Sunday, April 5, 2009

UBE Universal LIVABLE basic income

23 Theses on the Unconditional Basic Income

Without vision the people perish. Basic unconditional income like community centers could restore public spirit and interdependence. The anti-social or capital offensive leaves people mere consumers or cogs in the machine and represses our gifts, talents, desires and social health

By Theophil Wonneberger

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

1. Productivity has continuously increased since the beginning of industrialization in the 19th century. Successes in automation accelerated this process and will accelerate it further in the future. For the first time in human history, considerable portions of the population are not needed any more to produce the necessary goods.

2. Full employment was the exception even before industrialization. The hope that full employment will ever be realized in the future is all the more absurd. However an unconditional basic income (UBI) would be sensible even with full employment since it creates freedom from work coercion for all workers.

3. For a long time, substantial parts of the population have not been integrated in the labor process. They are also excluded from income. Today considerable parts of the population are either supported directly by social benefits or indirectly by subsidized economic branches at great financial expense. The solution can only be uncoupling income from work since the creation of new jobs succeeds less and less.

4. Much of the labor performed today is meaningless and benefits no one as for example large parts of bureaucracies or is injurious as for example the arms industry and animal experiments. This kind of labor maintains the existing economic order that cannot function without permanent growth and wearing out nature. We cannot forego them without worsening our lives.

5. Every activity that only serves to earn money is unworthy of humankind. Work only leads to contentment when it is meaningful, fun and done for its own sake.

6. When people receive an unconditional basic income, they cannot be forced to work any more. Unpopular and hollow work is no longer accepted or must be paid better. No one has to do immoral work only because of the need for money.

7. The liberation of people from existential anxiety would create possibilities evoking creativity leading to new ideas and products and at the end even benefiting the whole economy. Everyone could realize him- or herself as much as desired.

8. The enormous economic output allows paying everyone a substantial basic income today. Instead of immobilizing people through meaningless work and with expensive measures, the money could be paid out better directly and without conditions.

9. Politicians and economists persuade us that money is scarce and therefore must be saved everywhere. But there is enough for everyone! All basic needs could be easily satisfied if the wealth were better distributed

10. Automatic income as for example capital earnings, rental revenue and monopoly profits should be mobilized to finance an unconditional basic income. Enough money would be collected. This would be the most just solution.

11. Financing from a resource tax is another sensible possibility with many advantages. This would be the most elegant way of simultaneously establishing social justice and protecting the atmosphere. Environmental pollution and resource consumption decline when they are taxed. If the tax revenues were distributed evenly to everyone, excessive consumers would be automatically penalized and environmentally-conscious behavior rewarded. Such an eco-tax would be accepted by the people.

12. An unconditional basic income accepted by the population and anchored as a basic right would bring genuine freedom and security for everyone. A policy based on fear and coercion would not be possible any longer. No one would have to knuckle under to his boss out of fear of losing his job. Everyone could freely express their political opinion without having to expect material privations. Genuine democracy is only possible this way.

13. An unconditional basic income reached in a democratic way liberates from welfare state tutelage. This is a model for come-of-age citizens who know best what is good for them.

14. The unconditional basic income liberates people from economic dependency on one another and among one another. For example, life partners who cannot agree any more need not live together any longer. Children could become independent to further their development. In the future, people will live together when they want to live together, not because they must.

15. When everyone receives an unconditional basic income, their working hours could be voluntarily reduced without endangering their existence. When everyone works less, work would also be distributed better. A minimum wage would not be needed because no one would accept poorly paid work any more.

16. An unconditional basic income must be granted unconditionally. Essential basic provision is a human right. Human rights are always unconditional.

17. Reasons for an unconditional basic income can also be found in the Christian religion. The biblical command of charity is the central message of the New Testament and includes material needs. Genuine love is only conceivable unconditionally.

18. The payment of a minimum life-sustaining amount is part of unconditionalness. If the basic income is too low and cannot sustain life, there would actually be work coercion and not real freedom. Not all basic income concepts are unconditional and keep people from poverty.

19. Unconditionalness also includes the right to laziness or idleness. What work one should do or whether one has to work may not be prescribed. There is only real freedom when the possibility of saying no exists.

