Universal Basic Income

Ask yourself this: what kind of world will we live in when robots and computers can do the vast majority of the labor? What will happen to the hordes of unemployed? Will the 1% simply use all the tools of violence under their control to subdue populations to live like vermin? Or will we wake up and realize that the current economic model based on markets and usury is unsustainable and will, by necessity, have to be replaced with something that actually works for everyone?

One such concept finding increasing acceptance within academic and political circles as a result of pilot studies that show the benefits is the Universal and unconditional basic income: a monetary allowance that every human being would receive just because they were born.

Its proponents support it from several directions: UBI would eliminate poverty and it would create a more equitable society for all; but more importantly it would lead the population to embrace and welcome technological advances in order to free up human beings to do what they really want to do. In a world with a UBI, human beings could be assured of a dignified life while also able to look after their loved ones; while being able to continue their education and training to do more exciting and better remunerated work; while being able to dedicate themselves to their art and creativity; while being able to dedicate their time to voluntary work with no other purpose than to help other people and the community they live in. Women would be free to escape from violent and exploitative relationships; and interestingly UBI would free up time so that every human being could truly develop their spiritual aspect and ask themselves the profound questions: “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”

But in order to make a UBI a reality, we will have to overturn a whole host of misconceptions about the meaning and value of paid work and our roles in society…

Ping Xu proposes a worldwide movement for a basic income

Ping Xu is the founder of UBI Taiwan. From concert pianist in the USA to translator for immigrants, passing through living on the street, Xu explains to us in this interview for the documentary “

Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla
RBUI, our right to live” the proposal of a worldwide movement that defends a basic income.

She has lived for the past 17 years in the United States. Working as a translator on medical and legal issues for immigrants has allowed her to understand that the system is not based on helping people and that everything is based on mistrust, including the so-called “welfare state” and the assumption that people are going to cheat and are lazy. So, she understands that a basic income is the only thing that can satisfy human needs.

She is dedicated to trying to demonstrate to the Taiwanese government that a basic income is possible and affordable for the entire population and denounces the inhumane conditions of employment experienced by Asians. She proposes to generate a global movement for the defence of a basic income, starting in Asia, where the worst working conditions are experienced, according to Xu.

Ping Xu, who arrived and lived well as a concert pianist in the United States, ended up living on the streets after her husband suffered a serious illness, before working in the immigration field. Her own experience allow her to understand that the problems we face are global and therefore the answer has to be global: the creation of a worldwide movement for basic income, so that it can be truly universal, something she sees as feasible to achieve thanks to technological advances.

Rena Masuyana sees basic income as a means to ensure love and education for children

Rena Masuyana sees basic income as a means to ensure love and education for children

The Japanese filmmaker, Rena Masuyana, directed the film “Basic Income First Year” with the aim of popularizing and making the idea of a basic income understandable.

In this interview for the documentary “UBI, our right to live” by director Álvaro Orús, Masuyana explains the advances that have taken place in recent months with regard to raising awarenss of this idea both in Japan and around the world.

Rena dreams that all children will be able to live in peace and have love and education. Something that she sees as possible if parents can have time to devote to their children.

Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

Philippe van Parijs, ‘The biggest objection to a basic income is moral’

Here, we publish the complete interview with the philosopher and economist, Philippe van Parijs, for the documentary UBI our right to live by director Álvaro Orús. This documentary has been supported by Humanistas por la Renta Básica Universal and our agency, Pressenza.

According to van Parijs, the biggest objection to the RBUI is not economic, but moral, and comes from both the right and the left. “We need a strong moral argument that supports the need for a UBI… The value behind basic income is therefore justice, not charity or solidarity.”

Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

Here is a summary of the interview. The possibility of society granting an income to people who make no effort to receive it is considered morally reprehensible by large sections of both the right and the left. But if we look at the UBI in a little more detail, we can see that it corresponds to a third generation of social subsidies: the first one appeared in certain Flemish and German cities during the 17th century and was exclusively an assistance for the poor; the second one was set up by Bismarck in Germany and had the character of solidarity among workers; and the third generation of social income, to which the UBI belongs, considers these as a dividend for the social wealth accumulated over generations and which, therefore, should be distributed to the whole of society. The value behind UBI is therefore justice, not charity or solidarity.

