Basic Income and Markets

I stumbled on some more Basic Income Material

The current two-year pilot project builds on the Namibian universal pension by giving to every one of the one thousand inhabitants of two villages, every man, woman and child an equal amount of N$100 (one hundred Namibian dollars: about US$12, or ï¿¡7) a month….

…the project has refuted the critics of unconditional cash transfers.

  • Far from encouraging dependency, the Citizen’s Income has increased enterprise
  • far from leading to waste of resources it has encouraged productive use of resourcesand far from being unaffordable the level of Citizen’s Income employed in the pilot project would, if extended to the country as a whole, cost just 2.2% to 3.8% of GDP, and the increased economic activity generated by the Citizen’s Income would by itself pay the entire cost.

Guy Standing speculated that one reason why policy-makers in Africa and elsewhere do not like the idea of a Citizen’s Income is that the scheme is emancipatory: it allows people to make choices for themselves, and it does not allow policy-makers to interfere in people’s lives by imposing conditions on cash transfers.

Guy Standing (confusing name to someone from the US NorthEast) looks at BI (Basic Income) or CI (Citizen’s Income) as a way to facilitate markets. "CI promotes the kind of market economy in which people can and do pay for the health and education services which their families need." Apparently Milton Friedman support BI for a while too, after listening to Naomi Klien’s Disaster Capitalism I can only assume it was a prelude to torturing them in Ford Factories of charter schools.

But Guy Standing also says the payments are ’emancipatory’ that’s the part that got me thinking ‘non-reformist reform,’ giving people the space to experiment with ‘enterprises,’ or ‘solidarity economics’ or ‘particpatory economics.’ It’s easier to communicate while you’re doing something with people, walking your talk, and might not a Basic Income facilitate the space to attempt different forms of participation and organization?

A lot of the proponents I’ve found in English seem to think unconditional payments (BI, CI) are a democratization of markets but I wonder about all the participants at next week’s conference (http://usbig.net/2009–USBIG–TentativeProgram–Feb-14-09.htm). (Frederick Streets, Joel Blau, Michael Reisch, Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, Rania Antonopoulos, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Yannick Vanderborght, Dan O’Sullivan, Alanna Hartzok..)

The Ethics book talks about voting in the marketplace as important as voting in politics. The arguments seems to overlook the inequality of some people having billions of votes (dollars) compared to say 800 and how much different this would be from elections but it’s just a paragraph synopsis of the chapter. My reading of Shiraishi’s take is he expects a lot more from the emancipatory aspects of a guaranteed income. I don’t know what he thinks about markets and how they’ll be effected by "Basic Income."


In chapter 6, political theorist Almaz Zelleke examines political rights and BIG. Her concern is that social thinkers on both the right and left tend to agree that income policies should have owrk or social contribution requirements attached to them. After discussing and criticizing the arguments of thinkers such as Laurence Mead, Mickey Kaus, Anthony Atkinson and others who hold this view she puts forth and alternativ – the market shoudl be regarded as a sphere of citizenship no less important than polity. That is, the liberty that we grant to United States citizens is tied to the right to partake in the market as much as it is tied to the right to partake in politics. Thus, we should view income that lets people participate in the market as analogous to voting rights that let people take part in the political process. We grant people the right to vote and, likewise, the basic income should be viewed as a right to "vote" in the marketplace

Here’s some more of the findings from the Namibia pilot study

In answering questions, Professor Standing explained that

  • in Namibia, the basic income grants had both reduced inequality and encouraged more economic activity;
  • the Namibian BIG was pitched at about half the official poverty level;
  • transparent democratic institutions are required and reinforced by unconditional cash transfers;
  • in a context of supply elasticity a Citizen’s Income is not inflationary;
  • in the pilot project women’s economic status had risen relative to men’s;
  • the Citizen’s Income cannot be removed by a local bureaucrat if someone upsets them, as a conditional cash transfer can be
  • because unconditional payments limit the power of bureaucrats, more of the money reaches the poor;
  • a Citizen’s Income promotes the kind of market economy in which people can and do pay for the health and education services which their families need;
  • in the context of today’s more flexible labour markets, trades unions are more willing to support a Citizen’s Income;
  • surveys in Africa have found that 80% of people favour unconditionality.

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