This is the Newsletter of the USBIG Network (http://www.usbig.net), which promotes the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States--a policy that would unconditionally guarantee a subsistence-level income for everyone. If you would like to be added to or removed from this list please email: Karl@Widerquist.com.
10. New Links
The Fourth Annual Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network will take place in New York City, March 4-6, 2005. Featured speakers include Philippe van Parijs, Wade Rathke, Francis Fox Piven, Irwin Garfinkel, and Eduardo Suplicy. The deadline for presentation proposals is November 7, 2004. To propose a presentation, go to the USBIG website (http://www.usbig.net), follow the directions, and send a proposal to Karl@Widerquist.com. Presentations relating to BIG or the state of poverty and inequality are invited from all academic disciplines and from nonacademics.
The Basic Income European Network held its Tenth Congress at the European Forum of Culture in Barcelona on September 19 and 20, 2004. Hundreds of people attended the Congress, and 92 presentations were made—51 from Europe, 18 from Latin America, 14 from the U.S. and Canada, 4 from Africa, 3 from Australian, and 2 from Asia.
Officials from two governments voiced commitments to basic income at the Congress. The opening session included the reading of a message from Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who renewed his pledge to begin phasing-in a basic income in Brazil, and wished BIEN, “full success in this conference, which will certainly contribute to the progress of the struggle for the realization of a basic income for all the inhabitants of the Earth.” The closing session included an address from Catalonia's Minister of economic affairs Antoni Castells. He restated the commitment of Catalonia's current left-of-center government coalition to "move forward towards the redefinition of the existing minimum insertion income (RMI) into a basic income for all citizens.” The speech was reported in the BIEN’s Newsflash and in the daily newspaper El Pais (21 September 2004). These speeches do not necessarily mean that either jurisdiction will implement a full BIG in the near future. The BIEN Newsflash said of Castells, “This commitment does not entail, however, that a basic income scheme will be put into operation during the present legislature.” A Brazilian source says that Lula is likely to drag his feet on implementation of basic income and that more political pressure is needed to ensure that a true basic income becomes a reality in Brazil.
The Basic Income European Network has been the only international network promoting basic income since its inception in Belgium in 1986. But because it was founded by a group of European scholars, its leaders were reluctant for many years to move beyond their European designation. However, BIEN subscriptions, membership, and attendance at Congresses has become increasingly worldwide and interest in and discussion of BIG has increased greatly outside of Europe over the years. And so, this year the BIEN General Assembly voted unanimously to take the plunge and it has reconstituted itself as the Basic Income Earth Network.
The USBIG Network became one of the first three national affiliates of BIEN outside of Europe. We are one of 11 national affiliates in Britain, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Germany, and Denmark. BIEN has members (more than 140) and newsletter subscribers (more than 1,100) in many more countries all around the world.
Another issue discussed at the BIEN General Assembly was a proposal to improve the role of women in BIEN by creating a women’s representative on the BIEN Executive Committee. There seemed to be widespread agreement that not enough women have been represented in the Executive Committee or in plenary sessions at BIEN Congresses, but there was less agreement—and considerable controversy—about how to deal with that problem. The assembly passed a revised proposal to establish “women’s officer” as a function of the Executive Committee, but the only candidate who ran specifically for that office (Theresa Funicello, USA) failed to get a majority of the vote. Therefore, the new Executive Committee is obliged to appoint a women’s officer to serve until the next general assembly. The voting procedure for the Executive Committee proved unclear, and a proposal for further revision of the BIEN statutes is expected at the next General Assembly.
