g., CBC, HuffPost Canada, and The Lindsay Advocate, the local newspaper of one of the experiment’s major test sites).

On the day following the announcement, she told the press that the program was “a disincentive to get people back on track” and failed to help beneficiaries become “independent contributors to the economy,” adding, “When you’re encouraging people to accept money without strings attached, it really doesn’t send the message that I think our ministry and our government wants to send. We want to get people back on track and be productive members of society where that’s possible.”

With nearly two years of the trial remaining, no results of the experiment had yet been formally analyzed. However, some participants, such as members of Hamilton’s Living Proof, had voluntarily shared personal anecdotes about how the guaranteed income program was improving their lives.


Not Really a “Basic Income” Pilot

The amount of the payments to experimental participants was conditional on household status (couples receive less than single individuals living apart) as well as income (the amount of the benefit is reduced at the rate of 50% of additional earned income). For these reasons, the program being tested in Ontario was not technically a basic income as defined by BIEN. As Karl Widerquist has recently pointed out, it is more aptly described as a negative income tax.

However, the project has standardly been called a “basic income” experiment by the Government of Ontario, and the Basic Income Canada Network, BIEN’s Canadian affiliate, has accepted the usage; for example, the latter convened the 2018 North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress at Hamilton, Ontario, one of the experiment’s test sites, and invited participants and researchers as featured speakers. In general, the basic income community has taken a keen interest in the experiment, and one not borne out of mere terminological confusion; even if not a basic income strictly speaking, the piloted program eliminated many conditionalities central to most welfare programs in Canada and other developed nations, such as the requirement to work or look for work.

Correspondingly, basic income advocates have reacted vociferously to the sudden and unexpected announcement of the project’s premature demise. Roderick Benns, one of Canada’s leading journalists on the topic, has summarized the decision as “ideologically driven,” “mean-spirited,” and “wrong.” The US-based Economic Security Project, which is currently funding the development of a basic income trial in California, also responded quickly to the announcement with a blog entry condemning the move as “short-sighted and irresponsible,” undermining promising research as well as hurting the lives of the program’s recipients.


Really a Premature End

Earlier in the year, news media inaccurately reported that the Government of Finland was also about to pull the plug on its two-year basic income experiment launched at the beginning of 2017. In this case, however, the government had announced only that it would not fund any extension or expansion of the project beyond this initial two-year trial, prompting the government body responsible running the experiment to issue a clarificatory statement.

While the announcement from Finland was a disappointment for those researchers and advocates who had hoped for an expansion of the experiment, the Finnish experiment will be completed and analyzed as originally planned. In contrast, the Ontario government does intend what had earlier been feared in Finland: the premature termination of its experiment as early as this month.


More Information

Official news releases from the Government of Ontario can be followed and accessed here: https://news.ontario.ca/newsroom/en.

The previous provincial government’s official website on the pilot study is still available “for archival and research purposes” here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-basic-income-pilot.


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Reviewed by Dawn Howard


CHICAGO, US: City Considers Resolution to Investigate Basic Income Pilot

CHICAGO, US: City Considers Resolution to Investigate Basic Income Pilot

Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of fifty elected members of the City Council of Chicago, has introduced a resolution to convene a taskforce to investigate the implementation of a basic income trial in the city. According to the proposal set out in the resolution (which can be read in full here), the pilot project should provide 1000 families “with a minimum of $500/month, no strings attached,” with further details of the model to be established by the taskforce:

[W]e, the Members of the City Council, assembled this day on June 27, 2018[,] direct the Mayor’s office to empanel a Chicago Resilient Families Initiative taskforce to study Universal Basic Income and an Earned Income Tax Credit Modernization program.

The taskforce would carry out the following activities:

1. Create partnerships with city departments and external stakeholders, foundations, advocacy organizations, philanthropists, and leading public policy makers to launch a Universal Basic Income (UBI) Initiative in the City of Chicago.

This taskforce would be charged with developing a UBI model for 1000 families to be provided with a minimum of $500/month, no strings attached.

2. Scaling the City of Chicago’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) smoothing program to the same 1000 family cohort.

