The 41 minutes long documentary focuses on Universal Basic Income (UBI), retracing its history, explaining its rationale, and investigating why and how the idea has reached a much larger audience and unprecedented support in the last years.
It does so with though many poignant interviews with prominent exponents of the UBI community, as Van Parijs, Guy Standing, Daniel Raventòs, Scott Santens and many others. “UBI, our right to live” makes a compelling argument for the necessity of the measure, is a manifesto for UBI in the present day, and is an excellent introduction to the subject.
The documentary addresses two of the main drivers that are bringing UBI at the center of the public debate: economic inequality and technological development. The two themes are correlated, as economic inequality has reached unsustainable levels, and automation may make it even worse, if not handled in the proper way. The risk is the increase of unemployment and growing inequalities between high and low skilled workers.
UBI could eradicate poverty altogether, and if it were to be financed through progressive taxation, reduce inequalities. Moreover, it would provide an economic safety net for workers, and thus endorse them with more bargaining power when it comes to choose a job. People could decide how to focus productively their energies in order to contribute to society and give meaning to their live, rather than being forced in unfulfilling jobs just to survive. Nobody would be left alone, as it is bound to happen under the patchwork that present-day welfare is.
The fruits of technological advancement, if distributed via a UBI, rather than accumulated in the hands of the few, may help to shape a more just future, as this is what UBI is about (something that the documentary highlights): UBI is about justice and fairness, not charity.
It’s the instrument meant to redistribute what belongs to each and every person, the natural extensions of human rights in ensuring to everybody a standard of living adequate for a human being.
Milton Friedman once gave a lecture in which he demonstrated, in a very particular logic, that the so-called “free lunch” was a myth. The origin of the term is unknown, but in early twentieth century it was already in use. Since then it has been so frequently employed that people have been explaining and rationalizing over it up to the present. In physics, to do something – which is called “work” – is to spend energy, and so, physically speaking, there is nothing ever for “free” (free from some energy usage). However, in economics, “free”, and particularly the “free lunch” term refers to an opportunity cost that always exists, because the human imagination is infinite (at least in possibilities), and the Earth resources are limited. So, Friedman’s logic is that there will never be a “free lunch” because spending money somewhere always takes money away from something else (the opportunity cost). Others believe, however, that these “costs” and the inability to provide “free lunch” is only a reflex of a scarcity mentality that, for instance, considers that money – an imaginary construct – is finite and that its management amounts to a zero-sum game (if I win, you lose). An alternative belief is that, while acknowledging that physical resources are scarce (Earth is a finite planet), their distribution can be made available to everyone, and we could be living in a “free lunch society”, if only we shifted our mentality of scarcity to one of abundance, and generously shared those resources among every human being on Earth.
Given this introduction of the “free lunch” dilemma and what could be the transformation of our way of life into a “free lunch society”, Christian Tod, an Austrian economist and filmmaker intelligently used the term to name his most recent production: “Free lunch society”. The film is due to come out on iTunes on January 22th 2019 and on DVD on February 5th 2019. Previously, a short version of the film (50 min.) had already been presented at the Basic Income Earth Network’s (BIEN) Conference at Tampere, Finland, last August 2018.
The movie is composed as a documentary, featuring interviews, animation and film footage from all over the world, and announces itself as follows:
“What would you do if your income were taken care of? Just a few years ago, an unconditional basic income was considered a pipe dream. Today, this utopia is more imaginable than ever before. FREE LUNCH SOCIETY provides background information about this idea and searches for explanations, possibilities and experiences regarding its implementation.
Globalization, automation, Donald Trump. The middle class is falling apart, but we hear more talk about the causes than about solutions. From Alaska’s oil fields to the Canadian prairie, from Washington’s think tanks to Namibian steppes, FREE LUNCH SOCIETY takes us on a grand journey to answer one of the most crucial questions of our times.”
ARTE, the franco-german TV channel, dedicated to cultural content and dissemination, has launched (on the 20th November 2018), an interactive documentary on work, money and basic income, named “Gagner sa vie” (“Earn a living”). Over seven episodes transmitted on the Internet, in four languages (French, English, German and Dutch), it poses questions to the internauts and shows them the episodes, according to their choices. These questions are focused on employment, work, automation, trust, wealth distribution and basic income, inviting thought on present-day societal issues, particularly those revolving around work.