Philippe Van Parijs who has been the committee secretary since the inception of BIEN in1986, stepped down, but will remain involved in BIEN leadership as the chair of its International Board. The newly elected BIEN Executive Committee is: Guy Standing (UK, Co-chair), Eduardo Suplicy (Brazil, co-chair), David Casassas (Spain, Secretary), Yannick Vanderborght (Belgium, Newsletter Editor), Jurgen de Wispelaere (Belgium, website editor), Ingrid Van Niekirk (South Africa, Regional Representative), Karl Widerquist (USA, Working Paper Editor), and Eri Noguchi (USA, Regional Representative). The Executive Committee (as it was explained at the general assembly meeting) has more functions than members. Sometimes committee members double up on functions; sometimes the committee appoints people from outside the committee to perform functions that may or may not be listed in the bylaws. The committee must now appoint someone to perform the functions of treasurer, conference organizer, women’s officer, and any other functions it deems necessary.
The Universal Income Trust (UIT) has increased its activities promoting BIG in New Zealand.
According to their newsletter, in the past year the Trust has presented workshops, seminars, panel discussions and information stalls at: Social Forum Aotearoa in Porirua (Wellington) in November 2003, Christchurch Workers Educational Association in December 2003, a 5-day national Eco Show held at Manukau City (Auckland) in February 2004 together with the Festival of Opportunities in Nelson (top of the South Island) over the same week-end, and the Ecofest in Nelson during August 2004. Since May 2004, the Trust has been involved in helping to integrate human/economic rights issues in NZ's school curriculum via the Ministry of Education's Curriculum Project Online. Their website contains new resources explaining the concept of Universal Income in a variety of ways, including a conference paper, an online audio recording of a 5 minute contribution to a panel discussion on Economic Democracy at the Social Forum Aotearoa, and online audio archive of a 50 minute radio interview which took place as a follow-up to the Eco Show. Their secretary is Joanna Danahey. UIT can be found on the web at: www.geocities.com/caeruit.
Basic Income Discussed in Japan as a Counter-Blueprint to Workfare
Japan has hardly been the country most receptive to basic income so far. But some interest can now be detected. In 2002, a first book was published by Professor Shuji Ozawa, a Marxist economist. Under the title "Welfare Society and Social Security Reform: New horizon of Basic Income" it is largely based on the writings of André Gorz and on Tony Fitzpatrick's synthesis of the contemporary debate. In a number of articles published since 2002, Toru Yamamori, a lecturer in social policy who is spending 2004-05 at Cambridge University's Capability and Sustainability Centre, has been discussing basic income in connection with Esping-Andersen's theory of "decommodification", Van Parijs's Real Freedom for All and Toni Negri's Empire. In 2002, Taro Miyamoto organized a workshop about basic income and workfare at Ritumeikan University (Kyoto), probably the first workshop on basic income in Japan, with contributions by Taro Miyamoto (on the Swedish situation), Tamiko Tsuru (on the French situation), Shuji Ozawa and Toru Yamamori (about basic income). Recently some of these people and others were given opportunities to talk about basic income in the context of governmental advisory committees, the business community, Trade Unions and citizen's social movements. Basic income is beginning to arouse interest as a counter-blueprint against workfare, which has become increasingly popular in Japan lately.
For further information: Tori Yamamori email@example.com, http://pessoa.hp.infoseek.co.jp/ymmrhp/publications-e.html.
The BIEN Affiliate Gains Press Attention in Germany
The initiative "Freiheit statt Vollbeschäftigung" (Freedom Instead Of Full Employment), which first came into the open by advocating an unconditional basic income on large posters stuck in the Frankfurt underground system in December 2003, is now getting a fair amount of press attention. On 2 September 2004, the left-liberal national daily Frankfurter Rundschau printed an article by Sascha Liebermann on "Freiheit der Bürger statt Arbeitszwang" (Freedom of the citizens instead of forced labour), while the green-leaning "tageszeitung" (TAZ) published an interview with him under the title "Arbeitslosigkeit ist eine Folge unseres Erfolges" (Unemployment is a consequence of our success). The group at the core of the initiative was also invited to address the German building industry association, the youth organization of the Green Party in Dortmund, and Frankfurt's "Wahlalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit," a left-wing "electoral alternative work and social justice". An invitation by the Trade Unions to address a congress in Waldbröl, a small village in Sauerland, was subsequently withdrawn. The group is planning a second poster campaign in the Frankfurt underground for October 2004, as a counter-offensive to "Hartz IV", the government's tough social policy reform package.