20. So-called idlers are also socially important. They are living proof that people cannot be forced to work any more and that basic income is truly unconditional. The possibility of exodus substantially strengthens the position of workers over against their employers. The main goal of unions would reach at last.

21. That the basic income should be paid out without return favor is often criticized. Whoever is against automatic income should take offense at the capital incomes that are also without return favor. While the unconditional basic income is democratically resolved, distributed evenly to everyone and covers existential needs, capital incomes are undemocratic, distributed extremely unequally and grow ever more quickly.

22. The unconditional basic income can be introduced regionally if there is a political will. But its true meaning is first fulfilled when it is implemented worldwide as a global social right. Then it assures the survival of all people and no one would be excluded any more.

23. Introducing an unconditional basic income certainly does not mean the end of all exploitation. However it can be the foundation on which people can free themselves from coercions and create possibilities for the further development of the whole society.

Info: author: Theophil Wonneberger

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Does Basic Income Make Sense as a Worldwide Project? (1)

By Philippe Van Parijs

Professeur ordinaire de l’Université catholique de LouvainChaire Hoover d’éthique économique et socialeSecretary of BIEN (1994 -2004)Visitor Professor, Harvard University

Does basic income make sense as a worldwide project? To my own amazement, I have come to believe that it does, incomparably more than I did when we founded the Basic In­come European Network in 1986.To explain this, I first need to distinguish two senses in which one might think of tur­ning basic income from a national, or at most a European, into a worldwide project. There is the swelling and there is the spreading.

Swelling the project?

Swelling the basic income project into a worldwide one consists in imagining that it can be organised in a truly universal way, administered and funded at a global level.I have great respect for the moral commitment of those who have been mobilising around that idea, most forcefully perhaps the Dutch artist Pieter Kooistra and his Foun­dation “UNO basisinkomen voor alle mensen” (2). Yet, for our gene­rations this is pure speculation. Not the less, pure speculation needs not be useless speculation. And in this case it is definitely not too early to start considering Basic Income seriously as a worldwide project. Indeed, as ever stronger worldwide interdependencies make progress in this direc­tion, it’s become more fea­sible and more necessary. Obviously, a crucial part of that speculation concerns the funding. Let me just state, without argument, a couple of negative and a couple of positive convictions. I do not be­lieve in the viability of a worldwide personal income tax, since the exact definition of tax­able income should, from my point of view, rather be left at a far more decentralised level. Nor do I believe in the relevance, for this purpose, of Tobin-type taxes on international transactions. They may be useful for keeping destabilising speculation in check or funding expanded supranational organisations in less precarious a way than is currently the case. But their equilibrium yield would fall far short of making a significant contribution to the funding of a worldwide basic income. More worth exploring, in my opinion, is the idea of combining the shift to one single global currency, as advocated e.g. by Myron Frankman (3), and the use of the seignorage rights associated with this currency for funding a modest non-inflationary basic income at the level of the annual growth of the world GDP, along the lines developed by Joseph Huber (4). Finally, and of least remote relevance, is the idea of a fair worldwide distribution of a sustainable volume of tradable pollution rights – as distinct from a distribution according to existing levels of pollution of the sort currently considered. To reflect Thomas Paine’s old notion of an equal repartition of the resources of the planet, this would come down to a uniform global tax on the volume of emissions whose revenues would be distri­buted according to population size.Even in the long term, however, this swollen basic income will not come in substitution, but in support of a basic income funded at a far less global level. Moreover, it will come only if a large number of far more local schemes first prove that implementation difficulties can be overcome and that key objections can be refuted, however adverse a country’s circumstances may seem.

