‘Forward to a better world!’ International Basic Income Week 2021 starts organizing

by Robin Ketelaars

History
Matthias Dilthey called for a day of basic income in 2006, which unfortunately received little support at the time.*

The first week of the basic income was held in 2008 and was designed as a sub-project of the EU-funded “Basic Income on the way to Europe.” This was initiated by Günter Sölken, from an idea the Basic Income Network Germany (Netzwerk Grundeinkommen) had proposed. It happened with the support of Basic Income Network and Social Cohesion Austria, BIEN Switzerland, Attac branches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, along with the help of many independent basic income initiatives in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

In 2009, a significant expansion took place. A call started from various initiatives, and finally 247 organizations and over 2,800 individuals participated. In Germany a website was developed to showcase the activity and creativity, with countless ideas, suggestions, and planned actions, under the editorial supervision of Martina Steinheuer. 

The 4th International Basic Income Week was held 19 to 25 September 2011 with a focus on “Basic Income in Europe“. In Germany and Austria, there were about 100 events and activities: discussions, workshops, readings, theater and film screenings, exhibitions, etc. The fifth International Basic Income Week happened 17 to 23 September 2012 with the focus on “Ways to Basic Income”.

In 2013, the year of the European Citizens’ Initiative for Unconditional Basic Income, “Basic Income a Human Right“, a further internationalization of the 6th week of basic income took place. The Netherlands organized the “Week van het Basisinkomen” but not much action was involved, we were all too busy collecting signatures for the ECI.

In 2014 a Basic Income Week website was set up in English to further internationalize the event by Robin Ketelaars. Manja Taylor handled promotion and activities.

Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE) adopted the 8th International Basic Income Week in 2015 as a key item to organize every year by all countries individually. Also at the 15th Annual North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress, International Basic Income Week was adopted as a way to publicise UBI.

That year, 19 countries participated with live events: Belgium, China, Danmark, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Malawi, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Swiss, Zimbabwe, Spain, South Korea, Hungary, USA. A further eight countries participated on the internet: Australia, Brasil, Bulgaria, Finland, India, Italy, Mozambique, New Zealand, Zambia, South Africa.

9th international Basic Income Week had the motto “Basic income goes worldwide”. In 2016 Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) contributed to the week´s further globalization by starting a group on Slack for better collaboration. Jenna van Draalen from Canada and Christof Lammer from Austria were among the promoters of the IBIW along with many more UBI activists.  Themes for other yearly events can be found on basicincomweek.org.

International Basic Income Week is a self-organised participatory week. A lot can be done, from spreading the news to friends to organising your own event with films, speakers or creative action. We can help with finding presenters and promoting your event with our shared Basic Income Week website. We welcome new participants who can share time, money or ideas! Get in touch with your regional group or the international coordination team, and let us know what you decide to do! This year there was the start of the Videothon Playlist

From 2018 onwards there have been three synchronised events.
1)    Make a photo and share it on social media with the hashtag #countonbasicincome on the Wednesday
2)    Come and socialize, organize a #basicincomebeer on the Friday
3)    Since 2019 the #basicincomemarch is part of the week on the Saturday

Basic Income Marches
In April 2019, social worker and co-founder of Basic Income NYC Diane Pagen and 2020 candidate for U.S. Congress James Felton Keith came together to organize a public event in a show of force and inclusion for basic income.

2020 saw a huge growth in support for basic income in the United States. It was important to provide different ways for the community to celebrate. All sorts of events, live and online, from a film screening, panel discussions, to a Year of Basic Income Livestream event featuring commentary from Andrew Yang, Andy Stern, and over 10 Mayors from Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and more, marked the important progress made in 2020.

With COVID measures in place, city organizers got creative. From art installations, to bike and car parades, to street corner protests, Income Movement in the US built tools to make it easy for organizers to plan amazing, highly successful events while allowing for safe social distancing for community members. Many people who did not go on the streets posted a photo with the hashtag #talkonyourwalk and held Zoom sessions with shoes.

This year’s motto for International Basic Income Week is ‘Forward to a Better World!’

You can follow #basicincomeweek on the web
* Basic Income Week website
* Twitter: @basicincomeweek (for sharing)
* Facebook: basicincomeweek (also for adding events)
* Insta: @basicincomeweek
*The Basic Income March website (organizers can add your march to the calendar)

Future plans? Who knows? We hope that with BIEN’s support we can involve more countries in India, Africa, Asia and Latin America this year.