For further information: Sascha Liebermann, S.Liebermann@freiheitstattvollbeschaeftigung.de
Oxfordshire Green Party Discusses BIG
Oxford, UK, Friday October 22nd. Clive Lord, a Green Party member from Weston-super-Mare will discuss his recent book on basic income at a regular Green Party Discussion Group in Oxford. The meeting will take place in the Friends' Meeting House, 43 St Giles Street. There is a free lunch at 12:30pm, the talk at 1:00 with discussion going on to 2:00. All are welcome and admission is free. (Yes, there is a free lunch.)
“The Hive” Discusses BIG
7:30pm, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, UK, Thursday, November 25. A representative of the Citizens Income Trust (the U.K. BIG network) will discuss, “The Basic Income Guarantee: Poverty and the Issue of Freedom.” The Hive is an undergraduate-led organization that brings speakers to Corpus Christi College to discuss controversial political issues in a relaxed and friendly environment. For further information contact Tom Ogg (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Second meeting of the Netzwerk Grundeinkommen
BERLIN, December 12, 2004. Founded in early July in Berlin, Germany's basic income network will meet again in Berlin in December, hosted this time by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, the foundation linked to Germany's Green party which also hosted the memorable closing party of BIEN's 2000 Congress. For further information: www.grundeinkommen.de or email@example.com
Workshop on a European Basic Income Experiment
Barcelona, September 18, 2004
Loek Groot organized and Robert Van Der Veen moderated a one-day workshop on designing a European basic income experiment sponsored by the European Science Foundation. Rebecca Maynard, Robinson Hollister, and Karl Widerquist presented findings from the U.S. Negative Income tax experiments in the 1970s. Axel Marx and Hans Peeters presented their research on lottery winners as a natural experiment in basic income. A group of about 20 economists, sociologists, and political scientists discussed how to learn from those lessons to put together a basic income experiment in Europe. The prospects for finding funding for such a massive experiment are still uncertain.
Wer soll das bezahlen? (Who is going to pay for it?)
Linz, Austria, September 17, 2004
A panel discussion between experts and politicians on an unconditional basic income and models for funding in. With the participation of Sascha Liebermann (Dortmund), Josef Wöss (Vienna) and representatives of several Austrian political parties.
Ingreso mínimo ciudadano y derechos humano (Citizens’ Minimum Income and Human Rights)
Mexico City, 3 September 2004
A symposium on basic income and human rights organized at Mexico 's National University (UNAM) by the Mexican Academy of Human Rights and Spain's basic income network. Speakers included María Julia Bertomeu (Universidad de la Plata, Argentina), Jesús Roberto Robles Maloof (Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos), Antoni Domènech y Daniel Raventós (Universidad de Barcelona).
The BIG way to eradicate poverty: Wealthy must make concessions
Marcella Naidoo, Cape Times, Capetown, South Africa, October 18, 2004
Naidoo is the director of Black Sash, one of the groups making up the BIG Coalition in South Africa. She uses the opportunity of the UN’s World Eradication of Poverty Day to argue that BIG is an affordable option in South Africa and that it is the most effective and most comprehensive strategy to fight poverty in a society as unequal as South Africa. The full text of this article is on line at:
It's time to think BIG
By the Editor, Cape Times, Capetown, South Africa, October 18, 2004
This editorial argues that the basic income grant is not an unattainable solution to extreme deprivation in South Africa; noting that the government’s own research (published last year) demonstrates the affordability of BIG. “It is a reasonable call. In fact, our Bill of Rights guarantees that all South Africans must have ‘healthcare, food, water and social security.’” The full text of this article is on line at:
Alaska Dividend Has World of Appeal
Jay Hammond, Alaska Governor 1974 – 1982, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, August 31, 2004
In this editorial former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond discusses the appeal of the Alaska Permanent Fund (a small BIG funded by resource taxes) around the world, most particularly in other oil-rich nations such as Iraq. He cites his recent speech at the USBIG Congress in Washington, DC, 2004 as part of his effort to promote policies based on the Alaska Fund. He discusses a presentation at the Congress showing the income gap between rich and poor as more important than healthcare spending in determining the overall health of individuals in the nation. This is one reason Japanese are healthier than Americans, and one reason why Alaska is one of the healthiest states in the United States.