The EITC smoothing would advance payments on a monthly basis. In addition, the taskforce would study the creation of a Chicago-based Earned Income Tax Credit Program.

Note that, if payments are made on a family rather than individual basis, the policy will not technically constitute a basic income as defined by BIEN; however, since the money is to be given with “no string attached,” the trial would examine a policy much closer to a true basic income than any existing welfare policies in the US.

As quoted above, the resolution additionally proposes to restructure the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax refund available to low-income working Americans, for the families in the experimental sample so that they receive their the credit monthly instead of annually. This would not be the first time that Chicago has tested a “smoothing” of the EITC over the year: in 2015, Mayor Emanuel collaborated with a Chicago-based non-profit organization in conducting an experiment in which over 300 residents received their EITC payments only a quarterly basis.

Introduced in the 1970s, the EITC has generally been a popular program that enjoys cross-partisan support, and EITC expansion is sometimes viewed as a potential route to introduce a basic income in the US. At present, however, the tax credit is available only to those who have earned income, is means-tested, and primarily benefits parents (e.g., this year, example, single parents of one child are eligible to receive up to $3,400 if their incomes fall under $39,617, while individuals with no children may receive only up to $510 for the year, and only if they earn less than $15,010).

Pawar has introduced the resolution out of concern about existing poverty and economic insecurity in Chicago and the US as well as the threat of additional job loss to automation.  


Alderman Ameya Pawar, CC-BY-3.0 Chi Hack Night

Is Basic Income on the Horizon in Chicago?

After an article about Pawar’s resolution appeared in The Intercept on July 16, a torrent of articles appeared in the popular media, often with headlines suggesting that Chicago is on the verge of testing–or even implementing–a universal basic income. In fact, many hurdles remain to be surmounted before even a pilot can be launched.  

When introduced in June, Pawar’s resolution received support from 36 co-sponsors in the Chicago City Council. Before the proposed taskforce is convened, however, it still must be approved by official vote of the council, in addition to the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Moreover, even if the taskforce is established, it will confront the task of not only designing but also fundraising for a basic income pilot project.

In interviews and social media, Pawar has commented on his inspiration from the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), a trial of a $500 monthly guaranteed income that has been financed entirely by private donors. Notably, SEED received a $1 million seed grant (pun noted) from the Economic Security Project (ESP), which was launched in 2016 by basic income advocates including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes for the purpose of funding projects related to unconditional cash transfers.

When asked about the funding issue during an interview on Chicago Tonight, Pawar noted that “there is a lot of support in the philanthropic community” for basic income initiatives, and briefly mentioned that he has also “had initial conversations” with ESP. Meanwhile, ESP’s communications director Saadia McConville has been quoted in the Chicago Sun Times as saying, “Are they going to be able to raise all that money philanthropically? That remains to be seen,” adding, “I can speak from experience in Stockton that it’s definitely not an easy task, but it is something that [donors] are interested in.” One impediment to philanthropic funding will be the sheer size of the trial proposed by Pawar. In contrast to his goal of 1000 families, the SEED project has set a target of at least 100 recipients for its equal-sized cash grants.

If the taskforce is created, the resolution specifies that it must deliver a report on the basic income and EITC experiment to the City Council by October 1, 2018. Thus, more information can be expected  this autumn regarding a model for the experimental trial, as well as potential avenues for funding.

Post reviewed by Dawn Howard.

Cover Image CC-BY-2.0 Roman Boed

SWITZERLAND: Filmmaker and Village Collaborate to Plan “Basic Income” Trial

SWITZERLAND: Filmmaker and Village Collaborate to Plan “Basic Income” Trial

What’s the Buzz from Rheinau?

Earlier in the month, headlines made such proclamations as “Swiss municipality to offer guaranteed income” (SWI), “Swiss village considers a crowdfunded basic income for all inhabitants” (Toronto Star), and “Swiss town set for universal basic income experiment” (The Local Switzerland), referring to Rheinau, a town of about 1300 people in the north of the country.