How can people contribute to or participate in IBIW this year?
Organize events and spread the B-word!
Social media activists wanted for @insta and other media outlets
There is a Slack group where activities are discussed which you can join: the Basic Income Outreach Group. Please let us know if you want an invite via the contact form.
We’re always on the lookout for more ideas!

*) Basic Income Day
In 2014 a website promoting Basic Income Day was started by Robin Ketelaars.
“If everyone is his own king, nobody has to be the king of the other.” This sentence by Michael Sennhauser (Swiss Radio DRS) in the review of the film Kulturimpuls Grundeinkommen by Daniel Häni & Enno Schmidt and the film scene at Basel SBB train station inspired the crowning of the first 500 heads 1 May 2009 on the market square in Lörrach. Since then, we want to unite with everyone who burns for an unconditional basic income to trigger a wave of change.”
The action was followed up in 2014 by Sylvia Mair and Oliver Der as a Basic Income Day on the 1st of May. This was supported by Scott Santens, a Basic Income activist from the United States, and other activists in Europe and the US.
The website is in use for more “basic income days”.
Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December. In 2013 we participated by showing the world through our profile pic that an Unconditional Basic Income is a human right. The action this year will take place 4 to10 December.
International Women’s Day on 8 March could also become  a “Basic Income Day”.

‘Could a basic income support a circular economy?’ summary of the discussion on Basic Income Network Scotland

With the increase in  research on the circular economy system, the basic income and circular economy relationship has also started to be considered. For example, this relationship was examined in the article ‘‘How could a Basic Income support a Circular Economy?’’ published on the Basic Income Network Scotland website on 23 July 2019. In fact, this article is based on the transcript of an interview between Timothea Armor, Basic Income Network Scotland Editor, and Teja Hudson, a zero waste consultant and founder of Zero.

  The current system of capitalism, free markets, and endless growth, according to Hudson, disappoints us socially. She points out that there are many people who want to make the world a better place, but this disappointment forces them to struggle just to survive. Therefore, she claims that we have lost many bright and creative minds due to preventable social inequalities such as poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, persecution, violence and lack of education. Finally, she suggests we need social change, and  these people represent a great untapped potential for that social change.

   Adding to Hudson’s argument, it is very difficult to be creative when you are stressed, under pressure or not inspired, and especially when you are worried about money. As a result of this, there are a lot of artists and creative people struggling to practice their art and instead  interrupted by the need to earn a living. Hudson summarizes the potential contribution of basic income to this problem with the following statement: “This is where Basic Income would be a revelation.”  She claims that by implementing a Basic Income, highly experienced creative people, free thinkers and problem solvers will be ready to help solve the problems of 10 billion people on a small planet instead of getting stuck in a dead end.

  According to Hudson, circular economy is a way of looking at resources on our planet and understanding that everything is part of a circular system rather than a line. She believes the aim is to keep resources circulating in this cycle for as long as possible, minimizing the use of unused raw material and maximising productivity in the production process. 

  As for the potential relationship between basic income and the circular economy, Hudson points out that environmental and social concerns are very closely linked and that the goals and values of both systems are the same; “for humanity and the planet to survive and flourish together, so what helps the environmental movement to accomplish that will also help the social movement to accomplish that, and vice versa.” She argues that these two systems acting together could be more effective and bring sources and audiences together.

To read the article : https://cbin.scot/2019/07/23/basic-income-and-the-circular-economy/ 


A translation into Chinese can be found here

Korea’s youth dividend sparking discussion of basic income before Presidential election

Korea’s youth dividend sparking discussion of basic income before Presidential election

Kim Lag Jung from Gyeonggi Province was interviewed about the South Korean Youth dividend program. The interview took place at the 2019 Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress in India.

The interview covered the dividend and its reported benefit for local youth, local business owners and how it has affected the national conversation about basic income and whether it could be expanded to include more ages.

Since 2016, 3,500 South Korean youth have received the equivalent of 1,000,000₩ (US$872) in local currency that can be used at local small businesses. The youth dividend started in Seongnam city, but from 2019 it was expanded to 150,000 youth across Gyeonggi province with 31 cities.

In 2020, because of Covid-19, Gyeonggi Province gave the local cash 250,000₩ (220$). This was essentially a Covid Basic Income given to every citizen. Small businesses and traditional markets, especially street marketers were pleased with the program.

