Basic income

Basic Income, also called Universal Basic Income (UBI), Citizen's Income (CI), Citizen's Basic Income (CBI) (in the United Kingdom), Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) (in the United States and Canada), or Universal Demogrant, is a periodic cash payment delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.[2] The incomes would be:

  • Unconditional: A Basic Income would vary with age, but with no other conditions, so everyone of the same age would receive the same Basic Income, whatever their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.
  • Automatic: Someone’s Basic Income would be paid weekly or monthly, automatically, into a bank account or similar.
  • Non-withdrawable: Basic Incomes would not be means-tested. Whether someone's earnings increase, decrease, or stay the same, their Basic Income will not change.
  • Individual: Basic Incomes would be paid on an individual basis, and not on the basis of a couple or household.
  • As a right: Everybody legally resident would receive a Basic Income, subject to a minimum period of legal residency, and continuing residency for most of the year.[3]

Basic income can be implemented nationally, regionally or locally. An unconditional income that is sufficient to meet a person's basic needs (at or above the poverty line), is sometimes called a Full Basic Income, while if it is less than that amount, it is sometimes called Partial. A welfare system with some characteristics similar to those of a Basic Income is a negative income tax, in which the government stipend is gradually reduced with higher labour income.

Some welfare systems are sometimes regarded as steps on the way to a Basic Income, but because they have conditionalities attached they are not Basic Incomes. If they raise household incomes to specified minima they are called guaranteed minimum income systems. For example, Bolsa Família in Brazil is restricted to poor families and the children are obligated to attend school.[4]

Several political discussions are related to the basic income debate. Examples include the debates regarding robotisation, AI (artificial intelligence), and the future of work. A key issue in these debates is whether robotisation and AI will significantly reduce the number of available jobs. Basic income often comes up as a proposal in these discussions.

Basic Income Performance in Bern, Oct 2013
On 4 October 2013, Swiss activists from Generation Grundeinkommen organized a performance in Bern in which roughly 8 million coins, one coin representing one person out of Switzerland's population, were dumped on a public square. This was done in celebration of the successful collection of more than 125,000 signatures, forcing the government to hold a referendum in 2016 on whether or not to incorporate the concept of basic income in the Federal constitution. The measure did not pass, with 76.9% voting against changing the Federal constitution to support basic income.[1]


The idea of a state-run Basic Income dates back to the early 16th century, when Sir Thomas More argued in Utopia that every person should receive a guaranteed income,[5] and to the late 18th century when English radical Thomas Spence and American revolutionary Thomas Paine both declared their support for a welfare system that guaranteed all citizens a certain income. 19th century debate on Basic Income was limited, but during the early part of the 20th century, a Basic Income called a 'state bonus' was widely discussed (see below), and in 1946 the UK implemented unconditional Family Allowances for the second and subsequent children of every family (which become Child Benefit for every child during the 1970s). In the 1960s and 1970s the United States and Canada conducted several experiments with negative income taxation, a related welfare system. From the 1980s and onward, the debate in Europe took off more broadly and since then it has expanded to many countries around the world. A few countries have implemented large-scale welfare systems that have some similarities to Basic Income, such as Bolsa Família in Brazil. From 2008 onward, several experiments with basic income and related systems took place. Especially in countries with an existing welfare state, at least some of the funding will need to come from replacing all or part of current welfare arrangements. Apart from that, proponents have offered several ideas and proposals regarding the rest of the financing, about the level, and other aspects.

Governments can contribute to individual and household income maintenance strategies in three ways.

  1. The government can establish a minimum income guarantee - not allow income to fall below levels set for various household types, and maintaining the levels by paying means-tested benefits;
  2. Social insurance can pay benefits in the case of sickness, unemployment, or old age, on the basis of contributions paid
  3. Universal unconditional payments, such as the UK's Child Benefit for children.[6]

In more detail:

1. A means-tested benefit that raises a household's income to a guaranteed minimum income level is nothing like a Basic Income, because means-tested benefits fall if other income rises, whereas a Basic Income never changes. The only similarly is that both recognise the state's welfare responsibilities towards its citizens. Johannes Ludovicus Vives (1492–1540), for example, proposed that the municipal government should be responsible for securing a subsistence minimum to all its residents, "not on grounds of justice but for the sake of a more effective exercise of morally required charity." However, to qualify for poor relief, the person’s poverty must—he argued—be undeserved, the recipient must "...deserve the help he or she gets by proving his or her willingness to work."[7]

2. The first to develop the idea of a social insurance was Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794). After playing a prominent role in the French Revolution, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death. While in prison, he wrote the Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain (published posthumously by his widow in 1795), whose last chapter described his vision of a social insurance and how it could reduce inequality, insecurity and poverty. Condorcet mentioned, very briefly, the idea of a benefit to all children old enough to start working by themselves and to start up a family of their own. He is not known to have said or written anything else on this proposal, but his close friend and fellow member of the Convention Thomas Paine (1737–1809) developed the idea much further, a couple of years after Condorcet’s death.

3. The first social movement for Basic Income developed around 1920 in the United Kingdom. Its proponents included Bertrand Russell, Dennis Milner (with his wife Mabel) and Clifford H. Douglas.

  • Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) argued for a new social model that combined the advantages of socialism and anarchism, and that basic income should be a vital component in that new society.
  • Dennis and Mabel Milner, a Quaker married couple in the Labour Party, published a short pamphlet entitled “Scheme for a State Bonus” (1918) that argued for the "...introduction of an income paid unconditionally on a weekly basis to all citizens of the United Kingdom." They considered it a moral right for everyone to have the means to subsistence, and thus it should not be conditional on work or willingness to work.
  • Clifford H. Douglas was an engineer who became concerned that most British citizens could not afford to buy the goods that were produced, despite the rising productivity in British industry. His solution to this paradox was a new social system he called social credit, a combination of monetary reform and basic income.

In 1944 and 1945, the Beveridge Committee, led by the British economist William Beveridge, developed a proposal for a comprehensive new welfare system of social insurance, means-tested benefits, and unconditional allowances for children. Committee member Lady Rhys-Williams argued that the incomes for adults should be more like a Basic Income. She was also the first to develop the negative income tax model.[8][9] Her son Brandon Rhys Williams proposed a Basic Income to a parliamentary committee in 1982, and soon after that, in 1984, the Basic Income Research Group - now the Citizen's Basic Income Trust - began to conduct and disseminate research on Basic Income.[10]

In the 1960s and 1970s, some welfare debates in the United States and Canada included discussions of Basic Income. Six pilot projects were also conducted with negative income tax. Then US president Richard Nixon once even proposed a negative income tax in a bill to the US Congress—but Congress eventually only approved a guaranteed minimum income for the elderly and the disabled, not for all citizens.[11]

In the late 1970s and the 1980s, Basic Income was more or less forgotten in the United States, but it started to gain some traction in Europe. Basic Income European Network, later renamed to Basic Income Earth Network, was founded in 1986 and started to arrange international conferences every two years.[2] From the 1980s, some people outside party politics and universities took interest. In West Germany, groups of unemployed people took a stance for the reform.[12]

From 2010 onwards, Basic Income again became an active topic in many countries. Basic income is currently discussed from a variety of perspectives—including in the context of ongoing automation and robotisation, often with the argument that these trends mean less paid work in the future, which would create a need for a new welfare model. Several countries are planning for local or regional experiments with basic income or related welfare systems. Experiments in Namibia, India, Canada and Finland for example, have received international media attention. The first and only national referendum about basic income was held in Switzerland in 2016. The result was a rejection of the basic income proposal by a vote of 76.9% to 23.1%.

Perspectives in the Basic Income debate


The debates about basic income and automation are closely linked. For example, Mark Zuckerberg argues that the increase in automation creates a greater need for basic income. Concerns about automation have prompted many in the high-technology industry to argue for basic income as an implication of their business models.

Many technologists believe that automation (among other things) is creating technological unemployment. Journalist Nathan Schneider first highlighted the turn of the "tech elite" to these ideas with an article in Vice magazine, which cited Marc Andreessen, Sam Altman, Peter Diamandis, and others.[13][14][15] Some studies about automation and jobs validate these concerns. The US White House, in a report to the US Congress, estimated that a worker earning less than $20 an hour in 2010 will eventually lose their job to a machine with 83% probability. Even workers earning as much as $40 an hour faced a probability of 31%.[14] With a rising unemployment rate, poor communities will become more impoverished worldwide. Proponents of universal basic income argue that it could solve many world problems like high work stress and could create more opportunities and efficient and effective work. This claim is supported by some studies. In a study in Dauphin, Manitoba, only 13% of labor decreased from a much higher expected number.[16] In a study in several Indian villages, basic income in the region raised the education rate of young people by 25%.[17]

Besides technological unemployment, some tech-industry experts worry that automation will destabilize the labor market or increase economic inequality. One example is Chris Hughes, co-founder of both Facebook and Economic Security Project. Automation has been happening for hundreds of years; it has not permanently reduced the employment rate but has constantly caused employment instability. It displaces workers who spend their lives learning skills that become outmoded and forces them into unskilled labor. Paul Vallée, a Canadian tech-entrepreneur and CEO of Pythian, argues that automation is at least as likely to increase poverty and reduce social mobility than it is to create ever-increasing unemployment rate. At the 2016 North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress in Winnipeg, Vallée examined slavery as a historical example of a period in which capital (African slaves) could do the same things that human labor (poor whites) could do. He found that slavery did not cause massive unemployment among poor whites, but instead increased economic inequality and lowered social mobility.[18]

Bad behavior

Some worry that some people would spend a basic income on alcohol and other drugs.[19][20] However, studies of the impact of direct cash transfer programs provide evidence to the contrary. A 2014 World Bank review of 30 scientific studies concludes that, "Concerns about the use of cash transfers for alcohol and tobacco consumption are unfounded."[21]

Basic income as a part of a post-capitalistic economic system

Erik Olin Wright, 2013.

Harry Shutt proposed basic income and other measures to make all or most enterprises collective rather than private. These measures would create a post-capitalist economic system.[22]

Erik Olin Wright characterizes basic income as a project for reforming capitalism into an economic system by empowering labor in relation to capital, granting labor greater bargaining power with employers in labor markets, which can gradually de-commodify labor by decoupling work from income. This would allow for an expansion in scope of the "social economy", by granting citizens greater means to pursue activities (such as the pursuit of art) that do not yield strong financial returns.[23]

James Meade advocated for a social dividend scheme funded by publicly owned productive assets.[24] Russell argued for a basic income alongside public ownership as a means of shortening the average working day and achieving full employment.[25]

Economists and sociologists have advocated for a form of basic income as a way to distribute economic profits of publicly owned enterprises to benefit the entire population (also referred to as a social dividend), where the basic income payment represents the return to each citizen on the capital owned by society. These systems would be directly financed from returns on publicly owned assets and are featured as major components of many models of market socialism.[26]

Guy Standing has proposed financing a social dividend from a democratically-accountable sovereign wealth fund built up primarily from the proceeds of a levy on rentier income derived from ownership or control of assets - physical, financial and intellectual.[27][28]

Herman Daly, considered as one of the founders of ecologism, argued primarily for a zero growth economy within the ecological limits of the planet. But to have such a green and sustainable economy, including basic economic welfare and security to all people, he wrote a lot about the need for structural reforms of the capitalistic system, including basic income, monetary reform, land value tax, trade reforms and higher eco-taxes (taxes on pollution and carbon dioxide). For him, basic income was thus part of a larger structural change of the economic system, towards a more green and sustainable system.

Different ideological arguments

  • Georgist views: Geolibertarians seek to synthesize propertarian libertarianism and a geoist (or Georgist) philosophy of land as unowned commons or equally owned by all people, citing the classical economic distinction between unimproved land and private property. The rental value of land is produced by the labors of the community and, as such, rightly belongs to the community at large and not solely to the landholder. A land value tax (LVT) is levied as an annual fee for exclusive access to a section of earth, which is collected and redistributed to the community either through public goods, such as public security or a court system, or in the form of a basic guaranteed income called a citizen's dividend. Geolibertarians view the LVT as a single tax to replace all other methods of taxation, which are deemed unjust violations of the non-aggression principle.
  • Conservative views: Support for basic income has been expressed by several people associated with conservative political views. While adherents of such views generally favor minimization or abolition of the public provision of welfare services, some have cited basic income as a viable strategy to reduce the amount of bureaucratic administration that is prevalent in many contemporary welfare systems. Others have contended that it could also act as a form of compensation for fiat currency inflation.[29][30][31]
  • Feminist views: Feminist views on basic income are loosely divided into two opposing views. One view supports basic income as a means of guaranteeing minimum financial independence for women, and of recognizing women's unpaid work in the home. The opposing feminist view opposes basic income as something that might discourage women from participation in the workforce—reinforcing traditional gender roles of women belonging in the private area and men in the public area.[32][33]

Economic critique

In 2016, the IGM Economic Experts panel at Chicago Booth was asked if “Granting every American citizen over 21-years old a universal basic income of $13,000 a year — financed by eliminating all transfer programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing subsidies, household welfare payments, and farm and corporate subsidies) — would be better policy than the status quo,” 58 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed, 19 percent were uncertain, and 2 percent agreed. Cost was an issue for those who disagreed, as well as a lack of optimization in the structure proposed. Daron Acemoglu, Professor in economics at MIT, expressed these doubts in the survey: "Current US status quo is horrible. A more efficient and generous social safety net is needed. But UBI is expensive and not generous enough."[34] Eric Maskin has stated that "a minimum income makes sense, but not at the cost of eliminating Social Security and Medicare".[35] Simeon Djankov, professor at the London School of Economics, argues the costs of a generous system are prohibitive.[36]

Another critique comes from the far-left: Douglas Rushkoff, a professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at the City University of New York, suggests that universal basic income is another way that "obviates the need for people to consider true alternatives to living lives as passive consumers". He sees it as a sophisticated way for corporations to get richer on the expense of public money.[37]

Economic growth

Some proponents have argued that basic income can increase economic growth because it would sustain people while they invest in education to get interesting and well-paid jobs.[38][19] However, there is also a discussion of basic income within the degrowth movement, which argues against economic growth.[39]


One argument against basic income is that if people have free and unconditional money, they will "get lazy" and not work as much.[40][41][42] Less work means less tax revenue, argue critics, and hence less money for the state and cities to fund public projects. The degree of any disincentive to employment because of basic income would likely depend on how generous the basic income was.

Some studies have looked at employment levels during the experiments with basic income and negative income tax, and similar systems. In the negative income tax-experiments in United States in the 1970s, for example, there was a five percent decline in the hours worked. The work reduction was largest for second earners in two-earner households and weakest for the main earner. The reduction in hours was higher when the benefit was higher. Participants in these experiments, however, knew that the experiment was limited in time.[41]

In the Mincome experiment in rural Dauphin, Manitoba, also in the 1970s, there were also slight reductions in hours worked during the experiment. However, the only two groups who worked significantly less were new mothers and teenagers working to support their families. New mothers spent this time with their infant children, and working teenagers put significant additional time into their schooling.[43] Under Mincome, "The reduction of work effort was modest: about one per cent for men, three per cent for wives, and five per cent for unmarried women."[44]

Also, a recent study of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend—the largest scale universal basic income program in the United States, which has run since 1976—seems to show this belief is untrue. The researchers—Damon Jones from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and Ioana Marinescu from the University of Pennsylvania School of Public Policy and Practice—maintain that, though there is a small decrease in work by recipients due to reasons like those in the Manitoba experiment, there has been a 17 percent increase in part time jobs. The authors theorize that employment remained steady, because the extra income that let people buy more also increased demand for service jobs. This finding is consistent with the economic data of the time. No effect was seen when it came to jobs in manufacturing, which produce exports. Essentially, the authors argue, macro-economic effects of higher spending supported overall employment. To use an illustrative but hypothetical example, someone who uses the dividend to help with car payments can cut back on hours working as a cashier at a local grocery store. But because more people are spending more, the store must replace the worker who started working less. Meanwhile, distribution of the dividend doesn't affect the international demand for oil and the jobs connected to it.[45][46]

But Jones and Marinescu found instead that the larger scale of the program is what allows it to work, and not dissuade people out of the work force.

Another study that contradicted such decline in work incentive was a pilot project implemented in 2008 and 2009 in the Namibian village of Omitara. The study found that economic activity actually increased, particularly through the launch of small businesses, and reinforcement of the local market by increasing households' buying power.[47] However, the residents of Omitara were described as suffering "dehumanising levels of poverty" before the introduction of the pilot, and as such the project's relevance to potential implementations in developed economies is unknown.[48]

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 labor would be too low to generate a socially desirable distribution of income. He therefore concludes that a "citizen's income" is necessary to achieve full employment without suffering stagnant or negative growth in wages.[49]

If there is a disincentive to employment because of basic income, the magnitude of such a disincentive may depend on how generous the basic income was. Some campaigners in Switzerland have suggested a level that would be only just liveable, arguing that people would want to supplement it.[50]

Tim Worstall, a writer, blogger and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute,[51] has argued that traditional welfare schemes create a disincentive to work because such schemes typically cause people to lose benefits at around the same rate that their income rises (a form of welfare trap where the marginal tax rate is 100 percent). He has asserted that this particular disincentive is not a property shared by basic income since the rate of increase is positive at all incomes.[52]


Philippe Van Parijs (cropped)
Philippe Van Parijs

Philippe Van Parijs has argued that basic income at the highest sustainable level is needed to support real freedom, or the freedom to do whatever one "might want to do".[53] By this, Van Parijs means that all people should be free to use the resources of the Earth and the "external assets" people make out of them to do whatever they want. Money is like an access ticket to use those resources, and so to make people equally free to do what they want with world assets, the government should give each individual as many such access tickets as possible—that is, the highest sustainable basic income.

Karl Widerquist and others have proposed a theory of freedom in which basic income is needed to protect the power to refuse work,[54] which can be summarized as follows:

If the resources necessary to an individual's survival are controlled by another group, that individual has no reasonable choice other than to do whatever the resource-controlling group demands. Before the establishment of governments and landlords, individuals had direct access to the resources they needed to survive. But today, resources necessary for the production of food, shelter, and clothing have been privatized in such a way that some have gotten a share and others have not.

Therefore, this argument goes, the owners of those resources owe compensation back to non-owners, sufficient at least for them to purchase the resources or goods necessary to sustain their basic needs. This redistribution must be unconditional because people can consider themselves free only if they are not forced to spend all their time doing the bidding of others simply to provide basic necessities to themselves and their families.[19] Under this argument, personal, political, and religious freedom are worth little without the power to say no. In this view, basic income provides an economic freedom, which—combined with political freedom, freedom of belief, and personal freedom—establish each individual's status as a free person.

Gender equality

The Scottish economist Ailsa McKay has argued that basic income is a way to promote gender equality.[55][56] She noted in 2001 that "social policy reform should take account of all gender inequalities and not just those relating to the traditional labor market" and that "the citizens' basic income model can be a tool for promoting gender-neutral social citizenship rights."[55]

Poverty reduction

Advocates of basic income often argue that it has the potential to reduce or even eradicate poverty.[57]

According to a randomized controlled study in the Rarieda District of Kenya run by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Give Directly program, the impact of UBI was that for every $1,000 disbursed, there was a $270 increase in earnings, a $430 increase in assets, and a $330 increase in nutrition spending, with a 0% effect on alcohol or tobacco spending.[58]

Milton Friedman, a renowned economist, supported UBI, reasoning that it would help to reduce poverty. He said:

"The virtue of [a negative income tax] is precisely that it treats everyone the same way… there’s none of this unfortunate discrimination among people."[59]

Martin Luther King was also an advocate of UBI, as he believed that a basic income was a necessity that would help to reduce poverty, regardless of race, religion or social class. In King's last book before his assassination, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, he said:

"I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."[60]

Reduction of medical costs

The Canadian Medical Association passed a motion in 2015 in clear support of basic income and for basic income trials in Canada.[61]

