This is the Newsletter of USBIG, ( a network promoting the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States--a policy that would unconditionally guarantee a subsistence-level income for everyone. If you'd like to be added to or removed from this list please email:



















The Third Annual Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network will be held in Washington, DC, February 22-24, 2004. The meeting will take place in conjunction with the Eastern Economics Association Annual Meeting and will be cosponsored by the Citizen Policies Institute. The Congress will bring together academics, activists, and lay people interested in discussing the pros and cons of the basic income guarantee. The official announcement and call for papers will be out within two weeks.




Suddenly people around the world are talking about the basic income guarantee. Positive editorials about implementing BIG in Iraq have appeared in papers as unlikely as the Daily Oklahoman, the Edmonton Journal, the Tulsa World, the San Diego Union Tribune, and the Record of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. BIG has a way of appearing out of nowhere as a major policy option. The reasons for its sudden appearance in this case are simple: Alaska and Iraq both have large oil reserves. The Iraqi people have never shared in Iraq’s oil wealth. The Alaska Permanent Fund has distributed billions of dollars of Alaskan oil revenue in cash, so that every Alaska resident has shared a total of $21,902 in the state’s oil revenue since 1982. Every permanent resident of Alaska receives the same amount regardless of age, income, ethnicity, employment status, marital status, or any other condition. The program is hugely successful and hugely popular. The Iraqis need cash from the bottom up, and an Alaskan-style fund could deliver it.


Discussion began with letters to the editor immediately following the Iraq war—Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation in the New York Times, Guy Standing of the International Labor Organization in the Financial Times (London), Scott E. Pardee of Middlebury College (Vermont) in the Washington Post, Steve Shafarman of the Citizen Policies Institute in the Progress Report (magazine), and others. The idea was soon discussed as high as the U.S. Senate, the Bush Administration, and the United Nations. Pensions and Investments (magazine) used the occasion to compare several different oil funds, such as Kuwait’s and Alberta’s, concluding that the Alaska fund (the only one that’s a true BIG) provides the best model for Iraq. Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, sent a letter to Senator Suplicy of Brazil to say that he would consider the value transposing the Alaska policy to Iraq. Most of the editorials have stayed away from the familiar names for BIG, such as “basic income,” “guaranteed income,” or “negative income tax,” choosing instead to call it “Alaska-type” “revenue sharing.” Similarly, most editorials have not mentioned that some of the recipients will be “poor people,” focusing instead on “ordinary Iraqis.”


The Los Angeles times reports that Senators Mary Landrieu (Democrat-Louisiana) and Lisa Murkowski (Republican-Alaska) are behind it, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell indicated interest. The Los Angeles Times quoted Powell, "The interesting concept that has been used in Alaska for so many years is under consideration… We're looking at that." Powell said Alaska lawmakers have "educated me over the years as to the merit of this approach to the use of oil to compensate the people in a way that they can make a choice as to how the wealth of the state is being used.”


About one and a half hours into the testimony in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 29, 2003, Senator George Allen, (Republican-Virginia), asked Powell “...I would like to hear any comments or thoughts you may have on the constitution in Iraq of creating something like the Alaska Permanent Fund so that the people of Iraq indeed are the owners of not only their government but also of that key resource [oil].”


Secretary Powell replied, “...the clear point is that if the people, if they had access to that money directly, as in the case of Alaska...a decision will be made to start a business, or educate a child, or build a house, or buying clothing--it will circulate in the economy. It will contribute to the economy”


Senator Allen, continued “...I'd suspect if they would hold some sort of plebiscite or referendum on if they'd like to get a little dividend...”


Secretary Powell replied again, “I'd think I would bet on it.”


A source described the mood as, “they were both almost grinning as if they were saying something naughty and they knew it.”


