USBIG Newsletter no. 9, April-May, 2001


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















Michael Lewis, of the SUNY School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook, will present his paper “WOULD WAGE SUBSIDIES BE EFFICIENT? A CRITIQUE OF PHELPS’ WELFARE ECONOMIC JUSTIFICATION OF WAGE SUBSIDIES” at the next USBIG seminar. The paper is attached to this email.


DAY & TIME: 5 to 7pm, May 4th, 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.


Charles M.A. Clark’s paper, “Changing Labour Markets: Towards Real Flexibility,” which he presented at the March USBIG seminar, has now become available. It will sent in an email immediately following this one. (The reason for the separate email is that some computers have difficulty handling more than one attachment per email.)




Although the issue disappeared from the front pages after Prime Minister Chretien denied any interest in the proposal last December, discussion of BIG in Canada is growing in other circles. According to the Centretown News, Ottawa (, Liberal MP Mac Hard is trying to generate interest in a conference of officials from federal and provincial governments on the Guaranteed Annual Income. Andrew Sharpe, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, and Walter Robinson, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, both voiced opposition to the idea, citing fears of a high cost. Robinson also mentioned the problem of overlapping federal and provincial jurisdiction. This is a particular concern in Canada where most welfare programs are administered at the provincial level but a basic income guarantee would presumably have to be administered at the federal level. Harb said the purpose of the conference is to have these concerns addressed and figure out how much the program would cost.


Francois Blais, a professor of political science at Laval University in Quebec City, has gotten a lot of favorable media attention in Quebec for his proposal that the federal government institute a partial basic income guarantee of $300 a month as a step towards a full basic income guarantee in the future. Reports on Blais’s proposal have appeared in Le Devoir (March 6th), Le Soleil (February 25th), and in other newspapers, as well as on television and radio. Blais discusses the idea at length in his new book, “Un Revenu garanti pour tous. Introduction aux principes de l'allocation universelle.” He discusses the findings of the MacDonald Commission—a Royal Canadian Commission that was set up in 1985 to explore the economic perspectives of the Canadian Federation. The Commission recommended a partial basic income guarantee. Blais argues for the gradual introduction of a basic income guarantee starting at about the level recommended by the MacDonald Commission, and makes a pragmatic and ethical case for it. This book has been called by BIEN, “the most well-informed and comprehensive French-language introduction to basic income.”





On April 11, 2001, the Brazilian Government took an important step in the direction of a basic income guarantee. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso signed into law a bill approved by the Brazilian National Congress creating a conditional income guarantee called the Guaranteed Minimum Income Program. The level of the guarantee is modest: 15 Brazilian Real ($R), per child, per month, for each child aged 6 to 15 up to a maximum of R$45 per family. To be eligible, families must earn less that half of the Brazilian minimum wage of R$180 (about 90 U.S. dollars). The minimum wage in Brazil is not a legally binding wage floor but a reference point for inflation adjustments, and many people make considerably less than the minimum. Thus, even this modest guarantee level could make a substantial difference for many Brazilian families. It is estimated that 167,000 families will be eligible in Sao Paulo alone.


The benefit is conditional on the children attending school. Benefits will be paid directly by the Federal Government, but municipalities will be responsible for registering the families and verifying the presence of children in school. There is some concern with how the program will interact with existing programs at the state and local level, some of which also take the form of a conditional income guarantee. But Sao Paulo Mayor, Marta Suplicy and others have been promoting the idea of coordinating federal, state, and local programs.



4. BIG NEWS FROM EUROPE (from BIEN reports)


SPAIN (Catalonia): The CCOO (Comissions Obreres de Catalunya), the main trade union in Catalonia, announced support for the basic income guarantee and organized a public debate on the issue in Barcelona on 28 February 2001. Some left-green members of the Catalan Parliament have submitted a bill that calls for the introduction of a basic income guarantee almost equal to the poverty line for all adults (50 percent for children under 18). The Trade Union confederation is giving it strong support, it is said, while pondering how it could be financed. For further information contact Daniel Raventos <> .


IRELAND: The Final Report of the Working Group on Basic Income (commissioned by the Irish government) concludes that a basic income guarantee would greatly contribute to the reduction of poverty, relative to the present tax and welfare systems. In particular, it would improve the incomes of 70% of households in the four tenths of the population with the lowest incomes, without any resources additional to those available to conventional options. The Working Group also found that the tax rate required to fund the basic income guarantee would be in the range of 42% to 47%. The full text of the three Government-funded studies on basic income on which the Working Group's Report is based can be found on the Irish Government's website:

CORI Justice Commission's summary of the three studies can be found at:

For further information contact Sean Healy <>


SCOTLAND: The proposal of a citizen's income (the British name for BIG) as a solution for problems of poverty and unemployment was mentioned repeatedly during a Scotland-focused program in the BBC's national series "Question Time" on the 15th of March 2001. The idea was put forward as a solution for single mothers. Some members of the panel also thought it was needed because of the now more flexible labor market, but others voiced concerns about financing





WHAT’ WRONG WITH A FREE LUNCH? Edited by Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers. Boston: Beacon Press, 112 pages.

