This is the Newsletter of the USBIG Network, 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.
The Fourth Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network is this weekend at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers at 811 Seventh Avenue on the corner of 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan. More than 70 scholars and activists will gather to discuss issues of the basic income guarantee.
For the full schedule and registration information, go to USBIG Congresses.
The agenda for the USBIG Organizational Meeting includes USBIG’s structure, its strategy, the possibility of a BIG bill in Congress, planning for the 2006 Conference, affiliation with BIEN, and volunteering. All USBIG members and perspective members are welcome to come to the meeting. Funded proposals for future conference locations are encouraged.
The day after the conference, March 7, those of us who are still in town will go on a walking tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. It costs $7.50, and advanced reservations are required. After the tour we will go to the landmark Katz’s Deli for lunch; main courses are less than $10.
The night before the USBIG Congress, Senator Eduardo Suplicy will Speak at Columbia University. The following announcement comes from the Center for Brazilian Studies. (The speech is free and requires no reservations. There is also an optional dinner before hand, which costs $19 and requires reservations on March 1)
Date: Thursday, March 3, 2005
Place: The Stevens Room, 3rd floor, Faculty House
Time: 7:15 PM
Jointly with the Columbia University Center for Brazilian Studies, we are pleased to host Senator Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy of the PT (Partido Trabalhista), who presently represents the state of Sao Paulo. An economist, Senator Suplicy will speak about: “An Instrument to Promote Justice and Freedom: The Approval and Sanctioning of the Citizens' Basic Income in Brazil”
We anticipate an exceptionally interesting and provocative presentation, our usual conviviality, plus stimulating discussion. You are invited to meet with Senator Suplicy and us for drinks at Faculty House (on the Columbia campus) at 5:30 PM, to be followed by dinner. Please let our rapporteur Ligia Maria Largura (lml39@Columbia.edu) know by Tuesday, March 1 if you will join us for dinner (the cost is around $19.00 per person). We will move to the Tannenbaum Room, 802, International Affairs Building for Senator Suplicy's presentation at 7:15 PM.
Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy and Steve Shafarman, of the Citizen Policies Institute, gave a joint interview for the Kansas City Infozine on February 9 http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/5780/. Suplicy has recently completed a period of research in residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C. where he spoke on Thursday, February 10 at 10:30am. According to the Kansas City Infozine, Suplicy and Shafarman appeared together on Saturday, February 12, 3:00 to 5:30p.m. at Mimi's American Bistro, 2120 P Street NW, Washington D.C. Shafarman. On the same day Shafarman was interviewed by John Grebe for “Sounds of Dissent” on WZBC, the Boston College station; on February 13 by Blasé Bonpane for KPFK, Los Angeles; and also on February 13 by Denton Randall for WHAS in Louisville KY.
Philip Harvey, Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers--Camden and a member of the Advisory Board of the National Jobs for All Coalition, spoke at Faculty House, Columbia University, on Monday February 7, 2005. His talk, entitled “Income, Work and Freedom,” discussed the feasibility of a universal right to work and compared the guaranteed job approach to the guaranteed income.
Panel on basic income at the World Social Forum. In the morning of Thursday the 27th of January 2005, President Lula opened the Porto Alegre World Social Forum with a call for a global action against poverty, the central theme of this year's Forum. In the afternoon of the same day, a three-hour panel co-sponsored by BIEN, the Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) and the Brazilian basic income network (RBRBC) under the title "From Family Grant to Basic citizenship income" proved to be one of the most massively attended events of the whole Forum. Owing to the participation of two of Brazil's most popular political personalities, Eduardo Suplicy, Federal Senator for the State of Sao Paulo and co-chairman of BIEN, and Patrus Ananias, Minister of Social Development in Lula's government and former mayor of Belo Horizonte, it was attended in a packed tent by a huge crowd of over 800 people, broadcasted live and well covered by the Brazilian press. Most of those attending were Brazilians - as the interpreting services could not cope with such a crowd, the discussion was therefore held in Portuguese and Spanish - but many were also coming from far away, among them Katja Kipping, member of the Parliament of Saxony and co-founder of Germany's new basic income network. The other members of the panel were Rudolf Künnemann, director of FIAN, Professor Jose Graziano, former secretary of state for the Zero Hunger programme, Professor Maria Ozanira de Silva, author of a recent book evaluating Brazil's fast expanding social assistance system, and Philippe Van Parijs, professor at Louvain and Harvard and co-founder of BIEN.