To preclude misunderstanding about what is happening in Rheinau, it should be stressed that the village is not enacting a basic income, nor is its government deliberating an implementation of the policy, nor is it running a state-sponsored trial. Moreover, to avoid possible confusion, it is specifically worth noting that this latest news from Rheinau is unrelated to previously reported discussions of basic income pilots by Swiss political bodies, such as the investigation of municipal basic income pilots initiated last year in nearby Zurich.  

Instead, the news is this: the city council has agreed to permit an independent filmmaker Rebecca Panian to make the village the site of privately funded one-year trial of a program similar to basic income, involving at least half of the town’s population, which would serve as the basis for a documentary. The project’s main purpose is to provoke interest, discussion, and further research into the idea of basic income.

While the village’s council has given the green light to the documentary project, the ultimate execution of the project remains contingent on enrolling the desired number of participants and raising sufficient funds. Moreover, the design and duration of the trial remains liable to change during the course of discussion with the local council and inhabitants of Rheinau.


The Payment Scheme: Unconditional, Subject to Repayment

If the trial does come to fruition as currently planned, it will not, strictly speaking, test a basic income: participants in the trial over the age of 25 will be given a cash payment of 2500 Swiss francs (CHF) (about 2151 EUR) at the start of each month, with reduced amounts given to minors and young adults, irrespective of income, household status, work, or need; however, if participants receive additional income during the month, they will be expected to repay this money in part or full.

Stated otherwise, participants over age 25 will be granted 2500 CHF at the start of each month, but will be permitted to keep only as much as necessary to ensure that their total income for the month is at least 2500 CHF (with lower amounts for younger age groups). If they earn above 2500 CHF, they will repay the entire amount of the grant.

To many, this feature of the design might cause the project to seem not a test of basic income at all; after all, according to the Basic Income Earth Network, a basic income is by definition delivered without means test. For the project’s initiators, however, the repayment requirement is a way to attempt to more accurately simulate what a basic income would feel like if actually implemented in Switzerland, where many individuals, earning high salaries, would presumably “repay” any amount paid out as a basic income in personal income taxes. “[It] is important to us not to spread the illusion that an unconditional basic income simply means more money in your pocket,” Panian tell Basic Income News, “It just means that the basic income is unconditional.  Everybody gets it so nobody needs to fear angst (existenzangst) again.”

Since the cash allowance is paid upfront, the plan is distinct from a negative income tax or top-up scheme in which individuals are “reimbursed” if there earned income falls below a certain threshold. One might say it loosely resembles a basic income accompanied by an increase in individual income tax.

That being said, this provisional design has not been set in stone, and documentary team will consult with residents of Rheinau later in the year to produce a finalized design.


Motivation: “Too Many Questions Unanswered”

Like many in both Switzerland and abroad, Panian first heard about basic income when a referendum to enact the policy was put on the ballot in the 2016 Swiss general elections. Although the referendum left open the amount of the basic income — it stated only, “Legislation will determine the funding for the system and the actual amount of the basic income” — a monthly payment of 2500 CHF was often discussed during the campaign.

Celebrating 23% Yes referendum vote, CC BY 2.0 Generation Grundeinkommen

Panian was intrigued by the idea as a possible solution for challenges posed by the future of work. In her view, a society based on the goal of full employment is unsustainable in the face of accelerating automation, and attempting to maintain such a system will result in “mass unemployment and lots of people with no money, no support, and no perspective.”

At the same time, she was not surprised that the referendum failed at the ballot box, telling Basic Income News, “there were too many questions unanswered, and in the mind of many people this idea remained a crazy, non-realistic vision.”

Panian herself does not express certainty that basic income is the new system needed by Switzerland and other nations facing the threat of automation, but she believes that “we better test it as well as we can before we throw it in the bin and do nothing.”

This goal — opening people to the idea of basic income as a serious proposal — provided the motivation that would ultimately lead the filmmaker to Rheinau: “I figured out that in order to become more open to the idea, people need more time, and they need to ‘see’ it happening. That’s how I came up with the idea to start a test it in a village. … Everybody who watches the experiment going on in a village can sympathize with the villagers and with that get more connected with the idea.”