Spreading the project? The Congo

For the time being, therefore, by far the most important interpretation of the central question in this paper concerns the diffusion of Basic Income as a worldwide project. In other words: does it really make sense to think of spreading the project beyond those relatively affluent countries with fairly developed welfare states, in which Basic Income first took root? In recent years, two sets of contrasting impressions have strongly affected my thinking on this subject.In the spring of 2001, I discovered the Congo in the course of what was one of the most mind-blowing academic trips of my life. Among the many aspects that struck me about the situation in the Congo, I’ll now mention three that are directly relevant to our matter. When the Congo became independent from Belgium, both countries had about 10 million inhabitants, slightly more for the Congo, slightly less for Belgium. Four decades later, Belgium has laboriously reached 10.5 million, while the Congo approaches an 52 mil­lion. A walk through the sandy streets of Kinshasa gives always the impression of strolling through a kindergarten. Yet it cannot help feeding our concerns about how vigorous the demographic transition will need to be and how ill-advised has been any transfer scheme for slowing it down.Another striking experience was talking with people at the very top of the Congo’s state apparatus. There, you realise that no one has (or at any rate had then) much of a clue as to how many people the government is employing, who these people are, how often and how much they are paid. Can you imagine, in this context, conveying an income in reliable fashion, not merely to some thousands of civil servants, but to several millions of citizens? Last but not least, one has to consider the cultural barriers within the own country’s population. What political chances can there be for a serious and ambitious programme in favour of the poor in a country in which nearly all political, administrative and academic life operates in French, a language mastered by a small and shrinking minority of less than 10% of the population? How can the voices of those who would stand to benefit from such a programme be sufficiently heard, while looking forward to making significant, poli­tically sustainable steps?While flying back from the Congo, I sat thinking about these three sets of conside­rations – shortly after having to escape from a last attempt by some locals, at the airport in Kinshasa, to get a small first instalment of their prospective worldwide Basic Income. Had I been asked then whether Basic Income made sense as a worldwide project, I’m pretty sure I would have said no.

Spreading the project? South Africa

Yet, not long after I got back, I found out, bit by bit, both about what was already in place and what was being vocally demanded in a country, geographically as well as socio-economically, not quite distinct from the Congo: the Republic of South Africa.What is in place? First and foremost, as regards our subject, a non-contributory, monthly pension of 600 Rand (or EUR 60), paid, at the time, to all women aged 60 or over, and to all men aged 65 or over. These must have been subject to a means test that prac­tically amounts to excluding all households entitled to a pension from the formal sector, and only them. Developed during the final years of the apartheid regime, this scheme is far more redistributive than all other aspects of the South-African tax-and-transfer system taken all together. It is also without a doubt the largest redistributive transfer scheme in the whole of the African continent. About 80% of the age-qualified Black population of South Africa reports receipt of it, compared to about 10% of the age-qualified White popu­lation. In total, 75% of the recipients are women (5). What is most remarkable about this scheme is that it works: that it has somehow ma­naged to tackle the huge implementation problems involved in reaching nearly two million beneficiaries, many of them illiterate and living in remote rural areas. Remarkable too is that the redistribution effected through it reaches far beyond its immediate beneficiaries. The granny’s pension is the main source of formal income for a large number of extended households, with wide-ranging effects across generations, most strikingly on the grand­daughters’ health (6). Moreover, making title-holders out of the elderly obviously has the ad­van­tage of handling the demographic problem far better than any other simple type of poverty alleviation scheme. And it avoids any direct work disincentive for the population of working age – which is not to say that it does not come without intrinsic defect, as expres­sed for example in the alleged tendency for the administrative existence of grannies to significantly outstrip their physiological life.On the background of both the success and the limitation of this remarkable scheme, South Africa has recently witnessed the surprising development of a powerful movement calling without the slightest ambiguity for a fully unconditional universal basic income at a monthly rate of 100 Rand (about EUR 10). A basic income coalition has been formed around this demand, with the support of the Churches and, most strikingly, the Trade Union Confederation, COSATU. One key question is of course: Will the administrative cost of delivering so widely such a small amount not end up swallowing an absurdly large share of the resources? Advocates are quick to respond that any serious means test would lend itself to far more waste and abuse. Another key question is who is going to pay. If it becomes clear that the bulk of the net funding will need to come out of the salaries of formal sector workers, how can one expect strong Trade Union support to persist? Will it help to point out that fewer remit­tances will need to be sent to the villages once all the workers’ relatives receive a basic income grant? Will it help to turn to indirect taxation, as forcefully advocated for example at this congress by Pieter Le Roux (7), on the ground that a VAT strategy would spread the tax net far more widely beyond the incomes of formal sector workers?My own prediction is that this campaign will fail, in terms of its stated immediate objec­tives at any rate. But such a failure must not breed despondency. Qua advocates of basic income as a worldwide project, we must be cold-blooded enthusiasts, prepared to cope with countless disappointments and always ready to draw lessons for the next move. Whatever the fate of South Africa’s deeply impressive and, in my opinion, totally unexpected basic income campaign, it is clear that in this domain, as well as in several others, this is a country whose development we must follow closely. Given their demo­graphic situation, it is to South Africa rather than to Brazil, and in particular to its pension scheme, that African countries should first turn in order to draw lessons for what can and should be done.

