BIEN Stories: Martine Mary Waltho

BIEN Stories: Martine Mary Waltho

Martine Mary Waltho (BIEN Life Member) – “My Basic Income Journey”

I first came across the idea of a basic income when I was at university in 1984. There was an article in a magazine; it might have been the New Society. It was written by a man who used to be a probation officer. I think this was Bill Jordan. The article was written in a clear and commonsense way. In this way the article took on a life of its own and acted as a discussion point.

Soon after this there were meetings at the Quaker Meeting House in Wythenshawe, Manchester. These were on a Saturday mornings. They were run by Kevin Donnelly who has since died. People came from all over, some from abroad.

Here people could say whatever they wished. There was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing to say. People listened to each other.

There was a feeling of direct communication with people. This gave a sense of meaning to the event and a desire to keep on meeting.

Although there have been attempts to discuss the concept of basic income in the Manchester area, there have been no recent public events. The events at the Wythenshawe Friends meeting house created a ‘basic income’ community which was able to respond and create as necessary.

With regards to now, I think that we need a benchmark which prevents people from becoming poor. That is some means of recourse for people who are poor. I think that at present society is far too willing too accept that poverty exists. Individuals are made to feel that they are personally responsible for their own specific situation. We need some sort of social agreement as to what constitutes poverty in a modern society.

I think that the solution is contradictory. I feel that the basic income movement needs to have as broad appeal as possible. For example, many industrialists and business people have historic knowledge of poverty and these experiences can be drawn upon. The fact that this might represent a different point of view is not a reason to ignore such a view. It might even clarify what is needed.

The question of what constitutes a modern functioning society is at the heart of what a basic income should look like. I am not sure how this can be agreed upon in such a way as to have long term meaning. However I do think it is worth trying to ask such questions.

Photo: Manchester Cathedral and the River Irwell – the “spiritual and physical centre” of Manchester.


At the end of 2016, the year in which BIEN celebrated the 30th anniversary of its birth, all Life Members were invited to reflect on their own personal journeys with the organization. See other contributions to the feature edition here.

BIEN Stories: Toru Yamamori

BIEN Stories: Toru Yamamori

Photo taken by Stefan Pangritz at a solidarity meeting for the Swiss
referendum in January 2014 in Basel.

 

Toru Yamamori (Basic Income News editor)

 

1. Encounter to the idea
My encounter to the idea of a basic income was around 1991-2. I was involved in solidarity activism with a casual worker’s trade union, in which many of the members were homeless construction workers. Some left leaning intellectuals also came to show their solidarity from time to time, and one of them told me that what we need is the idea of ‘unconditional social income’ that was articulated in the Italian autonomist movement.

I wasn’t impressed by the idea at that time, mainly because the movement with which we were in solidarity demanded an end to unfairly unpaid or underpaid wages. For me asking ‘income’ in that context sounded like that we are getting amnesty when we want to be proved not guilty.

It took several years for me to digest why we need an unconditional basic income. Then it become a secret joy to read Bertrand Russell’s Roads to Freedom, or Philippe van Parijs’s Real Freedom for All, borrowed from a university library. Because the majority of my friends either from activism or academia didn’t like the idea, it remained a personal relief by dreaming a totally different world.

 

2. Joining BIEN
In 2002 I travelled to the U.K. to visit to Malcolm Torry, Philip Vince (both from Citizen’s Income Trust), and Bill Jordan (a founding member of BIEN). Malcolm and Philip showed me that the idea was being spread widely from a small alternative sphere. Bill introduced me to the working class people who demanded a basic income in 1970s, which made me remind my old friends with who I wanted to be in solidarity. (So I started to organize public events on UBI outside academia.)

In 2004 I attended the BIEN congress in Barcelona where the network changed from ‘European’ to ‘Earth’. I was fascinated by the unique atmosphere, where established, well-known academics talked with anyone in equal and friendly terms, and where many young activists brought enthusiasm. I immediately became a life member.

Then I attended almost every congress except 2006. The one in 2014 Montreal was special occasion for me, because I presented my 13 years of oral historical research on the working class feminists who demanded UBI in the 1970s Britain, which was started when Bill introduced me some of those people in 2002. Local and international feminists in the congress encouraged me with positive comments, and I felt relieved that finally I succeeded to convey their forgotten struggle to similar minded contemporary feminists.

