Johan Nygren, a basic income activist, is currently exploring if basic income can be implemented using cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency are digital currencies whose value and number of units are regulated by encryption techniques, outside of any central banking system. Understandably, not everyone is going to have a clear idea as to what cryptocurrency is all about, but this is why sites like cryptoexchangespy.com exist. Doing a bit of research is better than doing none at all, especially when it comes to something as interesting digital currency.
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A cryptocurrency-based basic income will be funded with taxes grown within a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. P2P is an architecture for building computer networks that’s focus is on equality and sharing among peers, each user consuming and supplying information to the network. Nygren’s experiment aims to use decentralized ‘swarms’ of users to distribute a basic income through what Nygren calls ‘dividend pathways’.
A dividend pathway is “the world’s first peer-to-peer financial security,” where every transaction opens up a pathway, to a global network of connected users. RES, Nygren’s crypto-currency, is then shared through a branching scheme with all who are connected to the pathways – those on the BitNation network. The branching scheme is analogous to our network of veins, pumping information instead of blood.
This model tests whether a network can electronically divert income to users, in this case using a small tax levied on financial purchases and exchanges made over a system called BitNation; the process is called Swarm Redistribution. Nygren writes that “the whole experiment is public, transparent, auditable, [and] includes a close-down switch in case a bug is discovered.”
BitNation, a Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation (DBVN), provides public services to its naturalized citizens. As a virtual jurisdiction, the main difference from traditional governments is voluntary allegiance to its constitution – membership is open to anyone and involvement limited only by the user. As a blockchain-based structure, government activities are transparent. Its mission, according to founder Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, is to “get rid of geographical apartheid” and offer “better and cheaper governance services.”
Nygren’s swarm redistribution theory assumes that ongoing transactions with the crypto-currency RES will infuse BitNation’s cybereconomy with a branchwork (think the blood analogy) of paid-forward value additions. This would mean extracting essentially a value-added tax (VAT) along the way and pooling a coffer for the basic incomes’ distribution. The model theorizes that growth is incentivized by the desire for personal return and altruism, or a desire to contribute to social resilience (more information can be found here).
BitNation’s current population of nearly five thousand users with roughly fifty thousand daily transactions involving the cryptocurrency ETH could eventually provide the structure for a basic income for its users.
The UK think tank Compass, which published the 2016 report Universal Basic Income: An idea whose time has come? by Howard Reed and Stewart Lansley, recently launched the blog series on the topic of basic income (“Universal Basic Income: Security for the Future?”).
Two pieces in the series are “Coming off the fence on UBI?” by Ruth Lister (chair of the Compass Management Committee and Emeritus Professor at Loughborough University) and, in reply to Lister’s contribution, “Basic Income and Institutional Transformation” by Louise Haagh (co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network and Reader at the University of York).
Lister expresses much sympathy toward UBI, in part due to its challenge to the “contemporary fetishisation of paid work.” At the same time, however, she questions the total lack of conditionality on benefits — on grounds of both ethics (is it fair to subsidize the “right to be lazy”?) and feasibility (would the idea garner enough political support?) — and notes a “participation income,” as defended by the late Tony Atkinson, as a potential compromise. In the end, though, she states that “for all my ambivalence, I am coming round to the idea of a UBI as a means of ensuring everyone a modicum of basic security in an increasingly insecure world.”
Haagh, writing in part in response to Lister, argues for UBI as a way to fundamentally reconceptualize the relationship between citizens and the state. She emphasizes that removing conditionalities on a basic level of economic support does not “entail a general separation of income from work” (since monetary remuneration for work would continue to exist). Neither, in her view, should a basic income be seen as a “challenge to the work ethic.” Instead, according to Haagh, the removal of conditionalities should be seen as a way to enable individuals to think and plan for the long term. Conditional income support, as she puts it, aims to “motivate people in the short-term, with a heavy dose of stick.” For example, beneficiaries risk losing their most basic support if they do not take the first job offered — regardless of the job. The punitive nature of conditional benefits encourages short-term thinking aimed at mere self-preservation. In contrast, an unconditional basic income provides a floor on which individuals can engage in long-term strategizing.
Reviewed by Russell Ingram
Photo: “Welfare Office” CC BY 2.0 Jacob Norlund
RTP3: Fronteiras XXI (debate panelists)
On the past Thursday, 15th of March 2017, basic income was discussed for the first time on a prime-time television program in Portugal, through the recently created channel RTP3.