Paul Mason, a British journalist, has stated that universal basic income would probably reduce the high medical costs associated with diseases of poverty. The stress, diseases like high blood pressure, type II diabetes etc. would according to Mason probably become less common.[62]

Transparency and administrative efficiency

Basic income is potentially a much simpler and more transparent welfare system than welfare states currently use.[63] Instead of separate welfare programs (including unemployment insurance, child support, pensions, disability, housing support) it could be one income, or it could be a basic payment that welfare programs could add to.[64] This could require less paperwork and bureaucracy to check eligibility. The lack of means test or similar bureaucracy would allow for saving on social welfare, which could be put towards the grant. The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) claims that basic income costs less than current means-tested social welfare benefits, and has proposed an implementation that it claims is financially viable.[65][66]

A real world example of how basic income is being implemented to save money can be seen in the program that is being conducted by the Netherlands in a few cities. The city councillor for the city of Nijmegen, Lisa Westerveld had this to say in an interview - “In Nijmegen we get £88m to give to people on welfare, but it costs £15m a year for the civil servants running the bureaucracy of the current system.”[67] Her view is also shared by Dutch historian and author Rutger Bregman who believes the Netherlands welfare system is flawed and also economist Loek Groot who believes the country welfare system wastes too much money. Outcomes of this program will be analysed by eminent economist Loek Groot, a professor at the University of Utrecht who hopes to learn if a guaranteed income might be a more effective approach.[68]

However, other proponents argue for adding basic income to existing welfare grants, rather than replacing them.

Wage slavery and alienation

Frances Fox Piven argues that an income guarantee would benefit all workers by liberating them from the anxiety that results from the "tyranny of wage slavery" and provide opportunities for people to pursue different occupations and develop untapped potentials for creativity.[69] André Gorz saw basic income as a necessary adaptation to the increasing automation of work, yet basic income also enables workers to overcome alienation in work and life and to increase their amount of leisure time.[70]

These arguments imply that Universal Basic Income would give people enough freedom to pursue work that is satisfactory or interesting, even if that work does not pay enough to sustain their everyday living. One example is that of Nelle Harper Lee, who lived as a single woman in New York City in the 1950s, writing in her free time and supporting herself by working part time as an airline clerk. She had written several long stories, but achieved no success of note. One Christmas in the late fifties, a generous friend gave her a year’s wages as a gift with the note, "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas." A year later, Lee had produced a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel that subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize.[71][72] Most proponents of UBI argue that the net creative output from even a small percentage of basic income subscribers would be a significant contributor to human productivity, one that might be lost if these people are not given the opportunity to pursue work that is interesting to them.

Welfare Trap

The Welfare trap or poverty trap is a proposed problem with means-tested welfare. Recipients of means-tested welfare may be implicitly encouraged to remain on welfare due to economic penalties for transitioning off of welfare. These penalties include loss of welfare and possibly higher tax rates. Opponents claim that this creates a harsh marginal tax for those rising out of poverty. A 2013 Cato Institute study claimed that workers could accumulate more wealth from the welfare system than they could from a minimum wage job in at least nine European countries. In three of them - Austria, Croatia and Denmark - the marginal tax rate was nearly 100%.[73][74]

Proponents of universal basic income claim that it could eliminate welfare traps by removing conditions to receive such an income, but large-scale experiments have not yet produced clear results.[75]

Examples of payments with similarities

Omitara, one of the two poor villages in Namibia where a local basic income was tested in 2008–2009.

The Alaska Permanent Fund

The Permanent Fund of Alaska in the United States provides a kind of basic income, based on the oil and gas revenues of the state, to (nearly) all state residents. During her 2016 presidential campaign, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton considered including a policy similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund called "Alaska for America" as part of her platform after reading Peter Barnes's book on the subject With Liberty and Dividends for All. Ultimately, Clinton decided not to, stating in her 2016 election memoir What Happened, "Unfortunately, we couldn't make the numbers work."[76] However, in retrospect Clinton also said, "I wonder now whether we should have thrown caution to the wind and embraced 'Alaska for America' as a long-term goal and figured out the details later", considering that former Republican U.S. Treasury Secretaries James Baker and Henry Paulson have also proposed a similar nationwide policy.[77][78]


Since the 1960s and in particular after 2010, there has been a number of so called basic income pilots. Among them the following:

  • Experiments with negative income tax in United States and Canada in the 1960s and 1970s
  • The province of Manitoba, Canada, experimented with Mincome, a basic guaranteed income in the 1970s[79]
  • The Basic Income Grant (BIG) in Namibia, launched in 2008 and ended in 2009[80]
  • An independent pilot implemented in São Paulo, Brazil[81]
  • Basic income trials in several villages in India,[82] whose government has proposed a guaranteed basic income for all citizens[83]
  • The GiveDirectly experiment in Nairobi, Kenya—the biggest and longest basic income pilot as of 2017[84]
  • An experiment in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, launched in early 2017, that is testing different rates of aid[83]
  • A three-year basic income pilot that the Ontario provincial government, Canada, launched in the cities of Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay in July 2017.[85] Although called basic income, it was only made available to those with a low income and funding would be removed if they obtained employment[86] making it more related to the current welfare system than actual basic income. Initial reports indicated difficulties in finding and receiving applications from eligible individuals and households,[87] and as of November 2017, the Ontario government was still seeking more applicants.[88] The pilot project was cancelled on 31 July 2018 by the newly elected Progressive Conservative government under Ontario Premier Doug Ford, with his Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod stating simply it was 'unsustainable' without citing data,[89] though MIT reported she "cited the high cost of the project ($150 million in Canadian dollars) as the reason for the cuts and said it was “clearly not the answer for Ontario families.”"[90]
  • A two-year pilot the Finnish government began in January 2017, which involves 2,000 subjects[91][92] In April 2018, the Finnish government rejected a request for funds to extend and expand the program from Kela (Finland's social security agency).[93]
  • A project called Eight, in a village in Fort Portal, that a nonprofit organization launched in January 2017, which provides income for 56 adults and 88 children through mobile money[94]

Quasi-UBI Programs

Bolsa Família is a large social welfare program in Brazil that provides money to many poor families in the country. The system is related to basic income, but has more conditions, like asking the recipients to keep their children in school until graduation. Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy championed a law that ultimately passed in 2004 that declared Bolsa Família a first step towards a national basic income. However, the program has not yet been expanded in that direction.

Rythu Bandhu scheme, is a welfare scheme started on 10 May 2018 aimed towards helping farmers that is being implemented by the State of Telangana in India where each farmland owner gets a fixed amount of money ₹4000 per acre twice a year for Rabi and Kharif harvests. A budget allocation of ₹12,000 crores($138 billion at the time of conversion) was made in 2018-19 state budget, the scheme offers a financial help of ₹8,000 per year to each farmer (two crops), and there is no cap on money disbursed to number of acres of land owned and it does not discriminate between rich or poor land owners.[95] The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been monitoring the program and is doing a study they have yet to published, but their preliminary results already show promising results in getting farmers funding they need to invest in farming—procuring fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, and other inputs—which serves the purpose of the scheme. The first phase of the survey concluded that 85% of farmers received cheques for amounts ranging from ₹1,000 to ₹20,000 for farm land comprising less than an acre to about five acres and about 10% of farmers received cheques for amounts above ₹20,000 to ₹50,000 and only 1% of farmers got amounts more than ₹50,000. The spending pattern revealed that a large chunk, 28.5% of farmers opted to buy seed, about 18% spent the money on fertilizer, 15.4% on new agricultural assets, including farm equipment , 8.6% on pesticides and some used it to engage farm labor and only 4.4% of beneficiaries said they utilized it for household consumption and a minuscule percentage for repayment of loans.[96] The scheme received a high satisfaction rate of 92% from farmers since other forms of capital investment like welfare or loans had many strings attached to it and would not reach the farmers before the cropping season starts, many other states and countries are following the development of the program to see if they can implement it for their farmers. Since farmers worldwide are facing many difficulties and in a lot of countries it has become unprofitable, governments are either proving subsidies, welfare or loans but this a new type of program that is considered as an embryonic UBI or QUBI (Quasi) to replace traditional systems of agricultural support.[97]

Citizen Capitalism is a supplemental income program proposed by the legal scholar Lynn Stout and her co-authors Tamara Belinfanti and Sergio Gramitto, in their book Citizen Capitalism: How A Universal Fund Can Provide Influence and Income to All, which was published in 2019. In the book, Stout and her co-authors propose the building of a not-for-profit Universal Fund, composed of shares donated by corporations and philanthropic individuals, in which every American would receive one share. These shares could not be sold, bequeathed, donated, or borrowed against, but each "citizen shareholder" would receive an even portion of the net dividends paid out by shares in the Fund, thus contributing to the amelioration of income inequality. Each shareholder would also receive additional influence in the form of a vote (corresponding to their shares in the Fund), providing in theory for a significantly expanded degree of citizen engagement in the role that public corporations play in American society.[98]

Basic income in crypto currencies and as part of social media apps

Nimses is a concept that offers universal basic income to every member of its system.[99] The idea of Nimses consists of time-based currency called Nim. 1 nim = 1 minute of life. Every person in Nimses receives nims that can be spent on different goods and services. This concept was initially adopted in Eastern Europe.[100]

Electroneum is a cryptocurrency project which uses a mobile application to pay users.[101] The first KYC/AML compliant cryptocurrency, Electroneum enables users to mine[102] using their mobile phone through a simulated mining system. The system pays up to $3.00 per month to its users, with the goal of enabling the world's unbanked population with financial freedom.[103] The cryptocurrency can currently be used to purchase mobile top-ups from the South African telecommunications company The Unlimited,[104] as well as to transact with any business that has integrated the Electroneum API, or directly between individuals.

