Pope Francis advocates basic income in new book

Pope Francis has advocated basic income in his new book, Let us Dream: The path to a better future, Simon and Schuster, 2020.

Pope Francis wrote this:
“Recognizing the value to society of the work of nonearners is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid world. That’s why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the universal basic income (UBI), also known as ‘the negative income tax’: an unconditional flat payment to all citizens, which could be dispersed through the tax system.
The UBI could reshape relations in the labor market, guaranteeing people the dignity of refusing employment terms that trap them in poverty. It would give people the basic security they need, remove the stigma of welfarism, and make it easier to move between jobs as technology-driven labor patterns increasingly demand. Policies like the UBI can also help free people to combine earning wages with giving time to the community.” (pp. 131-132)

Our comment: Pope Francis, and his co-author Austen Ivereigh, show a good understanding of a Basic Income as an unconditional flat payment to all citizens.

(A negative income tax is different: That works like a means-tested benefit, and its administration would be a lot more complicated than that of a Basic Income. It is a negative income tax, and not a Basic Income, that would be administered through the tax system.)

Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh also show a good grasp of some of the important effects of a Basic Income: that it would provide a secure financial platform on which to build; there would be no stigma attached to it; it would give to workers more power in the employment market; and it would enable people to make new decisions about paid employment, and to do vital work in their communities.

Pope Francis has made a most useful contribution to the Basic Income debate.

A new English translation of Adrienne Goehler’s recent book

A new English translation of Adrienne Goehler’s recent book

Earlier this year we announced the publication of Adrienne Goehler’s new book on Basic Income. The article appears below. An English translation is now available, which can be downloaded here.

This new edition features additional material: an interview with Sarath Davala, and an essay by Julio Linares.

In 2010, Götz Werner and Adrienne Goehler wrote 1000€ für Jeden: Freiheit, Gleichheit, Grundeinkommen (1000€ for everyone: Freedom, Equality, Basic Income). Now Adrienne Goehler has written a new book, Nachhaltigkeit braucht Entschleunigung braucht Grundein/auskommen ermöglicht Entschleunigung ermöglicht Nachhaltigkeit (Sustainability needs Deceleration needs Basic Income | Livelihood allows Deceleration allows Sustainability).

To see further details, click here.

To read an interview with Adrienne Goehler, click here.

Adrienne Goehler has provided the following translation of the website page about the book:

If we had unrestricted basis income for everyone, what would the consequences be? Would it increase freedom and equality and so dim down the ever faster accelerating times? Would it help to save the environment with its restricted resources?

Over the last two years, Adrienne Goehler has been addressing these and other burning questions of our time while working at the “Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung” in Potsdam. In this book that presents the results of her inquiries, she embarks on a journey from research to politics to art. She invited people from the most diverse parts of society to contribute essays, interviews, stories, images, and artistic interventions concerning the relationship of sustainability, deceleration, and basic income. She constellated insights into the financial world with suggestions contributed by experts in agriculture, development policy, climate change, and ecology. Artists address the most important questions of our time: What do we need for a good life and do we have enough of it for all of us? How will “work” look like in the future, and who will be employed? If we learn to think of unpaid and poorly paid social work as equally important as other kinds of work, will that lead to more gender equality? How do we identify meaningful tasks that would fulfill our lives? And last not least: Would implement an unconditional universal basic income as a basic human right be in tune with the seventeen goals of sustainability, as declared by the United Nations? The book offers insights into the possibilities and contradictions of our actions. It presents all the important aspects of contemporary debates concerning universal basic income. A passionate wake-up call: We need to break out of frozen patterns of thinking and acting, strive for knowledge, and move around more freely.

Complaints about acceleration were already associated with industrialization, but in its present extent, its intensification and radicalization, it no longer concerns only working conditions, but the whole of life. Acceleration has totalized itself. The philosopher Byung-Chul Han, author of the book “Fatigue Society”, describes the most important change from capitalism in Marx’s time, when factory owners and workers faced each other in a clearly defined relationship of exploitation, to today’s self-exploitation relationships, in which people became entrepreneurs of themselves, caught in the illusion of self-realization. Thus neo-liberalism formed the oppressed worker into a free entrepreneur who worked incessantly on his self-optimization. We are constantly saving time through faster transportation, fast food, faster information media and tools, and therefore we are packing more and more into the day. Hartmut Rosa calls it, “quantity increase per time unit”. We believe that we have to be available 24/7, as if we were all on call at all times. The present with its unreasonable demands makes us pant, our fantasy lies idle under states of exhaustion and multiple fears. We find ourselves in a hamster wheel whose speed we cannot determine and which many believe we cannot leave. The significantly high increase of depression and burnout are symptoms of this too much, which is at the same time a too little. The time researcher Barbara Adam therefore states: “We need not only an ecological ‘footprint’, but also a ‘timeprint’. I remember with longing “Momo”, the character in Michael Ende’s novel. Momo realized that anyone who has the time of mankind has unlimited power. She brought back time stolen by grey ‘time thieves’ to the people, when she realized that by saving time people had forgotten to live in the now and enjoy the beauty in life. And I am thinking of John Franklin, the polar explorer, whom Stan Nadolny memorialized in his novel “The Discovery of Slowness”, because his perception refused everything fast and superficial and transformed slowness into calm. Time and the feeling of permanent acceleration, breathlessness, is the subject of many interviews. I also feel connected to the idea of deceleration as a further prerequisite for the chance to lead a sustainable life. Hartmut Rosa, who imagines the process of the great transformation as successful only in connection with a different way of dealing with time, is also connected to this idea. And with a basic income.