One central issue was the question of how the income support system can be expanded to reach the estimated 11Mn families (one quarter of Brazil's population) whose monthly income falls short of R100 (about EUR 30) per capita. Nearly all Brazilian municipalities are now involved in the programme, but it requires time and resources to identify those entitled. Failing to do so in a reliable way can lead to many of the neediest being left out, but also to many being included without meeting the conditions. Thus, on the very day of the panel, the national newspaper O Globo had a front page story about the fraudulent registration into the programme of over 1000 civil servants in the capital city of the state of Piaui with a wage far in excess of the very modest income threshold. This is a clear case, but how many more can one expect, far more difficult to detect in a largely informal economy, as the programme expands further and matures?
If the programme is not to degenerate into a massive clientelistic distribution of hand outs and trigger a backlash, it is essential to design administratively workable tests and transparent procedures for identifying the households which satisfy the conditions. By dropping the means test altogether, a universal basic income would obviously solve the problem in one swoop. But this requires a major reform of the tax system that effectively claws back the basic income paid to people who currently pay no income tax.
One of the outcomes of the panel - and of a long working meeting with Suplicy and Van Parijs the following day - is that Minister Ananias and his staff realised better the advantages a genuine basic income system would have over the present programme - not only in terms of registration problems, but also of stigmatisation and dependency traps -, without losing sight of the obstacles along the way. The massive interest shown for this panel in the exhilarating atmosphere of Porto Alegre's gathering suggests that many in Brazil and across the world will be watching closely the progress and difficulties of Brazil's pioneering policies.
For further information : firstname.lastname@example.org
Nineteen feminists from across Canada met in Pictou, Nova Scotia on September 18 and drafted a statement calling for a basic income. The Canadian Woman Studies Journal published the “Pictou Statement” Volume 23, numbers 3, 4 (December 2004). The statement has not been endorsed by individual participants at Pictou and they have not yet had the time to take it to their respective groups for endorsement. The statement largely argues for a basic income guarantee on the grounds of women’s unpaid labor. According to the statement,
“We refuse to accept market measures of wealth. They make invisible the important caring work of women in every society. … Women in Canada expect full and generous provision for all people's basic needs from the common wealth. Social and collective provision for sustaining life must be generous and secure in Canada and must be delivered through national mechanisms appropriately influenced and controlled by the women of our many specific communities. … Women demand an indexed guaranteed living income for all individual residents set at a level to enable comfortable living.”
Two articles debating the basic income guarantee were published in the same edition of Canadian Woman Studies (see recent publications).
In May 2002, Carme Porta, of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), a pro-independence, leftist and republican party, and José Luis López Bulla, of Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV), an eco-socialist and leftist organisation, both well-known supporters of Basic Income, presented a Basic Income Bill to the Catalan Parliament. ERC and ICV have formed part of the tri-partite government of Catalonia with the Socialist Party (PSC) since the end of 2003. On January 21, 2005, Joan Puigcercós and Joan Tardà (both ERC), members of the Spanish Parliament, presented the same (slightly updated) bill. It proposes a Basic Income of Citizenship for all residents of Spain. The Basic Income of Citizenship should be at least the same amount as that considered as poverty line. The bill shall soon be debated by the Spanish Parliament. (The Basic Income Bill can be viewed at www.redrentabasica.org).
British politicians widely agree that the country is facing a “pensions crisis.” The state pension system is not nearly as extensive as in most other wealthy industrialized nations and a large portion of British senior citizens have to combine their pension with housing and income aid aimed at the poor to keep themselves fed and house. There has been increasing support for a “citizen’s pension” in Britain, which would essentially create a basic income guarantee for everyone of retirement age in Britain. The Citizen’s Income Trust has a page containing much of the recent content of this debate:click here.
