Basic income

Thursday, 7 September 2017 - 6:21pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 07/09/2017 - 6:21pm in

I've been meaning to go through the literature on every thrust and parry in the ongoing argument between proponents of a Job Guarantee and those of a Basic Income, and put together a thorough response. That's not going to happen in the next month or so, so in case I get hit by a bus, here's two paragraphs of where I stand (or don't stand) in the debate, lifted from a comment I just posted on Neil Wilson's blog:

Basic income vs. job guarantee is a false dichotomy that ill serves anybody who takes sides. There is undoubtably some overlap in that they both aim to reduce hardship and stimulate demand, but as far as I can see they’re mostly orthogonal in the range of problems they can potentially solve. Also they’re both programs that we already run, in the sense that we (in developed sovereign currency economies) already have a labour buffer stock program — unemployment — and a basic income, set at the level of zero.

I’m totally sold on (at least my understanding of) the job guarantee as a better implementation of a labour buffer stock, but I don’t think that “with a job guarantee in place, no matter what the particular circumstances may be, anywhere and forever, no level of basic income other than zero could be justifiable” is a defensible argument. And it runs counter to the general MMT stance of “these are the economic policy tools available; how you choose to use them is a political decision”.

Slack CEO endorses UBI on Twitter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/08/2017 - 7:13pm in

Successful entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of online photo-sharing application Flickr and creator of the popular business communications system Slack, has spoken out on Twitter in favour of universal basic income. On 4 August 2017, Butterfield stated that “giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism”. He was responding to Austen Allred, the founder

The post Slack CEO endorses UBI on Twitter appeared first on BIEN.

ALGERIA: Think Tank Proposes Universal Basic Income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 6:19am in

Several Western and European countries have been seriously considering Universal Basic Income recently. Numerous countries already have social programs that supplement individual incomes for select groups, such as unemployment compensation, food stamps, or housing income, but none have a program involving basic income for every individual. The think tank NABNI (French acronym for “Our Algeria Built on New Ideas”) laid

The post ALGERIA: Think Tank Proposes Universal Basic Income appeared first on BIEN.

Karl Widerquist, ‘Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/07/2017 - 10:04am in

Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy

Presentation by Karl Widerquist, Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University

Before public lecture on ‘Why we need a universal basic income’ –

Date: Wednesday 16 August 2017

Time: 2pm-4.00pm

Location: Darlington Centre Boardroom, University of Sydney

About the presentation

The book, Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy, on which this presentation is based is an anthropological critique of two of two theories that have dominated political philosophy for centuries. It carefully examines the most influential justifications of government and of private property to show how—despite significant equivocation—both rely on the seldom-questioned empirical premise the book calls, “the Hobbesian Hypothesis.” That is the belief that everyone in a society with a government and/or a private property rights system is better off than anyone could be in a society without those institutions. In other words, the “Lockean Proviso” is fulfilled—whether by the state or by the property rights system or both. The book traces the path of this claim through the history of political thought from Hobbes and Locke to the present showing how it has become entrenched in most contemporary political thought on these issues. Although a few philosophers have criticized the hypothesis, contemporary philosophers continue to repeat it as if it were obvious while providing little or no evidence to support it. The book argues that the truth value of this claim cannot be obvious because it involves a comparison between two groups that most philosophers have little direct knowledge of: the very poor in capitalist states and people living in small-scale stateless societies distant in time and/or place from the everyday experience of philosophers. The book examines anthropological and archaeological evidence to make that comparison. It presents convincing evidence that neither the state nor the property rights system have benefited the least advantaged people in contemporary capitalist states. The very poor, socially isolated people, and the victims of modern diseases are worse off than they could reasonably expect to be if they were allowed to live in a stateless society without a private property system. The presentation makes a broad preview of the book’s findings.

About the presenter

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University. His research is mostly in the area of distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. He holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory (Oxford University 2006) and one in Economics (the City University of New York 1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than two dozen scholarly articles and book chapters. 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, the Atlantic Monthly, Forbesthe Financial TimesNPR’s On Point, NPR’s MarketplacePRI’s the WorldCNBCAl-Jazeera538ViceDissent, and others. Much of his writing is available on his “Selected Works” website. More information about him is available at his BIEN profile.

Contact: Troy Henderson,

The post Karl Widerquist, ‘Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy’ appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Book Review: Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There by Rutger Bregman

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/07/2017 - 11:36pm in

With Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There, Rutger Bregman offers a new blueprint for constructing a better society for all, advocating the implementation of seemingly ‘utopian’ ideas, such as universal basic income, along the way. This is an assured and ambitious book, writes Peter Carrol, that deserves to be widely read. 

Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There. Rutger Bregman (trans. Elizabeth Mentone). Bloomsbury. 2017.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Record-high life expectancies, technological advances, military conflicts at historic lows and the unprecedented levels of wealth in developed economies all suggest that we are living through a golden age of humanity. For Rutger Bregman, a 29-year-old Dutch historian and author of Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There, our arrival at ‘the land of plenty’ means that the most pressing challenge for humanity is moving to a new stage of capitalism and creating a better society for everyone.