Criticism of Blair must be valid. Discuss
David Aaronomitch, the Guardian, UK, August 10, 2004, p. 5
This article critically discusses ideas put forth by Renewal, a group of former allies of the Labour Government in Britain who have accused the government of squandering its majority by failing to move the country in the direction of social democracy. The author of the Guardian article asked Renewal for concrete proposals, one of the two position papers they provided was on, “the idea of Citizen's Income, a basic income guarantee, paid to all citizens, regardless of circumstances - as child benefit is. ... Estimates included in the Renewal paper suggested that if the level were set at 30% of average income, then funding it would require an increase in the main rate of tax of 20%. The top five deciles or so would lose, the bottom five would gain.”
The Play's The Thing; His militant past behind him, Pat Kane argues that play - not work - is the key to a healthier society.
Peter Ross, The Sunday Herald, Scotland, August 22, 2004, p. 3
This article discusses activist Pat Kane’s new book The Play Ethic, which argues that the work ethic has got to go. He argues for a ''citizen's income", or creative support, whereby the state would give financial assistance to those who want a sabbatical from their working lives. He uses the author of the Harry Potter books as an example. “JK Rowling is a classic example of the play ethic," he says. "There she is, a single mother, no partner, surviving on benefit and a six-grand grant from the SAC. And in that moment when she determines her own space and time, she creates the biggest cultural franchise in the world. Now think about that as a sign. If the state sufficiently invested in people's free creative urges, think about the kind of society we would get."
The USBIG Discussion Paper series provides a forum for authors to get feedback on BIG-related papers in advance of publication. The series is open to writers any point of view as long as the paper is a scholarly work on BIG or the state of poverty and inequality. If you would like to submit a paper, please see the authors’ instructions on the USBIG website: http://www.usbig.net.
Ample Room at the Top: Financing a Planet-Wide Basic Income
No. 95, September 2004
Myron J. Frankman, McGill University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ABSTRACT: My central objectives in this paper are: (1) to suggest that the combination of increasingly concentrated global income and wealth and the fact our data appear to seriously underestimate the extent of their concentration reinforces the claim that a world-wide Basic Income could, in principle, be financed by a tax on the world’s richest individuals and families, and (2) to document the extent to which governments have abandoned prior commitments to progressivity in their revenue raising through taxes.
Basic Income and Migration Policy: A Moral Dilemma?
No. 96, October 2004
Michael Howard, University of Maine (Michael_Howard@umit.maine.edu)
National Basic Income (NBI) policy should be designed to address the implications of NBI for immigration. There is likely to be a tension between generous NBI and relatively open borders, and more open borders are to be expected from further economic integration. While the case for tightening borders is rather weak, and the effort to reduce immigration at the border can be counterproductive, some restriction can be justified as politically reasonable in order not to strain the commitment of citizens to egalitarian principles by making the poorest citizens significantly worse off. At the same time, the claims of global justice need to be acknowledged, and wealthier states put on a path toward egalitarian justice on a global scale.
Membership in USBIG has been growing steadily since it was introduced in June of 2004. There are 14 new members since the last issue. The USBIG Network now has 44 members from 11 countries and 15 U.S. states and territories. Membership in the USBIG Network is free and open to anyone who shares its goals. You can become a member of USBIG by going to the website (http://www.usbig.net), click on membership, and follow the instructions.