The Village: A “Mini-Switzerland”

Other privately financed and administered “basic income” projects, including Germany’s lottery-style Mein Grundeinkommen and the in-progress US documentary Bootstraps, have focused on individual-level effects of unconditional monthly cash grants.

Like the directors of Bootstraps, Panian hopes to document the lives of individual participants in the Rheinau project. But Panian is also interested in the community-level impact of a basic income, and for this reason decided to situation her study in small village in which the majority of residents would be able to take part.

Rheinau Abbey, CC BY SA 3.0 Hansueli Krapf

Panian first announced her plans in January of this year, putting forth a call for Swiss municipalities to serve as the site of the documentary. In some cases, city councils placed bids to be the site of the basic income test. In others, individual residents wrote to Panian to nominate their own communities.

Panian ultimately selected Rheinau out of more than 100 applicants, in part on the basis that its demographic structure reflects Switzerland as whole. As she describes it to Basic Income News, the community is “small but like a mini-country.”

According to Panian, Rheinau was also a favorite due “fantastic communication with the local council” and the council’s “real interest in the experiment.” Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that the village rejected the country’s basic income referendum with 72% no vote in July 2016, but that its mayor and councilors have been receptive to involving the community in a small-scale test of a similar program. In a statement quoted on the official website of the planned documentary, the council declares that basic income “deserves to be tested” and “encourage[s] the population to participate” in the trial and film project.


The Research Team

In addition to Panian, a team of social scientists — including an economist (Jens Martignoni), organizational psychologist (Theo Wehner), linguist (Aleksandra Gnach), and sociologist (Sascha Liebermann) — is fronting the basic income project in Rheinau.

The four scientists are currently designing a study about of the effects of the program on the community. However, as Martignoni stressed in correspondence with Basic Income News, the research project is in an early stage of development, and it is too early to tell what can be learned from the trial.  

In addition to assessing the effects of the program on the well-being of participants and the community, the researchers hope to examine its effects on their opinions on basic income itself.  Liebermann tells Basic Income News, “I am curious to find out how the people in Rheinau think about the basic income and how their thinking about it might change during the trial and in what direction,” which he plans to investigate through in-depth interviews.

Like Panian, both Martignoni and Liebermann emphasize that cooperation with the local community is an important aspect of the Rheinau experiment, in contrast to other past and ongoing trials of basic income and negative income tax, with the people of Rheinau to themselves be included in the development of a final model. The researchers also emphasize that the Rheinau project is unique in that its goal is not to fight unemployment or poverty.


Basic Income in a “Rich Country”

In regions where governments are currently sponsoring or overseeing trials of basic income or other income guarantees — including Finland, the Netherlands, Ontario, Barcelona, and Stockton — the main objective is to address unemployment or poverty.

Generation Grundeinkommen demonstration, CC BY-NC 2.0

While Switzerland is not without poverty, it is known as a relatively wealthy nation. The median salary was reported in 2015 as 6189 CHF per month, and the average household income was reported in 2017 at 6957 CHF per month. According to the Federal Statistical Office, only 10% of people living in Switzerland have a monthly disposable income below 2243 CHF — suggesting that relatively few might stand to benefit from a monthly 2500 CHF grant subject to repayment.

Panian herself believes that, for this reason, a Swiss experiment would have the potential shed a fresh perspective on the basic income debate, “Switzerland is famous as a ‘rich’ country. If we test it, we don’t do it primarily to fight unemployment or poverty.” Martignoni also points out that the trial planned in Rheinau would be unique among basic income experiments as one that is “not restricted to a poor part of the population but to all in a developed (‘rich’) country.”

That said, if the filmmaker believes that main reason to implement basic income in rich nation like Switzerland would be as a sort of insurance against future automation and digitization, then one might wonder what impact she hopes or expects to observe during a one-year trial in 2019. Indeed, if it most Swiss workers are already earning well above 2500 CHF per month, one might wonder if the trial will have any effect on participants (except, perhaps, the minor inconvenience of the required monthly repayments). Asked about this concern, Panian noted that, while very few Swiss men have monthly salaries below 2500 CHF, a significant proportion of women still lack their own income. Since the benefit will be paid on individual rather than household basis, women without a personal income will be able to keep the entire monthly payment. Thus, Panian predicts that families with children and stay-at-home mothers will be prime beneficiaries.

