Gary Johnson recently told me he is “open” to the Universal Basic Income (UBI). Based on some of the comments on the story (calling me slanderous and Johnson a statist), you might think he just endorsed a socialist takeover of the government.
Understandably, there is hostility among many libertarians toward the idea of the Universal Basic Income. The UBI is not just a pragmatic step to eliminate government bureaucracy. In fact, it is a desirable policy outcome because it will likely help usher in a new era of free markets and civil society.
Much has been said on the pragmatic libertarian case for replacing the current social safety net with a UBI. Primarily, it eliminates government paternalism and enhances the efficiency of welfare delivery.
Moreover, a Universal Basic Income removes the poverty trap created by the loss of welfare benefits as individuals move out of poverty. This incentivizes recipients to remain in poverty to retain these benefits. A UBI has no such incentive and allows recipients to choose the course of action that actually provides the greatest real benefit.
Through the basic income, recipients are also fully in control with how to spend the money, eliminating welfare’s distortions on the marketplace.
Most libertarian UBI advocates take Milton Friedman’s view of the basic income, approving of it as a substitute given that government welfare already exists (and is unlikely to go away). Instead, libertarians should consider wholeheartedly endorsing the UBI as a way to expand free markets.
The last century has shown us that free markets and free trade have been the greatest source for prosperity and peace the world has ever seen. However, the free market consensus seems to be eroding at a frightening pace, even in the Western world.
Free market’s savior? The basic income.
If libertarians are being honest, free markets are the best source for lowering poverty, but they alone are not sufficient. For example, Hong Kong has the freest economy in the world, but also a good amount of debilitating poverty. While visiting McDonalds throughout Hong Kong, it was hard not to notice the McRefugees (as they are called in local media) that were sleeping at tables.
Socialism is not the answer to the poor’s woes, as we saw with devastating consequences in the human trials of socialism in the Soviet Union, Mao’s China and still today in North Korea and Venezuela.
Instead, the answer is to open up the free market to everyone through the basic income.
Pilot programs have shown that the basic income increased entrepreneurial and market activity (among other positive social benefits, such as improved health). Individuals previously locked out of the free market can now be active participants. The understandable worry that people would stop working is not only overblown, but the opposite was actually shown to be true in Namibia, as business activity dramatically picked up.
The largest meta-analysis of cash-transfers ever further illustrated that the risk of reduced work is nil and in fact it has the potential to increase work hours and intensity. Some parents reduced work hours to care for their children, but this likely brings a positive long-term outcome to society.
Work brings dignity and the basic income does not eliminate the basic desire to contribute to society. When polled, most Americans say they would still work even with a financial windfall.
Basic income gives recipients free choice, unlocking the market’s full potential. People do remarkable things when given freedom and opportunity.
Additionally, poverty is one of the biggest factors when determining a child’s likelihood to succeed in education. Just giving parents money substantially improved their child’s educational outcomes and behavior. The same was shown under the basic income.
The basic income is not a pragmatic giveaway to socialists. It is precisely the opposite: it is the essential element for sustaining the durability and expansion of free markets.
Beyond opening up the market to new participants, it is likely that a basic income would allow society to reevaluate the necessity of a whole host of government policies.
Human beings are born with a natural inclination to be empathetic toward others. And there are individuals that are also inclined (perhaps hardwired) toward government solutions for society’s ills. No matter how effectively free markets lower poverty, there will always be calls for a government backstop.
As libertarians know, these calls for government “solutions” often do more harm than good and end up impeding the very forces that allow the free market to lift individuals out of poverty (e.g. the minimum wage).
As jobs are increasingly automated, it is especially crucial that libertarians guide political discourse toward a light-touch approach to resolve the disruption robots will cause in the marketplace. There needs to be a permanent method to alleviate the fears of the market place, rather than relying on the eternal vigilance of Congress to do the right thing.
A robust basic income would mute many of the calls for government intervention because it gives employees greater freedom to choose their employment situation, rather than being forced into employment by the threat of poverty.
The fears felt by those inclined toward government intervention would be lowered and libertarians would have a far more persuasive case to make for allowing individuals to shape the market instead of the government. Indeed, it would allow libertarians to push for removing many of the excesses of government intervention.