Petitions, polls and referenda

  • 2008: an official petition for basic income was started in Germany by Susanne Wiest.[105] The petition was accepted and Susanne Wiest was invited for a hearing at the German parliament's Commission of Petitions. After the hearing, the petition was closed as "unrealizable".[106]
  • 2013-2014: a European Citizens' Initiative collected 280,000 signatures demanding that the European Commission studies the concept of an unconditional basic income.[107]
  • 2015: a citizen's initiative in Spain received 185,000 signatures, short of the required number to mandate that parliament discuss the proposal.[108]
  • 2016: The world's first universal basic income referendum in Switzerland on 5 June 2016 was rejected with a 76.9 percent majority.[1][109] Also in 2016 a poll showed that 58 percent of the European people are aware of basic income and 65 percent would vote in favor of the idea.[110]
  • 2017: POLITICO/Morning Consult asked 1,994 American people about their opinions on several political issues. One question addressed attitudes towards a national basic income in the United States. 43 percent either "strongly supported" or "somewhat supported" the idea.[111]

Prominent advocates

Prominent contemporary advocates include tech investor and engineer Elon Musk,[112] political philosopher Philippe Van Parijs,[113] Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece[114] and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.[115][116]

Prominent critics

See also


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Further reading

External links

2015 Swiss referendums

Six national referendums were held in Switzerland during 2015, the first of which were held on 8 March.

2016 Swiss referendums

Thirteen national referendums were held in Switzerland during 2016.

Ailsa McKay

Ailsa McKay (7 June 1963 – 5 March 2014) was a Scottish economist, government policy adviser, a leading feminist economist and Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University.

She was noted for her research on gender inequalities and the economics of the welfare state, for her contributions to feminist economics, as a leading proponent of the basic income concept and as one of the UK's foremost experts on gender budgeting. She served as Vice Dean of the Glasgow School for Business and Society, and was also well known for her support of Scottish independence and as a key adviser to the Scottish government and First Minister Alex Salmond on economic and welfare state policies. Ailsa McKay is highlighted as a leading intellectual figure in the campaign for independence in Alex Salmond's 2015 book The Dream Shall Never Die. Both Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon have highlighted McKay's influence on Scottish gender equality policies.

She was a member of the board of directors of the left-wing Jimmy Reid Foundation think tank, and was an adviser to the United Nations. With Margunn Bjørnholt, she co-edited the book Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, which was published days before her death. The Ailsa McKay Fellowship, the Ailsa McKay Lecture, one of the foremost honours in feminist economics, and the McKay House at Lenzie Academy are named in her honour.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang (born on January 13, 1975) is an American entrepreneur, philanthropist, the founder of Venture for America (VFA), and a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. He worked in startups and early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. After he founded VFA, the Obama administration selected him in 2012 as a "Champion of Change" and in 2015 as a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship". One of the main elements of Yang's bid for the 2020 presidential nomination, which he officially launched in November 2017, is a proposal for Universal Basic Income (UBI), known as the Freedom Dividend, for every American adult aged 18-64, in response to the rapid development of automation that is leading to workforce challenges.

Basic Income Alliance

The Basic Income Alliance (German: Bündnis Grundeinkommen, abbreviated BGE) is a German single-issue political party that advocates for an unconditional basic income. It was founded in September 2016 in Munich. The Basic Income Alliance gained 97,386 votes at the German federal election 2017 and reached 0.2 %.

Basic Income Earth Network

The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN; until 2004 Basic Income European Network) is a network of academics and activists interested in the idea of a Basic Income. It serves as a link between individuals and groups committed to or interested in basic income, and fosters informed discussion on this topic throughout the world. BIEN's website defines a basic income as "a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement."

Basic income around the world

Basic income is discussed in many countries. This article summarizes the national and regional debates, where it takes place, and is a complement to the main article on the subject: basic income

Basic income in India

Basic income in India refers to the debate and practical experiments with universal basic income (UBI) in India. This idea of UBI as a way to alleviate poverty dates back to the 18th century from which it gained momentum due to the increasing risks of social exclusion, economic downturns, and growing inequality.

On January 31, 2017, the Economic Survey of India included a 40-page chapter on UBI that outlined the 3 components of the proposed program: 1) universality, 2) unconditionality, 3) agency. The UBI proposal in India is framed with the intent of providing every citizen "a basic income to cover their needs," which is encompassed by the "universality" component. "Unconditionality" points to the accessibility of all to the basic income, without any means tests. The third component, "agency," refers to the lens through which the Indian government views the poor. According to the Survey, by treating the poor as agents rather than subjects, UBI "liberates citizens from paternalistic and clientelistic relationships with the state."

Several scholars around the globe, including Guy Standing and Pranab Bardhan, have expressed strong support of the implementation of UBI as an alternative to corrupt and ineffective existing social programs in India. Organizations like the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) and UNICEF have backed the proposal by launching the 2010 UBI pilot program in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Basic income in the Netherlands

The issue of the basic income gained prominence on the political agenda in Netherlands between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s but it has disappeared from the political agenda over the last fifteen years.

Claus Offe

Claus Offe (born 16 March 1940 in Berlin) is a political sociologist of Marxist orientation. He received his PhD from the University of Frankfurt and his Habilitation at the University of Konstanz. In Germany, he has held chairs for Political Science and Political Sociology at the Universities of Bielefeld (1975–1989) and Bremen (1989–1995), as well as at the Humboldt-University of Berlin (1995–2005). He has worked as fellow and visiting professor at the Institutes for Advanced Study in Stanford, Princeton, and the Australian National University as well as Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley and The New School University, New York. Once a student of Jürgen Habermas, the left-leaning German academic is counted among the second generation Frankfurt School. He currently teaches political sociology at a private university in Berlin, the Hertie School of Governance.

He has made substantive contributions to understanding the relationships between democracy and capitalism. His recent work has focused on economies and states in transition to democracy.

He has been married to Ulrike Poppe since 2001.

Guaranteed minimum income

Guaranteed minimum income (GMI), also called minimum income, is a system of social welfare provision that guarantees that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. Eligibility is typically determined by citizenship, a means test, and either availability for the labour market or a willingness to perform community services. The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is to reduce poverty. If citizenship is the only requirement, the system turns into a universal basic income.

Guy Standing (economist)

Guy Standing, FAcSS (born 9 February 1948) is a British professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).Standing has written widely in the areas of labour economics, labour market policy, unemployment, labour market flexibility, structural adjustment policies and social protection. His recent work has concerned the emerging precariat class and the need to move towards unconditional basic income and deliberative democracy.

List of advocates of basic income

This is a list of notable persons or organizations that have articles on Wikipedia and are advocates of basic income.

List of basic income models

A basic income is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money, either from a government or from some other public institution, independent of any other income. This is a list of alternates to a full basic income that have been implemented or proposed.

Negative income tax

In economics, a negative income tax (NIT) is a welfare system within an income tax where people earning below a certain amount receive supplemental pay from the government instead of paying taxes to the government.

Such a system has been discussed by economists but never fully implemented. According to surveys however, the consensus view among economists is that the "government should restructure the welfare system along the lines" of one. It was described by British politician Juliet Rhys-Williams in the 1940s and later by United States free-market economist Milton Friedman.Negative income taxes can implement a basic income or supplement a guaranteed minimum income system.

In a negative income tax system, people earning a certain income level would owe no taxes; those earning more than that would pay a proportion of their income above that level; and those below that level would receive a payment of a proportion of their shortfall, which is the amount their income falls below that level.

Philippe Van Parijs

Philippe Van Parijs (French: [filip vɑ̃ paʁɛjs]; born 1951) is a Belgian political philosopher and political economist, best known as a proponent and main defender of the concept of a basic income and for the first systematic treatment of linguistic justice.

Pirate Party (Finland)

The Pirate Party (Finnish: Piraattipuolue, Swedish: Piratpartiet) is a registered political party in Finland. The group currently has around 4,065 members. The chairman of the party is Petrus Pennanen. The party is a member of Pirate Parties International.

Social dividend

The social dividend is the return on the capital assets and natural resources owned by society in a socialist economy. The concept notably appears as a key characteristic of market socialism, where it takes the form of a dividend payment to each citizen derived from the property income generated by publicly owned enterprises, representing the individual’s share of the capital and natural resources owned by society.Although the social dividend concept has not yet been applied on a large scale, similar policies have been adopted on a limited basis. In both the former Soviet-type economies and non-Socialist countries, the net earnings of revenue-generating state enterprises were considered a source of public revenue to be spent directly by the government to finance various public goods and services.The concept of a social dividend overlaps with the concept of a universal basic income guarantee, but is distinguished from basic income in that a social dividend implies social ownership of productive assets whereas a basic income does not necessarily imply social ownership and can be financed through a much broader range of sources. Unlike a basic income, the social dividend yield varies based on the performance of the socially owned economy. The social dividend can be regarded as the socialist analogue to basic income. More recently the term universal basic dividend has been used to contrast the social dividend concept with basic income.


Vivant is a small social-liberal political party in Belgium founded by millionaire Roland Duchâtelet. In the regional elections in June 2004, the party formed a strategic alliance with the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD). Both parties are founded on the principle of individualism and can be called liberal. In 2007, the party announced it would likely merge with the VLD.

Vivant is economically liberal, advocating a basic income guarantee for all citizens. Vivant considers the basic income as an inalienable part of the legal minimum wage (approximately half of it for full-time employment). In order to tax goods more evenly, wherever they are manufactured in order to respond to automatisation, globalization and an ageing population, Vivant proposes to shift taxes from labour to final consumption. (All taxes in the chain of production are an inclusive part of the price paid by the consumers and could be considered as a consumption tax, each tax in each stage with its specific side effects.) Vivant also proposes a flat tax on income in two steps, 0% on to 1350 Euro and 50% from there. The VLD doesn't support all of these measures. Vivant also has direct democracy as one of its key points.

In the regional elections of 2004, partner VLD lost heavily, dragging Vivant with it to third place among Flemish political parties. Although interest in Vivant increased during the elections, the party remained a marginal force in Belgian politics. Vivant is particularly strong in the German-speaking community of Belgium, where it won 7.3% and two representatives in the Parliament of the German community.

While vivant means "alive" or "lively" in French, as an acronym "VIVANT" stands for Voor Individuele Vrijheid en Arbeid in een Nieuwe Toekomst, ("for individual freedom and labour in a new future") in Dutch.

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