There are a lot of troubling roadblocks in Iraq that could prevent any stable, democratic constitution from taking hold, and if the United States is serious about providing only a “continuing presence” and not an “occupying force,” its influence in Iraqi policy should be limited. But, whatever happens, there are two lessons BIG supporters can take from the sudden appearance of BIG on the U.S. political scene: First, the Alaska Fund is providing an extremely important demonstration. Not everyone will make these connections, but if everybody right up to the Bush administration is now agreed that the Alaska Fund is an equitable way to distribute Alaskan and Iraqi oil wealth, then why not do the same with Texan or Louisianan oil wealth, or California gold mining wealth, or New York real estate wealth, or any other natural resource? Second, BIG is not as politically nonviable as most people think. It’s been out of high-level political discussion in the United States for 25 years, but with only the slightest return of the idea, at least three Senators immediately showed support for it, and the Secretary of State said that the Bush administration (which is not known for being particularly friendly toward the redistribution of income) already has it “under consideration.”





Senator Suplicy reports, President Lula of Brazil, accompanied by all 27 Brazilian governors, personally handed in his Fiscal and Social Security Constitutional Amendment Proposals. Among them, Article 203 reads in full, "The Union shall institute a Minimum Income Program designed to ensure the subsistence of low income families, to be funded in solidarity with and implemented by means of convention with the States, the Federal District and the Municipalities." There is still a long legislative procedure before the policy can be written into the constitution, but Senator Suplicy stresses the importance that the principle of the minimum income was presented to the Brazilian National Congress by the President and with the support of all governors. Senators and Federal Representatives will discuss, propose changes, and vote these proposals later this year.





The Guardian (April 10, 2003) reports that the Blair government has included a child trust fund in its budget for the coming fiscal year. This “baby bond” is essentially a once-in-a-lifetime BIG. The government will establish an account for every child born in Britain after September 2002 with an initial endowment of at least £250, rising to £500 for the poorest children. Each child will receive additional payments into their fund, and parents and extended family can also make contributions. At the age of 18, the fund will accumulate an asset base of several 1000 pounds, enabling all young people to have the chances only available to some today. The next generation will have the backing of a real financial asset to invest in activities such as learning, buying a home or setting up a business. Although a baby bond is far short of full a basic income guarantee, it establishes the right of every person to inherit a small part of the wealth of the nation. This is an important change in thinking necessary to make BIG politically feasible.




September 19-20, 2004 at the Universal forum of Cultures in Barcelona


PLENARY SESSIONS: BIEN's two-day Congress will combine, as usual, plenary sessions with guest speakers and parallel workshops with volunteered papers. The first session will consider issues of principle (two subthemes are being explored: "Family-friendly policy and parental wage" and "Right to basic income and duty of reciprocity"), while the final session will consider prospects for basic income in the North and in the South. Final decisions will be taken at a later stage. Suggestions of potential keynote speakers (preferably, but not exclusively, non-men, non-Anglo-American and not heard before, to counteract familiar natural tendencies) are welcome (contact:


CALL FOR PANEL COORDINATORS: There will be room for four times four workshops each for a maximum of 100 minutes and with a maximum of four papers. To create more coherence, a substantial proportion of the sessions will take the form of panels, i.e. pre-organised workshops on a common question. A call is therefore hereby made for panel coordinators. Proposals must mention the title of the panel, a brief formulation of questions to be discussed and a first list of potential participants (4 paper givers + 1 chair). Make sure the participants are from different countries and do not hesitate to recruit competent people who are quite critical of basic income but have something to say we need to hear. The panel proposals should reach the scientific committee of the Congress <> as soon as possible and no later by 30 September 2003. Panels will be selected (and possibly further panels suggested) at the October meeting of the committee. Panel proposals and their composition (with abstract for each paper) will need to be confirmed by 30 March 2004, and their final approval will occur at that stage. The sort of themes on which panel proposals would be most welcome include "Basic income and varieties of economic democracy", "Refundable tax credits as a backdoor path to basic income?", "Voluntary career interruption schemes and other working time policies as a backdoor path to basic income", "Prospects for a universal basic pension", "Basic income and multi-level government", "Basic income and the recognition of care work", " Basic income: a strategy for specifically disadvantaged groups?", "Anticipating the administrative problems of basic income and related universal schemes", "Basic Income as a Mechanism for the Promotion of Worker's Bargaining Power".