The program, which ran for 1hr 30 min, was framed as a group interview and debate, moderated by journalist Carlos Daniel. The program included some related reporting and excerpts from other interviews. Four participants made up the panel, and the main theme of the discussion was automation and its societal consequences.
Manuela Veloso, a robotics researcher in the United States and head the Machine Learning department of the Carnegie Mellon University, was one of the panelists. Asked if automation will be good or bad, she first pointed out its inevitability. Machines are capable of capturing much more data than human minds can
not possibly manage to cope with in order to make decisions: people will have to rely on machines for support in decision making. She also argued that although machines will naturally replace some human work, other human tasks will be created with the increasing use of automation in industry and services.
Another participant was Carvalho da Silva, a lifetime syndicalist and researcher in sociology. Carvalho da Silva pointed out certain caveats when facing what many are calling a “technological revolution”. He said that we should not be deterministic about it (casting doubts about its impact on jobs), since ultimately decisions are political. He underlined that the entire situation must be contextualized and inserted into a crisis framework, where many more jobs have been lost than those estimated to be lost to automation. Like Manuela, he also highlighted the job creation potential of these new technologies.
António Moniz, a sociologist specializing in work and enterprises, and a researcher on the impact of automation in society was also invited. António pointed out that machines are demanding higher professional standards from people tasked to handle them. He relativized the question of job destruction due to automation, believing that there is no direct relationship between introduction of machinery and loss of jobs (although the numbers shown during the program clearly depicted elimination of jobs in large swathes due to automation).
Finally, João Paulo Oliveira, an executive manager of a large paper production company in Portugal, was also present. He alerted the audience to the fact that the adoption of automation is extremely fast these days, so that all politicians must be made aware of its effects on society. According to him, an important aspect of this transformation is education, which must be more in tune with demand. According to him, the marketplace will determine what the “jobs of the future” will be, and the education system must follow suit.
The program included short pieces and interviews, inserted between presentations by the panel. One of those segments was with Gabriele Bischoff, a long time syndicalist and president of the Workers’ Group of the European Economic and Social Committee. Shocked to learn that a company in Belgium already uses chip implants in its employees, she highlighted the importance of respecting workers’ fundamental rights and the need to provide them – especially young workers – with good quality, stable jobs, which can give them, dignified life standards.
Another segment featured Guy Standing, a lifetime researcher of economic and social issues; a professor and activist defending the basic income concept. He summarized the basic income principle and, when questioned as to how the Portuguese people can finance it, he clearly stated that “It’s a matter of fiscal priorities”. According to him, if, for example, such regressive practices as the systematic saving of banks in the past decade were eliminated and the money used for the benefit of all citizens, a basic income could have been already administered in Portugal. Standing also predicted that within the next five years some country will implement the basic income concept, which will lead other countries to gradually follow suit.
Guy Standing. Credit to: RTP3
During the program, simple graphics were shown, both for briefly explaining what basic income is and to report on the estimated number of jobs likely to be lost (and gained) to automation in the next 15 years. Notably, the next Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress, happening in Lisbon on September this year, was also cited.
The conversation about the future of work naturally led into a debate about basic income. Each of the participants was directly asked what they thought about the idea and its anticipated consequences. Maria Veloso was quick to support it, although questioning its feasibility. She regards the idea as a freedom gaining instrument, in an age of relentless automation and ever-expanding learning opportunities. She also referred to its role as a secure financial platform that allows people to engage in activities not bound by economic viability, in such a way that work is aligned with what each person wants to do in life. Clearly against was Carvalho da Silva, despite his past as a syndicalist. According to him, basic income is against the work ethic, and he assumes that people will lose their motivation to work under that regime, hence also losing a great deal of their meaning in life. He also thinks that basic income is the perfect instrument for the far right political branch to push in neo-liberal agendas slashing the welfare state. On the other hand, António Moniz was more cautious, supporting the basic income idea in general but warning that its effects on the marketplace and especially on companies must be well understood. João Paulo Oliveira was not convinced by the basic income concept or its rationale, as presented by Guy Standing or his fellow panelists. According to him, basic income will just kill competitiveness as more and more people move away from work.
The Nikkei (Nihon Keizai Shinbun, which is the Japanese equivalent to the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal) published its interview with Toru Yamamori about UBI on 13th March 2017.
Takahisa Honda, a journalist at the Nikkei, interviewed Toru Yamamori, an advocate for UBI and a professor at Doshisha university. Yamamori argues for a UBI, so that ‘with it we can reclaim our life’. A shorter version was published in the evening edition of the Nikkei, 13th March. Its longer version appeared online on the same day. The latter can be accessed here [in Japanese].
