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USBIG 5th Congress - Abstracts 2006
The Basic Income Guarantee is an unconditional, government-insured guarantee that all citizens will have enough income to meet their basic needs

2006 Paper Abstracts

Openning Address

"Bridging the Gap Between Earnings and Needs: The Interaction of Government Aid and Employment"

Heather Boushey


Keynote Address

"Justice, Morality, and Revenue for a Basic Income Guarantee"

Nicolas Tideman


"Funding a BIG Through a Tax Surcharge on Incomes over $100,000"

Abe Bloom and Steve Bloom

The paper began life a couple of years ago as a proposal, circulated among various activists of the reparations movement in the Black community. The title was: “A proposal to establish a social fund in the USA for reparations and other human needs .” That remains the political orientation of the papers’ authors. We recognize, however, that the same mechanism can be used for generating funds that would allow for the institutionalization of a guaranteed annual income (or other specific purposes). The main goal is to move toward the elimination of poverty in the USA and, we would urge, around the world--through some mechanism that would equalize the distribution of wealth which is, today, obscenely skewed in favor of those who are already rich. Because the authors are activists, and not academics, some figures here are based on estimates of income distribution among those households in the USA which have an annual income of more than $100,000. We assume that plugging in the actual figures will not qualitatively alter our result. We submit the text as is in order to suggest a general methodology which we believe to be sound, and ask the assistance of others in quantifying the potential more precisely.

"Economic Theory and the Social Contract: Implications for Policies to Reduce Poverty"

James Bryan

Ronald Coase’s theorem allowed us to recognize that institutional arrangements are unimportant for contracting (in arriving at efficient outcomes) in an environment that has no transaction costs. It is possible to conceive of the principles of justice as those that would be derived by contingent claims contractors behind a Veil of Ignorance. That is, social contractors who strike agreements before they know their eventual state in life (their initial human capital endowments, financial endowments, attributes that may evoke prejudice from others, etc.) would strike deals that are impartial and, therefore, just. However, the arrangements struck might be quite different if the social contractors are making contingent claims deals for a world in which all actors will face problems of costly information, costly negotiation, and costly enforcement of contracts. Actual market contracting may be efficient (under certain conditions), but there is reason to believe that it will often diverge from justice. That is because much of market contracting occurs after many of life’s lotteries have been won or lost. People buy health insurance after some of their health prospects are known to them and to the sellers of insurance. Workers take jobs for agreed upon wage rates after some of the market value of their original human capital endowment is known to them and to their employers. Just agreements struck behind a Veil of Ignorance for a world of no transaction costs might indicate very different insurance coverage of adverse health events and might imply very different incomes than are implied by the wages dealt in labor markets. Just agreements struck behind a Veil of Ignorance for a world of significantly positive transaction costs might imply still different insurance coverage and incomes. Would social contractors, deciding on institutions for a world having transaction costs like ours, prefer a Basic Income Guarantee policy to a Living Wage policy or prefer unaltered labor market outcomes? This is the kind of question that economics may be able to help social philosophy answer. The economics literature used to develop this approach resides largely under the umbrella of contract theory. As such it includes: principal-agent theory; property rights theory; and the theory of decision-making under uncertainty.


"The Poverty of Politics" - Discussion Paper #148

Samuel A. Butler

"The Poverty of Politics' is a paper which takes off from a critique of the proposition, advanced in Lawrence M. Mead's The New Politics of Poverty, that welfare policy ought to return to 'the competence assumption' he identifies as underlying the programs of the New Deal. My critique begins with John Rawls's account of liberalism and Philippe van Parijs's related argument for a basic income. This contextualization is necessary for liberal debates around welfare conditionality, debates which take as given the notion of 'work', moving on to questions of responsibility and entitlement. I argue that, by doing philosophy in our politics, we gain a better understanding of the sorts of politics assumed in our terminology. My proposal is that any program of welfare conditionality ought to be based on a broader, reflective notion of work, including such aspects as Eva Kittay's 'care work' and Karl Marx's 'labor of individuation'."


"A Unifying Suggestion"

Stephen C. Clark

A Basic Income, shared equally among all citizens, funded as follows: 5% National Sales Tax, 1% National Property Tax, 15% National Income Tax, No Exemptions, No Deductions. Local, State, and National Governments share equally, 1/3 each on a per capita basis, 5% National Sales Tax, 1% National Property Tax, 15% National Income Tax, No Exemptions, No Deductions. This would make the tax burden equal everywhere: 10% National Sales Tax, 2% National Property Tax, 30% National Income Tax, No Exemptions, No Deductions. This would provide universal economic security, and unavoidable taxes.


"Why T.H. Marshall's Thesis Does Not Apply to Economic Rights for the, Twenty-First Century"

Harry F. Dahms

T.H. Marshall's famous argument suggested that the rise of modern society and democracy went hand in hand with the successive establishment of civil, political, and social rights, during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.  Proponents of basic income have extended Marshall's argument into the twenty-first century, contending that the survival of modern society and democracy is contingent on the establishment of economic rights.  Yet the impediments to establishing economic rights will be vastly greater than those that had to be overcome in the interest of civil, political, and social rights.  While the latter were necessary preconditions for the spread of the capitalist mode of production, the former is much more likely to become an obstacle to its spread.  Put differently, while civil, political and social rights, respectively, were preconditions for the evolution of capitalism, economic rights will be a threat to the way capitalism has "evolved" up until now.


"Basic Income: Effective, Robust, Resilient?"

Jurgen De Wispeleare

In this paper I argue that welfare policies, whatever the underlying goals and purposes, should satisfy three key policy objectives: effectiveness, robustness and resilience. Effectiveness demands that a policy positively affects or promotes some stated policy goal. Robustness requires that this policy goal is achieved under a plausible variation of relevant background circumstances. Resilience, finally, implies that a policy is able to withstand some degree of external pressure, including pressure arising from the political process. Building on recent work in a wide range of disciplinary fields, this article explores the ways in which the specific design features of unconditional basic income schemes satisfy these conditions. Furthermore, it is suggested that the positive correlation between design and the requirements of effectiveness, robustness and resilience may provide an important justification for basic income capitalism as a feasible and desirable welfare institution.


"Basic Income Guarantee and the Social Bases of Self-Respect"

Nir Eyal

Phillip Van Parijs and Jonathan Wolff argue for BIG among other things as a "social basis of self-respect". Other egalitarians attack libertarian policies like means-testing and reliance on charity as "disrespectful" and "humiliating." I identify problems that affect all of these arguments. For example, Wolff's argument confuses respect for persons on the one hand with esteem for talent and with esteem for arduousness on the other. I also show that better respect-related arguments for BIG or for an almost identical system do exist.


"The Relative Cost of Income and Work Guarantees"

Philip Harvey

A comparative assessment is offered of the relative cost of equally expansive versions of job guarantee and basic income guarantee proposals designed for implementation in the United States. It is argued that the proper focus of this inquiry is on the additional redistributional burden each would impose on society beyond current levels of social support. It is further argued that this redistributional burden should be assessed in both gross and net terms, since popular attitudes towards the redistribution and behavioral responses to it would depend on the magnitude of each. The conclusion drawn is that a basic income guarantee provided in the form of a universal grant would impose a far greater redistributional burden on society than a job guarantee regardless of whether that burden is measured in gross or net terms.


"One Citizen, One Vote... and a Mastercard? Corporate Watch, Consumer Responsibility and one more argument in favor of the Basic Income"

Sandra Gonzalez Bailon & David Casassas

The political power of private corporations has grown in the last decades as much as the inability of the States to interfere. The control of the public sphere has progressively fallen in the hands of private factions that deprive citizens of their right to control their rulers, with the consequent cut in their freedom and autonomy. Still, certain forms of resistance have emerged to refill with politics what once was seen as mere market exchanges. Campaigns of consumer and stakeholder activism have forced many big companies to introduce in their discourse concepts such as social responsibility, business ethics, environmental policies, community development or corporate governance. Despite the hypocrisy of the means, these campaigns allow citizens to be belligerent with their goals: in exchange for a good image (in exchange for higher sales), corporations are forced to adopt measures that protect their products from consumers’ ethics; and consumers manage to conquer this way a bit of the terrain stolen from their sovereignty. The will that citizens once expressed with their votes is now being expressed from sports departments, petrol stations and supermarket tills. The aim of this paper is to find the point of convergence between these strategies of corporate watch and the proposal for a Basic Income. Exercising the citizenship in the world being built by big corporations demands a material autonomy to decide in the marketplace what cannot be decided anywhere else. A Basic Income promotes, to begin with, the expansion of this new power of political expression beyond the middle classes: it makes it as universal as the vote was once made. The effects that, in the long run, would follow the introduction of a Basic Income are surely as radical as irreversible in the configuration of new relations of power. But these lines do not aim that far: they intend to highlight the symmetry that exists between a new way of social protest and the support promised by the introduction of a Basic Income. The argument unfolds as follows: first, a summary is given of the strategies that, since the mid nineties, have been used systematically by the corporate watch initiatives. All these strategies require the complicity of citizens in their consumers’ role. Then, the results of these campaigns are assessed, with special attention to the discourse on corporate responsibility echoed today by most companies. Finally, the political implications of this discourse are evaluated and the points of convergence between the consumer ethic and the Basic Income proposal, highlighted.


"National Sales Tax: Making a Basic Income Guarantee Palatable to the Powerful" - Discussion Paper #143

Maria A. Janicke and Ellen A. Hadley

People who have the power to make changes in our economic system are people who have succeeded under it and thus are biased against change. The idea of paying a guaranteed basic income to everyone conjures up a knee-jerk cry of communism in most financially successful people, who generally are particularly loathe to consider any plan that might distribute their wealth away from themselves to anyone else. Their rationale, of course, is that they worked for and deserve their wealth, while people who aren’t wealthy don’t deserve to be wealthy. If we cannot get powerful people to think about basic changes in our financial system, there is very little hope for change occurring by peaceful means.


"A Historical Account of the Distinction between Basic Income Guarantee and Basic-Livable Income Guarantee"

John Marangos

The Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) is a government provided guarantee that no citizen’s income for any reason will fall below some certain minimal level. All citizens would receive a BIG without means test or work requirement. In the meantime, Basic-Livable Income Guarantee (BLIG) is defined as the amount of income necessary for a decent level of living standards. LIG, as with BIG, will also be provided without any means test or work requirement. Nevertheless, BLIG not only guarantees a basic income but rather a basic level of living standards for all citizens. The aim of this paper is to discover the distinction between BIG and BLIG from a historical perspective. An analysis of the writings of BIG supporters from this perspective would facilitate an understanding of the historical development of the concept. The analysis would reveal whether the is a link between basic income and living standards from the writings of Paine, Spence, Fourier, Van Parijs and others. In conclusion, the paper would distinguish between different supporters of basic income between those advocating a basic income independent of living standards (as a result of natural or common property) and those that defend an adequate basic income for a minimum level of living standards.


"Basic Income Guarantee and the Social Bases of Self-Respect" - Discussion Paper #149

Roy Morrison

The Basic Income Grant  as an expression of the emerging practice of sustainabiliy:. The BIG, not as an income maintenance or classic social welfare measure, but as an expression of the dematerialization of production and consumption and the emergence of new social designs that reflect the triple bottom line of sustainability, the ecological and social as well  as the financial.


"AIDS, Disability and Basic Income: Challenges for Social Citizenship in South Africa"

Nicoli Nattras

This paper will outline the unique problem facing South Africa (high unemployment and high HIV prevalence) and argue that a Basic Income Grant supplemented by additional support for those with disabilities or who are taking antiretroviral treatment is required.


"Resource Allocation, Democratization, and BIG"

A. R. Rowe

GDP defines harmful work like marketing cigarettes as adding value, but excludes helpful work such as raising a child safely to maturity. Another way to value work is by the extent to which it makes others' survival, safety, and health more or less likely - i.e., whether people are more hurt or helped if you stop doing it. By letting people refuse to perform wasteful or harmful work without starving, a BIG can shift aggregate resource allocation from wasteful and harmful activity toward helpful work, reducing the need for cleanup (remediation of harm). This paper will compare U.S. activity by sector (helpful, wasteful, harmful, cleanup) to that of nations with contrasting access to programs that tend to guarantee income, such as universal medical care, and with contrasting degrees of democratization, as indicated by such practices as runoff elections, paper ballots, proportional representation, nonpartisan election commissions, and public funding of election campaigns.


"'What determines the relative appeal of cash transfers rather than employment guarantees in the South? Evidence from the past decade"

Jeremy Seeking

Countries in the South have adopted three major forms of public intervention to get cash into the pockets of the poor: employment guarantees or public works programmes, i.e. assistance to any poor who can work; non-contributory old-age pensions (and more exceptionally disability grants), i.e. grants to especially deserving categories of poor; and conditional cash transfers to poor families, i.e. grants to poor conditional on complying with other, generally desirable, social goals. The pioneering cases of each of these are India/Argentina, Brazil/Mexico, and South Africa, respectively, although none of these cases have gone for one strategy only. This paper examines the social, economic and especially political factors shaping this strategic choice.


"It’s Time to Think BIG: How to Simplify the Tax Code and Provide Every American with a Basic Income Guarantee" - Discussion Paper #144

Al Sheahan

This proposal dramatically simplifies the tax code and shows how the United States can afford to provide a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) to every citizen. A BIG would virtually end hunger and poverty in America and provide economic freedom and security to everyone.


"Employment guarantee or minimum income? Workfare and welfare in developing countries" - Discussion Paper #150

Jeremy Seekings

In many parts of the ‘South – i.e. the ‘developing’ countries of the world – widespread poverty is linked to landlessness and unemployment. Two possible responses to such poverty are employment guarantee (or public works) programmes and cash transfers. In general, low-wage job creation is the preferred option of both elites and citizens, but in South Africa cash transfers through a minimum income programme might, perversely, be more viable politically and effective more broadly in terms of poverty alleviation. This paper examines the dilemmas and choices facing South Africa, which experiences unusual levels of both deagrarianisation and unemployment. The relative viability and efficacy of employment guarantees and cash transfers depends primarily on prevailing wages in the ‘market’. In a high-wage economy such as South Africa, the political power of organized labour is generally sufficient to prevent low-wage employment creation in public works programmes. In the South African context – in contrast to low-wage settings such as India or Ethiopia – the extension of public welfare might be more viable than an employment guarantee, although the political obstacles should not be under-estimated.


"It's Time to Think BIG! Simplifying the Tax Code and Providing a Basic Income Guarantee to Everyone"

Shlomi Segall

This proposal dramatically simplifies the tax code and shows how the United States can afford to provide a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) to every citizen. A BIG would virtually end hunger and poverty in America and provide economic freedom and security to everyone.


"Funding a BIG: Why it Must Come not from Anyone’s Income but from Everyone's Spending" - Discussion Paper #145

Jeff Smith

The only example of BI is Alaska sharing oil rent. It contradicts the prevailing assumption that a social stipend must come from redistributing income. Actually, an income supplement could, and should, come from redirecting outgo, i.e., spending. That is, instead of paying owners for never-produced land, pay ourselves. We could pay land dues into the public treasury according to the value of our claimed nature – sites, resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services, etc – and get rent dividends back in equal amounts to members of society.

Not only is doing so more equitable – no one made nature, all of us need her, and all of us create her market value – but sharing land value is also more efficient than redistribution. Redistributing income requires us to tax earned income in order to pay a basic income. Taxing the rich and the employed weigh heavily on any economy, discouraging work, savings, and investment, while inflating the price for land. And we don’t have a right to others’ earnings but only to society’s surplus, our commonwealth, all the money we spend on the nature we use.

Unlike taxation, redirecting all the money we spend on nature – trillions of dollars annually in the US – stimulates more and more efficient production. It also, by generously lifting the income floor, closes the wide gulfs in income, wealth, power, social standing, and self-esteem. Sharing rent, unlike redistributing income, stands on both moral tradition and universal logic.


"Citizen’s Basic Income: The Answer is Blowing in Wind" - Discussion Paper #152

Senator Eduardo Suplicy

In this book I will try to explain one of the main ways to apply principles of justice towards the eradication of absolute poverty and towards improving income distribution to create effective peace conditions, as proclaimed many times by Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paulo II.


"The Long Journey to Work: Transit, Cars, and Income"

Margy Waller

Numerous studies suggest that improved transportation services can improve economic outcomes among the poor.  However, there is no onesize-fits-all transportation policy for working families.  Metropolitan areas are diverse.  So too are low-income families, who live in a wide array of neighborhoods and have varied transportation resources.  Not surprisingly, therefore, meeting the transportation needs of working families requires a mix of transportation solutions and the federal funding flexibility to creatively pursue varied national, regional, and local policy strategies.  Given the strong connection between cars and employment outcomes, auto ownership programs may be one of the more promising options and worthy of expansion. Transportation links American families and their livelihoods and, as such, sound transportation policy is also sound economic policy.


"Against Neutrality"

Amy Wax

What is left for government in the area of work and family is a program of modest interventions on many fronts. Although I don't share Alstott's unrelenting pessimism about family-friendly workplace reforms, those are also best developed through private initiative rather than heavy-handed top-down regulation. But ultimately the battle is for hearts, minds, and mores rather than for policy. Private individuals and institutions must once again become more protective of family life. The prospects for this are not encouraging. Despite lots of sentimental rhetoric, our individualism continues to move us too far in the wrong direction.


"On Duty" - Discussion Paper #146

Karl Widerquist

A common objection to basic income is that people have duties to each other, such as helping the infirm or contributing to the social project. Often it is assumed that person who lives entirely off basic income makes no contribution to the social product, but this ignores passive contribution. Basic income recipients have access to fewer natural resources than everyone else, and therefore, make property available to reward others for doing whatever society demands. If duties are capable of grounding a social responsibility to work, the connection requires a reason why duty implies an active contribution. This article examines the case for a duty, and argues for three limits on a government’s ability to enforce active duties. First, the force must be necessary. Second, the duties must be applied as equally as possible to all people in every way. Third, if duties are necessary, society is in an emergency situation, and society as a whole has the responsibility to get out of the emergency as quickly as possible or to minimize its affects as much as possible. These limits imply that the existence of duties do not support the case for lifetime mandatory participation and against basic income. If any mandatory participation is needed in a society that provides equal freedom for all, it must take the form of national services in which everyone—rich and poor alike—performs the same duty for the same period of time for the same reward, receiving basic income as a national service pension.


"The Impact of TANF on Income, Poverty Rate and Poverty Gap among Women and their Families – based on Official / Alternative Poverty Definitions" - Discussion Paper #153

Ji-Young Yoo

I examine whether the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work Requirements (WR) affect poverty change among single mothers and their families, using the March CPS of 1991 – 2002.  I utilize three measures for poverty; income, poverty rate and poverty gap. Also, in order to compute these three poverty measures, I employ 1) the Census Bureau’s official definitions and 2) the NRC’s alternative definitions of poverty.  Research findings—based on the official definitions—show that the TANF WR have significant impacts on 1) the increase of income, 2) the decrease of poverty rate. However, the impacts on poverty gap appear insignificant.  Research findings—based on the alternative definitions—indicate that the TANF WR have no significant impact on income or poverty gap.  However, the poverty rates significantly decline. These multiangulating results would be a more secure basis for drawing conclusions of TANF-poverty relationship.


"Normative Foundation of the "Basic Income" Policy: Toward Welfare Economics of Welfare States"

Naoki Yoshihara

The purpose of this presentation is to provide with the normative characterizations of the basic income policy through modeling resource allocation mechanisms which embody its basic ideas. We first clarify the conception of "real libertarianism" proposed by Van Parijs (1995), and conceptualize the "Undominated Diversity" axiom. Then, we propose two kinds of resource allocation rules, each of which satisfies Pareto efficiency and "equalization" of individuals' opportunities.


"Individual vs. Family Benefits: Equity and Efficiency Issues in the Implementation of a Basic Income"

Almaz Zelleke

Agreement on the merits of an unconditional basic income, difficult enough on its own, leaves important issues of implementation unresolved: the amount of the basic income, the frequency of disbursement, age of eligibility, and citizenship or residency requirements, not to mention the source of its funding. In this paper, I address the question of whether basic income benefits should be individually- or family-based, considering equity, efficiency, and incentive effects of both alternatives.