CALL FOR PAPERS: Other papers relevant to basic income can also be submitted independently of the panels. Do not do so, however, before October 2003, when the themes of the panels will be announced and the number of remaining slots estimated. The deadline for paper proposals will be 30 March 2004). Fitting into a coherent session will be one factor taken into account in the selection process.






BIEN reports a working group met in Frankfurt on 29 January 2003 to discuss the possibility of setting up an association for the propagation of the idea of an unconditional basic income. Is this the beginning of a BIG network in Germany? For further information, contact Manuel Franzmann at or Axel Jansen at


MEXICO: Step Towards a Universal Basic Pension?

BIEN reports, since the middle of 2002, the Government of the Federal District of Mexico implements a "Program of Food support and Free Medicines for the Elderly,” in the form of a monthly payment of half a minimum wage (about $60) delivered by means of an electronic card which can be used in almost all shops but not in the informal sector. All Mexico City residents aged more than 70 are eligible for it, irrespective of gender and economic situation. Once the application is approved and entered in the register of the Health Ministry, the card is delivered at the address of the beneficiary. According to official documents, the scheme purports to be a first step towards a universal pension for all the elderly. In view of the resulting popularity of the governor of Mexico City, the Federal Government, announced (in February 2003) the launching of a program dedicated to the same category of the population. This Federal program is restricted to priority areas, however, and its benefits are conditioned on the elderly participating in meetings with young people. The program has generated controversy because of its economic cost and because some people (politicians and academics) consider that it is driven exclusively by electoral objectives. For further information, contact Camilo Saavedra Herrera at


SPAIN: BIEN reports, the Red Renta basica (RRB) is actively promoting the discussion on basic income through its electronic newsletter has just been sent, subscribe at It is planning to organize a third annual meeting in Santiago de Compostella in December 2003. It advertises various talks and activities around basic income, of which there seem to be quite a few at the moment. On April 25, Red Renta Basica helped organize a workshop at the Conference on basic income and democracy in the era of globalization in Barcelona including Daniel Raventos Antoni Domnech, Guy Standing, and. Philippe Van Parijs. Daniel Raventos will also introduce a session on basic income at year's edition of the summer school of the "alter-globalization" movement ATTAC in Barcelona, June 30 - July 4, 2004. For more information on any of these events contact: Daniel Raventos at, or go to the Red Renta Basica website:



BIEN reports, the 2003 edition of the Belgian Social Forum will mainly consist in two parallel sessions, one of which will be devoted to "basic social rights" and consist in a sequence of four debates. One of these debates will entirely devoted to basic income, briefly introduced by Philippe Van Parijs. For further information contact Roger Jacob at



Ferial Haffajee writes for the South African Mail & Guardian (May 30) that the biggest obstacle to BIG in South Africa is President Mbeki’s attitude toward it. Despite the Taylor Commission’s positive report on BIG and despite broad support for BIG within the ANC, the trade union movement, and across South Africa, BIG does not fit in with Mbeki’s image of South African self-reliance. He is most likely to address South African poverty indirectly by programs aimed at increasing economic growth.



