Basic income

Why we need a Universal Basic Income – Karl Widerquist Sydney Lecture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/07/2017 - 8:00am in

Basic Income is an audacious idea – a regular, unconditional cash grant for everyone as a right of citizenship. Yet, growing numbers of people have come to support it, believing not only that welfare systems around the world are too stingy but also that they’re based on an entirely wrong approach. Join Karl Widerquist, whom The Atlantic calls “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement,” to discuss an idea which is increasingly viewed as the only viable way of reconciling poverty relief and full employment.

Karl will discuss how Basic Income removes the judgment and paternalism that pervade the world’s existing social welfare systems, and why doing so is so important not only for people at the bottom but also for the average worker. He will discuss how to craft a realistic Basic Income proposal, how much it costs, options for paying for it, and the evidence for what it can do.

Following the lecture Karl Widerquist will be joined for Q&A by Dr Elizabeth Hill, Chair of Department of Political Economy, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney, and Professor Gabrielle Meagher, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University.

Hosted by Stephen Long, ABC TV business reporter

Introduction by Professor Simon Tormey, Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

When: Wednesday 16 August, 6-7.30pm

Where: Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, Johns Hopkins Drive, The University of Sydney, (Venue location)

About the speaker: Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University. He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (coauthored) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No. He is a cofounder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network. He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network for 7 years, and is cofounder of its news website, Basic Income News. He is a cofounder of the journal, Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on Basic Income. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, including the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, and others. Much of his writing is available on his Selected Works website. More information about him is available at his BIEN profile.

Presented by: the Department of Political Economy, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney, the Department of Sociology, Macquarie University and Sydney Ideas

Free and open to all, register here




The post Why we need a Universal Basic Income – Karl Widerquist Sydney Lecture appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Book Review: Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/07/2017 - 8:37pm in

Drawing on thirty years experience researching, testing, designing and advocating for basic income schemes, Guy Standing offers a concise and well-organised overview of their history, development, definition and implications in Basic Income: And How We Can Make it Happen. While the adoption of basic income by governments will ultimately depend on the results of pilots and emerging data, writes Christine Sweeney, this book effectively prepares readers to participate in the growing discussion surrounding this increasingly debated policy. 

Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. Guy Standing. Pelican. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

To reduce economic inequality, stimulate spending and update its social welfare system, a government decides to dedicate a portion of tax revenue to pay all citizens an average of £2,500, with children receiving less and pensioners receiving more. The amount is to be given universally, regardless of employment, health or family status. The amount is calculated based on a distribution of GDP and estimated costs of key goods like food, clothing and shelter. All citizens would have their most basic needs met, and any additional earned income would supplement their desired lifestyle and living situation.

Utopian fantasy or viable policy solution designed to meet the economic challenges of the twenty-first century? Economist Guy Standing questions why these labels are mutually exclusive. In Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen, Standing examines basic income (BI) as a serious policy alternative. After more than 30 years researching, testing, designing and advocating for basic income schemes, Standing argues that failed welfare systems, the global recession, mass economic inequality, technological advancements and political standoffs have generated a global atmosphere where governments must contemplate a new course. Rather than repairing current welfare programmes, governments must reconsider the relationship between paid labour, unpaid work and how basic needs are met.

I was first introduced to basic income as a means of addressing gender economic inequality. If women and men receive an equal, set amount, as feminist economists argue, women would have more control over their professional and personal pursuits, freeing up resources to divide their time between paid labour and unpaid work (such as caring for children and relatives) as they choose. While limited empirical research is available on this topic, Standing mentions the potential for gender economic equality as one of the many implications of BI.

With last year’s referendum in Switzerland making global headlines, the book provides a well-organised and concise overview of the history, definition, requirements, implications and arguments for and against basic income (also called ‘basic income grant’ and ‘universal basic income’). For readers who have already formed an opinion, the book challenges critics and provides some handy talking points for advocates.