Spreading the project? Santos

This certainly does not mean that nothing is to be learned from Latin America. Indeed, it is a Latin American contrast I want to use as a second way of putting into perspective the ambition of spreading the basic income project. In the summer of 2002, I happened to be in the city of Santos, of Pelé fame, on the Brazilian coast, standing on a platform raised above a huge crowd next to front-running presidential candidate Lula and his party fellow and federal senator Eduardo Suplicy, his challenger for the presidential nomination a few months earlier. When it fell upon Lula to speak, at the frantic end of the joyful meeting, it turned out that the importance of work was one of the two themes he had chosen to address. “What we demand”, he explained, pouring with sweat, to a cheering crowd which hardly needed convincing, “is not alms but jobs, not a handout but work.” One of the greatest days in his life, Lula movingly told his supporters, was when he came home to his mother to hand over his first salary. When he subsequently lost his job, he smeared some grease on his overalls to make his mother be­lieve he was still working. It is work, not income, that gives people the dignity, the respect they long for, Lula proclaimed. And the crowd loudly approved.I too agree with him. In a very important sense, there is incomparably more dignity, more respect, to be gained from grease on one’s trousers than from a basic income in one’s pocket. Recognition, appreciation, esteem by those we care about, and by society as a whole, cannot and must not be given as a right to anyone. It can and must be earned through doing with some degree of effort and competence things that are of some use to others. And for most people, the regular performance of paid work is the most obvious and important means for this purpose. There is no need for basic income supporters to deny this. Indeed, it is a central part of their analysis that a basic income is a key pre­condition for giving everyone real access, in sustainable fashion, to both a decent standard of living and to the sort of activity that can provide the recognition a job is supposed to give. Jobs for all and three meals a day for every Brazilian were the two central objectives em­phasised in Lula’s presidential campaign. But to make them compatible, and sustainable, something like a basic income is needed. Owing to Eduardo Suplicy’s persuasive lobbying, the idea of a universal citizen’s income has been incorporated into Lula’s presidential pro­gramme by the party’s assembly, along the lines developed in the Senator’s recent book, Renda de Cidadania: A saida é pela porta (8). But listening to Lula on the Santos rostrum sug­gested that this was hardly more than lip service or a friendly concession to a long-time loyal supporter, that he had not made the link between what he really cared about and the basic income idea. The following day, as I bid Eduardo farewell at the Sao Paulo airport, where he had kindly driven me through the morning fog, and then queued into the plane and sat down, the intense memories of that extraordinary evening and of the whole of my brief stop in Brazil overcrowded my mind. If a voice as articulate and eloquent, as convinced and convincing, as insistent and inexhaustible as this man’s does not do the trick, if he does not manage to persuade his life-long comrade who may soon be running one of the biggest countries in the world, if this unique chance is missed, then can anyone ever hope to overcome understandable resistance within a party calling itself the workers’ party and to move basic income to the political agenda of a less developed country? Had someone asked me, as the plane took off over the sleepy metropolis, whether Basic Income made sense as a worldwide project, I am not sure I would have said yes. I would have been wrong.