BIEN reports that on February 15th, ATTAC Strasbourg organized a roundtable on different versions of basic income at the Centre socialet culturel Victor Schoelcher, with the participation of Bernard Friot (Universite de Paris X), Marie-Louise Duboin and Jean-Pierre Mon (La Grande Releve) and Arnaud Caron (author of a thesis on basic income). Further information, contact:



James “Dr. J” Hughes interviewed Karl Widerquist, of the USBIG Network and Oxford University, for Changesurfer Radio at 5pm on Saturday May 31, 2003. The two spent a half hour discussing the need for a new poverty policy, the history of BIG, and its prospects in the future. Changesurfer airs on WHUS in Connecticut and syndicated nationally. An audio file of the show is posted on the changesurfer webstie:





There are many national networks promoting BIG around the world, and one international network promoting BIG in Europe (BIEN), but these networks are not connected by any worldwide organization. A recent BIEN Newsflash editorial makes an offer for discussion on the format of a world organization: “At the suggestion of Eduardo Suplicy, we are also beginning to think about the possibility of setting up a worldwide federation of basic income networks to be launched the next time the World Social Forum meets in Porto Alegre, at the beginning of 2005. Realistic ideas about how this could be organized in a balanced and sustainable way are most welcome.” For more information contact






Karl Widerquist, University of Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall,

ABSTRACT: Citizens Capital Accounts would grant each citizen an account at birth that represents a small share in the nation’s wealth. The account holder would have access only to the returns in the account, not the principal. Account holders have the option of withdrawing the returns on a regular basis or letting them accrue for later in life. The principal passes on to the next generation at the death on an account holder. This paper discusses the specifics of how a Citizens Capital Account System would work, its financing, and its advantages and disadvantages. This is a revised version of a previous working paper called “Stakeholder Accounts.”



Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy, Member of the Brazilian Senate

ABSTRACT: Brazil is initiating an extraordinary phase of the nation’s history with the election of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of the Worker’s Party, in October 2002. Among Lula’s main objectives are the eradication of hunger and absolute poverty, the promotion of economic growth accompanied by a better distribution of income, the creation of jobs, and the guarantee that every child will go to school. There are now in Brazil great expectations with respect to the policies that are going to be implemented by President Lula to attain the main objectives mentioned above. It is in this context that he has announced the Zero Hunger Program so as to guarantee that during his government every Brazilian will have the right to eat three meals every day. I will first present a synthesis of the Zero Hunger Program according to the official presentation of the federal government and then I will present the various programs of income transfers that exist today in Brazil, as well as an analysis of why we should gradually rationalize all of them and implement a citizen’s basic income.





ISSUE 2 OF THE 2003 VOLUME OF THE CITIZENS INCOME NEWSLETTER (United Kingdom) includes an in-depth article on the basic income movement in Ireland and news and reviews on basic income related issues. It’s up on the web at:


KARIUKI, JACKSON “African Countries Should Consider Basic Income Grants (BIG) For Their Citizens.” Jackson Kariuki, of the University of Natal Durban, endorses BIG not only for South Africa but for lesser developed countries across Africa, in the latest African Economic Analysis paper of AfBis (African Business and Economy). It’s on line at


BAZLINTON, Charles. The Free Lunch. Orchard: Four Books, 2002, 170p. ISBN 0-9544105-0-5 (author:; publisher: PO Box 103, Alresford S024 9XN, UK,

In this lively book, Charles Bazlinton argues for the introduction of a universal basic income ("The Citizen's Royalty") as a form of regular redistribution of society's wealth ("Moses' Big Idea"). Though placing himself in the tradition of Henry George, he wants to extend the mode of funding beyond a tax on land value, to include seignorage (along the lines of Joseph Huber and James Robertson), the auctioning of wavelengths, royalties on the extraction of oil (on the Alaskan pattern) and funds arising from the privatisation of public companies. (From BIEN)


CREEDY, John and Peter DAWKINS. "Comparing Tax and Transfer Systems: How Might Incentive Effects Make a Difference?", The Economic Record 78 (1), pp. 97-108.