Image Credit: (Generation Grundeinkommen CC BY 2.0)

Far from a disruptive trend, Standing suggests that the concept of wealth distribution through a basic income has been around for at least half a millennium since Thomas More’s 1516 socio-political satire Utopia. More proposed the provision of ‘some means of livelihood’ to ‘reduce thievery’. Standing reviews other historical thinkers from Thomas Paine of the American Revolution, Montesquieu of the Enlightenment to Bertrand Russell’s post-World War I writings and US President Richard Nixon’s negative income tax policies of the 1970s. In sum, BI should not be reduced to a single political stance but is rather a social and economic consideration that has resonance across ideologies. Now, as policymakers navigate the challenges posed by automation and AI to a variety of occupations and the long-term outcomes of globalisation, Standing frames BI as a means of economic protection that also promotes social justice, freedom and equality.

Seemingly simple, Standing’s definition of a basic income is a ‘modest amount of money paid unconditionally to individuals on a regular basis’. He reiterates the importance of the ‘modest amount’ that is enough to meet basic needs, but not necessarily without pursuing additional paid work depending on individual lifestyle preferences. He stresses that payments be made unconditionally and not based on government-contrived definitions of social and economic need, commonly referred to as ‘means-testing’. That payments are made to individuals rather than households further removes government surveillance and the need for definitions of ‘the family’, which the writer suggests have hitherto marginalised single individuals and non-nuclear families. Finally, that payments are made on a ‘regular basis’ is important because it provides stability and predictability, allowing individuals to formulate budgets. These requirements contrast with many current welfare policies that rely on recipients meeting sometimes arbitrary or outdated definitions of poverty as administered by costly bureaucratic systems. Redefining social welfare as the distribution of a nation’s wealth to all its citizens removes the stigma of receiving government benefits and the costs of deciding who does and does not deserve those benefits.

At the core of the book’s usefulness as a practical guide is its chapter on ‘Standard Objections’. Standing’s summary of long-held objections to BI serves to further articulate arguments in support of it. He revisits political economist Albert Hirschmann’s three standard negative reactions to new ideas: futility (they will not work); perversity (they will have unintended negative consequences); and jeopardy (they will endanger other goals). These set the foundation for Standing’s argument that many criticisms echo those also levelled at previously controversial and now common policies like social security, labour protection, women’s suffrage and universal healthcare. Standing proceeds to list and respond to specific objections: ‘it has not been done before’, to which he responds that this is the first time in history that BI is feasible through institutional and technological means; ‘it is unaffordable’, to which he responds ‘if it were affordable would you support it?’; and that ‘dismantling the current welfare state would destroy countless government jobs’, to which he questions why funds spent on government salaries to administer complicated welfare programmes couldn’t be redirected towards a basic income for all.

The chapter also challenges many established but unjustified assumptions about human nature, particularly how individuals would spend their time and money if their basic needs were met. The presumption that the poor would spend their money on ‘vices’, like alcohol and drugs, presupposes that the wealthy are more entitled to access activities deemed ‘bad for them’ by the government. Other detractors warn that BI would reduce productivity because individuals would choose not to work. Standing argues that a BI merely gives individuals the ability to refuse work, which also gives them more bargaining power, potentially raising wages and working standards. Standing points to opinion polls conducted in several countries that found that when people are asked if they would reduce work if given a basic income, an overwhelming majority say they would not. Ahead of the 2016 Swiss BI referendum, only two percent said they would cease paid work if given a basic income. However, when asked if others would reduce work, participants believe they would. In other words, people perceive others to be lazy, but not themselves.

In considering the feasibility of funding BI in high and low income economies, Standing describes the results of recent pilots conducted in Namibia, India, Canada and on a Cherokee reservation in the US. To varying degrees, pilots yielded improved sanitation, nutrition, school attendance, decreased alcohol abuse and crime, greater economic participation by women and community cohesion.