In addition, in April 2020, the first international South Korea Basic Income fair was hosted in Gyeonggi province. Another online fair was held in September 2020 with 150,000 participants. The fair will be held in April 2021 again.

Yujoo city in Gyeonggi province has begun an agricultural basic income project. The project will be implemented if it gains approval from the local legislature. Cultures and Arts Basic Income and basic income for pregnant women are being discussed as well.

In March 2022 with the presidential election, basic income will be a hot issue on the agenda. Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN) is trying to lead the basic income conversation during the election.

With Gyeonggi province, BIKN and a member of the national assembly from the Basic Income party was elected in 2020. This demonstrates basic income is becoming a widely discussed issue in Korea. Even few public schools are giving cash coupons to students to spend at the school cafeteria.

Below is the transcription of four interview questions being asked in the video.

  1. What is the biggest benefit of the youth dividend?

The Youth Basic Income was implemented in April 2019. Before that, it was implemented in 2016 in Seongnam city. Lee Jae-Myeong started it. Now he is the Gyeonggi provincial governor. He changed the Youth dividend to the youth basic Income and has been implementing it in 31 cities and districts. We had conducted a survey on 3,500 youth basic income recipients. The results say that the youth had difficulties not having any income and planning their future was hard due to financial difficulties such as unemployment. However, now that they have the youth basic income, they can make their future plans with it. That is the biggest surprise of the basic income research result.

2. What have business owners said about the Basic Income?

In Korea, Youth basic income gives local cash, which can only be used in Gyeonggi province. Its youth satisfaction rate is high. The reason why? Because there is a well-established infra structure for Basic Income consumption supported by Gyeonggi province. Small businesses and traditional markets, especially street market traders receive the local cash so that local business gain from it. Also, self-employed people and small business people are highly satisfied with the Youth basic income so that Basic Income is being widely spread and well known in Korea.

3. How has the youth dividend affected the national conversation about Universal Basic Income?

The youth dividend, implemented in 2016 in Seongnam city and the youth basic income, started in 2019 in 31 cities and districts, has a big impact on the Basic income discussion and basic income policymaking nationwide.

For example, starting the youth dividend in 2016, through the Youth Basic Income in 2019, now we discuss about agricultural Basic Income, Agricultural subsidy, Cultures and Arts basic income in Korea. Some local governments made it a reality. Political party members are having various discussions of the Basic Income legislation. Therefore, I am confident that the basic income will become a reality soon.

4. Will the youth dividend expand to include more ages in the future?

Yes. I am certain that its expansion will include infants, the elderly and cover all ages. As I mentioned earlier, right now, we are discussing the agricultural basic income, Agricultural subsidy, Cultures and Arts basic income, and the pregnant women basic income etc.

Written by: Mok Hwakyun (Moka)

The video is provided below:

European Basic Income: A post-COVID recovery strategy

European Basic Income: A post-COVID recovery strategy

Valerija Korošec

The proposal for European universal basic income & European Social Pillar Action Plan & long-term post-COVID-19 recovery strategy

V. KORO EC, a social policy analyst from Slovenia, suggested that the European Commission examine the idea of a European Universal Basic Income. The UBI would be paid directly from the ECB’s “helicopter money.” The suggestion was made within the debate of the European Social Pillar Action Plan. The proposal stems from the observed shortcomings of the current social security systems related to the COVID-19 crisis, the efforts of the United States, India and many other countries made in this direction and the research done by OECD, IMF, ILO, UNICEF, European and Slovenian experts. This proposal is not the same as the European Citizens’ Initiative “Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU“, for which signatures were collected starting on 25 September 2020. However, this proposal does take a similar direction as the European Citizens’ Initiative. One day Europeans will receive a local, national, European and global basic income to safeguard and foster democracy and ecological-economic development.

The proposal for European UBI & European Social Pillar Action Plan & long-term post-COVID-19 recovery strategy. 

On 7th of September 2020 Mr Nicolas Schmit took part in a videoconference ‘roadshow’ to consult with Slovenian social partners and stakeholders on the upcoming Action Plan to further implement the European Pillar of Social Rights.  V. KORO EC, a social policy analyst from Slovenia suggested introduction of a European universal basic income, which would be paid directly from the ECB’s “helicopter money” as proposed by Mencinger (2017), because none of the 20 principles of the European Social Pillar address the COVID-19 crisis adequately. 

