More Basic Income

I’ve continued looking into Basic Income on the internet, I found a Counterpunch article from 2005, and an Amazon sample of an Ethics book by Karl Widerquist of USBIG. Unlike Yoshiharu Shiraishi (G8 Ja Video), neither of them (so far) seem to have the kind of expecations that people will start forming organization to do work they’ve decided to value regardless of  "neoliberalism" commodification of people and everything else.

David Swanson writes about Basic Income and how to get it covered in a potential labor media. Karl Widerquist covers the academic debate and "value free" science in his introduction. I particularly like Widerquists "most people do not behave as neoclassical economists presuppose." His worries about being forced to live on a minimum income as ‘we need’ as punishment for shirking doesn’t make BI as exciting as Shirashi’s suggestion that people will start organizing themselves in a true democracy and work at worthwhile causes. (That’s the impression I got from a quick reading of his interview and article).

As an aside I just noticed theres a Conference of the US Basic Income Guarantee network from Feb 27 to March 1 at the Sheraton New York Hotel, 8 days from now.


David Swanson

There are a number of reasons why progressives should promote the idea of a basic income guarantee. For one thing, the public should be aware that we do indeed have a bold, positive vision to offer. BIG ought to be part of a wide-ranging progressive agenda that includes universal free quality education from preschool through college, single-payer health care, a living wage for all work, work for all who want it, affordable housing, the right to form a trade union, an environmentally sustainable economy, and the application of these same values in our foreign affairs.

If we had a basic income guarantee in the United States, no one would have to prove they are poor or unemployed to get a check. The checks would go to everyone, Of course, some checks would be wasted on awesomely affluent Americans who have absolutely no financial worries. But awesomely affluent Americans are already getting billions in tax breaks and giveaways from the public treasury. More importantly, by making the BIG universal, we would eliminate the need for a huge bureaucracy to determine who should receive it and also eliminate the stigma that has been attached to recipients of welfare. As with welfare, some will choose to live off the BIG and not seek employment at all. But those who do find work will not face a reduction in their BIG check.

That some small percentage of people, if a BIG existed, would not work cannot possibly be considered a fatal flaw in the BIG idea, not in a country where we already have a significant percentage of people not working, including those unable to work, those with no need to work and no desire to, those searching for work, those who have given up on searching for work, those who have calculated that they would spend more on child care than they would earn if they took a job, those who are behind bars as a result of crimes that tend to increase with unemployment and poverty, those working part-time who want full-time jobs, and those working full-time or more who would prefer to work part-time and train for other work if they could afford to.

And surely anyone’s displeasure with people receiving a basic income without working should not outweigh their displeasure with the current state of affairs in which 35 million Americans, including 13 million children, live in poverty, and at least half a million Americans lack the most basic of life’s necessities, a home.

Handouts based on "means testing" the poor too often create stigmas and bureaucracies — and fail to reach many of the intended recipients. The earned income tax credit (EITC), for instance, only goes to those who know to apply for it. Corporate-funded opponents of living wage standards have taken to advocating for (or pretending to advocate for) the EITC as an alternative to a living wage, but there should be no conflict between decent wage standards and support for those in need.

A BIG should coexist harmoniously with a living wage law, but may conflict with the EITC and some of the remnants of the New Deal. One BIG proponent, Steve Shafarman, even wants to make BIG more appealing to conservatives by arguing that, with a BIG in effect, we could eliminate many existing social programs and maybe the progressive income tax as well. Is this wise?

I don’t think so….

The Ethics And Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee (Alternative Voices in Contemporary Economics) by Karl Widerquistpage 2-3 "An introduction to the Basic Income Guarantee"

…Giving people a social safety net, so the argument goes, means that there are few incentives to work and almost no incentive to work hard. Other mainstream economists have rejected BIG, believing that its advocates have abandoned "scientific" economic analysis by pursuing a normative policy agenda. For many years, opponents of BIG had been winning both the academic and popular debates. However, more recently, things have started to change. At the academic leve, the arguments raised by the critics of BIG have themselves ben criticized along a number of lines.

First ….

Second, many Americans make the value judgement that wages failing to let workers provide adequate food, shelter, and other necessities for themselves and their families are morally objectionable. A value-neutral economist cannot question that value judgement, but should limit herself to addressing the following question: If voters and policymakers want to increase the incomes of low-wage workers, what is the most efficient way to do that? One answer to this question is the basic income guarantee (see Bryan in this volume). In addition, the statement "BIG should not be introduced if it causes a decrease in work effort," is a heavily value-laden statement taht must be rejected by any economist show believes in "value-free" science.

Third, recent philosphical literature provides support for BIG by coming donw hard on the attempt to sharply distinguish facts and values. The renowned Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam (2002) argues that facts and values are frequently intertwined and inter-related in human actions, in language, and in human thought….

Fourth, many scholars recognize that most people do not behave as neoclassical economists presuppose. As Robert Frank and others have pointed out, people vote, the donate blood, the engage in acts of heroism, and the refuse to defect in single-play prisoner’s dilemma games. Altruistic behavior seems to exist sid by side with selfish behavior (Frank 1988), and the possibility is often ignored in economic analysis that is easily capable of incorporating it (Widerquist 2003). ..[(p. 2)]

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