This is the Newsletter of USBIG, ( a network promoting the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. If you'd like to be added to or removed from this list please email:









6. SPECIAL FEATURE: The History of Belgium’s Basic Income Party









Steve Shafarman, author of “Healing Politics: Citizen Policies and the Pursuit of Happiness,” will be the speaker at the next USBIG seminar. Shafarman is the founder of the Citizen Policies Institute in Washington, DC. His book discusses building a movement for Citizen Dividends (a form of BIG) and Citizen Service.


DAY & TIME: 5 to 7pm, Friday July 20, 2001


PLACE: Room 411 of Fayerweather Hall in the Sociology Department of Columbia University on main campus next to St. Paul's Chapel near the entrance at Amsterdam Avenue and 117th Street.





THE FIRST CONGRESS OF THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK: Fundamental Insecurity or Basic Income Guarantee will be held in March of 2002 at the City University of in New York on Fifth Avenue at 34th St. in New York City. The call for papers will be out within the next few weeks as soon as details are finalized.




The USBIG website has two new features under the heading of “What is the Basic Income Guarantee?” The first is a more in-depth description of BIG and the second is “An Efficiency Argument for the Guaranteed Income” by Karl Widerquist and Michael A. Lewis. These pages describe and make a case for the Basic Income Guarantee in the context of the current political situation in the United States.





BIEN (The Basic Income European Network) has announced that its ninth Congress will be held in the building of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland from Thursday the 12th to Saturday the 14th of September 2002. The conference organizer is Guy Standing <>, with the collaboration of Bridget Dommen-Meade <> and Lena Lavinas <>. For more information see BIEN’s website:





Robert Schutz, a long-time advocate of the basic income guarantee, died May 4 after a short illness. Schutz had been a lecturer in economics and business administration at the University of California at Berkeley and the editor of several publications including the Monthly Review of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. An economist of varied interests, he was the CEO of the American Society for Eastern Arts and the Lobby for Peace of Northern California, and he was a founder and Public Affairs Director of KPFA, the first listener-sponsored educational radio station in North America. He was the author of “The $30,000 Solution,” in which he argued for setting both a minimum and maximum level of income. He strived, “To make cooperative ethics the law of the land.”





Discussion of BIG continues in various Canadian circles. BI/Canada (the new network promoting a version of BIG in Canada) is now affiliated with the basic income website at The site features essays and commentary on basic income in a Canadian context. Tim Rourke manages the website, which can be found at: Sally Lerner is the coordinator of BI/Canada ( Also affiliated with BI/Canada is FUTUREWORK: an international e-mail forum for discussion of how to deal with the new realities created by economic globalization and technological change. It can be found on the web at:


Also, in Canada, Daniel Turp, professor of law at the Université de Montréal and member of Canada's House of Commons for the Bloc Québecois from 1997 to 2000, delived a keynote lecture entitled, "A Guaranteed Income: A Synthesis Between Individual and Collective Rights" at the Tenth Biennial Canadian Social Welfare Policy Conference in Calgary, 17-20 June 2001.



6. SPECIAL FEATURE: The History of Belgium’s Basic Income Party


In 1999, VIVANT, a single-issue party devoted to the basic income, appeared suddenly on the political scene in Belgium. The following is an excerpt from a history of this movement by Yannick Vanderborght written for “Basic Income on the Agenda” a new book by Robert van der Veen and Loek Groot (eds.) that discusses the recent history of basic income in Europe. Vivant can be found on the web at: Vanderborght is a Research Assistent at the Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics at the Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. He can be reached at


An excerpt from “The VIVANT Experiment in Belgium” in “Basic Income on the Agenda”


