The Secretary-General of the United Nations endorses UBI on 25th September 2018.António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, urged world leaders to consider Unconditional Basic Income in his speech at the General Assembly of the UN. After drawing the audience’s attention to the consequences of current technological innovation for the labour market, Guterres said: The very nature of work will change. The governments may have to consider stronger social safety nets, and eventually Universal Basic Income.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published a report suggesting that basic income would be better than their welfare system at supporting low income households in India. Similar evidence has been found for both Indonesia and Peru, where basic income was found to be beneficial compared to current welfare systems.
extracts from a more critical piece
[[[Both of these pilot projects made a fundamental mistake – they targeted poor people. The projects were designed to show the benefits of a basic income over the traditional welfare system. They were not designed to show the benefits of a basic income for a wider part of society such as students, taxpayers or elderly people. By restricting the projects to people on or near welfare levels, the projects positioned themselves as yet another welfare program for the poor. As in most countries, the hard working, tax paying middle class has limited patience for welfare recipients. This is partially due to both constricting disposable income and human nature. We have seen country after country downsize their social welfare programs in an attempt to balance budgets, gain votes or free up cash for other programs such as tax cuts. Almost no country in the past thirty years has increased the size of their welfare programs. This should be a (big) hint to basic income advocates.]]]
[[[For example, affordable housing levels in most western countries has decreased as an overall percentage of the housing market. This is due to affordable housing advocates taking the same approach as many basic income advocates – namely that affordable housing is there to alleviate the stress of expensive housing and that the affordable housing should mostly benefit the less fortunate. By casting their lot in with the poor, they are severely limiting the base of their political support.
Contrast that with Vienna, Austria. In Vienna, about 50 percent of the housing stock is owned, managed and maintained by the City. Basically, 50 percent of the housing stock is a public good, not a private good. Rents are remarkably affordable for a world class city and this brings dynamism and diversity to all the neighbourhoods. However, the main reason this was possible was because both the middle class and lower economic classes have a vested interest in the success of this public housing. This much larger political base assures that affordable housing projects continue. Basic income needs to take the same approach and stop advocating for basic income pilot projects as welfare replacements or as a poverty alleviation tool. It may indeed be that, but that is not the best way to advocate for basic income.]]]
Contrast the controversy around pilot programs with the Alaskan Dividend Fund, which was instituted in 1976. The fund remains tremendously popular and has little risk of disappearing. Why? Because everyone gets it! No pilot project was done prior to the institution of the Alaskan dividend fund and no negative effects have emerged post-implementation. If there is one path forward for basic income, it is through the implementation of a lower level of basic income, but that goes to everyone – especially hard-working taxpayers who vote.
The Left strikes back
Benoît Hamon, a former representative of the Socialist Party in France, and who ran for the French presidency in 2017 on ideas like legalizing cannabis, euthanasia, protecting “common goods” (water, air, biodiversity) in the Constitution and basic income. He lost that first run at the presidency, but is still politically active through the recently formed party named Génération.s.
In a recent short video (posted on Facebook) he criticizes elected President Emmanuel Macron, calling him cynical for not being coherent and truthful on the basic income topic. President Macron had shown openness to basic income in the past, but now, according to Hamon, has failed to follow up on his former interest by not abandoning the Revenue de Solidarité Active (RSA), a means-tested, behaviour dependent benefits program now existent in France. Hamon supports that this cynicism derives from the fact that Macron is using the basic income concept to talk about “the fight against poverty” in France, while keeping up the RSA program on the background. He adds that “it is not honest” to put this level of conditions and obligations on 9 million poor people in the country, while asking for nothing to millionaires.
Note: In Australia we used to have the equivalent to France’s RSA it was call Special Benefit it was paid at the unemployment benefit rate when people had applied for another social security benefit or pension and had been found to have not met all the requirements eg length of residency, lack of previous work history etc.
Annie Lowrey: New book “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.
Give People Money distinguishes itself from other works on the topic through its commitment to personal narrative and Lowrey’s own experience with the people who stand to benefit from basic income proposals. Although she examines the ethical and economic justifications of UBI, her primary focus lies in the human story and the way she came to view UBI as an ethos of transformative social change. Give People Money ultimately advocates for UBI not by advancing specific policy initiatives, but by presenting basic income as an impetus to radically reconsider what humans owe one another and how the earth’s bounty ought to be shared.
Copyright © 2020 John Tomlinson