Spreading the project? Medellín

Three planes later, I landed in Medellín, Colombia. As part of the celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Escuela Nacional Sindical, a nation-wide training school for trade union officials and activists, had specifically invited me to give, next to more academic talks at the University of Antioquia, a public lecture on Basic Income. The event, I discovered, had been carefully prepared by a substantive dossier in the School’s magazine and was punc­tuated by the publication of a little book, collecting some of my works on global justice (9). I was amazed, not least because the initiative came from Trade Union circles. But my hosts soon helped me understand better why such importance was given to the Basic Income project under conditions of civil war (a bomb exploded during a break, 200 m from where I was giving my talks) and breakdown of law and order (10), which would seem to impose quite different priorities. Behind Colombia’s violence, and mixed with many other factors, hides the ideological clash between what often seem to be the only real, coherent options around: the neo-liberal credo, to which all people in power seem to be resigned, and the millenarian socia­lism to which the guerrilla claims allegiance. In this context, it is regarded as no mean feat to be able to offer a vision of the future, local and global, which can be vindicated systematically as a radically distinct approach on the high ground of ethics and political philosophy, while inspiring specific policies of far more modest scope which can both weather technical economic objections and promise to improve the situation of some of the weakest. Significant steps towards a basic income may be further off the road in Colombia than in some other countries, because of the direct and indirect drain on resources caused by the civil war. But precisely because of this context the basic income project receives particular ideological importance as a meaningful alternative horizon, as a way of remaining loyal to the fundamental aims of the socialist tradition while making uninhibited but intelligent use of the market mechanism. In other contexts, the ideological need may be less pressing, but everywhere it gives the basic income project a potential role which goes far beyond the fixing of some shortcomings of conventional welfare states. In Santos or Sao Paulo no less than in Medellín or Cape Town, parties and organisations that conceive themselves as de­fen­ding the interests of all workers can and will understand that such a project must be made part of the vision that gives their struggles a meaning.

Moving forward. Montevideo’s carriage

In a park that surrounds Montevideo’s Centenary Stadium, there is a huge bronze statue representing a carriage badly stuck in the mud. The carriage is pulled by four powerful oxen, it is followed by a fifth one, and a gaucho escorts it on his horse. Melt in bronze, you could not help think, there is no way these poor oxen will ever get the carriage unstuck. But real carriages are not confined to bronze. The gaucho may have to jump off his horse and dirty his trousers to get on moving. The ox behind may need to be harnessed, and nearby walkers may need to be given a job, those with a smart brain or with a big mouth, others with a great heart or with a big ego, those with the breath of marathon runners or with the patience of a Benedictine monk. Getting the carriage to move forward will require some to push and others to pull, some to pinch and shout and even sing, while others fiddle around the wheels or tighten some screws, or pull ropes attached to the carriage, or even explore alternative tracks a long way ahead to help keep clear of treacherous mud or prohibitive slopes. So it is, in particular, with the carriage of Basic Income as a worldwide project. As a philosopher, I hold the (admittedly self-serving) conviction that this carriage is helped forward more than hampered by the sort of austere thinking incorporated in my Real Freedom for All (Oxford, 1995) and other like-minded writings, which attempt to build a rigorous ethical case for Basic Income, a sound intellectual foundation that cannot easily be dismissed by academics of any description and cannot easily be shaken even by the smar­test of arguers. But of course, forward movement is helped far more directly, powerfully and visibly in many other ways. It is helped, for example, by those who feed the public debate by putting together a bunch of thoughtful contributions on Basic Income, some more favourable, some more critical, as was done in recent years, for example, by Loek Groot and Robert J. van der Veen (11), by Angelika Krebs (12), Nina Kildal (13), Daniel Raventos (14), Josh Cohen and Joel Rogers (15), by Ruben Lo Vuolo (16), Andrew Reeve and Andrew Williams(17), Keith Dowding, Jurgen De Wispelaere and Stuart White (18), by Erik O. Wright (19) or by Guy Standing (20). In the context of such bundles, and indeed also in the context of events such as the congresses of the Basic Income European Network (BIEN), it is of crucial importance to listen and keep listening to sympathetic and intelligent but unambiguously critical voices. For the Basic Income movement, there is no surer recipe for degeneration into an irrelevant utopian clique than shutting oneself off from intellectual challenges.But to get the carriage of basic income to move, and to keep it moving, far more is needed than intellectual debate. It requires the tireless enthusiasm of campaigners, such as those who designed the lovely posters of South Africa’s Basic Income Grant campaign, who stuck them up, who organised human chains in the streets of Johannesburg, marched on public buildings and lobbied in hundreds of ways. It is helped by the countless small pressures, meetings, proposals, decisions that have led, for example, nearly all 5,581 Brazilian municipalities to introduce some form of guaranteed minimum income for families, however limited in level and scope. It is helped by bold statements by people who manage to fulfil important functions in a responsible way without losing either their vision or their guts. Thus, ILO Director, General Juan Somavia, concluded his welcome address at the opening session of BIEN’s Geneva Congress, on September 2002, by proclaiming: “And yes, the moment may be nearing when your ideas will become commonsense.”