This book contains the 17 articles on Basic Income from last fall’s issue of the Boston Review plus a foreword by Robert M. Solow. Philippe Van Parijs makes the case for a subsistence-level basic income guarantee in the first chapter. Fifteen authors (including Herbert Simon, Anne Alstott, Wade Rathke, and others) respond, some with opposition, others with support, qualified support, or alternative justifications. Van Parijs responds in the final chapter. The book is an excellent introduction to both the ethical and practical sides of the debate over the basic income guarantee, and will likely make an important contribution to the return of the debate over income guarantees in the United States.


"A GUARANTEED ANNUAL INCOME: FROM MINCOME TO THE MILLENNIUM" by Derek Hum and Wayne Simpson, Policy Options, Jan.-Feb. 2001. This piece traces the history of the income guarantee idea in Canada from before the Manitoba “Mincome” experiment to Chretien’s trail balloon last December.


McKAY, Ailsa. “Arguing for a Citizens Basic Income - A contribution from a Feminist Economics Perspective.” PhD dissertation (supervisor: Prof. Chris Pierson), University of Nottingham (UK), December 2000, 401 pages. <>

This thesis examines the basic income guarantee from a feminist economics perspective. It argues that BIG has the potential to promote equal rights of freedom for men and women and provides the basis for the development and sustainability of new and liberating patterns of working and living. However, McKay argues that this particular aspect of the proposal will never be fully considered as long as the analytical framework of neoclassical economic theory continues to be employed. Embracing a feminist economics perspective allows for the identification of the androcentric bias inherent within the neoclassical construct and further provides an alternative methodological approach that serves to open up the debate and incorporate a more realistic vision of the nature of modern socio-economic relationships. A brief statement of some of the central points of this dissertation have been published as "Rethinking Work and Income Maintenance Policy: Promoting Gender Equality through a Citizens Basic Income" in Feminist Economics 7 (1), March 2001, 93-114.



THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIOECONOMIC STUDIES, in a series of editorial-page advertisements and letters to the editor over the past year, has made the case for the National Tax Rebate in the New York Times. On April 1st, 2001, Senior Research Associate Allan Ostergren writes, “The democrats’ proposed $300 per taxpayer rebate would not only be the fastest way to give back the surplus, but the most efficient.” He goes on to argue that we should not stop there. All income maintenance programs in the federal budget should be replaced by a cash grant (the National Tax Rebate) payable to every citizen.





THE BASIC INCOME EUROPEAN NETWORK (BIEN) has renovated its website and it is now accessible at:


These links are preferred although BIEN’s site can still be reached at (



THE NEW 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). Its chairman is Daniel Raventós (Universitat de Barcelona), author of El derecho a la existencia. The purpose of the new network is "to foster and spread scientific research on basic income in order to improve the knowledge of the latter and of its viability". It can be found on the web 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



MATS HOGLUND’s two BIG web sites have moved to:



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:






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 BIEN website can be found at either:




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:



BASIC INCOME/CANADA (BI/Canada) is developing a website and maintains an email discussion group. To subscribe, send a message to: <> saying <subscribe basicincome YourEmailAddress> To be included on the BI/Canada email list to receive periodic newsletters, send your email address to <> with <BI/Canada newsletter> on the subject line.



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 website is:



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. It’s website is:



GRUNDEINKOMMEN OSTERREICH promotes Basic Income in Austria. Their website is:



BIEN IRELAND promotes the Basic Income Guarantee in Ireland. They can be reached by email at:



BIEN BRASIL (BASIC INCOME EARTH NETWORK) promotes the basic income guarantee in Brasil. 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:



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:



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 soon a conference (details will be announced soon). Information on USBIG can be found at:, or by email 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.




Supreme Court will Hear the First Social and Economic Rights Claim: Gosselin v. Quebec


Tim Sampson just forwarded a report from "Workfare-Fight, the list for fighting workfare internationally." According to Workfare-Fight, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a historic case - the first claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the first claim under human rights legislation to a right to an adequate level of social assistance for those in need. Quebec is the only jurisdiction in North America to include "social and economic rights" in its human rights legislation. This will be the first case in which the Supreme Court considers this provision in the Quebec Charter. More significantly, it will also be the first case in which the Court will consider whether the right to "security of the person" in the Canadian Charter prohibits cuts to welfare that deny recipients basic necessities and whether the guarantee of equality includes substantive obligations to provide adequately for disadvantaged groups relying on social assistance.


For more information on the case go to:


For information on Workfare-Fight go to: