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Response to RainDog (Reply #6)

Wed Oct 23, 2013, 11:39 PM

7. Interview with Philippe Van Parijs


The Need for Basic Income: An Interview with Philippe Van Parijs

Basic income is a particular form of guaranteed minimum income a scheme which gives all people access to some income irrespective of their current work performance or their past work performance. A guaranteed minimum income in this sense is something which has existed in several European countries for a number of years, but basic income differs from the existing guaranteed minimum income along three dimensions: first, basic income is strictly individual, given to all people on an individual basis irrespective of their household situation; second, it is given to all irrespective of income from other sources (labour income or capital income); third, basic income is not subject to whether people are willing to work. It is not restricted to the involuntarily unemployed, but it would be paid to people who choose to not to engage in paid work (for example, housewives, househusbands, students, and tramps).

The main economic effect would be on the labour market. Its an essential part of the proposal that it would make a number of jobs possible for example part-time jobs which are currently not viable because the net income from undertaking them is less than people currently get from benefits. However, because basic income would not initially be at a level that would altogether replace means-tested benefits, the possibilities of these low-paid jobs would still be restricted by the existence of those benefits. Nevertheless, a number of paid occupations that are presently unviable would become possible. What is very important and something substantial in the proposal is the differential effect on pay levels. It does not follow from what I have just said that there will be a massive or significant decrease in the pay for the jobs that are currently being done. It is essential to understand that the impact on pay levels will not be unambiguously to lower pay. For one should bear in mind that basic income is given unconditionally, so that it wont work simply as an employment subsidy to lower labour for the employer. It can be used that way by the beneficiaries of basic income, who are enabled to accept jobs which pay less than those that are currently available; but they will do so only on condition that these jobs are sufficiently attractive to them, compared to the alternatives on offer. They may be more attractive because of some intrinsic feature, or because of the training they provide. For other jobs that are unattractive and provide little training, the long-term impact will be to raise the amount of money that employers need to pay.

This is an idea that would drastically decrease the cost of govt, btw, which is why it has had some support among libertarians in the past... or so I have heard said. Hard for me to reconcile that with the current Republican iteration, tho.

The argument that people would not work seems to be disputed, thus far, in the Manitoba experiment. The result, so far, was a reduction from 40 to 38 hours a week, and those who opted out were mothers who stayed home with their children and teenagers who had been working to help out their families. They were able to put their focus back on school.


1970s' Manitoba poverty experiment called a success

Evelyn Forget, professor of community health science at the University of Manitoba- spent three years comparing the administrative health care records of Dauphin's citizens between 1974 and 1978 with those of a control group of people living in similar Manitoba communities at that time.

She said her research suggests that people appear to live healthier lives when they don't have to worry about poverty. "Hospitalizations for mental health issues were down significantly," she said, adding that teenagers stayed in school longer as a result of the initiative.

The initiative, which started in 1974, was terminated in 1978 as political support for the experiment faded.

Martin Luther King talked about this concept, as well.


One of the more under-appreciated aspects of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy is that by the end of his career, he had fashioned himself into a crusader against poverty, not just among blacks, but all Americans. In the weeks leading to his assassination, the civil rights leader had been hard at work organizing a new march on Washington known as the "Poor People's Campaign." The goal was to erect a tent city on the National Mall, that, as Mark Engler described it for The Nation in 2010, would "dramatize the reality of joblessness and deprivation by bringing those excluded from the economy to the doorstep of the nation's leaders." He was killed before he could see the effort through.

So what, exactly, was King's economic dream? In short, he wanted the government to eradicate poverty by providing every American a guaranteed, middle-class income -- an idea that, while light-years beyond the realm of mainstream political conversation today, had actually come into vogue by the late 1960s.

To be crystal clear, a guaranteed income -- or a universal basic income, as it's sometimes called today -- is not the same as a higher minimum wage. Instead, it's a policy designed to make sure each American has a certain concrete sum of money to spend each year. One modern version of the policy would give every adult a tax credit that would essentially become a cash payment for families that don't pay much tax. Conservative thinker Charles Murray has advocated replacing the whole welfare state by handing every grown American a full $10,000.

King had an even more expansive vision. He laid out the case for the guaranteed income in his final book, 1967's Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Washington's previous efforts to fight poverty, he concluded, had been "piecemeal and pygmy." The government's believed it could lift up the poor by attacking the root causes of their impoverishment one by one -- by providing better housing, better education, and better support for families. But these efforts had been too small and too disorganized. Moreover, he wrote, "the programs of the past all have another common failing -- they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else."

People do all kinds of work that isn't compensated anyway, because they have the time or the skill.

Imagine if our society encouraged people to put their best skills to work to better their communities as the goal.

Here's some of the good doctor for the Cruzader -

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! ~Dr. Seuss

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