 

3. And now…
I was the only participant from Asia in the 2004 congress. The number has grown and this year the congress was held in Korea, and we have five national or regional affiliates in Asia.

People in BIEN keep encouraging me to engage both activism and research on UBI, which means a lot for me. In 2012 I was elected to the Executive Committee. At that time it was out of blue, but since then I have tried to expand this unique broad-church organization, especially by writing news for the Basic Income News, and by exploring communications between Asian members.

 

Toru Yamamori is a professor of economics of a Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. 


At the end of 2016, the year in which BIEN celebrated the 30th anniversary of its birth, all Life Members were invited to reflect on their own personal journeys with the organization. See other contributions to the feature edition here.

BIEN Stories: Hyosang Ahn

BIEN Stories: Hyosang Ahn

Hyosang Ahn (Permanent Director of BIKN)

“Emancipation and Basic Income”

The first time I encountered the idea of basic income was the summer of 2007. I was at the time the vice president of a small party on the left, rather imaginatively named the Socialist Party, and was preparing for the coming presidential election in December. A close leftist intellectual (who is also a Life Member of BIEN) presented to me the idea of basic income, and as soon as I heard it, I decided to include it into our party platform. My alacrity was because of one of the central tenets of the Socialist Party – de-exclusion. That is to say, only when no member of society is denied access to any aspects of said society can there be a truly emancipated society. Thus I thought that a basic income which provides the material basis for everyone would form the keystone of such a society.

As one of the radical student activists of the 1980s, I struggled for not just democratization of my country but an emancipatory socialism. I saw that a socialism which outmodes human exploitation would be the only way for human beings to enjoy true liberty. That belief continued to form the cornerstone of my ideology even as the historically existing socialism crumbled and as I distanced myself from what the mainstream political sphere purported to be “socialism”, with its domination by political elites and disdain for mass participation. In order for a truly participatory democracy to function, people must have the material foundation that allows them to live a decent life. Hence, I found the idea of basic income to be quite compatible with my politics and ideology.

From there, I quickly embraced the idea of basic income and committed myself to the basic income movement in South Korea. In 2009, a handful of intellectuals and activists, including myself, came together to form the Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN), mainly for the purpose of research and dissemination. Then, by 2013, BIKN shifted into more of a mass organization which attempts to place basic income at the centre of the national political agenda. In 2016, it hosted the BIEN congress at Seoul with parties and politicians across the ideological spectrum taking an interest in the idea.

We, the people in South Korea, are in the political turbulence caused by the corrupted and incompetent president and her clique which might lead to a snap presidential election. Now even some major politicians on the centre and right who would run for president call for basic income scheme, although it is not full basic income. The reason why they who ignored it in the past now accept the basic income idea is, I think, that there is no way to overcome the current economic and social crisis other than basic income. So 2017 would be recorded as the marked year if we could have basic income in full sense in the future.

Looking back, you could say that the basic income movement in South Korea has just crossed the threshold, albeit with a long detour. I continue to hold to the conviction that the basic income would be a key component in creation of a freer society and a better future. And that society could be made only by free people.


At the end of 2016, the year in which BIEN celebrated the 30th anniversary of its birth, all Life Members were invited to reflect on their own personal journeys with the organization. See other contributions to the feature edition here.

NGO launches lifetime basic incomes in Brazilian village, founds collaborative “projects network”

NGO launches lifetime basic incomes in Brazilian village, founds collaborative “projects network”

“Quatinga Velho, the lifetime Basic Income”

The nonprofit organization ReCivitas distributed a basic income to residents of the Brazilian village Quatinga Velho from 2008 to 2014. In January 2016, ReCivitas launched a new initiative, Basic Income Startup, which aspires to resume the Quatinga Velho basic income payments and make them lifelong.

A new initiative, the Basic Income Projects Network, aims to bring together other nongovernmental organizations that wish to start their own privately-funded basic income pilots.

 

Marcus Brancaglione, president of ReCivitas, writes this update:

The ReCivitas Institute is an NGO founded in 2006 that works to apply factual guarantees to human rights in independent public policies.

Since 2008, we have developed and sustained the Unconditional Basic Income pilot project in Quatinga Velho, Brazil, which is an internationally recognized project in Basic Income studies and research.

As of January 16th, 2016, Basic Income payments are now permanent, and no longer just a part of an experiment. For 14 people the Unconditional Basic Income has started to be for a lifetime. Now, with our enhanced peer-to-peer model, they also contribute, according to their ability to do so, to these payments.