With all of these benefits, many may wonder why BI has yet to be fully adopted by any government or at least why more pilots have not been conducted. However, Standing’s book delivers a clear description of ongoing political challenges in swaying decision-makers across the political spectrum with limited large-scale trials having been conducted up until now. With further pilots planned in Finland, the Netherlands, California, Kenya, Uganda and India, more data will become available on the funding, design, administration and evaluation of BI programmes. As Standing points out, these trials are no small feat for a concept that did not gain political recognition and organised advocacy until 1986 when the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) was established by Standing and like-minded economists, philosophers and social scientists. Basic Income prepares readers to participate in the emerging public debates on basic income, but ultimately tracking the results of pilots and understanding emerging data will fill in many of the questions left unanswered by this book.

Christine Sweeney is a master’s student in LSE’s Department of Media & Communications. Before arriving at LSE, she worked in international development and tech policy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from Tulane University. Her current research focuses on gender representation in the media. Read more by Christine Sweeney.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Review: Parijs presents ‘Basic Income’ book at Stanford

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/06/2017 - 10:09pm in

Philippe Van Parijs, co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, presented his latest book on Basic Income at Stanford University.

The post Review: Parijs presents ‘Basic Income’ book at Stanford appeared first on BIEN.

Book Review: The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone by Danny Dorling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/06/2017 - 8:42pm in

In The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone, Danny Dorling delivers evidence that more equal countries enjoy better outcomes, with their populations being happier, healthier and more creative, producing less waste and committing fewer crimes. This optimistic book is a pleasure to read, writes Natasha Codiroli Mcmaster, and encourages us to see greater equality – and its social benefits – as being within our reach. 

If you are interested in this book, you may also like to watch a video or listen to a podcast of Danny Dorling’s recent LSE lecture, ‘The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone’, recorded on 18 May 2017. 

The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone. Danny Dorling. New Internationalist. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

In The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone, Danny Dorling takes a renewed look at the growing evidence that has amassed on the stark and clear differences between equal and unequal societies in the ten years since Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson published the groundbreaking book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. Levels of equality within countries are associated with a startling range of outcomes. In more equal countries, people are happier, more numerate, produce less waste and commit fewer crimes. The list goes on, and with complimentary illustrations by Ella Furness, Dorling outlines the supporting data in a clear and engaging way. The book is optimistic about the future but does not shy away from a critique of policies and practices within unequal countries.

The impacts of inequality are explored across three main areas, including impacts on children’s health, education and wellbeing; differences in environmental harm; and impacts on population and housing. Each chapter includes a number of scatter graphs measuring income equality within countries against one of the many outcomes explored. Whilst these charts are not fully convincing when taken alone, together the consistency of associations is difficult to ignore. In all cases presented, income equality is associated with positive social outcomes.

One key example involves the skills of individuals within countries. Numeracy in young adults is highest in countries with smaller differences between the incomes of the top and bottom 10 per cent of people. In the US and UK – both relatively unequal but also relatively wealthy countries – maths ability is far lower than many more equal but poorer countries. In Japan and Scandinavian countries, which have a more equal income distribution, mathematics ability is relatively high. Numeracy skills, along with other forms of knowledge, are extremely important not only for day-to-day functions but also for individuals to have a greater understanding of the way the world works and to make better decisions in a democracy. On the societal level, the acquisition of skills allows the country to perform better economically, and allows for more innovation within sectors.

Image Credit: Ella Furness (provided by New Internationalist)

Equality is also associated with environmental behaviour. In the Netherlands, over half of the population cycle or walk to work. In the US, where the income ratio is over double that of the Netherlands, less than ten per cent do. Meat, water and petrol consumption are also particularly high in the most unequal countries. The countries with the highest ecological footprints include the US and Singapore, both with an income ratio (between the top and bottom deciles) of over 15. Japan and New Zealand have the lowest ecological footprints and income ratios below 10.

Key issues around data availability and its interpretation across countries are another important theme highlighted throughout the book. Many countries have different measures of the same underlying construct, and these can even change within countries over time. One clear example of this is the measurement of crime. There is a clear association between the levels of inequality within a country and crime rates. However, what is classified as a crime, or the number of people who report certain crimes, can vary widely across countries. For example, in Finland, income differentials are relatively low, but crime is extremely high compared to other countries. This could reflect more crime overall, but is likely to be at least partly explained by the fact in Finland all speeding offences are recorded as crimes. In many countries (including the UK) the majority of speeding offences are classed as ‘non-notifiable’, and not included in national statistics.