The Universal Basic Income is not just a pragmatic compromise to lower welfare bureaucracy. It is the essential prerequisite to usher in a new era of free markets. And libertarians would be well suited to be at the forefront of this movement.
Safety is a crucial issue. Without a sense of security, we don’t think straight, we don’t connect as well, and we don’t align as well with our core values. If we are not secure, we don’t feel safe, and if we don’t feel safe, fear grows from within. And with that fear comes distrust, anxiety and stress. And all of those blur clear-sighted decisions.
With this short essay I aim to provide support for the following proposition: given a minimum level of safety, people will make better decisions. In particular, they will invest more in green technology, which is unaffordable to many at the moment.
Before going into any details, though, we should ask this question: what is it that people want, anyway? Do they want more holidays? iPhones? Well-paying jobs? As it seems, at a deeper level, what they want most is none of that.
According to an international questionnaire, created and administered by the association Together, people want the following:
Guarantee of purchasing power and financial safety for all
Redistribution of wealth for greater equality
Promotion of exchanges and circulation of means without money
The end of rampant consumerism, especially when producers are suffering from underpaid work
The development of a deconcentrated and stable economic system
Use of technology for the well-being and comfort of all
Zero poverty, zero exclusion, and zero carbon
Affirmation and implementation of the principles of co-responsibility
Empowerment of all and development a relationship of trust, freedom, and equality, to remove laws, regulations and cameras that focus on the control of people
Encouraging and teaching co-responsibility
Supporting all people’s engagement in society, regardless of role
Giving participatory and direct democracy a holistic place
Improving representative democracy and abolishing dictatorship
Bringing elected representatives closer to citizens
Developing an ethics of democracy
Learning co-construction of policy by involving different actors including crossing perspective, skills and abilities
Empowerment of policy makers, making sure that they keep the promises that they have made
Transparency in actions of the government
Firmness and impartiality in justice
Simplification of the administration and legislation, and improved logistical organization
Policies to support the population, particularly for providing access to essential needs; an enhanced social state.
The end of media trash-talk that enhances racism and insecurity
Changing our relationship with nature, plants and animals
Reducing population pressure
Ensuring a rapid energy transition
Fight against waste
Fight against pollution
Production that is more natural and small-scale
Cleanliness in public places, thanks to co-responsibility
Maintaining and protecting biodiversity
Preserving and developing agricultural and food-production areas such as family or community gardens
Arranging space to make it user-friendly and to facilitate common life, multiculturalism, creativity and new ideas
Adapting public roads for all while reducing traffic and enhancing transportation safety
Making the city a pleasant common good
Increasing the time available to people and improving management of time
Increasing time available for the family
Promoting volunteering by enabling candidates to get community service and recognizing volunteer spaces
Enhancement of opportunities to live together and learn about others
Eliminating and prohibiting all forms of discrimination and racism in all areas, including employment
Avoidance of all forms of violence, harassment and war, plus eradicate those related to physical integrity
Facilitate networking and communication of the organisations and individuals
Maintenance of ethical and respectful behaviour for the sake of democratic functioning
Changing behaviour to encourage living together and respecting each other
Development of a common culture, whatever our religion
Solidarity with excluded and/or vulnerable people so that all are made to feel accepted
Reception of migrants and refugees as well as the homeless
More care for the poor by taking an upstream strategy to combat poverty
More aid for the disabled, including children and those who are alone and poor
These results are derived from the application of a specific methodology, the Spiral Approach, which has been applied in over 20 countries, involving around 120,000 people1. While this might be a small sample of all humanity, it is big enough to be taken very seriously. If these results mean anything, I assume, it’s that people would prefer to invest more in technologies that would lower their environmental footprint on this planet–if only they could afford it. And affordability has indeed been a major issue in contemporary Portugal. As we can observe in Figure 1, people have been losing purchasing power consistently over the past few years, except for a tiny percentage of people. At the same time, as expected, inequality has also risen (Figure 2).
