Simon Birnbaum, "Self-Ownership, Liberal Neutrality and the Realm of Freedom: New Reflections on the Justification of Basic Income"

This paper by Simon Birnbaum (Stockholm University, Sweden) is a review essay of Arguing about Justice. Essays for Philippe Van Parijs, that was published in 2011 (now available for free download in PDF). In his review, Birnbaum stresses the fact that this volume is a “massive firework display of brief essays”, and concentrates on some of the chapters discussing – directly or indirectly – basic income. He discusses the Marxian heritage and justifications of basic income (chapters by Elster, and Zelleke), the left-libertarian arguments (chapters by Steiner, and again Zelleke), Van Parijs’ real-libertarian justification of basic income and the challenges to his views (chapters by van der Veen, and Widerquist), and the tensions between the Marxian and liberal-egalitarian arguments (chapter by Roemer).

Full references: Simon Birnbaum (2013), “Self-Ownership, Liberal Neutrality and the Realm of Freedom: New Reflections on the Justification of Basic Income“, Jurisprudence 4 (2): 344-357.

Sascha Liebermann, "Success or failure? A discussion of the outcome of the ECI Unconditional Basic Income in Germany"

In this piece published by the Green European Journal on 26 February 2014, Sascha Liebermann (Professor of Sociology at the Alanus University, and co-founder of the Initiative «Freiheit statt Vollbeschäftigung») discusses the impact of the “European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) on basic income” in Germany. He focuses in particular on the reasons for the comparatively low participation rate in Germany.

The piece can be read online here.

Professor of Sociology at the Alanus University in Alfter bei Bonn. He is co-founder of the Initiative «Freiheit statt Vollbeschäftigung» that promotes public debate on Basic Income. – See more at:

Lars Christensen. “There is a Pragmatic (but not a Libertarian) Case for a ‘Basic Income Guarantee’”.

Aynur Bashirova – January 2013

Lars Christensen, in his article published in the Market Monitarist, presents Milton Friedman’s idea of “negative income tax” in light of the arguments about BI brought forward by his friend Matt Zwolinski. Friedman had monetarist and liberal society ideas and one of his suggestions that attracted the author was the suggestion of negative income tax. His friend Zwolinski believes that BI needs to be directly distributed to poor as money check without conditions because there is a higher chance that the marginalized groups of society had ancestors that suffered from social injustices and they need to be compensated for that. Throughout the article, Christensen argues that he agrees with the general idea of BI, as proposed by Friedman and Zwolinski, but at the same time, he does not believe in the change of the monetary system in order to redistribute the income and neither thinks that it is as easy to do as it is presented.

Lars Christensen. “There is a Pragmatic (but not a Libertarian) Case for a ‘Basic Income Guarantee’”. The Market Monetarist, 8 December 2013.

OPINION: A Suggestion for All

By Marina Pasetto Nóbrega.

We read the recent article by Philippe Van Parijs suggesting a Euro-dividend for all in the EU. That would represent about 200 Euros monthly to each and everyone, unconditionally. And, he points out, this minimum basic income or citizen’s income can be supplemented with income from labor, capital or social benefits. The author calculated that the total expenses amount to 10% of the EU’s GDP. Recently the citizens of Switzerland petitioned their parliament to examine a proposal for a basic income for all adults, amounting to about US$ 2,800/monthly. This is a mighty sum but Switzerland is a rich country with a small population. Iran, among economic changes applauded by the IMF, introduced an unconditional cash transfer that benefits 90% of its population. We would spare the readers of this newsletter the arguments that Van Parijs aligned to justify the proposal as they are most likely familiar to supporters of the basic income idea.

What we want to discuss is the way to turn the utopia into reality. 10% of the GDP is a sum that will be a formidable barrier to implementation of the benefit. We draw from the discussions we are having in a Brazilian city where there is a Municipal Council devoted to devise a way to start a basic income in steps, as required (in Brazil) by the 2004 law that created the benefit but still awaits regulation(1). Our government, as almost every government in democracies, has a bureaucracy that takes care of requests from the unemployed or underemployed. In Brazil 13.9 million means-tested families are receiving help from the Bolsa Familia program. That amounts to about 40 million persons, nearly 25% of our population. We would argue that the easier first step to initiate an unconditional and permanent basic income for all Brazilians is to target the present Bolsa Familia beneficiaries. Just turn the present benefits permanent and unconditional. The poverty trap will be eliminated. The bureaucracy can now search for the remaining poor and families or individuals that fall into economic vulnerability. Those will receive the permanent minimum income. The existing government social security network will be active monitoring those that enter the “precariat”, moving them to the minimum income shelter. We would claim that such a strategy would also be more palatable and less costly to the EU residents.

We also would like to stress the importance of the minimum income not only as a basic human right but as a necessary measure if we want to improve the safety and well-being of rich and poor because want will increase social unrest and crime for all. It will grant people, amidst the modern revolution in the job market, time to wait for new opportunities that we still cannot foresee or get training to qualify for existing or emerging jobs. The right to frugality independent of work seems relevant when a lot of people pay lip service against excessive consumption. A better life, for those without other means except the basic income, will also boost, we hope, communal arrangements to lower costs for all involved.

The modern situation that adds urgency, in our view, to the implementation of a basic income has been analyzed by scholars and we would like to mention just two studies: Brynjolfsson and McFee(2) have shown that notwithstanding a continuous rise in productivity, the last two decades exhibit a marked reduction in job opportunities. This modern decoupling is due to developments like electronic computation, robotics and artificial intelligence. Job openings are being reduced in a very marked way. Frey and Osborne(3) released a very interesting study of 702 occupations, charting out the many that are in the road to extinction due to the modern trends mentioned. In the US the authors estimate that 47% of jobs are at risk of being automated within a decade or two. Also a fundamental psychological barrier exists and resides in the deeply engrained notion that income has to be linked to work. People will have to overcome that as we did in the recent past with slavery, torture and the rights of women and minorities, finally embracing solidarity in the economic realm.

Anywhere we could hasten the arrival of the basic income dream by taking the stepwise approach, using the existing social agencies to permanently move into the unconditional minimum income the vulnerable.

1 Our proposal was presented in BIEN news in 2012 as “A three-step proposal to get to a basic income for all in Brazil”.
2 Race Against the Machine – how the digital revolution is accelerating innovation, driving productivity, and irreversibly transforming employment and the economy. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McFee, 2011, Digital Frontier Press, Mass, USA
3 The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerization?, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, 2013,

We thank Jim Hesson for generously reviewing the text