Reviewed by Cameron McLeod
Financing Basic Income: Addressing the Cost Objection, edited by Richard Pereira (University of Birmingham, UK), is the latest addition to the Palgrave Macmillan series Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee.
Contributors include Pereira, Albert Jörimann (Basic Income Earth Network, Switzerland) and Gary Flomenhoft (University of Vermont, USA; University of Queensland, Australia).
This Palgrave Pivot argues that basic income at a decent level is, in fact, affordable. The contributors approach the topic from the perspectives of three different countries—Canada, Switzerland, and Australia—to overcome objections that a universal program to keep all citizens above the poverty line would be too expensive to implement. They assess the complex array of revenue sources that can make universal basic income feasible, from the underestimated value of public program redundancies to new and so far unaccounted publicly owned assets.
1. Introduction by Richard Pereira
2. “Foundations for a Basic Income Guarantee: Affordability through Program Redundancies” by Richard Pereira
3. “Cost Feasibility of Basic Income in Europe: A Financing Case Study from Switzerland” by Albert Jörimann
4. “Building up BIG: Land Rent in Australia as a Significant Financing Source” by Gary Flomenhoft
5. Conclusion by Richard Pereira
Photo: CC BY 2.0 FuFu Wolf
The Universal Basic Income in the Asia Pacific international conference was held at National Chengchi University (NCCU) on March 18. This was the first conference dedicated to universal basic income (UBI) focused on the Asia Pacific region. Scholars, activists, officials, and guests traveled from all over the world to participate in the event.
All livestream videos are available on the UBI Taiwan Facebook page, and a HD version will be available shortly on UBI Taiwan’s YouTube page.
Around 100 people participated in the event in person, including participants who flew from America, Switzerland, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and mainland China. There were nearly 1,000 streams of the Chinese-translation broadcast of the event, and there were over 1,200 views of the livestream videos on Facebook. A total of 16 different sessions were held, with over 100 questions posed to the UBI experts in-person and online. Furthermore, the event page has reached 35,000 unique viewers to date.
Enno Schmidt, leader of the Swiss referendum campaign, gave the keynote speech for the event: “Basic Income and Democracy.”
“The Asia Pacific UBI conference undoubtedly has been one of the historical steps in furthering the worldwide UBI movement, focused on the recognition of Asia Pacific, as well as unity and collaboration,” Schmidt said.
The event has been in preparation since November, when organizer Tyler Prochazka, an NCCU International Master’s Program in Asia-Pacific Studies (IMAS) student and features editor of Basic Income News, received a grant from the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship Alumni Development Fund along with James Davis, a junior from Columbia University. NCCU’s College of Social Sciences (CSS) later agreed to sponsor the event, and NCCU’s IMAS department provided additional assistance.
NCCU CSS Professor Ping-Yin Kuan provided the welcome speech for the event, where he discussed how he first learned about the idea of UBI while he was studying in the United States. His master’s thesis advisor was involved in the “Income Maintenance Experiment” in New Jersey, which tested a form of negative income tax in the 1960s and 1970s.
“As a student who came from Taiwan – at that time Taiwan was a relatively poor country – I was amazed by such a crazy idea. And I thought that only the US, a rich country, would come up with such a scheme,” Kuan said.
“After I became more familiar with issues of social inequality, I could see that it was not a crazy idea at all. The question that should have been asked then, and I believe should still be asked now, is why a country as rich as the US allows a significant proportion of its people to live below a basic decent condition,” Kuan expanded.
“Now Taiwan is considered a rich county, and we can certainly ask the same question here.”
Conference co-organizer James Davis prepared a documentary for the conference, meeting with prominent figures in finance, technology, and politics to discuss basic income.
“Universal basic income is the future of redistribution and welfare policy. It has the potential to alleviate global poverty and unleash an entrepreneurial spirit unlike anything we’ve seen before. These interviews explore the practical and ideological grounds of universal basic income, debunking the critics, and anticipating its challenges,” Davis said.
Sarath Davala, a researcher on the Indian basic income trial, presented on the “Transformative Power of Basic Income for India” via Skype.
“Universal basic income is the most radical idea of our contemporary times. It takes the discourses of democracy and poverty to the next level,” Davala said. He noted that UBI Taiwan “has created history by organizing the first regional activity in Taipei.”
“This conference is the foundation for future cooperation at the regional level, which is very much needed to take forward the basic income movement in each of the countries in the Asia Pacific region,” Davala said.
Ping Xu, coordinator for UBI Taiwan and co-organizer of the conference, presented on the feasibility of basic income for Taiwan.
“This is the first step for basic income in the Asia Pacific. It represents an awakening of human evolution toward traditional Asian culture and away from our current inhumane working standards,” Xu said.
Joffre Balce, secretary of the Association for Good Government in Australia, presented on “Rewriting the Textbook to Deliver Universal Human Dignity.”
“The first Asia Pacific Conference on Basic Income was a glimpse of how society can work together for a common vision — bold, innovative, diverse yet respectful of each other’s noble intentions, united in efforts and determined to realize each other’s vision for a society of equality in rights, the self-determination of the individual and the freedom to cooperate for a better society,” said Balce.
Ted Tan, the coordinator for research and information for UNI Asia and Pacific Regional, flew from Singapore to attend the event. He said he “hopes there will be another conference next year.”
“The conference was very interesting and it could have easily been extended for another half or one day. There is still much to discuss on the possibility of a universal basic income in this region, so I appreciate the inputs and sharing of all the experts in the same room,” Tan said.
Chung Yuan Christian University provided simultaneous Chinese translation for the event. Enzo Guo, a Taiwanese senior at Chung Yuan, led the group of translators.
“I felt so honored to interpret for those brilliant scholars with their ideas and findings. I benefited greatly by their talks. These are important matters that people living in Asia Pacific should know,” Guo said.
Musician Brandy Moore also provided her song “Just Because I’m Alive” for the conference and its promotional videos. Moore wrote the song after hearing about basic income in 2015 and performed it at a basic income conference in 2016 for the first time. In June, Moore will perform the song at NABIG 2017 in New York City.
“Being invited to put my song forward to be part of this recent basic income conference held in Taiwan was a wonderful additional surprise,” she said.
“Music reaches people on a heart level and it’s going to take both heads and hearts to make basic income a reality,” Moore said.
Purchases of Moore’s song will help fund basic income organizations after she recoups the funding to produce it.
Julio Linares, an NCCU student from Guatemala, had met many of the presenters at the BIEN Congress in South Korea, where he also presented.
“I argued how a Basic Income Fund (BIF) could work as a way of creating long-term investments whose profits are redirected back to people in the form of a monthly basic income while at the same time making the fund financially sustainable over time,” Linares said. “The attendees were not only from Taiwan but from different countries and they all showed great interest in the topic as it raised quite a lot of discussion.”
Petra Sevcikova, an NCCU IMAS student from the Czech Republic, organized the NCCU volunteers for the conference.
“After working in event management in Europe, helping to organize the UBI Conference in NCCU in Taipei was a new and extraordinary experience. I believe that the conference was unique and quite important for people interested in the basic income,” Sevcikova said.
Speakers included Gary Flomenhoft (University of Vermont, USA), Sarath Davala (India), Julio Linares (NCCU), Gregory Marston (University of Queensland, Australia), Joffre Balce (Australia), Munly Leong (Australia), Toru Yamamori (Doshisha University, Japan), Ping Xu (Taiwan), Enno Schmidt (Switzerland), Hyosang Ahn (Basic Income Korea Network), Cheng Furui (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), and Tyler Prochazka (NCCU). The abstracts for each presentation can be found here. A compilation of the research will soon be published online.
For Kuan, bringing these scholars to Taiwan will help to highlight the important issue of inequality, as many social welfare systems in the Asia Pacific are “not working effectively.”
“It is important to bring regional scholars to share knowledge about basic income and spark new ways to think about social security. This is particularly important, not just in Taiwan, but the Asia Pacific in general,” Kuan said.
Yamamori presented on “What Can We Learn From a Grassroots Feminist UBI Movement?: Revisiting Keynes’s Prophecy” via Skype.
“While I was able to attend only via Skype, I could still feel positive vibes and energy from the venue. I know Tyler, Ping and others made a huge effort to make this conference successful,” he said.
“Let me show my gratitude to them and participants, and let us go forward for an unconditional basic income together,” Yamamori said.
Guo said he is optimistic that the conference will have a big impact on Taiwanese society.
“By gathering the elites and people from different fields together and discussing with each other, I believe this conference has undoubtedly paved the way for the popularization of UBI in Taiwan,” he said.
When reflecting on the potential of the UBI in the Asia Pacific, Schmidt said it can bring together all people from all backgrounds, both in the Asia Pacific and beyond.
“The idea of an unconditional basic income for everyone must remain clear, which is regardless of any life circumstances, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly. This idea does not exclude anybody, it does not fight against anything. The idea of UBI unites and connects people and restores our forgotten values,” Schmidt said.