As for the economic viability of the UBI, at a national level, this is only possible if the tax system is reformed and made more progressive, with more taxes paid by those who earn more income and the abolition of all tax exemptions enjoyed by corporations. And at a European level, the way to finance it would be through VAT, but this tax would have to be standardised throughout the European Union, because trying to harmonise income tax on natural persons is practically impossible due to the enormous differences between countries. But other forms of financing for UBI should not be excluded, such as taxing the profits of large corporations (whose tax rates are still much lower than those of VAT, for example), or financial transactions, or carbon emissions, although these complementary forms of financing, as things stand now, would contribute little money compared to VAT or personal income tax.

The UBI is now supported by both the left and the right, which causes other people on both sides to take a stand against it, only because the idea is defended by its “enemies”. However, its ability to build consensus in all sectors of society, as was the case with social security (which was supported by employers, who saw it as a way to make their workers perform better and better), makes UBI a valid idea for the 21st century. UBI gives freedom to those who receive it, because it allows them to choose jobs and ways of occupying their time, without anyone telling them what to do; that is why the liberals can support it, since the interference of the state is less, and also left-wing progressives can support it, because it gives opportunities to everyone to choose, not just the rich.

“I came to this idea of the UBI at the beginning of the 1980s -says van Parijs- when unemployment began to become massive and it was intended to be combated through the incessant increase in production, an ecologically unsustainable proposal, or with the old recipe of state ownership of the means of production, which, in real socialism, ended freedom and did not achieve the end of inequality. The UBI offered an alternative to neoliberalism and state socialism, because it allowed people to free themselves from both market subjection and state submission, it was environmentally friendly and very radical and inspiring, it promised a utopia for the future that people were passionate about”.

Cosima Kern: Religion and the belief system are the main challenges of implementing Basic Income in Germany

Cosima Kern is Vice-chair of Germany’s Basic Income Alliance “Bündnis Grundeinkommen”, founded in 2016. The party’s aim is to get established political parties talking about the Basic Income. “We are seeing that many people are interested in Basic Income, more than half of the German population are in favour, but politicians don’t like to address the topic at all which we think is quite wrong because they are the representatives of the state,” commented Cosima in the interview granted for the documentary UBI, Our right to live.

Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

As a political party, BGE don’t support one model specifically, but have the goal to show society and politicians that it is affordable in Germany as, according to her, there is a lot of spending on the current welfare system. “What we think is the valid way to implement Basic Income is to first talk about whether the majority of the people and politicians want it, and then decide which model is the best for Germany to implement.”

For Cosima, the main challenge is people’s belief system because as we grow up we are taught that we have to work to get money. And especially in Germany, because of the protestant religion and its principle that you are only allowed to eat if you work. “It’s going to take some time and space and thinking to figure it out and shift to understanding the idea,” she believes.

In the interview, Cosima points out the combination of things that inspire her with Basic Income: it could actually be a tool to eradicate poverty one day, hopefully worldwide; the fact that it could solve challenges of the future regarding automatization, digitalization and robots taking over jobs; and also the health, psychological and emotional reasons, because if you secure every person’s life and give them money for food, water and shelter, then all of us would evolve positively in dramatic ways and fulfill our potentials.

Scott Santens, activist and example of how to live on a basic income

Activist Scott Santens is American and lives in New Orleans. Through a crowfunding campaign he lives from his own basic income.

Vídeo: Álvaro Orús and Mayte Quintanilla

“I’m dedicating my life to making this idea really come to light,” Scott Santens tells us in this complete interview that served as the basis for the documentary UBI, our right to live. “Since January 2016, I’ve been living with the basic income of a thousand dollars a month, so this is what really helps me to understand it from a personal perspective, not just something I’m talking about and saying, ‘I think it’s a good idea’, because of my various researches I understand that it’s a good idea because I live with it and feel the effects of it, and I know it works’.

Santens understands that technology should be at the service of people and that UBI is a measure that should have been adopted decades ago. In this interview, he reminds us how President Nixon wanted to implement a similar measure and Congress didn’t approve it. In any case, he is optimistic that more and more people are talking about  basic income in his country and in others, even though each one is analysed from different perspectives.

He also sees it as a good thing that renowned people like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckergerg and Hillary Clinton are supporting the implementation of a basic income for the entire population.

On the other hand, Santens proposes to redefine work, clarifying that the best form – from his point of view – is the one that is done for free. “Like me, I am capable of fighting for this world that I build, I am capable of researching basic income, I am capable of writing about it, I am capable of traveling and talking about it, because I have the time and capacity, and the passion to do this work… There are many people with great ideas, a lot of meaningful work that they cannot do and who could do it with a basic income”.

Scott questions this system, which relies on private property, which means that some steal from others, and proposes building another system based on a basic income, convinced that this will build a civilization in which we develop everything we are capable of.