The project is now called BASIC INCOME STARTUP, because for every 1,000 Euros donated, for no additional cost, a new person that lives anywhere that 40 Reais can make a difference (that is, a person that really needs that money) will start to receive the lifetime basic income.

And it bears emphasizing: for every 1,000 Euros that are donated, RECIVITAS will remove one person from the most abject conditions of primitive deprivation — the kinds of conditions that every Basic Income activist should never forget actually exists.

This project was designed during our last trip to Europe in 2015, while we observed the inequality between refugees and European citizens.

In Brazil, the Brazilian Network for Basic Income is being formed by local communities and independent institutions. The aim is to expand and replicate the model in the ghetto, forgotten places of the world, because poverty has a face and an address, therefore programs that fight poverty do not need focusing techniques or conditionalities, because the people who are in dire need of help already live in segregation.

ReCivitas would like to use this rare opportunity to invite other projects and local communities that are paying, or wish to pay, a basic income, to join us and form the Basic Income Projects Network.

Through partnerships with local organizations, the Quatinga Velho model can be replicated in any community around the world, including ones with the same difficulties: with small amounts of their own capital, no governmental support or support by private corporations, and some amount of international solidarity and support.

We have decided to propose this partnership, especially after the World Social Forum, for two reasons. First, because we have finally realized how much we have accumulated in shareable knowledge in these ten years— knowledge that must be shared with those who really want to accomplish things. Second, because we want to help in the construction of these new projects, especially the ones that are more open to those who really need them.

For more information about the network, including the terms of the partnership for participating groups, please see the “Basic Income Project Network” page on the ReCivitas website.