In the days following the multiple elections of June 13, 1999, Belgian newspapers were unanimous: VIVANT, a two-year old party entirely unknown until a few months earlier, had achieved more than an honourable result by attracting about 130,000 votes (i.e. about 2%) at each of the elections that took place that day. The remarkable fact was that the party platform practically reduced to a single proposal: the introduction of an unconditional basic income. Founded in 1997 by high-tech businessman and member of BIEN Roland Duchatelet, VIVANT took part in elections at any level for the first time. With no public funding or elected representative, the party had made its name by a large-scale campaign, essentially financed with Duchatelet’s personal means. He would later confess that his contribution to the campaign had reached the impressive amount of Euro 2,500,000. Through huge posters, advertisements in the press and massive doses of leaflets, VIVANT had been successful in attracting attention on its central proposal. ‘You will receive an income at the age of 18’, ‘Mum, VIVANT will give you an income’, ‘Free yourselves with the basic income’, ‘Choose your liberty with basic income’: with VIVANT, basic income was making a conspicuous and controversial entrance in Belgium’s public debate.


Since the mid 1980s, the idea had mainly been supported by the two green parties, but it has always been a ‘theoretical horizon’ rather than a policy proposal. Before the birth of VIVANT, the pure basic income proposal had mostly been discussed in the academic and intellectual milieu.


Since the early nineties, Roland Duchatelet is head of a micro-electronics company which has a turnover of millions of Euro. He is a civil engineer and graduate in economics; he also holds a MBA. Now in his early fifties, he has accumulated a sizeable wealth. This success does not prevent him from scrutinizing the redistribution mechanisms of western welfare states. In 1994, he published a book (Belgium Inc. Report to the Shareholders) in which he suggested an alternative socio-economic model based on the introduction of a full basic income. He presented his views at the 1994 BIEN congress in London. Duchatelet also got in touch with various political organizations to which he presented his reform proposals. Everywhere, he says, he met with a polite refusal. He concluded that there was only one way out: to set up his own party. In the Spring of 1997, he founded VIVANT.


The advertising campaign he soon launched was not long in bearing fruits. Roland Duchatelet was invited by the press to explain his projects. In every interview, when asked about his motivation, he answered along the line: ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’ Sometimes compared to the American multimillionaire Ross Perrot, Duchatelet objects that he is not seeking power for himself. His ambition, he asserts, is to feed the debate on the future of European welfare states, with the hope that his ideas will be taken up by others. VIVANT’s founder took care of all party’s expenses, which allowed him to make the affiliation free, and to rapidly register many new members.


VIVANT’s programme was structured around three main claims: (1) Introduction of a Basic Income for every citizen. Given that ‘our society is able to produce enough resources for everyone’, VIVANT is calling for the introduction of an unconditional minimum income. Granted to every citizen during his/her whole life, paid on a monthly basis without reference to other resources, the working situation or the marital status. (2) Abolition of the income tax and social security contributions (3) Compensatory increase of Value Added Tax (VAT).


The Francophone newspapers have generally confined themselves to critical judgements on the very nature of the party. According to political expert Pascal Delwit, whose remarks were carried by Le Soir (main Francophone daily paper), VIVANT’s vision is just ‘absurd’ and its programme, based on basic income, ‘ultra-liberal’. In the same way, the new left-of-centre daily Le Matin described the basic income-based programme as a ‘simplistic message’ and the plans of VIVANT’s candidates as a ‘disparate, disorganized catalogue of protests’. The tone was quite different in the Flemish press. Far from calling the programme ‘simplistic’, the left-of-centre daily De Morgen explained to its readership that VIVANT had ‘only one theme [basic income], and a rather complicated one’. Even though articles on VIVANT were not frequent and often focused mainly on its founder’s motivations, the approach was rather positive.


On June 13, 1999, VIVANT entered candidates for all elections, in all districts of the country. On average, the results varied between 2% for the European elections and 2.4% for the Walloon Regional Council. Ultimately, VIVANT obtained only one seat, in the Council of the Brussels Region. In spite of the negative coverage in the Francophone press, VIVANT reached its best score at the election of the Walloon Council. This is only an apparent paradox. VIVANT, as newcomer and single-issue party, had to rely on protest votes. In Flanders, the competition on that ground is very strong: the far right Vlaams Blok managed to get the greater part of the voters who were disappointed by the existing formations.


This electoral outcome made VIVANT by far the most successful among the parties not previously represented in the Federal Parliament: none of them could reach the symbolic threshold of 1%. Its results are comparable to those achieved at first trial by parties which are now well-established. On the other hand, these percentages are far away from VIVANT’s own ambitions, at least as publicly expressed during its two years of existence. In August 1998, Roland Duchatelet announced that ‘VIVANT should attract from 5 to 15% of the votes’. He repeated this forecast at the party’s first congress, held in Brussels in November 1998. In May 1999, VIVANT was still proclaiming that it would obtain a seat in almost half of the districts.


Soon after the elections, the press asserted that Duchatelet was very disappointed at how his movement performed. VIVANT’s founder announced a dramatic reduction in the level of his financial involvement, closed down most of the party’s local offices, and introduced a membership fee. Even though the emergence of VIVANT on the political scene has contributed to the spreading of the idea beyond academic circles, it cannot be said to have boosted Belgium’s public debate on basic income. Media attention above all concentrated on Duchatelet’s personality, and the few discussions on his programme remained mostly polemical. Several lessons can be learned from this original experience.


The first one is suggested by Roland Duchatelet himself, as he admits having made a mistake in trying to attract immediately a large electorate with such an innovative message. According to him, VIVANT’s programme should have been researched more thoroughly and made more credible, with the aim of appealing to ‘the innovators’ i.e. the youth and the intellectuals. These could later have spread the message.


Secondly, one could assert in the light of this experience that it is not very promising to launch a party exclusively focused on basic income. There are two main reasons. First, a ‘credibility problem’: VIVANT, as an issue-based party focused on full basic income, was driven into claiming that this measure was an ideal solution for all social issues. If the proposal is included in a more global alternative, its credibility may increase. The second reason is closely linked to the first. The visibility of a single-issue party like VIVANT, focused on a very specific proposal, is extremely dependent on the current political context. In June 1999 in Belgium, soon after the ‘dioxin crisis’, the debates revolved above all around the quality of food and the control on farm-produce industry. VIVANT had little, if anything, to say on these topics. If social security had been the main theme of the electoral campaign, as it was at previous elections in 1995, the party would no doubt have attracted greater attention in the media and could have made more of a mark.


Finally, the specific nature of VIVANT’s basic income proposal, related to a suppression of income taxes on low earnings and social security contributions, prevents us from using its electoral performance as a way of assessing basic income’s social acceptability and political feasibility in Belgium. VIVANT’s public seemed actually tempted by its pure anti-fiscalism at least as much as by basic income itself.


In any case, the experiment goes on. Despite the spending cuts, VIVANT is planning to establish itself in other countries. It has already entered candidates at European elections in France, where it reached 0.71%. Its setting up in Switzerland and The Netherlands is in its early stages. In September 1999, in the aftermath of the elections, it published a new manifesto with the following promising start: ‘A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of Basic Income’.




(Provided by BIEN)



Red Renta Basica (the Spanish basic income network) held its inaugural conference in Barcelona on June 8-9, 2001. The Conference included sessions on academics, trade unions and social movements, and politics. Economists Rafael Pinilla and Daniel Raventós were instrumental in creating Red Renta Básica and organizing its first conference.




According to an article by economist Joaquim Estefanía published in El Pais on Sunday 27 May 2001, the document prepared for the July 2001 political congress of Spain's socialist party (PSOE), currently in the opposition, proposes the introduction of a universal and unconditional "citizenship basic income" (renta básica de ciudadanía). The document seems to be clear about the difference between such a basic income and both a means-tested "insertion income" and a negative income tax, but the details of the proposal are not known. Its author is the national deputy from Castellón and former national minister Jordi Sevilla, currently the PSOE's secretary for political economy and employment. Basic income already featured in the programme with which Rodriguez Zapatero won the leadership of the PSOE in 2000.