The Equality Effect offers an optimistic view of the future. Whilst stark inequalities are observed globally, overall the majority of countries are becoming more, rather than less, equal. It is difficult to see these shifts in part due to the negative bias in media reporting. The fact that we perceive inequality as being worse than before makes high pay differentials more likely to be reported, and thus to seem more likely overall. Therefore, when inequalities decrease, the focus of debate is not on this but on inequality itself. More equal societies also rarely leave much of a mark on history. Dorling points out that the pyramids in Egypt and many other great temples could only be made through the enslavement of others.

The fact that this increase in equality is not occurring at the same rate across countries, as well as the high inequality in wealthy countries including the US and the UK, allows us to see the negative impacts of inequality most clearly. If we were all moving towards equality at the same speed, it would be more difficult to attribute subsequent positive outcomes to this, and easier to argue that the increasing wealth of the few would eventually trickle down to the many. Whilst previously popular, this latter argument has been notably absent from political discourse even in the relatively unequal UK. Dorling argues that this represents a change in thinking about inequality, which will ultimately lead to better societies.

Dorling focuses on the changing rhetoric around basic income as an example of the fact that globally we are becoming more open to the idea of more equal societies, but also as an important next step in achieving equality. A basic income would allow everyone a base salary whether they are in work or not. Basic income is understandably argued to be unfair – why should some people get money for nothing whilst others work hard? In practice, however, no one gains if there are people living in poverty. The majority of people who do not work are unable to do so or are temporarily unemployed. A basic income would allow people to take up training, or to follow their passions rather than just take a job to survive. And with automation making many menial jobs redundant, the best way to harness human workforce in the future will likely be through greater creativity and innovation.

A recent survey of public sentiment towards basic income across EU countries suggests that around 31 per cent people would be in favour of the introduction of basic income immediately, and a further 48 per cent would be in favour following successful trials. In the UK we have the groundwork for a basic income for those people who cannot work: however, this has been eroded in recent years through successive cuts to benefits. Basic income has recently been trialed in India with evidence of positive impacts on a range of outcomes including health, nutrition and labour market participation, and in Finland with some preliminary indication of positive impacts on mental health. There are further plans to runs trials in Canada, Kenya, Uganda, the Netherlands, the US and Scotland.

I was left with some questions about the dynamics of different types of equality. The focus is on income inequality across all groups. Whilst issues of gender, racial and other types of inequality are touched upon, it would be interesting to compare levels of these types of inequality with levels of income equality overall. For example, are gender disparities always smaller in more equal countries? And if there are examples where this is not the case, why would this be? This may be a welcome focus of further academic study.

The Equality Effect was a pleasure to read, and because the book covers research from such a broad range of disciplines, I would recommend it to anyone interested in in/equality or quantitative research more generally. The take home message of the book is that whilst it may take some time, greater equality is within our reach, and it is within our power to accelerate this process.

Natasha Codiroli Mcmaster is a PhD student based at the Institute of Education, UCL. Her research focuses on inequalities in education, and her most recent research considered disparities in students’ subject choices. She has also worked as an analyst at the Department for Work and Pensions on projects aimed at understanding the drivers and consequences of disadvantage.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

Brian Eno on basic income

Published by Matthew Davidson on Mon, 24/10/2016 - 5:00pm in

From an item in this weeks reading (transcription provided by the author of the item):

"I often get asked to come and talk at art schools, and I rarely get asked back, because the first thing I always say is, ‘I’m here to persuade you not to have a job.’ … My first message to people is: try not to get to a job. That doesn’t mean try not to do anything. It means try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time, and where you take maximal advantage of whatever your possibilities are. The obstacle is that most people aren’t in a position to do that. I want to do anything to work to a future where everybody’s in a position to do that. … [T]he concept [of basic income] is the closest thing I’ve heard to achieving the kind of future that I would like to live in."