Marcus Brancaglione, President of ReCivitas

Interview: Complementary currency and basic income

Interview: Complementary currency and basic income

With the emergence of cryptocurrencies (digital money) as an alternative to traditional cash, there has been discussion about how new currencies can be used to implement a Universal Basic Income.
Some crytopcurrency startups, such as uCoin (now Duniter), automatically distribute a basic income dividend to all of its verified members, thereby slightly growing the monetary base but in an egalitarian way.
Author Duke Johnson said because they rely on internet and electricity, these digital currencies are not easy enough for mainstream adoption and as of now are not “appropriate for UBI.”
Johnson has a slightly different system in mind for a currency: Creator Currency Octaves. He has written about how a Universal Basic Income of a “complementary currency” can “protect a currency from pitfalls of hyper-inflation” and has said it would also “put a real price on everything.”
He explains the complementary currency would be enough to cover basic necessities, but would also expire.
“Those who join a Creator Collective could accept active or expired Basic Bucks as rewards (and of course dollars/euros/gold/whatever) but depending on the level of their work and their individual Creator Octave, they would be able to exchange Basic Bucks for dollars at an elevated level, say 1.5x or even 4 dollars for 1 Basic Buck,” Johnson said.
“This would put both a supply and demand onto Basic Bucks into any system, without negatively altering the primary currency, and still providing incentive for people to work for collective projects and do great innovative or artistic work.”
For Johnson, the push for this new system is about making a fairer society.
“I want to participate in a fair system, where children don’t starve, and I’d like to see poverty eliminated in my lifetime,” Johnson said.
The full interview with Duke Johnson can be found below:
1. You said in “CurrentSea X-Change” that “A function of UBI would put a real price on what everything”. What did you mean by this, and how would basic income accomplish that?
For UBI, I feel financial freedom is true independence, and of course, with freedom, that which UBI could provide, people will be free to follow their passion instead of a paycheck.
When I mention that this system could put a real price on what everything is truly worth, including time, I’m speaking to the affect that manufactured scarcity places upon economics, where the current central banking system has far too much influence on what things cost, as opposed to what they should cost. One example, in the USA, the average price of a house in the 1970s cost ~8k hours of minimum wage work. Today, the average price is ~45k hours of min wage work. Therefore, a generation ago, life was affordable, but today low income people can typically only get by with debt and/or government assistance.
2. How would a basic income challenge our current economic system and expose its “flaws”?
If people didn’t have to work for housing/food/utilities, would they still be willing work a 40-50 hour/week job to afford, say, a new car every 2 years? If not, the car companies would likely lower their prices. Similarly, people would be in a better position to refuse jobs they dislike, therefore the cost of all labor would balance upon what people deem fair compensation, as opposed to what they’re forced to accept due to desperation in the current system.
Some other flaws UBI could expose in the current systems are the problems with disproportionate “making vs taking.” Today, Wall St. investors typically don’t actually make anything, except everything more expensive. If Creative Currency Octaves came into play, the people being rewarded would be the artistic creators and developers within a collective, as opposed to people making millions and billions from interest/dividends/ownership.
3. What is the appeal of implementing universal basic income?
Poverty elimination is the best reason to introduce UBI, and when people don’t have to work to support a family, that reduces stress from a population, which in turn could free people from the chains of debt servitude. I also argue that placing property ownership back into the people’s hands and away from institutions, would have a major balancing affect on communities in a positive way.
4. What is your view of cryptocurrencies as a way to distribute basic income?
As far as crypto-currencies go, I’m in favor of new ways to transfer money online that are secure and takes power away from central banks, however BlockChains rely on electricity and a functioning internet connection, which is a potential downfall. When people can buy lunch on the go as easily with BlockChain as with cash, then there will be a monetary revolution. Ultimately, mainstream money transfer is all about ease, which is why cash is king and credit/debit cards are more prevalent today. Of course it takes millions/billions of investment and decades to implement what visa/mastercard/debit cards have achieved in safe payment solutions, but again cash is the simplest for everyday purchases. BlockChain may become easier for large transactions than card/bank services, and of course cash can’t be transferred online, so I think BlockChain will prove it’s worth to the masses in the near future, though I don’t think it’s appropriate for UBI, unless as an option to be offered instead of, say, a monthly reloaded debit card.
5. What appeals to you about basic income and how did you get interested in the movement?
In conclusion, my efforts are focused on UBI through generating awareness of the system I’ve put forth- Creator Currency Octaves and a UBI of a complementary currency- that both protects the primary currencies and provides an incentive for workers/creators to innovate and still participate in the economy.
In my view, this system:
1) negates all arguments against Basic Income
2) can’t be claimed as unfair, because it works for all citizens
3) is the best way to introduce UBI into an existing monetary system
4) balances economic power away from profit-above-all institutions and towards a creative, innovating, and artistically eager populous
5) can eliminate poverty
It’s my goal to help create a future where college grads follow their passion as opposed to a paycheck, artists actualize their dream projects without a producer limiting their creativity, and people power trumps the power of financial desperation leveled upon communities like an economic weapon. I want to live in a city where parents don’t have to explain to their kids why people are homeless starving on the street in an era of exceeding abundance. I don’t want to enable those who inherit wealth to exploit those who have unmet basic needs. Ultimately, I want to participate in a fair system, where children don’t starve, and I’d like to see poverty eliminated in my lifetime.
Let’s eliminate negative basic incomes

Let’s eliminate negative basic incomes

What is a negative basic income?

“A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.” A negative basic income would be one where a periodic cash payment is unconditionally demanded from all on an individual basis, without means-testing or a work requirement. This is nothing but a per-head tax or a poll tax, a payment for existence, an equal amount taken from everyone, unconditionally.

The extreme unfairness is apparent. How can you take the same amount from the billionaire and the beggar? Not surprisingly, there have been very few pure poll taxes in history – most had a number of exclusions, especially for the poor. However, there is a different kind of per-head tax that is large, widespread, and right under our noses. This is when there is loss or diversion of the commons.

Let’s take a toy example to understand this. Imagine a tiny commons, 100 people who own a 1 kg slab of gold in common, inherited from the past. As they are worried about theft, they store it under the protection of the local deity. But it is a continual worry. The community decides to sell the gold, and to invest in a piece of land. They reason that at least the land can grow a crop, whereas the gold generates no income. As long as they maintain the fertility of the land, they can all share the crop. This would be the equivalent of a commons dividend or a cooperative dividend, essentially a Universal Basic Income for the community.

Now imagine that when they go to sell, they find the gold is simply stolen. Clearly it is a loss of 10 grams each (100 persons x 10 grams = 1,000 grams = 1 kg). This is nothing but a per-head imposition of the equivalent of 10 grams of gold. Since it is an inherited asset, the loss is suffered by all future generations as well. In a different sense, the loss is the opportunity to receive the commons dividend, the universal basic income in perpetuity.

We can extend this logic to diversion of either the capital (the value of the gold), or the income stream from the new asset (the land). If the government appropriates the value to finance infrastructure or health or education, it is still effectively financing these investments with a hidden per head tax.