Figure 1 – Personal income savings in Portugal, percent of GDP
Figure 2 – Income inequality in Portugal (quotient between the 20 percent richest and 20 percent poorest average income)
This is, of course, also mirrored in the growing number of poor people living in Portugal (Figure 3). These people might get free lunches (yes, these apparently do exist) if they prove their poverty – that’s how it goes these days – but, needless to say, it’s much harder to get a solar panel or an electrical vehicle, for example, just for being poor. But if you’re interested in learning more about solar panels check out Sandbar Solar’s residential solar services. You might be surprised as to what you can learn from them about the ranges of services that are available.
The question is: would they (or most of us, for that matter) actually buy these things, if they could afford it? Any direct response is, of course, mere speculation, since it’s impossible to run an experiment given the present mode of things. But we might take a look at what people who can afford greener technologies are actually doing with their money. Figure 4 and Figure 5 show a couple of trends in investment in electric vehicles and photovoltaic panels in recent years.
Figure 4 – Solar and geothermal energy generation, in tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in energy mix
Figure 5 – Number of electric vehicles sold in Portugal
A quick look at these charts clearly shows increasing trends in purchases of these items. In the case of photovoltaic panels, Figure 4 refers to energy output, but higher output is of course linked to increased solar panel installations. This has happened in the midst of the present day austerity-driven impoverishment of nations, of which the Portuguese society is a victim.
According to a 2012 inquiry / poll, housing and other property amount to 81 percent of all assets3 owned by the 25 percent poorest families, with motor vehicles accounting for 18 percent. This basically means these families own nothing else (or close to nothing). Meanwhile, the richest 10 percent of families own 71 percent of their assets in their own house and other property (30 percent in their own house), 25 percent in businesses and 2.2 percent in vehicles. It is also noteworthy that, according to the same inquiry / poll, 91 percent of all the richest 10 percent of families own vehicles and 20 percent own other valuables compared to 39 percent in vehicle ownership and 5 percent in other valuables for the 20 percent poorest families. These differences are also mirrored in the value structure of those assets: a typical rich family (from the top 10 percent) owns a median value of 17 300 € in motorized vehicles, while the poorest 20 percent own only a median value of 2000 €. In other valuables, the differences are even sharper, with the richest families owning a median of 17 500 €, while poorest own only 300 € (median). Finally, up to the 90 percent richest families, vehicles and other values stays at a median of 13 000 €, which is about 37 percent of the amount the richest 10 percent of families own in these items (median values).
What this means is that, apart from the 10 percent richest families, and maybe some of the 20 percent richest ones, no one can really afford to buy electric vehicles, which have an average cost at 33 400 € (with 7 year batteries), and photovoltaic panel systems (micro-scale systems start at 10 000 € per 4.6 kW package). Given this scenario, what could a basic income to give people the opportunity to purchase these low-carbon technologies and contribute to solve the climate crisis?
According to a basic income viability study for Portugal, a 435 €/month payment to every adult would generate income increases for everyone earning 1200 €/month or less, before taxes. However, that increase will only be truly significant (after taxes) for those earning nothing, or close to nothing. Of course, 435 €/month basic income will only allow for a person to care for basic needs, such as food and shelter–not electric cars or photovoltaic panels.
It would, however, mean more money in the hands of people who are nowadays consuming less than they ought to, given their basic needs. And this will lead to higher economic outputs, especially in local economies. That, in turn, will increase monetary circulation, and eventually enough accumulation that some families will be able to afford green technologies. Another possibility is that people will come together in condos, neighbour associations, cooperatives and such, and pool their basic incomes (or whatever extra amounts they can get, given the existence of basic income). This way, they can acquire this equipment through their shared resources and manage it cooperatively. Also, the prices of these products are getting lower. This is especially true for photovoltaic panels, the price of which has fallen as much as 75 percent since 2009, and is expected to continue falling. The forecast for electric vehicles prices is more uncertain; however, due to technological advancement and higher supply, it is expected that these prices will also drop in the next few years (Joana Balsa, 2013).
The relationship between basic income and increased purchases of low environmental impact technologies is not obvious, at least for the products discussed in this short analysis (photovoltaic panels and electric vehicles). However, I’ve hinted at some factors that may determine that rise, given the implementation of something like a basic income in Portugal. Of course options to reduce environmental impact is not limited to the purchasing of photovoltaic panels and electric vehicles. Many other possibilities are available, at much lower costs, such as replacing existing low efficient lamps for LED technology lamps, riding bicycles or even reducing the ingestion of meat (while eating more vegetables).