In addition to the immense challenges outlined above, there is another Herculean task: the comprehensive redefinition of life and work as a result of ongoing digitalization, with which gainful employment will change qualitatively and quantitatively in a variety of ways, some of them very fundamentally. In conjunction with the increasing importance of the service sector, a working society is emerging in which a growing part of the population does not have continuous, let alone lifelong, gainful employment, but instead works independently or on a project-based basis, often accompanied by poorer pay and greater insecurity.

With the start of the digital age in 2002, people were able to store more information digitally than in analogue form for the first time. Another ten years later, the term ‘Work 4.0’ came into circulation to describe the fourth industrial revolution.

Since then, there have been a large number of studies that look at the impact on working life to date. Many of them assume a significant loss of traditional jobs, which will in future be done by machines, and predict radical changes. A frequently quoted – and now also widely criticized – study by the scientists Osborne and Frey from Oxford University assumes that 47 percent of gainful employment in the USA is at high risk of being automated in the coming years. The Davos World Economic Forum estimated in 2016 the number of jobs that will be lost in the next five years in the 15 most important industrial and emerging countries as a result of the “fourth industrial revolution”, 5 million. Women’s jobs were particularly affected. Companies such as Siemens, SAP, Telecom and the big ones in Silicon Valley agreed with these forecasts, which clearly boosted the discussion about an unconditional basic income, because it was strengthened by a rather unexpected side.


Council for European Studies conference, June 2021

Council for European Studies conference, June 2021

Call for Papers:

Panel on the politics of Universal Basic Income. What role for activism(s)?

This Call for Papers (CFP) is interested in empirical studies that look at the social and political processes related to the growing interest in universal basic income (UBI), including recent pilot tests and experiments, their design and implementation, either at the local, national or supranational level, in Europe and elsewhere. In particular, it focuses on the role of the civil society, experts, public opinion and grassroot organizations, and their interaction with policy officers, government official and political parties. Examples of questions that are of interest for this panel:

  • To what extent UBI campaigns and activism have permeated mainstream political and policy discussions? What are the strategies pursued by UBI activists, and how these differ across different locations? When and how are civil society organizations (e.g. trade unions, women and feminist groups, migrants’ associations) willing to incorporate UBI to their demands?
  • What are the resistances and oppositions that UBI advocates face in their campaigns? How different UBI frames have shaped its reception among different social groups?
  • Do different welfare systems shape different forms of UBI activism, including aspects such as the frames and strategies these groups put forward? What is the precise role played by experts and public intellectuals in these processes? Does the social crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic open a window of opportunity for UBI ideas?

This CFP aims at gathering papers from scholars working on different aspects of the politics of UBI (or guaranteed incomes, negative income tax, cash transfers), to be presented in the context of the 27th International Conference of Europeanists, Council for European Studies (CES), to be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 24-26, 2021. Please send your abstract (300 words maximum) before 11 November 2020 to César Guzmán-Concha, e-mail: cesar.guzman-concha@unige.ch Please note that all paper authors must also submit their abstracts proposals through the CES online platform before the official deadline: 16 November 2020

For details of the whole conference see the Council for European Studies website.

Results of BIEN’s 2020 ballots

Results of BIEN’s 2020 ballots

As no General Assembly could be held this year, as many of the General Assembly functions as possible were conducted by postal ballot.

Executive Committee and other elections

None of the Executive Committee or other posts due for election had more than one candidate standing, and all of the candidates were approved by confirmatory ballots. The Executive Committee and other posts for 2020-21 can be found here.

Resolutions were passed as follows:

Annual accounts and reports were received;

A new internal rule relating to the international Advisory Board was passed (the rule requires the Executive Committee to administer and convene a meeting of the Board if it calls the meeting, and requires the Chair to administer and convene the meeting if the Chair calls it);

The Executive Committee was asked to explore with the Charity Commission whether General Assemblies can be held online in the future if required;

Three options were proposed for the frequency of BIEN congresses: annually; once every two years; and once every two years with regional conference during the intervening years. The decision was for congresses to be held annually.

McKinsey publishes an article about the Finland experiment

McKinsey publishes an article about the Finland experiment

McKinsey, the consultancy company, has published an article about the Finland Basic Income experiment.

The final results from Finland’s experiment are now
in, and the findings are intriguing: the basic income
in Finland led to a small increase in employment,
significantly boosted multiple measures of the
recipients’ well-being, and reinforced positive
individual and societal feedback loops. …

As with any policy analysis, the results of this
experiment remain subject to debate and can’t
necessarily be generalized. As a result, the
experiment does offer an object lesson in the
complexity of designing and implementing
a randomized control trial of basic income.
Nevertheless, more research on basic income is
required. We can hope that Finland’s example
will inform and inspire others as they set up their
own experiments.