The USBIG Discussion Paper Series includes papers related to the basic income guarantee in advance of publication. It includes conference papers and others. Opinions are the authors’ own. Discussion is welcome. Papers are available on the USBIG website. The following nine papers have been added in the last two months:
By Pizzigati, Sam
A century ago, Americans with a “social conscience” saw the campaign for economic justice as a two-front struggle. A good society would only emerge, they believed, if more wealth accumulated at the bottom of the social order, less at the top. These progressives fought tirelessly to both “level up” the poor and “level down” the rich — and they succeeded, to a remarkable extent. By 1970, the United States had significantly reduced poverty, nurtured a mass middle class, and flattened the plutocracy that had once so dominated American life. Today, that plutocracy is back. But many contemporary Americans don’t seem to mind. Efforts to “level down” the top, they argue, amount to a divisive distraction from the real task at hand: ensuring decency for the poor. Are they right? Or does success in the struggle to “level down” remain a social and political prerequisite for ensuring decency to all?
By Colombo, Gianluca, Andrea Fumagalli, Stefano Lucarelli, Jacopo Mazza, Edoardo Mollona, and CosmaOrsi
The scope of our paper will be that of elaborating a plural model of socially sustainable development. In accomplish our task we will refer to two well-established fields of research: economics and ethics. In this project, we will assume that an ideally just system of social cooperation is the one based upon the Contract of Reciprocal Solidarity (CRS), according to which all the members of a given system of social cooperation should benefit from it according to their needs as well as voluntarily contribute to it according to their ability. We will suggest that in order to attain social cohesion and social cooperation two structural policies such as Universal Basic Income and a reduction of working time with no loss in earning should be introduced. These two structural policies, it will be contended, indeed enhance what people are actually able to do and to be, that is, their freedom to enjoy valuable beings and doings.
By Lew Daly
My paper will examine the problem of the “new inequality” in the United States as one that is consistently diverted from real debate by unexamined moral assumptions in public life. In particular, the disappearance of “unearned income” from public opinion on economic differences will be probed in relation to still-pervasive desert-based notions of entitlement. This contradiction can be better understood in light of two overlapping legacies of nineteenth century liberal thought—rent theory and the theory of unearned income. Narrow contemporary applications of these theories include windfall profits taxation and recent legal decisions that grant a spousal property right to a partner’s intellectual capital. But the potential for a more systemic approach, addressing the problem of inequality from a broader rent-theory perspective, is also significant. Put simply, this requires a better understanding of the social origins of wealth and the vast portion of national wealth that no one can properly be said to have earned. Should this be made increasingly clear by well-conceived research and other public efforts, it will be possible to establish a firmer, more intuitively appealing moral argument for redistributing wealth. The moral burden of deservingness can be shifted from the poor to the rich, to greater political effect than other redistributive points of view, I argue. I conclude by comparing this to the Basic Income approach.
By Robert Wirengard
Imagine a U.S.A. "Inc.", where each and every citizen inherits one share of ownership on their 18th birthday. From then on, that share will pay each citizen monthly cash dividends of $750/month until death, for food and shelter; and pool cash of $290/month (cradle to grave) into an escrow account from which any medical needs will be spent by the individual, pro rated at actual, going or market rates (if the individual wants more expensive than market rate health care, then s/he co-pays for the extra and, alternately, if s/he chooses care that's less expensive than going rate, market prices, then s/he retains a negative co-pay (saves/profits into his/her own pocket). Government will be downsized, cost less become more of a technocracy and "hands off", shifting responsibility/ceding power to people; personal wage and Social Security and Medicare contributions will be replaced by one flat pay roll tax paid by employers and all will be exempt from minimum wage laws, allowing jobs to return to America.
By Buford Farris
WHY WOMEN WOULD GAIN FROM A GUARANTEED LIVABLE INCOME
The Canadian Woman Studies Journal, Volume 23, numbers 3, 4 (December 2004)
L’Hirondelle, of the Victoria Status of Women Action Group (SWAG) and of Livable Income for Everyone (LIFE), argues for BIG largely on the groups that women are more likely to be poor because the market system does not treat mothers as productive members of society. She argues that working hard is not a solution to poverty unless you are being paid, which is why 70 percent of people living in abject poverty in the world are women.