1 – More information on the data gathering method and resulting platform can be obtained here (in French).
2 – percent of people living in poverty or in risk of poverty.
One of the most visible libertarian advocates of the basic income is Dr. Matt Zwolinski. Zwolinski is a professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego and has written extensively on the libertarian case for the basic income.
In my interview with Zwolinski, he said a basic income “can help protect the freedom of certain vulnerable people,” although he recognizes there is a trade-off due to the coercive nature of taxes.
Zwolinski also dismissed some of the common libertarian objections to the basic income, saying it is a hard moral sell to claim taxation to help the poor is indistinguishable from a mugger stealing for himself.
“I think there’s a moral case, based on freedom and a correct theory of property rights, that justifies some form of economic redistribution,” he said.
For those libertarians that think basic income disqualifies them from the libertarian label, Zwolisnki said this does not make much sense since many libertarian thinkers throughout history have advocated for the basic income approach.
“Libertarianism is and should remain a pretty big tent,” Zwolinski said.
As a libertarian, what is the best reason to support UBI?
I don’t think that there’s a single best reason. I’m a pluralist in my moral philosophy, and so I think that a lot of different kinds of reasons are usually appropriate in assessing the case for or against a particular piece of public policy.
But, basically, I think there are two strong libertarian arguments in support of a basic income, one broadly deontological in nature and the other broadly consequentialist. The deontological argument has to do with the limits to the libertarian case for private property. For reasons that I think were very well laid out by Herbert Spencer in 1851, I don’t think the standard Lockean story about self-ownership and labor mixing gets us very far in justifying private property in land and other natural resources. For starters, that account simply doesn’t match the historical reality in which most private property originated in force and theft rather than peaceful homesteading. But, more fundamentally, I just don’t see how mixing your labor in a natural object gets you a property right in the whole economic value of that object, as opposed to a right to that portion of the value created by your labor. Basically, I think Henry George was right. And so I think that there’s a strong case to be made for a basic income funded by a “Single Tax” on “land rent” – the economic value of unimproved natural resources such as land.
The more consequentialist case has to do with protecting individual freedom. I call it a consequentialist case rather than a utilitarian one deliberately. The idea is that a basic income can help protect the freedom of certain vulnerable people. But I recognize that a basic income that’s large and broad enough to do that might have to be funded by taxes that violate the freedom of others. So we’re trading off freedom for freedom. That might sound scary to some libertarians, but I think that unless you’re an anarchist you’re already willing to accept something like this. Tax-funded police services, after all, protect individual freedom but are funded by coercive taxation.
I think the seeds for a freedom-based defense of a basic income are present in the writings of Friedrich Hayek, especially in his Constitution of Liberty. Hayek himself defended a kind of basic income, but was never entirely clear about what he saw the justification for it to be. I’ve tried to work out what a plausible Hayekian justification might be, at least in terms of broad outlines. Basically, I see Hayek as embracing a kind of republican account of liberty, where freedom means not just not being subject to the initiation of force but, more generally, not being subject to the arbitrary will of any other person. Once you take that account of freedom on board, I think you can justify a basic income as a way of protecting the economically vulnerable. The idea is that people who might otherwise have to accept any offer an employer makes or else starve aren’t really free. A basic income gives them the ability to say “no,” and thus protects them from being bossed around by the economically powerful.
One interesting thing to note about these two arguments is that they’re not just different in terms of where they start – the moral premises on which they’re based. I think they’re also different in terms of where they end up – in the kind of basic income they justify. If the Georgist argument works, I think that justifies a truly universal basic income. The earth belongs to all of us, and so all of us have an equal claim to the economic value of unimproved natural resources. Now, depending on how much of present wealth you think is due to labor, rather than raw natural resources, the value of this kind of basic income might not be very large. So, on this argument, what you might end up with is a very broad but relatively small basic income. Everybody gets something, but nobody gets much.
The freedom-based argument, on the other hand, doesn’t give us any reason to write a check to Bill Gates. His freedom is already protected by his economic power, so there’s no real point in giving him any more money. And the same will be true of a lot of other people, not just the rich but probably most of the middle class as well. So if the case for a basic income is based on the protection of individual freedom, I think what that gets you is something less than a universal basic income. Not everybody gets something, but what those who need it get will be large enough to effectively protect them against economic domination by others.