The current solutions in the European Social pillar, the 13th principle (unemployment benefits) and the 14th principle (minimum income), make the safety net conditional on incentives to reintegrate into the labour market. This is obviously not the right solution in the case of COVID-19, where work is not allowed. When people are not allowed to work (as in the case of COVID-19), it does not matter how educated they are, what the agreement on the minimum wage is, how good the social and economic dialogue is and so forth. In such a case is the most important social security system, a safety net that guarantees the minimum income as a kind of ‘universal insurance system’ that helps everyone, including people on the labour market, to be compensated for loss of earnings and to receive reimbursement for lost investment etc. 

On the other hand, the 12th principle (social protection) and 20th principle (access to essential services) are combined with the prerogative to satisfy the conditions “to be in need and not to be able to work”. To prove this is such a demanding administrative task that is obviously not suitable in times of emergency such as COVID-19 when there is no time or resources.  We have already seen in 2008 that the current system is not suitable in time of national emergency, but that is only good for ‘normal’ situations – which is exactly the opposite of what people expect from national social security systems. The COVID-19 situation also made it clear – again – that the current national social security system is good for some workers in ‘standard employment’ and not for workers in ‘non-standard’ jobs.

In the policy brief “Supporting livelihoods during the COVID-19 crisis: Closing the gaps in safety nets“, the OECD starts with a similar finding: the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the pre-existing gaps in social protection provisions (2020: p. 2). It continues with the recognition of the effectiveness of universal unconditional cash transfers (2002: pp. 13-17): “In a crisis situation, universal cash payments, made to everyone, can maximise coverage and, depending on the size of the payment, help the entire population to make ends meet. Universal transfers can be rolled out quickly as they do not depend upon the income, assets, or prior contributions of the recipient avoiding costly and time-consuming means tests. The appeal of this simplicity has led a number of OECD countries to announce plans for such schemes during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (OECD 2020: pp. 16-17, Box 4)

The same applies to emerging and developing economies, where the development of universal social protection is supported and guided by several recent key international initiatives: ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors, and the “Leave No One Behind” agenda as an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG goal 1.3 calls for “implementing nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and substantially increasing coverage of the poor and vulnerable”, while goal 3.8 calls for universal health coverage including financial risk protection. Health coverage is an important part of living, people need to know that they are being protected in case they get ill. Covid has shown just how many people are vulnerable to what is out there, that is why there are Final expense insurance policies and policies similar that are available to those who want to be prepared in case they do get ill. Health coverage can only go so far, but life insurance can help after a loved one has died. 

In 2018, the High-Level Panel at the European Development Days discussed how to address inequalities and “Leave no one behind” agenda in the EU. As described in the report Addressing inequalities: A seminar of workshops (EC 2019) three experts out of four spoke about income inequality. Two of them, Fratzser (pp. 32-37) and Raitano (pp. 55) suggested that the EU should start thinking about a universal basic income, while the third, Callan, suggested that social policy should be based on facts and results of microsimulations (pp. 75). 

Prior to COVID-19, the OECD, IMF, ILO and UNICEF had already studied the idea of universal basic income (UBI) in detail. There is an important history of research on the sustainability of UBI funding and its implications for income distribution based on microsimulations, e.g. OECD (2017) and IMF (2018). The findings of the above-mentioned papers were also confirmed in a paper based on microsimulations (KORO EC 2019),  which was presented in 2019 at the International Conference on Universal Child Grants organised by ILO and UNICEF to explore the conditions and possibilities of introducing UBI for children.  The microsimulations proved that in developed countries UBI can be introduced at a level just above the current Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme (GMI) within the same fiscal envelope (i.e. budget-neutral). 

Some Europeans mistakenly assume that the idea of universal basic income is not the right solution for the EU. They think that the EU is the part of the most developed world with the best social security systems. They seem to have overlooked the fact that because of automatisation and digitalisation, the most developed countries have the biggest problem with ‘non-standard’ employment. It is no surprise that Japan and Korea were the two countries, besides the United States, that introduced ‘new universal transfers’ (OECD 2020: p. 4). They also seem to overlook the fact that the EU is heterogeneous. The EU Member States have different social security systems. There are also major divergences in the effectiveness of national administrations in the use of ‘EU money’. Different success in using the ‘Covid-19 money’ will only foster additional divergences in Member States, which can easily turn into political divergences. 