GUARANTEED ANNUAL INCOME: IS THIS REALLY WHAT WE WANT?
The Canadian Woman Studies Journal, Volume 23, numbers 3, 4 (December 2004)
In the same edition as the Pictou Statement and L’Hirondelle’s article for BIG, Jean Swanson, former president of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, and founding member of End Legislated Poverty, argues against it. Swanson offers no argument against BIG in principle, but an argument that a BIG that was too small to live on, and that was accompanied by inadequate labor market protections could cause a decrease in wages.
THE MANY FACES OF UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
Citizens’ Income Newsletter, Issue 1, 2005
Jürgen de Wispelaere and Lindsay Stirton
During the past decades the debate on the desirability and feasibility of universal basic income has reached maturity. Associated with a growing number of scholars, social activists, public advocacy groups and political parties, basic income is no longer perceived as yet another crackpot idea of the radical left. Indeed, it is increasingly accepted that basic income advocates have something valuable to contribute to the debate on welfare reform and employment regulation. But with maturity comes the need to rethink the ideal of a universal basic income. As the debate expands, the standard definition of basic income as an income granted by right to each individual, without means test or work requirement, may no longer capture the diversity of policies advanced within the basic income community and beyond. This article contributes a first step to this enterprise by charting the many faces of universal basic income. Our starting point is the belief that successfully implementing a universal basic income crucially depends on our being able to match the design features of a particular scheme with the surrounding policy context or administrative environment, which differs extensively from one country to another. This, in turn, requires a better appreciation of the wealth of proposals falling under the rubric of universal basic income, and the potential diversity of arrangements that exist at the level of concrete design and implementation. It is towards this latter task that this article is specifically directed.
CLARK, Robert F. Victory Deferred. The War on Global Poverty (1945-2003). New York, University Press of America, 2005. ISBN 0 7618 3072 3
This essay aims at constructing a broad historical perspective on the emergence of poverty as a global concern after 1945. It mainly focuses on the administrative history, with a special emphasis on the role of bilateral, multilateral and global organisations. But Robert F. Clark, a Doctor of Public Administration and independent scholar, is also looking forward. Having briefly presented BIEN and the USBIG network (p.98-99), he focuses on the idea of a global basic income scheme, which would guarantee each person on earth an income of at least US$365/year (p.172-79). Such a reform, Clark argues, is preferable to the expansion of welfare-to-work programmes in developing countries. The author has designeda hypothetical plan, which implies the payments of benefits by the United Nations, under the form of a negative income tax. "The United Nations would establish a global guaranteed income fund, which would rely on periodic replenishments from its members (...) Some of the financing could come from new sources of revenue", such as the Tobin Tax (pp.175-76). The last sentence of Clark's book is cautiously optimistic: "A new paradigm such as represented by the global guaranteed income approach would considerably brighten the prospects of the world's poorest people" (p.179).
CUNLIFFE John & ERREYGERS Guido eds., The Origins of Universal Grants. An Anthology of Historical Writings on Basic Capital and Basic Income, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, 179p., ISBN 1 4039 1896 1. Authors' addresses: J.Cunliffe@warwick.ac.uk, email@example.com
Opened by an instructive introduction, this is an astonishing anthology of the first known proposals for paying to every citizen either a one-off endowment or a regular income. Basic capital proposals include texts by Thomas Paine (France, 1797), Cornelius Blatchly (USA, 1817), Thomas Skidmore (USA, 1829), Orestes Brownson (USA, 1840), Paul Voituron (Belgium, 1848), Napoleon De Keyser (Belgium, 1854) and Agathon De Potter (Belgium, 1874). Basic income proposals include texts by Thomas Spence (England, 1797) with reactions by Allen Davenport (England, 1824), Joseph Charlier (Belgium, 1848), Mabel and Dennis Milner (England, 1918), Bertram Pickard (England, 1919), Marshall Hattersley (England, 1922), G.D.H. Cole (England, 1929 and 1935) and Juliet Rhys-Williams (England, 1943). Until further discoveries challenge this conclusion, it seems that we owe the oldest (municipal) basic income proposal to the Newcastle schoolteacher and London radical publisher Thomas Spence : All land and houses will be made public property and managed by a committee of women. "And as to the overplus, after all public expences are defrayed, we shall divide it fairly and equally among all the living souls in the parish, whether male or female; married or single; legitimate or illegitimate; from a day old to the extremest age; making no distinction between the families of rich farmers and merchants ... and the families of poor labourers and mechanics..., but giving the head of every family a full and equal share for every name under his roof." (The Rights of Infants, London, March 1797).