What would your ideal UBI look like?
Designing a policy like a universal basic income is obviously a complicated task. And I think it’s a task that should be highly sensitive not only to the kinds of moral considerations with which I spend most of my time as a philosopher, but to empirical considerations of the kinds studied by economists, sociologists, and the like. So I don’t want to claim that I’ve got anything close to the final word on this. I have some ideas, but this is definitely not a one-person project.
That said, I think that given the two distinct moral considerations that justify a basic income, there’s a case to be made for having two distinct basic income type policies that respond to those considerations. One would be a small, truly universal cash grant based on the economic value of unimproved natural resources. Think of this as something like the Alaskan Permanent Fund writ large. The other would be a less universal but more generous grant directed toward those individuals who fall below a certain specified threshold of economic sufficiency. I think the best way of implementing this second program is probably something like Milton Friedman’s Negative Income Tax, though I also like the proposal set forth by Charles Murray in his book, In Our Hands. In both cases, people earning less than a certain amount of money get a cash grant from the government, with which they can do whatever they wish; while people earning more than that amount get nothing. That conditionality makes the program less than truly universal. But I think you’ve got to do something like that in order to make a basic income economically feasible. Many basic income enthusiasts want a grant that is (1) universal, (2) large enough to provide people with an adequate level of income, and (3) economically affordable. But you can’t satisfy all three of those conditions at once. A Negative Income Tax satisfies conditions (2) and (3), which to my mind are the most important conditions, morally speaking. Condition (1) might be politically important in terms of generating and sustaining support for the program. I’m not sure. But it seems to me that something has to give, and I think there’s a strong case to be made for keeping (2) and (3) and relegating (1) to the land-tax component of the joint program.
Many libertarians say removing all welfare would be superior to replacing welfare with the UBI. Do you agree with this sentiment?
No, I don’t think so. But before I explain why, let’s be clear about two different conversations we could have about this question. One is a conversation about ideals – what is the best kind of society we could imagine as libertarians, regardless of how different that society might look from our own? The other conversation is about pragmatics – what should libertarians advocate here and now, given all the injustices, imperfections and disagreements with which any practical political proposal has to deal?
Now, as it happens, I don’t think either of those conversations gets you to the conclusion that all state-based welfare ought to be eliminated. That’s certainly not something that has any practical chance of being implemented in a world where, after all, most people aren’t libertarians. But I don’t think it’s very attractive as an ideal, either. I think there’s a moral case, based on freedom and a correct theory of property rights, that justifies some form of economic redistribution. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of bad redistribution in our society. We’ve have redistribution to the poor that’s made their lives worse, rather than better. And we’ve had a lot of straightforwardly regressive redistribution that actually takes money and opportunities away from the poor and channels it toward the better off. And libertarians have rightly criticized those programs. But the idea that anytime the state takes money from the well-off and gives it to the poor, that’s morally indistinguishable from a mugger on the street taking your wallet at gunpoint, well, that’s a hard sell. And not, I think, simply because non-libertarians are being thick-headed.
In my experience, many libertarians have called me a statist and denied me the label of libertarian for supporting the UBI. Have you had similar experiences and what is your reaction?
Sure, I get that all the time. Some people seem to think a desire to eliminate the welfare state is just part of what it means to be a libertarian. But what’s their basis for that? That Murray Rothbard thought so? Or Ayn Rand? But why should we take them as the final say on what libertarianism is or isn’t?
As I’ve written about before, there are a number of people who fall pretty squarely in the libertarian intellectual tradition – Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick, Friedrich Hayek, and Herbert Spencer, to name a few – who don’t hold that view. Why should their views count any less toward defining what libertarianism is than Murray Rothbard’s?
I’m finishing up a book on the history of libertarian thought with John Tomasi. And one of the themes of that book is that the libertarian intellectual tradition is incredibly pluralistic. Some libertarians are consequentialists, some are deontologists, and some are ethical egoists. Some are anarchists, some are minimal-statists, and some are classical liberals. Of course, not all of those views can be right, and libertarians should (and do!) argue amongst themselves about which view is the best libertarian view. But I think it’s silly – and more than a little ironic! – for libertarians to try to write people with whom they disagree out of libertarianism altogether on the basis of some putative ideological authority. Libertarianism is and should remain a pretty big tent.
The Green Party and its presidential nominee Jill Stein has made overtures to the guaranteed basic income. However, Stein recently clarified her position on CNN, saying that the basic income is only a “visionary goal” at this point.
The Universal Basic Income is part of the Green Party’s platform, and many news outlets have previously reported that UBI is part of Stein’s core policies.
Stein’s clarification that the UBI is not a “practical” policy to push is extremely disappointing. She could have helped bring the UBI to the forefront of the debate as voters search for an alternative choice to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps Stein does not want voters to confuse her position with that of conservatives and libertarians such as Charles Murray, who want to replace most social services with a $10,000 universal basic income.
Instead of dismissing UBI outright, Stein should advocate for creating pilot programs to test the efficacy of basic income around the United States. Not only does this sound completely reasonable, it is likely the inevitable first step toward implementing a full basic income throughout the country.
Alternatively, Stein could use the carbon tax as a method to promote the UBI through a carbon dividend. This would motivate those passionate about the environment and basic income.
The biggest problem with Stein’s comments to CNN is that they may deflate some motivation to push for a basic income. Stein has billed herself as a revolutionary candidate and yet she is hesitant about the guaranteed basic income. That may give some potential basic income supporters hesitation about the policy.
After Stein’s new comments, it is unclear which candidate is the most friendly to basic income. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said he was “open” to a basic income and supports a Fair Tax, which includes a prebate check that would essentially create a universal basic income.
Hopefully, Stein will take a more proactive approach with the basic income and support experiments to determine whether she is right about its practicality.
Basic income is not just a vision. It is a critical movement for the twenty first century.
Image By Paul Stein – https://www.flickr.com/photos/kapkap/7999998562/sizes/m/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21702881
From September 19th to 25th, 2016 we celebrate the ninth International Week of Unconditional Basic Income, and you can get involved where you are!
National and local groups and activists everywhere will be on the streets, in cinemas, in universities, on the internet or in the media to spread the word about basic income.
Last year for the eighth International Week we had events and media coverage in 29 countries on all continents.
To show how big and relevant a topic basic income is becoming we collate all events on this website or check out our calendar.
If you are already planning an event, please log it into our contact page to post to our calendar, post it on Twitter with the hashtag #basicincomeweek9 or tell us about it on Facebook.
When you have links to media coverage, photos, videos or links to your website or social media that you want to share with basic income supporters from other countries, please add them! We are also still happy to receive links to articles from last year’s International Week.
If you have events on in September that were not especially planned for basic income week, but fall into that week please add them, too. Anything basic income goes!
If you would like to host an event, but are not sure what to do yet, have a look at last year’s calendar for ideas.
If you want to tell us current basic income news from your country, we would be happy to interview you via Skype.
The Unconditional Basic Income has been springing up around the world as a new human rights movement, protecting everyone’s fundamental right to life. In addition to basic human rights, traditional Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism shows us the fundamental nature of humanity is good, in that all beings originally are Buddhas, all are endowed with Buddha nature (1), so each human being deserves equal respect and care. The Unconditional Basic Income is a manifestation of this ideology of benevolence.
Around 2,300 years ago, China’s Mencius wrote in King Hui of Liang, due to a lack of constant property, the common people also lack unwavering perseverance. This will lead to a dissipation of propriety, causing a tide of lawlessness. Waiting until a citizen breaks the law, and utilizing punishment to handle him is essentially like using a fishing net to ensnare the populace. How can a benevolent monarch think this type of policy can be put into practice? As such, a wise monarch will formulate property for the people, giving them the ability to serve their parents and provide for their spouse and children. During a year of prosperity, a family can eat well and during years of shortages, they can still avoid starvation. Then enlightenment can be put into practice, urging the populace to perform good deeds, making it easier for them to follow the enlightenment. This is what Mencius meant when he said “Establishing property of the people, make them have sufficient food and clothing; first support (the people), then teach (the people).”
