This is the Newsletter of USBIG, ( a network promoting the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. If you'd like to be added to or removed from this list please email:

















James Tobin was an extremely influential economist. He was advisor to President Kennedy and a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. He is best known for his theory of the role of liquidity and asset prices in the movement of business cycles, for the use of tax cuts as a recession stimulus, and for the “Tobin tax” on foreign exchange transactions as a way to reduce speculation. He was often an intellectual opponent of Milton Friedman, but one issue they agreed on was the basic income guarantee. Friedman was one of the first American economists to advocate the negative income tax in the political arena, and Tobin was on of the first economist to publish a technical paper on it. Tobin was an unofficial advisor to the Income Maintenance Experiments in the 1960s and 70s. He reaffirmed his support for BIG in 2001 in an interview with Eduardo Suplicy for the Basic Income European Network. The interview can be found on the web at I spoke to James Tobin a few weeks before the USBIG conference. He gave his encouragement and said he was glad to know that people are still working on this idea.




The First Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network was held March 8 and 9 at the City University of New York. It was attended by at least 104 people including activists, economists, historians, sociologists, law professors, political scientists, insurance experts, philosophers, students, and many others. The full list of attendees can be found on the web at


The featured speakers of the conference were Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, author of Citizen's Income-The Exit is through the Door and Guy Standing, Director of the Socio-Economic Security Programme of the International Labour Organisation and author of several books including Beyond the New Paternalism.


The following papers were presented at the conference. The full text of these papers can be found on the USBIG website at (then click on program):


Barbara R. Bergmann. “A Swedish-Style Welfare State Or Basic Income: Which Should Have Priority?

Fred Block, “Basic Income and the Shadow of Speedhamland

James B. Bryan, “Did the U.S. Welfare Reforms of 1996 and the Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit Eliminate the Need for a Basic Income Guarantee?

Stephen Bouquin & Catherine Levy, “Social minima a part of recommodification of labour? Critical assessment concerning the tendencies towards basic income

Richard K. Caputo, “FAP Flops: Lessons Learned from the Failure to Pass the Family Assistance Plan in 1970 and 1972?

Charles M. A. Clark, “Basic Income: Promoting Social Justice in a 21st Century Economy

Stephen C. Clark, “Funding a Basic Income Guarantee Considering Size, Political Viability, and Pipeline.”

John Cunliffe and Guido Erreygers, “Inheritance and Equal Shares: Early American Views

Buford Farris, “Was it only a Dream: Guaranteed Income through the eyes of a Sixties Poverty Warrior in Texas

Myron Frankman, “Funding a Planet-Wide Citizen's Income: Trial Calculations

Irwin Garfinkel, Chien-Chung Huang, Wendy Naidich, “Effects Of Tax Rebates on Poverty and Income Distribution

Robert Harris, “The Guaranteed Income Movement of the 1960s and 1970s

Michael W. Howard, “Liberal and Marxist Justifications for Basic Income

Thierry Laurent and Yannick L’Horty “Static vs. Dynamic Inactivity Trap on the Labor Market: Revisiting the ‘Making Work Pay’ Issue.

Michael Lewis “Perhaps There Can be Too Much Freedom

Roy Morrison, “A Framework for Justice and Fairness

Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings “The Political-Economy of a Basic Income Grant in South Africa

Steven Pressman, “Guaranteed Incomes and the Equity-Efficiency Tradeoff

Steven Shafarman, “Ending Hunger, Homelessness, and Debilitating Poverty: Comparing BIG and other approaches

Steven Shafarman, “Beyond Left vs. Right: A New Political Discourse

Al Sheahen, “Does Everyone Have a Right to a Basic Income Guarantee?

Al Sheahan, “Why not Guarantee Everyone a Job? Why the Negative Income Tax Experiments of the 1970s were Successful

Jeffery J Smith, “BI- Brought to you by the people in the environmental movement

Brian Steensland, “Defining Welfare: Media Depictions of the Struggle over Guaranteed Income, 1966-1980.”

Walter Van Trier, “Do Firms Need to be Third Places for Jobs to be (Public) Good(s)? Remarks on André Gorz’s recantation of the second cheque strategy and his adoption of basic income”

Walter Van Trier, “Who Framed ‘Social Dividend’?

Jerold Waltman, “The Basic Income Guarantee and the Living Wage: A Comparative Anatomy

Amy Wax, “Something for Nothing: The Liberal Case Against Welfare Work Requirements.”

Karl Widerquist, “Phelps’s Economic Discipline as Undisciplined Economics”

Karl Widerquist, “Who Exploits Who?

Karl Widerquist, “A Preliminary Review of the Literature on the Negative Income Tax Experiments.”

Ed Wolff, “Recent Trends in Living Standards in the United States

Almaz Zelleke, "Basic Income in the United States: Redefining Citizenship in the Liberal State"


The conference also included a screening of the film: “A Day’s Work, A Day’s Pay” by Jonathan Skurnik and Kathy Leichter, and the following panel discussions:




Stanley Aronowitz, City University of New York, coauthor The Jobless Future

Frank Kirkland, Hunter College

Lynn Chancer, Fordham University, author of Sadomasochism in Everyday Life

Chair: Fred Block



Robinson Hollister, professor of economics, Swarthmore College, and coauthor of Labor Market Policy and Unemployment Insurance

Robert Levine, Rand

Alice O’Connor, UC Santa Barbara, author of Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy and the Poor in Twentieth Century U.S. History

Harold Watts, emeritus professor of economics and public affairs, Columbia University, coeditor of The New Jersey Income Maintenance Experiment, Volumes II and III

Walter Williams, emeritus professor of public affairs, University of Washington, author of Honest Numbers and Democracy: Social Policy Analysis in the White House, Congress, and the Federal Agencies

Chair: Robert Harris, former Executive Director of the President's Commission on Income Maintenance, former Vice President of the Urban Institute



Mimi Abramowitz, Hunter College School of Social Work, author of Regulating the Lives of Women

Ruth Brandwein, the SUNY School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook, author of Battered Women, Children and Welfare Reform: The Ties That Bind

Barbara Bergmann, American University, author of The Economic Emergence of Women, author of In Defense of Affirmative Action, coauthor of America's Child Care Problem: The Way Out

Chair: Michael Lewis



Steven Shafarman, The Citizen Policies Institute

Greg Scharma-Holt, Vice President of Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers Union

Terri Scofield, founder of Suffolk Welfare Warriors

Chair: Susanna Jones, Hunter College School of Social Work



Anne Alstott, Yale University, coauthor of The Stakeholder Society

Joel Blau, the SUNY School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook, author of Illusions of Prosperity

Sumner Rosen, Columbia University and Vice-Chair of the National Jobs For All Coalition

Jeff Manza, Northwestern University

Chair: Eri Noguchi, Columbia University


USBIG HELD ITS FIRST ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING AT THE CONGRESS. About 35 people attended the meeting and reaffirmed Karl Widerquist as coordinator, with Michael Lewis, Eri Noguchi, Fred Block, and Robert Harris as the coordinating committee until the next organizational meeting. We set several goals for the near future: organize some of the conference papers into a collected volume or a special issue of a journal, organize another national Congress within the next two years, make greater outreach toward students and activists, increase efforts to restart discussion of this issue in the United States. Widerquist and Lewis will work on editing articles for publication. All of the conference papers will remain on the website for the foreseeable future as a resource for anyone interested in this topic. Terri Scofield volunteered to act as a liaison to the activist community and toward that effort she has organized a panel on BIG at the national homeless conference in Washington, DC, April 29th. Steve Shafarman and Karl Widerquist will be on that panel. The meeting also approved the following letter by Eduardo Suplicy to James Tobin. Unfortunately, Tobin died a few days later.


Dear Professor Tobin,


We are very happy to communicate to you that your proposition of guaranteeing an income to all, either through a negative income tax, a demogrant, basic income, or basic capital is alive and well not only in Europe, where BIEN was founded in 1986, and has become more and more active, not only in Brazil, South Africa, and many other countries, but also in the United States where we have just concluded the first Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network at the City University of New York. It is our intention to organize the next conference of the USBIG Network perhaps in New York or nearby at Yale. It would be an honor if you would participate in the second conference.



Senator Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy

Karl Widerquist, coordinator USBIG





Approximately 3000 people marched on the South African Parliament in Cape Town on February 20, 2002 to call for a Basic Income Grant (BIG) for all, and a comprehensive plan to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, according to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The Basic Income Grant Coalition and TAC organized the march, which followed last fall’s declaration by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Coalition for a Basic Income Grant, TAC, and more than a dozen other non-governmental organizations in favor of a monthly basic income grant of 100 Rand (about $10) for all South Africans. Njongonkulu Ndungane (Desmond Tutu’s successor as the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of South Africa) also endorsed the idea. Even the conservative grant of $10 per month would make an enormous difference to the large number of South Africans who are not merely poor but destitute. Neil Coleman, from Cosatu, said, "We are saying there should be a universal grant that goes to everyone from cradle to grave as a constitutional right which will lift the 22 million people out of the dire poverty they are experiencing." The coalition estimates this would cost about 8% of tax revenues.


There is significant popular support for BIG in South Africa largely because it has an extremely high unemployment rate and no unemployment insurance system in an otherwise generous social welfare system. But despite this popular support, Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seeking, both of the University of Cape Town, are pessimistic about its prospects because of the difficulty of building a coalition for any particular method of financing BIG: The ruling ANC, which is skeptical of, if not outright hostile to BIG, is reluctant to raise taxes on the upper class for fear of capital flight, while the trade unions, which favor BIG, are reluctant to endorse a broadening of the tax base that will turn their members from net recipients to net contributors of transfers. But if public pressure grows in the future perhaps prospects for a compromise will grow as well.


To see the memorandum handed over to the presidency by the demonstrators, go to





BIEN reports the following news from Belgium, France, and Spain:



Mieke Vogels, from the green party Agalev, is one of Flanders' best known politicians and has been a member of the Flemish government for three years. In an interview with the Flemish daily De Morgen (22.06.01), she declared "I am in favour of a basic income. We are slowly moving in that direction. Career interruption credits can be a first step. They give people a chance to temporarily interrupt their job. I want to uncouple work and income from one another. Sadly enough, our labour organisation does not fit in. It remains stuck in the obsolete old model." As it happens, Belgium's largest trade union confederation CSC-ACV is in the process of preparing a special congress on "the just income", to be held from 17 to 19 October 2002. One section of the preparatory report ("How fair is my income?", 25 January 2002) is entitled "No basic income". Why not? For two fundamental reasons: One is that a basic income "is undesirable: work is not the only, but still the most important means of self-development; it also remains the main and perhaps the last social link." The other it that "it is unreasonable: basic income offers too lazy a solution to work and employment. In two ways: unemployment would not be got rid of but defined away (unemployment would henceforth be called basic income); and employers would be exempted of any social obligation: no salary scales, no minimum wage, no labour law - all unnecessary, since everyone would then enjoy a minimum income, since everyone would then be able to live without working". Hardly promising... (For more:



On 12 January, the French Communist Party's Commission on "the status of the active", coordinated by Gérard Lalot and Jacques Nikonoff, organised a one-day conference in Paris entitled "For or against a universal existence income". Yann Moulier Boutang (economist, Sciences Po, Paris) and Arnaud Spire (philosopher) spoke in favour, while Jean-Marie Harribey (economist, University of Bordeaux) and Liem Hoang-Ngoc (economist, University of Paris I) spoke against. In his conclusion, Jacques Nikonoff stressed how useful the debate had been in clarifying misunderstandings on both sides. As an expression of persistent openness, the traditionally very labour-focused PCF's daily L'Humanité subsequently published an article by Arnaud Spire under the title "Outside waged labour no salvation?" (21 March 2002). (For further information:



Held in March 2002, the XVIth Congress of the Spanish Communist Party adopted a resolution emphasizing the relevance of an unconditional basic income for the fight against poverty, the empowering of workers and particularly women, and the achievement of a society in which more is distributed according to need rather than market performance.  It called for "the fostering of a debate about basic income within the Spanish communist party" through the organisation of conferences by a working group, which, "after gathering anxieties, doubts and suggestions, will have to prepare a basic proposal to be discussed in all sections and eventually in the Federal Committee". (For further information contact Daniel Raventos,





TOWARDS NEW FORMS OF WELFARE, Stresa, Italy April 26-27 2002:

An international conference organised at the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées, on the Lago Maggiore, by the Ce,tro Nazionale di Prevenzione e Difesa Sociale, with contributions (among others) by Bruce Ackerman (Yale University) on "the stakeholders' society", by Gavin Kelly (IPPR, London) on the "child bond" and by Philippe Van Parijs (Louvain University) on basic income. For further information:



THE NATIONAL LOW INCOME HOUSING COALITION (NLIHC) AND THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS (NCH) are co-sponsoring the Washington Policy Conference, April 29-30 in Washington, DC. This year, NLIHC and NCH have been among the leaders of the National Housing Trust Fund Campaign. The Campaign seeks to establish a National Housing Trust Fund that would build and preserve 1.5 million units of rental housing for the lowest income families over the next 10 years. More than one-third of the members of Congress are co-sponsoring National Housing Trust Fund legislation in the House and Senate. The conference will also include discussion of preservation of existing affordable housing, living wage laws, housing for elderly and disabled people, Section 8 voucher use, rural housing, smart growth, many other topics, and one session on the basic income guarantee. More information can be found on the web at:, or by email at:




The fifth Real Utopias conference organized by sociologist Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Karl Widerquist (Oxford) will debate two papers, one by Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott (Yale Law School) on the idea of a one-off payment to every young adult, and one by Philippe Van Parijs (Université catholique de Louvain) on basic income. The discussion will include comments by Claus Offe, Stephen Cohen, Nancy Fraser, Guy Standing, Barbara Bergman, Pascale Vielle, Michael Lewis, Carole Pateman, Ed Wolff, Julian Le Grand, Robert Haveman, Charles Sabel, John Roemer and Stuart White. The articles presented at the conference will be organized into a book in Verso's "New Utopias" series. For further information: Shamus Khan



NINTH CONGRESS OF THE BASIC INCOME EUROPEAN NETWORK: INCOME SECURITY AS A RIGHT will be held at the International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland, 12-14 September 2002. The Congress will include panels on “Assessing Selectivity and Promoting Rights,” “Income Security in Development,” and “Legitimising Basic Income Politically.” It will also include workshops on “Citizenship Credit Cards: Electronic income transfers,” “Basic Income: Prospects in South Africa,” “Care Work: The Need for Income Security,” “Legitimising Basic Income in European Countries,” “Income Security as a Development Right,” “Assessing Selectivity,” “Workfare and Basic Income,” and “Promoting Basic Income in Development.” For more information see the BIEN website,, or contact BIEN at





CHARLES CLARK, The Basic Income Guarantee: Ensuring Progress and Prosperity in the 21st Century

ISBN 1-904148-07-7; €22,00 (EU Euros), £17.33 (Irish Pounds); 240 pages

Globalisation and technological change, the key components of what is often called the "New Economy", offer the promise of increased prosperity but have also been accompanied by greater income inequality, increased insecurity and social exclusion. This new economic environment requires changes in how society provides for economic security and equity to go along with the changes in the economy required to promote greater economic efficiency. The welfare state was designed for a twentieth century economy and cannot promote equity and efficiency in the New Economy. Currently countries are pursuing either equity at the expense of efficiency (Scandinavia) or efficiency at the expense of equity (US and UK). A Basic Income Guarantee — a guaranteed adequate income for every member of society — is a social welfare policy that promises to achieve both equity and efficiency. It provides the flexibility needed to promote economic progress while at the same time providing economic security for all citizens — ensuring that all benefit from economic progress and that no one is excluded. This book shows how a Basic Income Guarantee would promote the competitiveness of the Irish economy while at the same time reducing income inequality, eliminating poverty and promoting social inclusion and participation. To order a copy on line go to:



STEVE SHAFARMAN, “An Economist's Vision,” appeared in the New York Times letters to the editor section on March 19, 2002. A response to Paul Krugman’s column on the life of James Tobin, the letter discussed Tobin’s work on the guarantee income. You can find the full text of the article on the web at:



PHILIPPE SCHMITTER et al., "Debate on Expanding Social Citizenship", in Journal of European Social Policy 11 (4), 2001, 342-62.

In issue 11 (1), 2001 of the Journal of European Social Policy, Philippe Schmitter (IUE, Florence) and Michael Bauer (Max Planck Projekt, Bonn) presented "a (modest) proposal for expanding social citizenship in the

European Union". In this issue, this proposal is challenged in two comments: "From Euro-stipend to Euro-dividend", by Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vandeborght (Université catholique de Louvain) argues that Schmitter and Bauer's proposal of an EU-wide means-tested guaranteed income has a number of defects, some mendable and some not, and invites them to jump straight away to a modest version of what they view as the end point of a long process, namely a universal "Euro-dividend", possibly funded by an EU-wide energy tax; Manos Matsaganis (University of Crete) likewise emphasises the country-level moral hazard problem generated by a means-tested scheme of the Schmitter-Bauer type and proposes instead a substantial (5000) or more modest (1000) birth grant to every child born from a woman residing in the EU. In their "Dividend, birth-grant or stipendium? A reply", Schmitter and Bauer accept some of their critics' suggestions for improving their proposal, but stick to the view that the greater political feasibility of a means-tested scheme more than offsets its disadvantage in terms of moral hazard, as a "modest, immediately beneficial and politically feasible step" in the right direction.





A free interactive screen saver on the Basic Income Grant in South Africa is available on the South Africans for a Basic Income Grant website (sponsored by the Development Resource Centre) at:





THE CITIZEN POLICIES INSTITUTE in Washington, DC promotes a version of BIG called “Citizen Dividends” in the political arena. Their website includes information and articles on Citizen Dividends. You can find it on the web at For more information contact the executive director, Steve Shafarman at




     South Africans for a Basic Income Grant has a page on the website of the Development Resources Centre (DRC), which includes several articles on the politics of BIG in South Africa. It can be found at:

     The South African New Economics Foundation (SANE), which endorses BIG in South Africa, has a website that is currently undergoing renovation at

     Economic and Policy Research Institute’s (EPRI) website ( contains several downloadable research papers on BIG in South Africa.

    The South African Council of Church’s website includes an endorsement and a declaration of principles for the Basic Income Grant at:

     Dr. Dirk Haarmann & Dr. Claudia Haarmann's web site ( contains information on BIG including Claudia Haarmann's doctoral thesis, which models the social and economic effect of a basic income guarantee in South Africa. They can be reached by email at:





You can find links to many websites on BIG and related topics from the U.S. and around the world at:


THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK (USBIG), which publishes this newsletter, is dedicated to promoting the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. BIG is a generic name for any proposal to create a minimum income level below which no citizen’s income can fall. Information on BIG and USBIG can be found on the web at: If you know any BIG news; if you have any comments on the newsletter or the web site; if you know anyone who would like to be added to this list; or if you would like to be removed from this list; please send me an email:




-Karl Widerquist, coordinator, USBIG.