Austria’s Universal Basic Income (UBI) movement, the Generation Grundeinkommen, is calling all freedom-and-equality-loving pioneers to rally together for a national referendum. That is planned to start now and finish at the end of 2019, with the goal of having a basic income referendum in Austria in 2022. At the beginning of 2020, a petition is to be launched, asking for a national referendum in a two-year time horizon.
At the moment, Generation Grundeinkommen is crowdfunding for this rally, to pay for a pilot study, a symposium (in September 2018), expenses for the roadshow and the preparation of the Social Future Austria (“Forum Soziale Zukunft Österreich”). Helmo Pape, from Generation Grundeinkommen explains: “Our goal is to ensure that the cacophony of our collective voice will eventually force a mandatory plebiscite in which every citizen in Austria is able to make an informed choice about establishing a Basic Income in our country.” Pape believes that the time is ripe for Austria to build on Switzerland’s revolutionary effort in 2016, when 23% voted for Basic Income.
Friedrich Schneider, Professor of Economics in Linz (Austria), has presented a study on a potential Unconditional Basic Income in Austria. The study was initiated by the IWS Upper Austria (Initiative Standort Oberösterreich), an association that aims to promote Upper Austria as a base for companies. In this study, he discusses different models, based on literature studies. The models include adoptions of the proposed version in the Swiss referendum last year and one of the non-government organization Attac. Others include the basic income proposals of Götz Werner, Thomas Straubhaar and the German political parties Arbeitsgruppe 90/Grüne, CDU and Die Linke.
It is vital for Schneider, according to the Austria Press Agency (APA), on which designs and financing concepts the models are based on. Relevant distribution and incentive effects as well as the situation of the labour market are also important factors for the outcome.
In addition, Schneider proposes a field trial of an Unconditional Basic Income for Austria. According to Schneider, 1,500 people should participate in this Austria-wide field trial for several years, which should start as soon as possible. When results are available, the Austrian parliament should decide about its implementation. There should also be a public referendum on the question whether an UBI should be implemented. Schneider believes that a 2/3 majority should be required, rather than the mere 50% majority, since the idea means an “elemental interference” in everyone’s life. Furthermore, implementing a basic income would require transition regulations for the pension, for instance, and a prevention of immigration from East- and South Europe in case these countries don’t also introduce an Unconditional Basic Income.
A new documentary on basic income — Free Lunch Societyby Austrian director Christian Tod — premiered in Copenhagen’s Bremen Theatre on March 20, 2017, to a crowd numbering in the hundreds.
The 90-minute film covers a range of “highlights” of the basic income movement, such as (for example) Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, Manitoba’s “Mincome” experiment, campaigns for guaranteed minimum income in the 1960s US, the 2008 basic income pilot in Namibia, Switzerland’s 2016 basic income referendum, and current concerns about automation. Along the way, it features interviews with prominent basic income proponents — including, among others, billionaire businessman Götz Werner (founder of the German drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt), libertarian political scientist Charles Murray (American Enterprise Institute), venture capitalist Albert Wenger (Union Square Ventures), Mein Grundeinkommenfounder Michael Bohmeyer, Swiss referendum co-founder Daniel Häni, economist Evelyn Forget, and writer and entrepreneur Peter Barnes.
In an interview about the film (“Curiosity and the desire to improve the world”), Tod explains, “The film takes as its point of departure an ethical justification of basic income founded on the premise that natural resources belong to us all.” Tod’s musical selection — centered around the song “This Land is Your Land” — reflects this orientation toward the subject, as do his cinematographic decisions to include clips of natural scenery interspersed between the vintage footage and talking expert heads. (As he says in the same interview, “What might not come across quite so clearly in the completed film are elements which strike me as extremely important such as the countryside, the Earth, natural resources. I had wanted these aspects to be more prominent, but then the narrative would have suffered.”)
Tod has also acknowledged the influence of the science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation on his thinking about basic income and, eventually, the film: “It presents a society where there’s no money, where people only work because they really want to, and where they are driven by human curiosity.” Correspondingly, Free Lunch Society begins and ends with scenes from Star Trek.
About the interview subjects in his film, who were chosen in part to emphasize the political diversity behind support for basic income, Tod notes, “It’s interesting that they are almost all business people: owners of technology companies, CEOs of large or small companies, people who can afford to think about making the world a better place.”
Asked about the most surprising thing he learned while making the film — in an interview following the film’s premiere (see below) — Tod mentioned the discovery that “basic income was such a big thing in the United States in the 1960s,” tested in experiments and nearly voted upon.
Watch the Trailer
World Premiere Event
Most of Copenhagen’s Bremen Theatre 648 were filled at the world premiere of Free Lunch Society on Monday, March 20, 2017.
Director Tod states, “It was a fabulous evening in a tremendous location. It was very special to have the world premiere of Free Lunch Society in Copenhagen, because my film career started in this beautiful city 10 years ago, when I studied at Copenhagen university’s film department. The premiere on Monday was, so far, the peak of my career in filmmaking. Almost 650 people watching my vision and applauding, laughing and apparently liking it, is hard to top.”
The film’s world premiere was followed by short interviews with Tod and Bohmeyer, as well as a panel discussion with Uffe Elbæk (Leader of the Danish green political party The Alternative; Danish: Alternativet), Steen Jakobsen (Chief Economist at Saxo Bank), and Dorte Kolding (Chair of BIEN-Danmark). All three panelists were sympathetic to the idea basic income, although Elbæk explained that The Alternative was not prepared to endorse it — though they would be willing to pursue pilot studies, and though the party’s political agenda includes the provision of benefits to the poor “without specific control measures” (that is, without conditionalities like work requirements, similar in spirit to a basic income). Jakobsen advocates a negative income tax, as proposed by Milton Friedman, as a way to increase the purchasing power of the lower and middle classes and produce a more equitable distribution of wealth. Watch below (panel discussion and debate in Danish).
Austrian activist Helmo Pape has founded the initiative Generation Grundeinkommen (“Generation Basic Income”) to campaign for a basic income in Austria. The initiative will be launched at an event in Vienna on January 19, 2017.
Featured speakers include:
• Film director Christian Tod, writer and director of the basic income documentary Free Lunch Society.
• Enno Schmidt, co-director of an earlier influential basic income documentary (Grundeinkommen – ein Kulturimpuls) and co-initiator of the Swiss referendum campaign.
BIEN cofounder Guy Standing (Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London) will be speaking at two events in Austria in September.
On September 15, Standing will be in Vienna for an event entitled “The Precariat: No Security, No Benefits, No Future”, which has been organized by the Vienna Greens and the Austrian Basic Income Group. Klaudia Paiha of the Austrian Trade Union Federation will also be speaking at the event (in German). The speakers will address the following questions:
Does the “precariat” exist as a new class or is this just a false assessment in the attempt to find a response to the new developments in capitalism and on the labor market? There are millions of people who live with constant insecurity and uncertainty. What are the approaches proposed by trade unions and by economists to help this growing share of the population secure their civil, social, cultural, political and economic rights?
Then, on September 17, Standing will be in Klagenfurt to deliver a lecture as part of a TEDx event. The event will also include musical performances by jazz pianist Tonč Feinig and the “electro swing” act Kiss Me Yesterday, lectures on topics from the zero-waste lifestyle to the formation of planets, an appearance by Zombie Boy — and much more.
Standing’s TEDxKlagenfurt talk will address the topic of basic income as a solution to poverty.
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