This is even clearer in the instance of the fruit of the land and the commons dividend. If the government appropriates the entire crop, then it is identical to distributing a commons dividend as a basic income, and taxing it simultaneously to the exact same extent – the negative basic income.

This kind of underselling of the commons is widespread, particularly in minerals. To take a couple of examples, it has been estimated that the United Kingdom and Norway have extracted approximately equal amounts of oil from the North Sea. However, the United Kingdom received approximately GBP 400 billion less than Norway[1]. For a population of 64 million, this is a loss or a poll tax of GBP 6,250. Had this amount been saved, it could have financed a Citizen’s Dividend of GBP 250 in perpetuity, assuming a real return of 4%.

Another common problem is that the money received for the minerals is treated by the government as taxation revenue, not as the sale of the commons. Consequently, instead of creating a new asset, such as the land in the toy example, or more seriously, Future Generations Funds or Permanent Funds, the government simply spends the money as income. While this boosts the GDP figures, it is both the consumption of our inherited asset as well as the hidden imposition of a per head wealth tax. . Alaska only deposits 25% of its money from oil in to its Permanent Fund. The remaining 75% is treated as revenue in the state budget. This year, Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend was set at US$2,072. By extension, the remaining 75% that was spent through the budget could have financed an additional dividend of $6,216 per annum.

The Norway oil fund presently saves all receipts from minerals in the Norway Government Pension Fund. This is the single largest fund in the world, approximately USD 900 billion. However, instead of paying out a commons dividend or a Citizen’s Dividend, the money is appropriated into the budget. This is clearly equivalent to imposing a per head tax on all Norwegians. The 2016 budget estimates a transfer of NOK 208,994 million to the budget[2]. For a population of 5.084 million[3], that is a negative universal basic income of NOK 41,108, or approximately USD 4,863[4]. It is doubtful that any modern democracy can impose a per head tax of such a staggering amount.

The Goenchi Mati Movement, a people’s movement in Goa has adopted simple principles that they advocate for governing mining of the commons. In short, the principles are:

  1. We, the people of Goa, own the mineral in common. The state government is merely a trustee of natural resources for the people and especially future generations (Public Trust Doctrine).
  2. As we have inherited the minerals, we are simply custodians and must pass them on to future generations (Intergenerational Equity).
  3. Therefore, if we mine and we sell our mineral resources, we must ensure zero loss, ie. capture of the full economic rent (sale price minus cost of extraction, cost including reasonable profit for miner). Any loss is a loss to all of us and our future generations.
  4. All receipts from minerals must be saved in the Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund, as already implemented all over the globe. Like the minerals, the Permanent Fund will also be part of the commons. The Supreme Court has ordered the creation of a Permanent Fund for Goan iron ore and already Rs. 94 crores is deposited.
  5. Any real income (after inflation) from the Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund must only be distributed to all as a right of ownership, a Citizen’s Dividend. This is like the comunidade zonn, but paid to everyone.

We argue quite simply that any other structure would impose per head taxes, which is fundamentally regressive and obviously unfair. The principle of zero loss mining was clearly violated in the UK receiving GBP 400 billion less than Norway. The principle of saving all receipts from minerals is widely violated, largely due to the way governments account and report for this – windfall revenues instead of it being a capital receipt. And where permanent funds do exist, in most cases the government appropriates the income instead of distributing it as a commons dividend.

This problem is not confined to minerals. All over the world, the commons are being destroyed at a rapid rate. For example, the “Mickey Mouse extension” of copyright is also nothing but a transfer from the commons to the private sector, an imposition of a negative basic income.

It is time that activists for basic income seriously hunt out instances of negative basic income. Simply eliminating them could achieve many of the desired benefits of basic income, with a moral argument in favour, rather than the uphill battle of helicopter money.

 

About the author: Rahul Basu

 

[1] Did the UK Miss Out on £400 Billion Worth of Oil Revenue?, David Manley & Keith Myers, Natural Resource Governance Institute, 5 October 2015

[2] https://www.statsbudsjettet.no/Upload/Statsbudsjett_2016/dokumenter/pdf/budget2016.pdf

[3] https://www.google.co.in/search?q=population+of+norway&oq=population+of+no

[4] Google. 1 NOK = 0.12 USD, 41,108 NOK = 4,863.76 USD. 13 Dec 2016, 12 noon GMT