Basic Income is a form of redistribution of wealth along egalitarian principles. The concept, though older, was outlined in the 18th century in the philosophy of Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of America, who believed that Inheritance Tax should be used to fund a more equal distribution of the planets resources to eradicate poverty.
The intention is to accord dignity to all citizens of the planet. By virtue of birth – the idea holds – each human deserves access to a natural inheritance of the plenty of the earth.
”…It would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse.” ~ Thomas More (Utopia) 16th century.
“All these things God created, He put them in our large home, the world, without surrounding them with walls and gates, so that they would be common to all His children.” ~ Johannes Ludovicus Vives (1492-1540)
In modern times the idea of Basic Income is to avoid poverty traps which constitute disincentives to work. In order to accommodate one’s mind to the idea we have to analyse what we understand by such concepts as work, value, money, human dignity. Money is presently seen as a measure of value, but fiat based currency which determines the portion each human is entitled to has no value in itself. It is a meaningless construct but it creates huge suffering. The valves on the energy supply line are arbitrarily kept squeezed.
We have to take into account that much work is done on the planet that is not considered to be worthy of payment or value, such as caring for the young, the sick and the elderly, or the creation of art. This is arbitrary and unjust. Most inhabitants of the planet have been deprived from birth from access to the means to generate wealth by virtue of the land and resources being tied up in the hands of a very few, which generates lifetimes of low-paid subsistence living and poverty for billions.
Basic Income should be considered a global proposal, not simply for modern, first world societies, but also made available for people who live in impoverished lands that have been pillaged of their wealth over millennia.
Famous proponents from bygone times of Basic Income include John Stewart Mills and Bertrand Russell.
Studies have repeatedly shown that where Basic Income is introduced work effort does not decrease in the population. People will naturally continue to work as the vast majority are inclined towards some activity in their day, but people will now also have the opportunity to find meaning in their work. The stigma of social welfare is removed from populations and this dignity allows a breathing space for self-determination to evolve.
Namibia Experiment ~
The village of Otjivero-Omitara was chosen for the pilot program because it was a typical Namibian village, beset by poverty, AIDS, alcoholism, and crime. The results after one year of implementation have been remarkable. Before the pilot program, 42 percent of children in the village were malnourished. Now the proportion of malnourished children has dropped significantly, to 10 percent.
The village school reported higher attendance rates and that the children were better fed and more attentive. Police statistics showed a 36.5 percent drop in crime since the introduction of the grants. Poverty rates declined from 86 percent to 68 percent (97 percent to 43 percent when controlled for migration). Unemployment dropped as well, from 60 percent to 45 percent, and there was a 29 percent increase in average earned income, excluding the basic income grant. These results indicate that basic income grants can not only alleviate poverty in purely economic terms, but may also jolt the poor out of the poverty cycle, helping them find work, start their own businesses, and attend school.
Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada Experiment ~
(It was )found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren’t under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating. In addition, those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did. Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.
Madhya Pradesh, India Experiment ~
First, it had strong welfare, or “capability”, effects. There were improvements in child nutrition, child and adult health, schooling attendance and performance, sanitation, economic activity and earned incomes, and the socio-economic status of women, the elderly and the disabled.
Second, it had strong equity effects. It resulted in bigger improvements for scheduled caste and tribal households, and for all vulnerable groups, notably those with disabilities and frailties.
Third, it had growth effects. Contrary to what sceptics predicted (including Sonia Gandhi), the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work.
There was a big increase in secondary economic activities, as well as a shift from casual wage labour to own-account farming and small-scale business.
Fourth, it had emancipatory effects. These are unappreciated by orthodox development thinkers. The poor’s liberty has no value. But the basic income resulted in some families buying themselves out of debt bondage, others paying down exorbitant debts incurring horrendous interest rates. For many, it provided liquidity with which to respond to shocks and hazards.
Basic Income means that people who work in the home as carers for the disabled would not have to beg for support from society. It means that people suffering health issues including mental health crises would not have to suffer indignity or shame. It means that people who volunteer in their communities or who create art would have the freedom to contribute to society in the manner that best suits their personality. It means that people who wish to have more wealth have the right to accumulate it, but not at the cost of leaving their fellow beings behind on the scrap heap.
Basic Income can be financed (for example) from the savings made in administrating present social welfare and tax incentive schemes, and a general reduction of needless bureaucracy and fraud management. Inheritance and super-wealth tax or continent wide VAT schemes are other possibilities. The social ownership of natural resources is another possibility (see for example Norway’s management of its oil industry which benefits all citizens and not just the wealthy investors). A proven reduction in public expenditure due to less crime and less ill-health can help fund Basic Income.
“In Europe and the US, democracy is being dismantled. People are deprived of their rights. There is a growing oligarchy. An unconditional basic income gives democracy a fresh breeze, refreshes human rights and empowers people. In the wage-depending [economy], a residual of the mentality of slavery lives on. I sell my lifetime for a certain time; in return, I have free time. That has nothing to do with work and the meaning of work but with disciplining and power over others.” ~ Eric Schmidt, Swiss Basic Income advocate.
Increasing mechanisation of work whereby humans are more redundant and increasing unemployment in traditional areas into the future make Basic Income an important consideration for the future.