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Basic income

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A basic income is a proposed system of social security, that periodically provides each citizen with a sum of money that is sufficient to live on. Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it.

A basic income is often proposed in the form of a citizen's dividend (a transfer) or a negative income tax (a guarantee). A basic income less than the social minimum is referred to as a partial basic income. A worldwide basic income, typically including income redistribution between nations, is known as a global basic income.

The proposal is a specific form of guaranteed minimum income, which is normally conditional and subject to a means test.


The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) describes one of the benefits of a basic income as having a lower overall cost than that of the current means-tested social welfare benefits.[1] However critics have pointed out the potential work disincentives created by such a program, and have cast doubts over its implementability.[2]

Examples of implementation

The U.S. State of Alaska has a system which provides each citizen with a share of the state's oil revenues.[3] The USA also have the Earned income tax credit for low-income taxpayers. In 2006 a bill, written by members of the advocacy organization USBIG, to transform the credit into a partial basic income, was introduced in the US congress, but did not get passed.[4]

In 2008, a pilot project with a basic income grant was started in the Namibian village of Otjivero.[5] The city of Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada had an experimental basic income program ("Mincome") in the 1970s.[6]

In Belgium, winners of the game Win for Life of the national lottery are awarded with a monthly basic income of EUR 1,000.[7] Winners of a similar lottery in Virginia receive USD 1,000 on a weekly basis.[8]

Methods of implementation

One proposed method of offsetting the cost to the Treasury of this tax expenditure lies in its coupling with a flat tax, a type of federal income tax in which all taxpayers are subject to a single tax rate. The current model of progressive income taxes used throughout the western world could be eliminated, but the system would still be progressive, since those at the lower end of the wage scale would pay less in taxes than they would receive in guaranteed income.


Many countries have political parties that advocate a basic income, such as the Green Party of Canada, Green Party of England and Wales, Vivant (Belgium), De Groenen (The Netherlands), the Scottish Green Party, and the New Zealand Democratic Party.

Worldwide, supporters of a basic income have united in the Basic Income Earth Network. BIEN recognizes numerous national advocacy groups.

The world's most noted advocate of a basic income system may be the Belgian economist Philippe van Parijs.[9] Other advocates include Gunnar Adler-Karlsson (Sweden), Dieter Althaus (Germany)[10], Saar Boerlage (Netherlands)[11], Herwig Büchele (Austria), Andre Gorz (France)[12], Charles Murray (USA), Keith Rankin (New Zealand)[13], Daniel Raventós (Spain), Osmo Soininvaara (Finland))[14], Eduardo Suplicy (Brazil)[15], Walter van Trier (Belgium)[16] and Götz W. Werner (Germany).

In 1968, James Tobin, Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth Galbraith and another 1,200 economists signed a document calling for the US Congress to introduce in that year a system of income guarantees and supplements. In the 1972 presidential campaign, Senator George McGovern called for a 'demogrant' that was very similar to a basic income. Mike Gravel, a former candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination for President of the United States and a candidate for the 2008 Libertarian nomination for the President of the United States, advocates for a tax rebate paid in a monthly check from the government to all citizens.[17]

Winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics that fully support a basic income include Herbert Simon[18], Friedrich Hayek, James Meade, Robert Solow, and Milton Friedman[19].

In his final book Full employment regained? James Meade states that a return to full employment can only be achieved if, among other things, workers offer their services at a low enough price, that the required wage for unskilled labour would be too low to generate a socially desirable distribution of income, and that therefore a citizen's income would be necessary.[20]

In his Robotic Nation essays, Marshall Brain argues that the growing amount of automation in the workplace will eventually displace a large percentage of workers, and that in order to be able to maintain the economy, an annual stipend will be needed.[21] A similar argument was made by Jeremy Rifkin, in his book The End of Work.[22]

In October 2011, the International Labour Organization, in cooperation with the United Nations, published a report advocating for a basic income security sufficient to live, guaranteed through transfers in cash or in kind.[23]


Many different sources of funding have been suggested for a guaranteed minimum income:

See also


  1. BIEN: frequently asked questions
  2. [1] Interview with Philippe van Parijs
  3. See Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend; the fund's revenues are no longer only from oil.
  4. [2] Al Sheahen, "The Rise and Fall of a Basic Income Guarantee Bill in the United States Congress", The US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG), 2008
  5. [3] BIEN, "NewsFlash of the Basic Income Earth Network", nr. 49, 2008; [4] BIG Coalition Namibia
  6. Story of Manitoba
  7. [5] "Winnaars 'Win for Life' geven meer uit", Het Volk, September 18, 2004 (Winners of 'Win for Life' spend more)
  8. [6] Rules of the Virginia 'Win for Life' lottery.
  9. Philippe van Parijs (ed.), "Arguing for Basic Income: Ethical Foundations for a Radical Reform", London: Verso, 1992
  10. "Das Bürgergeld bringt einen Systemwechsel" (Citizen's Income brings a system change), interview, Kölner Stadtanzeiger, 29 March 2007
  11. Saar Boerlage: "Het basisinkomen stimuleert op een positieve manier de inzet van het individu in de samenleving" (Basic income stimulates in a positive way the input of the individual into the society), interview, Vereniging Basisinkomen: Nieuwsbrief Basisinkomen 48, 2007
  12. [7] Andre Gorz, "Critique of Economic Reason", in: Peter Waterman, Ronaldo Munck, "Labour Worldwide in the Era of Globalisation: Alternative Union Models in the New World Order", Macmillan, London, 1999
  13. [8] Keith Rankin, "Universal Basic Income: its Core and Essence", New Zealand, 1998
  14. Osmo Soininvaara, "Hyvinvointivaltion eloonjäämisoppi" (A survival doctrine for the welfare state), Juva, WSOY, 1994, 298 p, ISBN: 951-0-20100-6
  15. [9] Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy, "Citizen’s Basic Income: The Answer is Blowing in Wind", USBIG 5th Congress, 2006
  16. Walter van Trier, "Everyone a King. An Investigation into the Meaning and Significance of the Debate on Basic Incomes with Special Reference to Three Episodes from the British Inter-War Experience", Katholieke Universiteit Leuven: Fakulteit politieke en sociale wetenschappen, PhD thesis, 1995
  17. [10] Gravel presidential campaign 2008: "How Mark stands on the issues".
  18. Herbert A. Simon, "UBI and the Flat Tax. A response to 'A Basic Income for All' by Philippe van Parijs", Boston Review, 2000
  19. Milton Friedman, "Capitalism and Freedom", University of Chicago Press, 1962
  20. James Edward Meade, "Full Employment Regained?", Cambridge University Press, 1995, ISBN 052155697X
  21. [11] Marshall Brain, "Robotic Freedom", 2003
  22. Jeremy Rifkin, "The End of Work - The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era", Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 1995
  23. International Labour Organization (2011), "Social protection floor for a fair and inclusive globalization", Report of the Advisory Group chaired by Michelle Bachelet, Convened by the ILO with the collaboration of the WHO, 20111101

External links