The first 44 members are (new members in bold):
Karl Widerquist, Cassopolis, MI; Eri Noguchi, New York, NY; Fred Block, Davis, CA; Michael A. Lewis, New York, NY; Steve Shafarman, Washington, DC; Brian Steensland, Bloomington, IN; Al Sheahen, Van Nuys, CA; Robert Harris, Roosevelt Island, NY; Philippe Van Parijs, Brussels, Belgium; Stanley Aronowitz, New York, NY; Carole Pateman, Los Angeles, CA; Frances Fox Piven, New York, NY; Eduardo Suplicy, Sao Paolo, Brazil; J. Philip Wogaman, Washington, DC; Chirs LaPlante, Blacksburg, VA; John Marangos, Fort Collins, CO; Fransisco Sales, Carretera Mexico City, DF, Mexico; Manuel Henriques, Lisbon, Portugal; Amelia Buaghman, Williams, AZ; Robert F. Clark, Alexandria, VA; Jason Burke Murphy, Saint Louis, MO; Joel Handler, Los Angeles, CA; Glen C. Cain, Madison, WI; Timothy Roscoe Carter, San Fransisco, CA; John Bollman, Bay City, MI; George McGuire, Brooklyn, NY; Adrian Kuziminski, Fly Creek, NY; Hyun-Mook Lim, Seoul, Korea; Kelly D. Pinkham, Kansas City, MO; Michael Murray, Clive, IA; Josep LI. Ortega, Santa Coloma, Andorra; Michael Opielka, Königswinter, Germany; Brenden Miller, Cambridge, MA; Myron J. Frankman, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Frank Thompson, Ann Arobor, MI; Harry F. Dahms, Knoxville, TN; Buford Farris, Bastrop, TX; Roy Morrison, Warner, NH; Robley E. “Rob” George, Manhattan Beach, CA, Almaz Zelleke, Brooklyn, NY; Gonzalo Pou, Montevideo, Uruguay; Elisabetta Pernigotti, Paris, France; Ross Zucker, New York, NY; Sean Owens, La Mirada, CA.
An on-line Symposium on Basic Income Guarantees and the Right to Work is being published by the Journal of Law and Urban Policy from papers presented at the BIEN Conference in Barcelona. The "Issue" (Vol. 2, No. 1 of the Journal) is being "opened" with the publication of the papers presented at the session along with audio and video tapes of the conference session. The issue will remain "open" until next spring to receive additional articles or comments on the topic of the symposium. There also is a reader's forum included so anyone who wants to contribute informally to the discussion or pose a question can do so—continuing, in effect, the conference session for several months. When the issue is "closed" next spring, the contents of this discussion board will be included in the final text of the issue. Offprints may be ordered either of individual articles or the entire issue when it is closed.
It’s on the web at: www.jlup.org
The Germany BIG Network (Freiheit statt Vollbeschaeftigung—Freedom instead of full employment) started last year with a poster campaign in Frankfurt subway stations, and have since written numerous newspaper articles, attended talk-shows etc. FSV was one of the new national affiliates recognized by BIEN at the 2004 Conference in Barcelona. Their theses are available in both English and German on their website at: www.freiheitstattvollbeschaeftigung.de, or by email at: Sascha Liebermann, S.Liebermann@freiheitstattvollbeschaeftigung.de
For links to dozens of BIG Websites around the world, go to http://www.usbig.net, and click on "links." These links are to any website with information about BIG, but USBIG does not necessarily endorse their content or their agendas.
Editor: Karl Widerquist
Thanks for help with this issue to: Phil Harvey, Steve Shafarman, Pete Farina, Joanna Danahey, Mike Murray, the USBIG Committee, and the BIEN Committee for help preparing this newsletter.
THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE (USBIG) NETWORK publishes this newsletter. The Network is dedicated to promoting the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. BIG is a generic name for any proposal to create a minimum income level, below which no citizen's income can fall. Information on BIG and USBIG can be found on the web at: http://www.usbig.net. If you know any BIG news; if you know anyone who would like to be added to this list; or if you would like to be removed from this list; please send me an email.
As always, your comments on this newsletter and the USBIG website are gladly welcomed.
-Karl Widerquist, Coordinator, USBIG. Karl@Widerquist.com