Bregman’s starting point is recognising the flaws within the existing system. Utopia for Realists offers a wide-ranging critique of the individualism necessitated by the broken deregulated neoliberal economic model. Dangerously dysfunctional long before the 2007-08 financial crisis, modern capitalism is making us depressed, indebted and spiritually bereft. As Bregman writes:

A culture that encourages us to spend money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need, in order to impress people we can’t stand. Then we go and cry on a therapist shoulder. That’s the dystopia we live in today.

Bregman cites LSE anthropologist David Graeber’s work on the phenomenon of ‘bullshit jobs’: the fields of marketing, public relations and the array of administrative positions across the public and private sectors. Most people are painfully aware of the worthlessness of the contribution of their work: Bregman cites a poll where 37 per cent of the UK workforce believes their jobs are ‘bullshit’.

Capitalism’s spoils, Bregman writes, have therefore become alarmingly skewed away from those who ‘add and create value’ to those who ‘hold value and shift it around’. In countries with dominant financial centres, like the UK and the US, this has led to growing and dangerous levels of economic inequality.

Do capitalism’s wages reflect the value of the work? In one of many well-chosen case studies offered by Bregman, he contrasts the social effects of strikes that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s by bankers in Ireland and garbage men in New York City, respectively. In the latter case, the city ground to a halt within a few days of industrial action, while in Ireland, the economy continued to grow without any significant change as the country continued to function normally over several months during the strike. The lesson Bregman draws is that the social contribution of labour needs to be fundamentally reassessed to reflect its true value.

Image Credit: (jumbly mamba CC BY SA 2.0)

Gross domestic product (GDP) is attacked by Bregman as an arbitrary set of statistics used by governments to measure what they choose. GDP, he argues, is detached from most peoples’ lived experiences, and is completely unsuitable as a catch-all figure cited by governments to indicate social and economic progress or regression.

Despite these manifold flaws within modern capitalism, the liberal left, declares Bregman, has no competing vision. Modest welfare redistribution and a paltry commitment to foreign aid budgets are weak responses to the scale of the challenges we face. But the present generation of millennials appears resigned to being worse off than their parents, because, paralysed by orthodoxy and convention, ‘we cannot come up with anything better’.

Bregman argues that progressives can build a better society by aiming high and adopting a radical spirit, taking inspiration from writings on utopias by Thomas More and Oscar Wilde in seeking ‘alternative horizons to spark our imaginations’. Humanity’s natural state is to constantly strive to better its circumstances; the only thing detaining us, according to Bregman, are the limitations we place on ourselves.

The author presents a number of proposals to bring about vital changes: a universal basic income and shorter working weeks with enhanced terms for employees, with both paid for by the higher taxation of capital (assets and machinery, instead of labour) to deal with the threats of automation and to tame a powerful rentier class.

The case for universal basic income is evidenced by its successful trials on a small scale, such as when Dauphin, a small town near Winnipeg in Canada, guaranteed each of its 13,000 residents a basic income of $19,000. The experiment lasted four years; the statistics collected showed that the town made huge strides in social progress during its implementation: marriages were postponed, birth-rates dropped, educational attainment improved substantially, while hospitalisations decreased by around 9 per cent (the implications of this last finding are huge in developed nations where healthcare spending is as high as 17 per cent of GDP).

Additionally, Bregman argues that a shorter working week is needed to deal with the erosion of jobs caused by automation. The benefits include addressing stress-related illnesses from overwork, reducing energy consumption and increasing the amount of time people can spend with and care for their families. Such a change would also bring great advances in gender equality, as men would have more free time to contribute to their families, with enhanced parental leave described by Bregman as ‘a Trojan horse with the potential to truly turn the tide for gender equality’.

Despite the author’s enthusiasm for universal basic income, the case Bregman makes for the book’s central proposal is not wholly convincing. A recurring criticism of universal basic income is that it fails to recognise the role of work in providing humans with dignity and purpose in their lives; although Bregman uses his examples to argue that people did not work significantly less when receiving a universal basic income. But the instances he cites, such as Dauphin and relating to homeless people in the City of London, are relatively small-scale and have only been tested over a short period of time.

Bregman would no doubt argue that these kinds of reservations are why this radical policy has never been given the chance to be tested on a national scale (the policy came tantalisingly close being implemented in the US by Richard Nixon in 1971 before it was killed off by ideologues within his administration, in another fascinating historical side note from Bregman). But with high-profile advocates such as former US president Barack Obama, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the ascendant Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it seems likely that a true test of this bold idea will come soon.

Utopia for Realists ends with a template for progressives around the world to organise and rally. It is a suitable conclusion to an assured, ambitious and at times outrageous book that aims to solve the toughest and complex challenges that modern societies face. At its heart is a simple idea: to revive what we have lost in our race to embrace a competitive, free market economy; to look after each other and reject the failed consensus that has led us to the current dangerous and unhappy political and social impasse.

In Bregman’s view, the only thing stopping us from achieving utopia is ourselves. He sets the bar high and challenges us all to clear it: it is only when we conquer ourselves that we will reach our full potential, a valuable and timely message in a book that deserves to be read widely.

Peter Carrol is a Media Relations Officer at LSE and MSc graduate in Politics and Communication. Read more by Peter Carrol.

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."