Thus, each of the basic income experiments around the world allow us to realize that after a person receives a guarantee for their livelihood, crime goes down, educational outcomes go up, economies grow, physical and spiritual health improves, families and societies become more harmonious, and parents have more time to accompany and take care of their children. Society is created by each family unity. Creating more harmonious families will make a more harmonious and safe society. In today’s turbulent world, implementing a UBI is of the utmost importance.
Inspired by the news surrounding Switzerland’s basic income referendum, this February I worked with the respected teacher Chunchi Tsao, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, to start a new organization Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan. On Facebook, I recruited 30 people to found the organization to apply through the government to become an official organization. I hope that we can cooperate with the global movement to push the basic income, free education, social housing, free vegetarian restaurants for environmental protection, etc. in order to implement social welfare.
The honorary president of our association, Taiwan University’s School of Law European Union Law Research Center (EULRC) Dr. Lukas Lien said, “When the country’s founder, Dr. Sun Yatsen said ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ the genuine meaning was a country of social welfare, instead of the Nationalist KMT party’s idea of exploiting the people. No. The real meaning is to give all of the resources to the people and then the government can attain so-called legitimacy. Otherwise what can they rely on for legitimacy to levy taxes? The purpose of taxes is for educating the people, ensuring everyone has food, clothing, housing, transportation, and then the most important element is ensuring the most basic right to life. In German it is not called UBI. It is called the most fundament, the most basic right to life. That is to say, at the very least, is that no matter the circumstances, no one will face starvation.”
The purpose of government’s existence is to take care of the people. If a government does not take care of the people’s food, clothing, shelter, education and their fundament right to life, then a government is no longer needed, and in fact no longer has legitimacy to levy taxes and legislate to regulate the people. Since ancient times, both the East and the West have followed the ideology: “The will of the people is the will of Heaven,” and “The people are God.” The Book of History puts forward “Heaven sees what the people see, Heaven hears what the people hear,” and “That which the people desire, Heaven must abide by.” In Latin it is, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, or “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Dr. Lien also quotes the last Pope: “because all are created in the image of god, so we must protect people, in the same way that we protect the image of God. In his Christian Socialism course, Dr. Lien quotes Matthew 25 verse 31-46, the story of the judgement day: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” That is to say, we push for the basic income in order to push for world peace.
The practical way to achieve this is through the basic income, free education, and social housing as social welfare protections in the constitution and legislation. Educate the people about the ideology and law behind these basic rights is the first obligation. Revolution has to start from the mind. Once the people have the understanding of the ideology and law, then we will be able to choose and create a government of benevolence, as well as understand how to use legislation to push for these social benefits.
Collecting the revenue for the basic income has many different methods, for example taxes and printing money, cutting and integrating general welfare spending, generating profits or raising money. As science and technology continues to progress, humanity can already gradually use automation and robots to substitute human labor. This will give people more time and energy to pursue artistic and creative endeavors, entrepreneurship, spiritual development and realize their own dreams.
Our organization already conceived of some methods to fund the basic income: develop autonomous robotic national industries in order to produce food and other necessities and allocate the profits to all people. The American economist Milton Friedman 1969 popularized the satirical idea of throwing cash from helicopters and letting people collect it. In reality, the Central Bank could print money and directly give it to the entire population. In the second year, the basic income could be matched with a consumption tax and some of the money that was issued could be absorbed back into government coffers. From this, an uninterrupted source of finances could supply the revenue for the unconditional basic income to smoothly operate over the long-term. Certainly, there are many more methods for financing the UBI, which could all be properly tuned and applied.
Universal unconditional basic income is not only feasible; it is an imperative.
Annotation: 1. All beings are originally Buddhas – The Chart of Mortals, Saints, Delusion and Enlightenment
Written by Juku Shenguang: Founder, Vice-president and Secretary-General of Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan.
The 2020 BIEN Congress was to be held in Brisbane in Australia from the 28th to the 30th September 2020. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the event has been cancelled. BIEN’s Executive Committee and the Scottish and Australian congress Local Organising Committees have agreed the following statement: ‘The Scottish and Australian Congress Local Organisation Committees have agreed that the current plan is to hold the 2021 BIEN congress in Scotland and the 2022 BIEN congress in Australia.’
A Basic Income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Read more
A series of conversations from around the world that explore the relationship between the Covid-19 pandemic and Basic Income. Read more