She adds, however, that individual monetary benefits are not, in her view, the only “benefit” of basic income: “I talked to many people, and it became obvious that most of them only think about how they could or would not profit on a monetary basis from the basic income. What they seem to forget is that if you live in a society where people don’t have to fear for their basic needs, they might get more content, and this will have a positive effect on the whole community.”

In any case, the discussion of potential benefits to Rheinau itself should not obscure the fact that, for the team behind the trial, the major goal is not to produce measurable results but to reinvigorate discussion of basic income in Switzerland and beyond. According to Panian, the best case scenario is one which the project “inspires others to organize more experiments on their own in their communities and motivates people to think about what future they want.”

Enno Schmidt, the filmmaker behind an earlier basic income documentary and cofounder of the referendum campaign, agrees that the greatest promise of the project is to catalyze further discussion: “it is one first fresh new activity after the referendum; it keeps the topic in Switzerland a little awake. It encourages other communities to think about whether or not they will also introduce a basic income on a trial basis.”


For more information and updates on the Rheinau basic income project, see https://www.dorf-testet-zukunft.ch/page1.html.


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Article reviewed by Patrick Hoare.

Cover image: Rheinau, CC BY-NC 2.0 Wisi Greter

UK: Call for Papers announced for Cambridge conference on intellectual history of basic income

UK: Call for Papers announced for Cambridge conference on intellectual history of basic income

“An Intellectual History of Basic Income”

University of Cambridge – January 14, 2019

A team of three University of Cambridge scholars have released a Call for Papers (CFP) for a conference on the history of the idea of basic income, to be held at the university on January 14, 2019.

Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) co-founder Philippe van Parijs is scheduled speak at the closing event. Other invited speakers are to be confirmed.

The conference, titled “An Intellectual History of Basic Income,” is being organized by Daniel Zamora (Department of Sociology), Peter Sloman (Department of Politics and International Studies), and Pedro Ramos Pinto (Faculty of History). Zamora is currently co-authoring a book (with Cambridge PhD candidate Anton Jäger) on the intellectual history of basic income with a focus on the US and continental Europe. Sloman is meanwhile writing a book on the history of the concept in the UK, and recently published an article in the Journal of Social Policy on the idea in the last century of British politics.

As described in the CFP, the interdisciplinary conference will investigate the “story of how the basic income proposal has achieved global prominence,” with a specific focus on “the contemporary history of basic income from the 1960s to the present,” including “how UBI proposals have been developed and received in different ideological and political contexts, and the ways in which the concept has been shaped by changing attitudes to welfare provision, income inequality, and the future of work.” It will also explore “how an idea that emerged as a response to a specific situation in industrialized countries in the 1960s and 70s has become an important tool for rethinking development policy in the global South,” alongside broader themes related to changing conceptions of global poverty.

The organizers invite abstracts for papers on the above themes (to be submitted by September 1, 2018). Selected authors will be invited to develop their conference papers into full chapters for an edited volume to be published with an academic press.  

For more details, including submission guidelines, see: https://inequalityandhistory.blogspot.com/2018/05/call-for-papers-intellectual-history-of.html.

Reviewed by Patrick Hoare.

Photo: Founding meeting of BIEN.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Zamora, Sloman, and Jäger are coauthoring a single book; this has been corrected.

Interview: UBI and ‘Job Culture’ (Part Two)

Interview: UBI and ‘Job Culture’ (Part Two)

The following is part two of a two part series (part one can be found here) featuring Kate McFarland interviewing D. JoAnne Swanson of The Anticareerist on Basic Income. The original article can be found here.

KM: Are there any particular writers or thinkers on basic income who have influenced your views? Is there any additional literature that you would recommend for those who are interested, specifically, in the idea that basic income could facilitate and encourage unpaid work?