Each episode is eleven minutes long. These combine real life footage with animated cartoons, and cover experiences from the United States (the Cherokee casino dividends), Japan (excess work culture), Kenya (Give Directly’s basic income pilot in Kenyan villages), the Netherlands (Bitnation founders account), Israel (sharing in the rural community of Arava) and France (Gironde’s wish to start a basic income experiment). A seventh episode, launched later (already on December 2018), explores a possible future when machines do most work and a basic income already exists, financed by the tech companies that own those robots.
That is the ultimate question the new documentary named “Inherent Good” ends up asking. This film project, still ongoing, aims at exploring the Universal Basic Income (UBI) idea, particularly in small in-land communities in the United States of America, seriously hit by the latest financial crisis.
Los Angeles-based filmmakers are collecting funds for the Inherent Good project at the moment, with a release date aimed for Spring 2019. The documentary will accompany the launch of a basic income pilot experiment called The Magnolia Mother’s Trust. This experiment, organized by Springboard to Opportunities and in a partnership with the Economic Security Project, will dispense 1000$/month for one year to 15 families in Jackson, Mississipi, no strings attached. Accurately, the experiment does not equate to a basic income, since it is given to families, and not individuals, but the money is handed with no conditions on how it shall be spent. One particular aspect of the experiment is that these families are all “headed by an African American female living in affordable housing in the United States”.
The idea is, according to the film’s director Steve Borst, not only to “document the unveiling of this new pilot program, but [also] to help shift the poverty narrative by providing a platform that empowers these women to share their critical stories with the rest of the world.” The film will be starred by author and comedian Trae Crowder, and will go through his hometown Celina, a small rural town in northern Tennessee. Trae’s connection to this project is related to the “abject poverty” of his family when he was growing up in this region of the country.
The documentary will focus on personal stories of local people, local history and how the “extra cash could boost the local economy.” Moreover, the film also aims to address “common concerns about UBI, including the fear that people will stop working or misuse the money. Ultimately, the film is a meditation: on people, the future of America, and the inherent good within all of us that makes UBI an idea worthy of serious contemplation”.
The film’s project team include producers Rennie Soga and Chris Panizzon. A teaser can be watched in the following video.
The Swiss village of Rheinau is being targeted for a basic income experiment. The idea is being promoted and produced by the Dorf Testet Zukunft organization (Village of the Future Test). It started in 2016, through a popular initiative, and it had already been approved by more than 25% of the Reinhau population, at the time. Although Reinhau is only habited by 1300 people, 813 have already registered for the experiment. That is above what the organization needed for starting funding, which was 651 registrations.
The basic income test itself is planned to start as early as 2019, given enough funding is secured, which starts now. The Dorf Testet Zukunft will have to raise over 5 million Swiss Francs (4,4 million Euros). The plan is for this amount to be distributed unconditionally to all registered participants, for a year. The money will be distributed according to age, such that until 18 years old children receive 550 €/month, the 18-22 years old bracket receive 1100 €/month, from 22 to 25 years old 1640 €/month and above that a 2190 €/month stipend is specified. According to the organization, income from other sources will be discounted over the basic income, up to its maximum value. However, no one will be left with less income than presently, and all people with less income than the basic income value will have more than before (during the experiment). The exact and appropriate experimental mechanism and values are in accordance with villagers and the local council, since the project is open to comment and contributions from all involved.
Dorf Testet Zukunft’s team is composed by several dedicated people, headed by project initiator and filmmaker Rebecca Panian, Reto Ormos (financial expert) and Reda El Arbi (Communications), among others. There is also a scientific team dedicated to the project, including Jens Martignoni (FleXibles), Aleksandra Gnach (linguistics professor at ZHAW), Theo Wehner (ETH Zurich) and Sascha Liebermann (Alanus Hochschule). Other support come from activists like Daniel Häni, Götz Werner and Enno Schmidt.
Funding is planned to be done through a crowdfunding process, using Wemakeit, a crowdfunding platform founded in Switzerland in 2012. Data is to be collected from recipients during its duration, with a focus on answering general questions such as “What happens to the people?” and “What happens in the community?”, and analyzed afterwards. A documentary film is also planned, directed by Rebecca Panian, which main drive is a search for an answer for “how we want to live in the future”.
The idea is, in a nutshell, can be condensed in the following words written in the Dorf Testet Zukunft’s website:
“We want to test a possible new future as realistic as possible. This requires pioneers who dare and try it out. Best case: we can encourage people to discuss about the idea of the basic income because we are convinced that a system change must come from the people. Not prescribed from a government.”
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