AN INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON TARGETED BENEFITS VERSUS UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME, with the participation (among others) of Senator Eduardo Suplicy (Brazil) and Ruben Lo Vuolo (Argentina) will take place in Bogota Columbia July 3-6, 2001. For further information: Andres Hernandez <>




The Austrian Social Democratic Party's new election platform proposes to introduce a nationally unified needs-oriented basic security in replacement of the social assistance programs that are now governed by the regions. This national guaranteed minimum scheme would be means-tested, but the interim report also puts the proposal of a universal basic income on the agenda. The Social Democrats are the third major Austrian party (after the Greens and the Left-Liberal Party) to become explicitly involved in the Basic Income debate. The party's interim report is available on its website:




According to The London Times of April 30, 2001, Tony Blair launched his idea of a baby bond of 500 Pounds (about 750 Euros or Dollars) "in an attempt to bridge the wealth gap between rich and poor". The money would be invested until the child reached 18, when it could be drawn on for approved purposes: "By the time they're ready to start life on their own, every child in every family in every home across the country will have a sound financial platform which could help pay for lifelong learning, training, owning that first home, setting up a business," Blair proclaimed. The Times explicitly attributes the paternity of the idea to Yale law professor, one of the keynote speakers at BIEN's 2000 Congress: "It was an American, Bruce Ackerman, who came up last year with a more ambitious version of the "baby bond" scheme. In his book The Stakeholder Society, Ackerman proposed that the US government give every young American $80,000 on reaching 21." And an early version of it is correctly attributed to the first formulator of a basic-income-type proposal: "The idea was first mooted by Thomas Paine, in the 18th century. Paine wanted to give every 18-year-old Pounds 15 (equal to about 1,500 Pounds today), paid out of inheritance tax. The value of a $500 bond could rises substantially by the time the child reaches maturity.





Doris Schroeder, “Wickedness, Idleness and Basic Income.” Res Pubica 7: 1-12. This paper critically analyses the position that basic income fosters idleness and thereby creates harm. It also states that those who argue that basic income leads to an unfair distribution of burden between “lazy idlers” and “honest taxpayers” have to face three questions. Is the distribution of onerous or unpleasant work fair? Is the distribution of work burdens between paid and unpaid workers equitable? Is the distribution of work between the unemployed and the employed fair? Because the answer to each of these questions is no, Schroeder concludes that the idleness argument against basic income relies on unfounded premises.



ROBEYNS, Ingrid. "An Income of One's Own", in Gender and Development 9 (1), March 2001, pp.82-89 ( This article is a succinct but well-informed presentation of the case for basic income in both the North and the South, with special attention given to gender relations. "For women", the article concludes, "basic income is definitely more promising than policies of “workfare.” Workfare focuses exclusively on getting women into formal employment, whereas basic or participation income schemes acknowledge the worth of unpaid caring work. At the same time, women would benefit most if such a policy would be implemented together with policy measures that combat gender inequities and challenge gender roles.






THE SWEDEN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK, Folkrorelsen for medborgarlon, is coordinated by Kicki Bobacka, who can be reached by email at:



THE GERMAN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK is Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Sozialhilfeinitiativen (BAG-SHI).

Contact: Wolfram Otto








CLAWS (CREATING LIVABLE ALTERNATIVES TO WAGE SLAVERY) actively promotes alternatives to the wage slavery mindset and what they call "The Cult of the Job" which equates a job with "making a living". The website includes essays, book excerpts and articles by Bob Black, Robert Anton Wilson, Bertrand Russell, Buckminster Fuller, Jean Liedloff and others who are critical of the cult of the job. CLAWS can be found on the web at:






THE BASIC INCOME EUROPEAN NETWORK (BIEN) maintains a website, publishes a newsletter, and organizes conferences promoting basic income in Europe and around the world. The Coordinator is Philippe Van Parijs and the Conference Coordinator is Guy Standing. The BIEN website can be found at either:




BASIC INCOME/CANADA (BI/Canada) maintains a web site and an email discussion group. Their Coordinator is Sally Lerner. To be included on the BI/Canada email list to receive periodic newsletters email <>. BI/Canada’s website (maintained by Tim Rourke) features essays and commentary on basic income in a Canadian context. It can be found at:

Also affiliated with BI/Canada is FUTUREWORK: an international e-mail forum for discussion of how to deal with the new realities created by economic globalization and technological change. It can be found on the web at:



The Citizens' Income STUDY CENTRE of Britain publishes a newsletter and maintains a website; both have news on citizen's income (the British version of BIG) from the United Kingdom and around the world:



OASIS (ORGANISATION ADVOCATING SUPPORT INCOME STUDIES IN AUSTRALIA), The Australian Basic Income group, publishes an email newsletter and maintains a website with literature about basic income in Australia and around the world. Anyone interested in receiving a copy of their newsletter should contact: Allan McDonald at: or see their website:



UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME NEW ZEALAND (UBINZ) promotes basic income in New Zealand. Their coordinator is Ian Ritchie. They can be found on the web at:

Or reached by email at:



THE SOUTH AFRICAN NEW ECONOMICS FOUNDATION (SANE) promotes BIG in South Africa and Worldwide. It can be found at:



VERENIGING BASINKOMEN promotes in Basic Income Guarantee in the Netherlands. Coordinator: Emiel Schäfer





GRUNDEINKOMMEN OSTERREICH promotes Basic Income in Austria. Its Coordinator is Michael Striebel ( They can be contacted by email at:

Or found on the web at:






BIEN IRELAND promotes the Basic Income Guarantee in Ireland. Their coordinator is John Baker. They can be reached by email at:



BIEN BRASIL (BASIC INCOME EARTH NETWORK) promotes the basic income guarantee in Brazil. The Coordinator, Eduardo Suplicy, is a member of the Brazilian Senate. He can be reached by email at:



THE SPANISH NETWORK ON THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE is known by three names in three languages: Red Renta Básica (in Castillan), Xarxa Renda Bàsica (in Catalan) and Oinarrizko Errenta Sarea (in Basque). It can be found on the web at:

Also in Spain, Rafael Pinilla Palleja coordinates a Spanish email list on Basic Income:

Its coordinator is José Iglesias Fernández (

Secretary: David Casassas (

President: Daniel Raventós (



THE SWEDEN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK, Folkrorelsen for medborgarlon, is coordinated by Kicki Bobacka, who can be reached by email at:



THE GERMAN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK is Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Sozialhilfeinitiativen (BAG-SHI).

Contact: Wolfram Otto





THE BOSTON REVIEW included seventeen articles on the basic income guarantee by Philippe Van Parijs and others in its October-November 2000 issue. These articles have been jointly published as a book entitled, “What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch?” The full text of the articles can be found on line at:



the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies (CSDS) has been talking about some form of BIG for 30 years. More information can be found at:



VIVANT is a movement (mainly Belgian, but with some activity in France and Switzerland) that promotes Basic Income by participating in elections. It can be found on the web at



THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIOECONOMIC STUDIES (ISES) is a private foundation that examines issues relating to economic development, poverty, health care reform, and the quality of life. ISES promotes a version of BIG known as the National Tax Rebate. It can be found on the web at:



MATS HOGLUND’s maintains two BIG web sites with information in English and Swedish:



The Geonomy Society, which promotes using land taxes to support a universal basic income guarantee, can be reached at:



MANFRED FUELLSACK maintains a BIG bibliography on line at:



SOCIAL AGENDA sponsors a Caregivers Tax Credit Campaign. Although it isn't a universal basic income guarantee, it will distribute income to anyone caring for (directly or indirectly) another human in need. Their website is:



THE ALASKA PERMANENT FUND pays a partial Basic Income Guarantee to all Alaska residents funded from oil revenue. For information see:




Steve Shafarman’s book on the Citizens’ Dividend can be ordered on line at:




FINALLY, THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK (USBIG), which publishes this newsletter, is dedicated to promoting the discussion basic income guarantee in the United States. USBIG supports a regular seminar series, a newsletter, a website, and is organizing a conference that will be held in New York on March 15-16, 2002. The conference organizer is Michael A. Lewis, who can be reached at The USBIG Network coordinator is Karl Widerquist who can be reached at ( Information on USBIG can be found on the web at: If you know any BIG news; if you have any comments on the newsletter or the web site; 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.




-Karl Widerquist, coordinator, USBIG.