Moving forward. Brasilia’s ceremony

More than by anything else, Basic Income as a worldwide project is helped by acts that go beyond sheer intentions. No doubt the most exhilarating and least expected moment I experienced as a Basic Income supporter was when less than two years after the Santos speech I was invited back to Brazil to take part, on the 8th January 2004, in a hardly credible ceremony. Overlooking the world-famous Praça dos Três Poderes designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the ceremonial room of the President’s Palácio do Planalto was gradually filling with journalists, photographers, TV crews, ministers and other political dignitaries. Facing the swelling audience stood four empty chairs. And behind them, a large wall covered by colourful smiling faces of people of all ages and races, alternating with an inscription in large letters: “RENDA BÁSICA – Cidadania para todos” (“Basic income. Citizenship for all”).Then an off voice announced the arrival of the President, and the crowd went quiet, as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his wife Marisa sat down. By their side were the Ministro da Casa Civil (Brazil’s de facto Prime Minister), José Dirceu, and Federal Senator Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy, author of the law proposal which the President was there to sign.Summoned by the off voice, I rose to the pulpit to indicate briefly what I saw as the world-wide significance of the event. Next was Senator Suplicy’s turn. Visibly moved, having retraced his long fight for the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income in Brazil, he eloquently recited a poem, restated the key advantages of a universal citizen’s income over means-tested schemes, thanked the various Workers’ Party heavyweights who had helped the proposal through the critical stages, and ended, in a way that did not exactly go unnoticed in the Brazilian press, by warmly hugging the President. After the signing cere­mony of the law, Lula paid homage to the determination of his old comrade, whom he described as the inexhaustible Don Quixote of minimum income, while warning that there was no magical solution to Brazil’s problems and that the new law would only be intro­duced gradually. Notwithstanding this presidential caution, this was definitely a “day of glory” for the very popular 62-year old Sao Paulo Senator. A first culmination in his fight had been the unanimous adoption of his minimum income proposal of 1991 by the federal Senate, never endorsed by the Chamber of Deputies. His more ambitious citizen’s income proposal of 2001 was, on the contrary, only approved with some amendments by the Senate in December 2002 and by the relevant commissions of the Chamber of Deputies in Sep­tember and November 2003. The President had until January 2004 to either veto or sanction it. He chose the latter.Does this mean that the carriage has reached destination in a most significant part of the world? Not at all. As initially formulated, the 2001 Suplicy proposal stipulates that, subject to it being endorsed by a national referendum in 2004, “an unconditional basic income, or citizenship income” will be introduced in 2005 for every Brazilian citizen or foreign resident for five years or more, that it will be of equal value for all, payable in monthly amounts and sufficient to cover “minimal expenses in food, housing, education and health care”, “bearing in mind the country’s level of development and budgetary possibilities”. However, two main amendments were made before unanimous approval by the Senate: the idea of a referendum was dropped, on the ground that, anyway, everyone would be in favour, and a new article was added, stipulating that the basic citizenship income “will be realized in steps, at the discretion of the Executive, giving priority to the neediest layers of the population”. It is with these two amendments that Suplicy’s proposal was signed by Lula. From the second amendment it follows, no doubt, that Brazil is bound to remain stuck for quite a while with a means-tested system. But this does not make the law meaningless. Firstly, the existence of the law eases progress towards a stronger integration of existing assistance schemes with one another, and towards a stronger integration of the social assistance system with both the social insurance system and the income tax system, as Brazil’s federal government is henceforth legally entitled to take any number of further steps, in a financially responsible way, towards a full universal basic income.Secondly, the long-term perspective firmly asserted in the new law should help face the powerful objections that will no doubt arise soon, as the federally funded means-tested system keeps getting more comprehensive and less stingy, and as individual and collective beneficiaries strategically adjust to its getting established. When over 50% of the active population works entirely in the informal sector, the income test needs to rely essentially on declarations of income earned by the beneficiaries. As the officials in charge of the existing income-tested Bolsa Família system are well aware, there is no realistic way of seriously checking whether the declarations are correct. This generates a dilemma. Either one needs to be ready for major problems of arbitrariness in or resentment about local decisions of inclusion and exclusion, in particular of a clientelistic kind. Or one needs to devise more observable alternative proxies of income poverty, such as the number of light bulbs, the quality of the material used for the house or how well fed the children look, at the expense of discouraging systematically a diligent use of the modest resources poor households have. A genuine citizen’s income would get rid of theses problems in one swoop, while extending support to low-paid formal sector workers. Of course, progress towards a full-fledged basic income must be gradual – for example through turning the existing means-tested Bolsa Família and the existing income tax exemption for dependent children into a universal child benefit system that would also benefit the working families that are neither poor enough to be entitled to welfare payments (about EUR 50 per capita per month) nor rich enough to pay tax (about EUR 400 per month). Nonetheless, the objective unambi­guously stated in the law offers the promise of tackling effectively the criticisms the existing means-tested schemes are bound to trigger without feeling compelled to roll them back.For these reasons, the signing of Senator Suplicy’s law proposal was an important, indeed incredible, moment in the history of Basic Income. We are no longer talking about Joseph Charlier or John Stuart Mill phrasing their interpretation of the Fourierist blueprint in the 1840s, nor even about the lone economists (and future Nobel laureates) Jan Tin­bergen and James Meade trying in vain to convince their respective labour parties of the soundness of an unconditional Basic Income in the 1930’s. We are now talking about real laws. However, the path, the many paths are still long, often uphill, and the carriage is quite heavy. No time to waste. Let us press on.