DJS: This could be a long list! Not all of these people are basic income writers per se, but they’ve all greatly influenced my views on basic income and unpaid work. Here are some of the writers I refer to most frequently, along with a favorite quote from each:

David Frayne – his interview in Contrivers’ Review is among the most lucid treatments of these topics I’ve ever read. I love his writing. I highly recommend his book The Refusal of Work.

“…there has to be more political organisation to create change. The book is deliberately very explicit about this because I felt a strong need to distinguish it from popular books promoting lifestyle changes like “slowness” or “life simplification” as solutions to the problems with work. We are seeing a lot of these books where the author is positioned as a sort of lifestyle guru, who is going to tell us the secret key to living well, and it is usually by working less, being less materialistic, and so on. I don’t think that people really benefit from being told this, and these books actually anger me to a degree, because they suggest that change is a matter of changing individual habits.”

Charles Eisenstein – author of Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible

“Why do we want to create more jobs? It is so people have money to live. For that purpose, they might as well dig holes in the ground and fill them up again, as Keynes famously quipped…Wouldn’t it be better to pay people to do nothing at all, and free up their creative energy to meet the urgent needs of the world?”

“Unfortunately, the term leisure carries connotations of frivolity and dissipation that are inconsistent with the urgent needs of the planet and its people as the age turns. There is a vast amount of important work to be done, work that is consistent with degrowth because it won’t necessarily produce salable product. There are forests to replant, sick people to care for, an entire planet to be healed. I think we are going to be very busy. We are going to work hard doing deeply meaningful things that no longer must fight upstream against the flow of money, the imperative of growth. Yet I also believe we will have more true leisure — the experience of the abundance of time — than we do today. The scarcity of time is one reason we overconsume, attempting to compensate for the loss of this most primal of all wealth. Time is life. To be truly rich is to have sovereignty over our own time.”

Charlene ‘Eleri’ Hamilton of Women4UBI on The Work Trap:

“Some detractors of Basic Income say that it will create dependency and slavery to the government. That is what is happening with our so-called safety nets now. You have to prove yourself to the government to get benefits. You have to continue to prove yourself to keep benefits. You are told when and how and why you can use those benefits. You will lose those benefits the moment you step out of the framework. Basic Income eliminates all that.

Basic Income is about trust and respect. We respect you as a member of our society, and we trust you to make your own choices. We don’t need to means test you, or scour through your finances, or judge what you buy when. When everyone gets the same level of benefit, then no one needs to be judged, shamed or excluded.”

Peter Frase – search his blog for the “work” tag. In particular, see Stop Digging: The Case Against Jobs and Work To Need. From Workin’ It:

“I want to separate the different meanings of work. But doing so is essentially impossible in a world where everyone is forced to work for wages, because they have no other means of survival. In that world, all work is work in the first sense, “necessary” because it has been made necessary by the elimination of any alternative.” 

Kathi Weeks – The Problem With Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries and A Feminist Case for Basic Income:

“Demanding a basic income, as I see it, is also a process of making the problems with the wage system of income allocation visible, articulating a critical vocabulary that can help us to understand these problems, opening up a path that might eventually lead us to demand even more changes, and challenging us to imagine a world wherein we have more choices about waged work, nonwork, and their relationship to the rest of our lives.”

Silvia Federici – Wages Against Housework
See also the Caring Labor Archive.

“…under capitalism every worker is manipulated and exploited and his/her relation to capital is totally mystified. The wage gives the impression of a fair deal: you work and you get paid, hence you and your boss are equal; while in reality the wage, rather than paying for the work you do, hides all the unpaid work that goes into profit.”

J. Larochelle & C.A. L’Hirondelle of Livable4All – “What is Jobism?

“…anyone doing informal but necessary work such as unpaid care-giving is put under financial duress because their time used for unpaid work cannot be used for paid work. Families, neighborhoods and communities are robbed of the time and resources they need thrive and be healthy. This robbing resources from the informal sector causes great harm to children, elders, people with extra needs from illness or disability and it breaks apart families and communities. This creates a negative feedback loop because the subsequent problems fuel the need for more ‘fixing’ jobs (e.g. social workers, addiction counsellors, police, lawyers, jailers, etc.).”

Ethan Miller – Occupy, Connect, Create! Imagining Life Beyond ‘The Economy’

“The sorcery of capitalist economics is precisely to make its own violence invisible, so that it can appear to be nothing but the miraculous liberator of human potential and the progressive deliverer of ever-abundant goods. And there is a disturbingly good reason for us to give in to this illusion: most of us are dependent on the very economy that has systematically exploited us and undermined the health of our communities and our environments. We have come to rely on the very “job creators” (that new euphemism for exploiters) whose project of profiting at our expense we condemn. We have come to need the very economic growth machine that is eating our world and destabilizing our planetary climate in the name of “progress.”

Lauren Chief Elk-Young Bear, Yeoshin Lourdes, and Bardot Smith, founders of the gender justice movement Give Your Money To Women: The End Game of Capitalism.

“This goes back to classism again and again and again. If you look across the spectrum, things women do for society are valued little or not at all in terms of money. They’re essentially forced to access capital through their relationships with men: personal, familial, professional.”

Molly Scott Cato – See Arbeit Macht Frei  (the first edition of this book was released in 1996 under the title Seven Myths About Work.)

“Work is a confidence trick that lies at the heart of the economic system of capitalism. If a man walked up to another man and hit him over the head with a stick and stole half the money in his wallet this would be considered a crime and the man would be considered a threat to society. But if a man offers another a job and pays him half the value his labour generates we laud him as a wealth-creator, as a worthy entrepreneur, the sort of person our children should be taught to emulate in school.”

Sarah Jaffe – See Opting for Free Time:

“…we need to be willing to argue for leisure as a right, and as a feminist issue. […] A gendered demand for leisure would argue that women’s time is as important as men’s, whether we are spending it parenting or reading a book or lying on a beach. It would take into account the racialized and classed expectations of different groups of women, and argue that low-income women deserve time off too (and it would argue that they deserve to make enough money to enjoy that time.) It would point out that what is earned vacation for white women is not “laziness” in women of color.

It would argue not from any biological imperative (that rarely gets us anywhere good), but from a time-honored (though lately forgotten) labor and left tradition that says that time, as much as anything, is a right—and it would take from the Wages for Housework movement the idea that unpaid work in the home is still work that we deserve a respite from.”

Karl Widerquist – Among my favorite quotes from his work is this powerful statement:

“One answer of mine to one of the common questions [about universal basic income, a.k.a. UBI] is unusual, and it’s been a major theme in my writing since I started. When people say it’s something for nothing, I argue most emphatically that it is not. We force so many terrible things onto the poor. We don’t get their permission. And without UBI, we don’t pay them back for what we force on them. We make them live in a world where everything else is owned. We make rules about all kinds of things they could otherwise do. Our ancestors lived without such rules for 200,000 years. They could hunt, gather, fish or farm as they wished. We’ve taken all that away and given them nothing in return. UBI is long overdue. UBI is paying for the privileges you have taken. If we don’t have UBI we put the propertyless in the position where they have no other choice but to work for the very people whose privileged control of resources makes the propertyless unable to use resources for themselves. UBI is no less than the end of effective slavery.”

James Chamberlain, whose work I just discovered a few weeks ago. (My first reaction: “where were the people who were writing things like this when I was applying to graduate school?”) I’m very excited to read his new book Undoing Work, Rethinking Community, especially after reading an early draft of the first chapter.

“Not only does the requirement to work keep many of us too busy to engage in deep reflections on fundamental questions of collective existence, but the ideology of work erodes freedom by constructing paid work as an unassailable good and by placing it outside the realm of “reasonable” or “realistic” debate. By encouraging us to see the requirement to work for pay as an inevitable or even natural feature of collective existence, the ideology of work therefore chips away at our freedom to even imagine alternative futures in which paid work might play a different role (or none at all), and thus reduces our capacities to act according to our own ends.”


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In May, Kate McFarland will be speaking about anticareerism at the North American Basic Income Guarantee congress in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.