MARX Axel & PEETERS Hans. "Win For Life. An Empirical Exploration of the Social Consequences of Introducing a Basic Income", Onderzoeksverslag van het Departement Sociologie, AB/2004-6, SB/2004-16, 54p. First author's address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The introduction of a Basic Income could result in many different micro behavioural changes with distinct macro implications. This has been argued by both proponents and opponents of a Basic Income. In this stimulating paper, which was presented at BIEN’s Barcelona Conference in 2004, sociologists Marx and Peeters (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) concentrate on changes in labour market behaviour. They argue that in the absence of the actual introduction of a Basic Income, second-best solutions for empirical research must be considered. In their view, lotteries organise interesting games for basic income researchers. Some games--such as Win for Life, Lifetime Spectacular, Lifetime Riches, Weekly Bonus, Fun for Life, Lucky for Life, etc.--grant a periodically unconditional lifelong income to winners (cf. annuity games). In this way, they constitute a natural Basic Income experiment and can generate significant insights into the possible consequences of introducing a Basic Income. First of all, the paper discusses why, how, and to what extent, natural experiments such as lotteries can contribute to research which empirically explores possible social consequences of the introduction of a basic income. The second aim is to focus on the question of what, if anything, happens after the introduction of a Basic Income.
If you would like to volunteer for USBIG, we have some projects that could use help. Some of the things that need doing include web design, promotion, fundraising, lobbying, and organizing sessions at different types of conferences. If you would like to help, and you are going to be at the USBIG organizational meeting, speak to one of the members of the committee. Or contact Karl@Widerquist.com. Thanks.
THE BIG COALITION OF SOUTH AFRICA is the most active BIG organization in the world with large grassroots support and institutional support from the South African Council of Churches, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, The South African NGO coalition, and the Treatment Action campaign. The BIG coalition commissioned four economists to research the issue of a sustainable financing for BIG. The four economists reached consensus that a BIG is affordable and sustainable.
The BIG coalition is on the web at www.big.org.za.
THE GLOBAL BASIC INCOME FOUNDATION is a European Organization advocating a worldwide basic income. According to their website, “Despite our economic wealth, scientific knowledge and technological capability, 1.1 billion people on our planet live in extreme poverty, with less than $1 a day to spend, more than 850 million are chronically undernourished and millions of children die each year unnecessarily because of this. This tragedy must be put to an end. We believe in a society based on freedom and a free market economy, but the right to life should not depend on changing economic conditions or charity. Therefore, we advocate the introduction of a global basic income, which guarantees every man, woman and child the means to live.”
They can be found at: http://www.globalincome.org/English.html.
LIVABLE INCOME FOR EVERYONE (LIFE) was founded in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) in 2003 to promote the implementation of universal guaranteed livable income in every country in the world. Its website includes discussion, statistics, and other info on BIG.
Address: Livable Income For Everyone, Box 8441 Victoria BC, V8W 3S1, Canada.
THE GLOBAL RESOURCE BANK website argues for a consolidation of world financial and environmental policy into a Global Resource Bank, which earns everyone a basic income as a birthright. The Bank is a direct democratic institution where the creation of money is subject to the production of ecosystems. Based on a proposal by John Pozzi and Monika Hoy, the Global Resource Bank.
Website can be found at: http://www.grb.net
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
Research: Paul Nollen
Copyediting: Mike Murray and the USBIG Committee
Thanks for additional help with this issue: Matthew S. Winters, Steve Shafarman, John Pozzi
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