Notes 1. This is a significantly edited and updated version of an address delivered at the closing plenary session of the 9th Congress of the Basic Income European Network (ILO, Geneva, September 2002). 2. Cf. website: 3. Cf. Myron Frankman: “Beyond the Tobin Tax: Global Democracy and a Global Currency”, in: The Annals, no. 581, 2002, pp. 62-73. 4. Cf. Joseph Huber: Vollgeld. Beschäftigung, Grundsicherung und weniger Staatsquote durch eine modernisierte Geldordnung. Berlin: Duncker & Humboldt, 1998. 5. Cf. the informative analysis in: Case, Anne/Deaton, Angus: “Large cash transfers to the elderly in South Africa”, in: The Economic Journal. no. 108, 1998, pp. 1330-61. 6. Cf. Case, Anne: “Health, Income, and Economic Development”, Princeton University, Department of Economics, May 2001. 7. See above note 1. 8. Suplicy, Eduardo Matarazzo: Renda de Cidadania: A saida é pela porta. Sao Paulo: Cortez Editora, 2002. 9. Van Parijs, Philippe: Hacia una concepción de la justicia social global (ed. by Jorge Giraldo Ramírez). Medellín: Fundación Confiar, 2002. 10. With an average of 12 murders a day last year, Medellín credibly claims to be the most dangerous city in the world. 11. Income on the Agenda, Amsterdam, 2000. 12. „Basic Income?“, in: Analyse & Kritik (special issue), Düsseldorf, 2000.13. Den nya sociala fragan. Göteborg, 2001. 14. La Renta Básica. Barcelona, 2001. 15. What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch? Boston, 2001. 16. La Renta Básica en la agenda política. Buenos Aires, 2002. 17. Real Libertarianism Assessed. Basingstoke, 2003. 18. The Ethics of Stakeholding. Basingstoke, 2003. 19. “Redesigning Distribution: Basic Income and Stakeholder Grants as Cornerstones of a More Egalitarian Capitalism”, in: Politics & Society (ed. by Erik O. Wright; special issue), March 2004. 20. Promoting Income Security as a Right: Europe and North America. London, 2004.

Mike Huckabee on the FairTax:

I’d like you to join me at the best “Going Out of Business” sale I can imagine – one held by the Internal Revenue Service. Am I running for president to shut down the federal government? Not exactly. But I am running to completely eliminate all federal income and payroll taxes. And do I mean all – personal federal, corporate federal, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, self-employment. All our hours filling out forms, all our payments for help with those forms, all our shopping bags filled with disorganized receipts, all our headaches and heartburn from tax stress will vanish. Instead we will have the FairTax, a simple tax based on wealth. When the FairTax becomes law, it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness.