As stated at the Bled Strategic Forum (31 August 2020) by some Eastern EU countries, they are ready to follow their own path, as they do not wish to be the ‘second tier’ of the EU.  These are the political reasons for the proposal that the EU should distribute the ‘ECB helicopter money’ as a European universal unconditional cash transfer directly to EU citizens. There is also an economic reason: to effectively stimulate aggregate demand in Europe (EP 2016). This has been proposed a number of times since 2008. In Slovenia, we have two papers by an eminent economist on this subject (Mencinger 2015 and Mencinger 2017). 

This proposal is not the same as the European Citizens’ Initiative “Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EUalthough it goes in the same direction. 

EU citizens expect the EU Commission to take into consideration the facts about a universal uniform unconditional individual cash transfer that are based on data and microsimulations. It could be called a European UBI. This transfer should be financed by the ECB.  The same for all Europeans, to foster social convergence. This is the main difference with the current EU approach in the domain of the European Social Pillar and post-Covid-19 recovery plan with country specific measures that foster further divergence. Hopefully, the new European Citizens’ Initiative for UBI in the EU will be an additional, democratic sign for the European Commission and the European Parliament of what EU citizens want and expect from them in the area of social security: the Universal Basic Income. The European UBI could be the first step towards a world in which all people will eventually receive a local, national, European and global basic income in order to safeguard and foster democracy and ecological-economic development.

Sources: 

Bruegel (2020) The fiscal response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus Source: https://www.bruegel.org/publications/datasets/covid-national-dataset/

EC 2019. Addressing inequalities: A seminar of workshops. Source: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/d10809c5-4478-11e9-a8ed-01aa75ed71a1 

EP 2016. Helicopter money: A cure for what ails the euro area? https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/581970/EPRS_BRI(2016)581970_EN.pdf 

IMF 2018. Universal Basic Income: Debate and Impact Assessment. WP/18/273. Source: https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2018/12/10/Universal-Basic-Income-Debate-and-Impact-Assessment-46441 

KORO EC 2019. Unconditional Basic Individual Universal Child Grant for Belgium following the Slovenian approach.  Source: https://basicincome.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Paper_SI_UBI_UCG_BE-KORO EC-2019-for-India.pdf 

Mencinger 2015. The Revenue Side of a Universal Basic Income in the EU and Euro Area. Source: https://www.eaco.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/mencinger-2.pdf  

Mencinger 2017. Universal Basic Income and Helicopter Money. Basic Income Studies, Volume 12, Issue 2, 20160021, eISSN 1932-0183 Source: https://doi.org/10.1515/bis-2016-0021.

OECD 2017. Basic Income Policy Option. Background Technical Notes. Source: https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/Basic-Income-Policy-Option-2017-Brackground-Technical-Note.pdf

OECD 2020.  Supporting livelihoods during the COVID-19 crisis: Closing the gaps in safety nets. Source: http://cnt.be/DOSSIERS/Covid-19/OESO-OCDE-2020-05-20-Supporting-livelihoods-EN.pdf

UNICEF 2019. The International Conference on Universal Child Grants organised by ILO and UNICEF. Source: https://www.odi.org/events/4580-international-conference-universal-child-benefits

National Assembly in France decides to explore ‘Socle Citoyen’

Editor’s note: The use of the term ‘basic income’ or ‘universal income’ here does not correspond to BIEN’s definition of basic income, since the payments each month will fluctuate with income. ‘Socle citoyen’ corresponds more closely to a Negative Income Tax, adjusted on a monthly basis.

Interview with Marc de Basquiat, originally appeared on Atlantico.fr

On November 26 2020, the National Assembly voted on the resolution tabled by the group Agir Ensemble launching a public debate on the creation of a universal income called “Socle citoyen.” Why do you welcome this vote?

Marc de Basquiat: This vote is historic for three reasons. First of all, it was very broad, bringing together the votes of deputies belonging to five political groups close to the centre of the political spectrum: LREM, Agir Ensemble, MoDem, Libertés et Territoires, Socialists and related parties. Credit for this result goes to Valérie Petit, a northern representative, who launched and led an informal working group on the Socle citoyen project based on the platform we published in the Observateur on May 4 with the support of 80 co-signatories, including 50 parliamentarians. In-depth work was carried out, with a series of remote (because of Covid) meetings. The 48 deputies who tabled the resolution voted on November 26th really know the stakes and the key principles of the technical solution that we propose to study.