The FairTax will replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax, like the taxes on retail sales forty-five states and the District of Columbia have now. All of us will get a monthly rebate that will reimburse us for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line, so that we’re not taxed on necessities. That means people below the poverty line won’t be taxed at all. We’ll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn. We won’t be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.

Our current progressive tax system penalizes us for working harder and becoming more successful. As we climb the ladder, the government lurks on each rung, hungry for a bigger bite out of our earnings. The FairTax is also progressive, but it doesn’t punish the American dream of success, or the old-fashioned virtues of hard work and thrift, it rewards and encourages them. The FairTax isn’t intended to raise any more or less money for the federal government to spend – it is revenue neutral.

Expert analyses have shown that the FairTax lowers the lifetime tax burden of all of us: single or married; working or retired; rich, poor or middle class.

Under the FairTax, as our disposable incomes rise, so will consumption and our gross domestic product. Under the FairTax, we’ll all be treated the same: no more tax avoidance by those who can afford the most creative – and most expensive – lawyers and accountants. No more clever loopholes for the few at the expense of the many. No more lobbyists buying tax breaks for their clients from Congress. No more lying and cheating on taxes and no more untaxed underground economy.

The FairTax will instantly make American products 12 to 25% more competitive because the cost of those goods will no longer be inflated by corporate taxes, costs of tax compliance, and Social Security matching payments. When we buy products now, those taxes are built into the cost, so all of us pay corporate taxes indirectly on top of the personal taxes we pay directly. Compliance costs are just make-work with no real added value, yet they consume as much as 3% of our gross domestic product annually. These costs are an especially heavy burden on small businesses, which generate most of our jobs.

If you buy a bottle of domestic wine, you’re paying the taxes/compliance/matching payments of all the folks who produced the grapes, the wine, the bottle, the cork, the label. If you buy a bottle of French wine, the producers had their Value Added Tax rebated to them when the wine was exported. So French consumers pay those taxes, but you don’t. Our current tax system puts our goods at a disadvantage both here and overseas. Other governments give their goods an advantage on the world market, an advantage estimated at 18% compared to American goods.

So no matter how hard Americans work, no matter how innovative and creative we are, no matter how superior our products are, we suffer from a built-in competitive disadvantage simply because of our tax system. A recent study by MIT found that our tax system deprives us of about $1 billion in exports annually. When you export over-priced goods as we have, you inevitably end up exporting jobs and industries as we now are. We are the square peg trying to fit into the round hole of international trade. The rest of the world isn’t going to change, it’s time that we do.

Under the FairTax, American companies are far less likely to move overseas and foreign companies are far more likely to come here, hiring Americans to build and work in their new plants. The FairTax encourages growth by promoting investment and capital formation.

We have to scrap a 20th century tax system that is holding us back and keeping us down in the 21st century. The FairTax is the path to greater prosperity and job security for us and for our children.

As Governor of Arkansas, I pushed through the Arkansas Legislature the first major, broad-based tax cuts in state history – a $90 million tax relief package for Arkansas families. I also doubled the standard deduction to $2,000 for single taxpayers and $4,000 for those who are married. Some taxes I eliminated entirely: the marriage penalty, bracket creep caused by inflation, income tax on poor families, and capital gains on home sales. To encourage investment, I cut capital gains for both individuals and businesses. To help people better themselves, I provided tax credits for employee training and education. In total, I cut taxes and fees nearly 100 times during my ten-and-a-half years as Governor, saving the people of Arkansas almost $380 million.

When I left office in early 2007, Arkansas had nearly $850 million in state surplus, which I urged should go back to the people in the form of either a tax rebate or tax cut.

I believe that our massive deficit is not due to Americans’ being under-taxed, but due to the federal government’s over-spending. Achieving and maintaining a balanced federal budget is an important and worthy goal necessary to our long-term economic well-being. To achieve a balanced federal budget, I believe the President should have the line-item veto.

I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families and real lives and real pain. I’m running for President because I don’t want people who have worked loyally for a company for twenty or thirty years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, “I’m sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here.”

I believe that globalization, done right, done fairly, can be a blessing for our society. As the Industrial Revolution raised living standards by allowing ordinary people to buy mass-produced goods that previously only the rich could afford, so globalization gives all of us the equivalent of a big pay raise by letting us buy all kinds of things from clothing to computers to TVs much more inexpensively.


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