The second reason to applaud is the strong support of the La République En Marche deputies. Seventy of them voted in favour of the Agir Ensemble group’s resolution. At a time when many people have doubts about representative democracy, we can salute here the joint search for consensual solutions for our country by representatives from diverse groups, including the governing party. Let us recall that at its creation in 1988 the Revenu Minimum d’Insertion in 1988 received the deputies almost unanimous support. Yes, a reform as ambitious as the one proposed by this resolution aims to achieve consensus from all parties of the National Assembly. This is the process that Brigitte Bourguignon, Minister Delegate for Autonomy, supported with her speech.

The third reason to celebrate this advance is the fiscal nature of the Socle citoyen proposal that it is to be studied. Let us quote from the enacted text:

“The Socle citoyen is unprecedented in that it combines tax reform and improvements in social benefits. First of all, we propose to establish the universality of income tax: every French person, from the first euro of income, is taxed proportionally. This very fact constitutes being a part of and being responsible to the national community. It links one to the collective destiny and at the same time ensures assistance and solidarity.

With the mechanism of the Socle citoyen, the universal income becomes an individual tax credit, negative or positive. Thanks to tax withholding at the source, calculation and payment are now possible in almost real time. This is one of the great social benefits of this major tax reform: it makes it possible to calculate and automatically pay out the Socle citoyen, based on the universal tax, at the same time the reform achieves universality.

The fact that universal income is approached from a tax perspective revolutionizes the question of its economic feasibility. It is not a question of creating an nth social benefit that is painfully financed, but, first of all, of ensuring that all citizens are involved, in their own way, in the financing of public services. The same “right for all” is possible because, beforehand, we ensure the same “fiscal duty for all.”

Is this a sign that something is changing, at the parliamentary level and elsewhere, with regard to universal basic income?

Despite the trauma of the 2017 presidential campaign and the failure of Benoît Hamon’s project for a Universal Existence Income, many—of all political stripes, I can attest to that—grasped the importance of a transfer mechanism that would automatically guarantee a minimum of resources to everyone, regardless of the vagaries of life. But until recently, we hesitated to talk about it for fear of being suspected of providing a caution for the Hamonist party, Generation-S.

I believe that with the Covid-19 crisis, we all understand that the issues we are facing go far beyond political posturing and partisan arrangements. I am happy that the only Hamonist deputy in the Assembly, Régis Juanico, has lent his voice to the resolution drafted by Liberal deputy Valérie Petit. It is by working together that our elected officials will be able to re-inspire politics!

On the other hand, I am disappointed that no Les Républicains representatives dared to break with a conservative voting directive. The speech of LR deputy Stéphane Viry started well, but its conclusion is saddening:

“The group Les Républicains salutes the willingness of the National Assembly, the most essential forum for public debate, to address this major issue, since it touches on the fight against poverty, for work, and social cohesion. These are all foundations on which to build a social project, national cohesion, dynamism for our country. As part of our efforts, we must constantly, all together, open up new horizons. (…) You are right to put this debate on the table, and our group is very much in favour of a frank reflection on work, on activity for all, on social protection, on the fight against poverty. However, as it stands, as formulated, we will not follow your proposal.”

In 2016, the Senate had carried out a mission of information on basic income, in which all the political movements, from the right to the communists, took part, leading to the formulation of a consensual report that illuminated the way forward. Let us hope that the 11 deputies who voted against the resolution on November 26 will discover, moving forward, that the Socle citoyen has no other ambition than to strengthen cohesion, economic dynamism and fraternity in our country.

What are the liberal arguments to defend the proposal of a universal basic income and what form does it take in this framework?

What seems to me to be common to all liberals—whether one feels on the right or on the left for that matter—is the importance one places on individual choice. A Socle citoyen can be formulated as follows: everyone pools the same share of their income (around 30%) and benefits from the same individual transfer (around 500 euros per month). With this single rule, which is easy to implement using the mechanism of withholding tax, everyone is in the same boat and knows exactly how the income tax they pay or the assistance they receive will evolve according to the events in their lives: change of job or loss of work, marriage or divorce, etc. the impact is always easy to calculate.

Such a proposal is not really a revolution. In fact, for tax households that are subject to the 30% marginal rate, my proposal is just a reformulation of the current tax calculation, with an identical result. For 2020 income, taxpayers in this bracket pay a tax whose monthly calculation is 30% of the taxable income of the previous month, minus €498.52 per tax share (let’s say €500 for a single person and €1,000 for a couple). This would not change much.

The Socle citoyen amounts to applying the tax calculation formula for wealthy taxpayers to everyone! A single person without income who currently lives with an RSA of €497.01 plus a housing allowance would receive €500 and still receive the same housing allowance. No change in his or her case. On the other hand, all other cases of poor and low-income households would be winners, to what extent, depending on what they have today.

You have been defending universal basic income for several years, as president of the Association pour l’Instauration d’un Revenu d’Existence (AIRE) and as a Free Generation expert. Do you think that the coronavirus crisis can bring about a change in opinion?

In March, with the crisis, millions of people discovered unemployment. In restaurants, transport, household services, construction, shops… All these jobs where you work hard, where you get up early. The State has multiplied measures, first by taking over from employers to pay more than half of the wages! We can see that a hazard can bring the bravest of workers to their knees, making them dependent on the community to ensure their subsistence.

This invites everyone to question the solidity of their inclusion in society. Am I in this position only because I deserve it? Do I owe nothing to anyone? How could the country have endured a “laissez-faire” logic, where everyone was left to fend for themselves in order to make a living despite the fear of catching a virus—whose danger was not really understood at the time?

Today, everyone knows they are vulnerable. Everyone has also experienced their own docility! During the first confinement, we were happy to cheer from the windows, it gave us a recreation and a semblance of social interaction. But deep down, we really understood that we are vulnerable and that we have a vital need of others. This is why the ” Socle citoyen ” project speaks to everyone: we contribute as citizens—through taxes—to ensuring a vital base for everyone. In these circumstances, no one is spreading foolish rhetoric about handouts?

Is the Socle citoyen universel an effective response to the economic crisis that is looming with the coronavirus?

No one knows how the crisis will evolve. In the second quarter of 2020, China is the only G20 country whose GDP has grown. Germany posted -12%, France -18%, India -24%. The second wave caused us to fall back, less sharply, but global economic balances will take time to readjust. Public debt is exploding. Even if it is relatively painless in the short term, no one can predict what interest rates will be in 10 years. Our accumulated debts may weigh very heavily, preventing governments from playing their role as buffers against social shocks. At that time, we will be happy to have established a Socle citoyen, the universal distribution of part of the income among all, so that no one will be in total destitution.

We can also venture the hypothesis that our country will regain the growth necessary to adapt and face the planetary challenges. Here again, the egalitarian sharing of a portion of the fruits of growth will be a tremendous driving force for national unity, a multiplier of energies.

Translation from the original French: Pierre Madden

Reprinted with the kind permission of Atlantico.fr

More information on the Socle citoyen can be found here

Cost of Living: An interview with basic income documentarians

Cost of Living: An interview with basic income documentarians

A new film is hoping to answer the question of whether life itself should be subsidized. Directors Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh have produced a new documentary “The Cost of Living” which discusses the mental and physical burden placed on those with unstable incomes and whether basic income is the right remedy.

The film interviews many prominent basic income scholars, such as Guy Standing and Barb Jacobson. It is focused on the issues specifically facing the United Kingdom, where there are “3.5 million people in ‘in-work poverty.’” With the arrival of COVID-19, the film-makers argue the discussion about basic income is even more pertinent than ever. 

The filmmakers expressed that many of the current programs in the UK are failing to rise to the moment with extreme distress around the country, such as the universal credit which they called “dehumanizing.” 

“You have to prove you are deserving,” Blacknell said. 

Steve Botrill, the deputy chief executive of Urban Outreach Bolton, is interviewed in the documentary. He said that much of the current stress on the poor in the UK is due to reductions in benefits and more stringent conditions placed on social services.

As a result, Botrill said that this is a cause for the “astronomical” growth of food banks in the UK in recent years.

In the documentary, it is argued that much of a person’s wealth is dependent on luck, such as where a person is born. 

Initially, the film was going to take a broad look at social programs, but narrowed to basic income as they moved forward. In the long-run, the filmmakers noted that this discussion around basic income will continue to be important because of the changing economic and technology trends around the world. 

However, the filmmakers emphasized that after interviewing many scholars they do not believe basic income is a “panacea” on its own. By interviewing a wide range of viewpoints, they hoped to create a “more nuanced take” on basic income.

With new spikes of COVID-19 around the world, Wayne and Blacknell hope the film can reach a wider audience to facilitate this debate. It is now available on Amazon Prime for streaming.