Tax policy influences labour supply decisions in two ways. On the one hand, high marginal tax rates decrease incentives to supply additional hours of work. On the other hand, high tax rates at the bottom decrease incentives to participate in the labour market. Means-tested tax and transfer schemes are typically associated with high marginal tax rates at the bottom. A shift towards a flat tax rate might therefore increase efficiency through a higher participation rate. In their simulations, the authors show that the efficiency effect of a shift from a graduated tax system with high marginal tax rates at the bottom towards a system with a flat tax makes this shift desirable even for low-skilled workers -- at least given their choice of parameters. This choice implies, for example, the (questionable) assumption that as soon as the marginal tax rate falls below 50% everyone participates in the labour market. (From BIEN)


CUNLIFFE, John & ERREYGERS, Guido. "Basic Income? Basic Capital! Origins and Issues of a Debate", Journal of Political Philosophy 11 (1), March 2003, pp. 89-110.

Stylistically speaking, this is a most unusual piece. The two authors, both historians of political economy explored in depth the writings of the French political philosopher Francois Huet (1814-1869), the first academic advocate of a universal basic endowment, and of the Belgian Fourierist writer Joseph Charlier (1816-1896), the first known proponent of a universal basic income. These two contemporaries do not seem to have known each other, but the article sets up an imaginary dialogue between them closely based on their writings, with Huet and Charlier each presenting his preferred scheme, its rationale and the reasons for preferring it to the other. At some stage, the panel is broadened, with Bruce Ackerman and Anne Astott (The Stakeholders Society) and Philippe Van Parijs (Real Freedom for All) joining the discussion and essentially replicating (with some occasional qualifications) their forerunners' agreements and disagreements. Entertaining and instructive. (See also, by the same authors but in a different style: "The liberal case for a socialist property regime: the contribution of Francois Huet", History of Political Thought 18 (4), 1997, 707-29; and "The enigmatic legacy of  Fourier: Joseph Charlier and basic income", History of Political Economy 33 (3), 2001, 459-84.) (From BIEN)


GROOT, Loek. "Compensatory Justice and Basic Income", Journal of Social Philosophy 33 (1), 2002, pp. 144-161. (author:

"Compensatory justice" is a conception of justice that requires roughly that jobs of a given level of qualification be paid unequally, depending on how unattractive they are. Loek Groot refines this conception by adopting the economist's interpretation (equality between reward and disutility incurred by the marginal worker, with infra-marginal workers accordingly enjoying an economic rent, i.e. a positive difference between the welfare level they derive from their actual job-reward package and their next best option) and argues that any plausible implementation of this conception requires an unconditional and universal basic income, as a way of providing an acceptable fall back position to all. (From BIEN)


MILLER, David. "What's Left of the Welfare State?", Social Philosophy and Policy 20 (1), Winter 2003, pp. 108-110 (author:

Is there anything lively to the left of the social-democratic welfare state, that might better embody the social ideals of equality and community? Oxford political philosopher David Miller considers three options: (1) stakeholder grants, as proposed by Alstott and Ackerman, which he finds very unpromising as an inequality-reducer; basic income, as advocated by Samuel Brittan, Robert van der Veen or Philippe Van Parijs, which he finds defective with regard to the socialist standards of reciprocity and social responsibility; and ability taxes and subsidies, which he finds difficult to implement (even in the watered down version of earning-power-differentiated income taxation suggested by Stuart White) and in risk of being stigmatising (as a result of having to rely on a classification of people in terms of abilities). Not sure, therefore, in he author's eye, that there is anything (sensible) left of the welfare state. (From BIEN)


REEVE, Andrew & WILLIAMS, Andrew. Real Libertarianism Assessed. Political Theory After Van Parijs. Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2003, 224p. ISBN

0-333-91267-5 (editor:; publisher:

A substantial collection of essays mainly devoted to a critical examination of Van Parijs's ethical justification of an unconditional basic income in Real Freedom for All (Oxford University Press, 1995). The introduction by Andrew Reeve (Warwick University) presents the central tenets of Real Freedom for All and explains why it had such an impact. Next, John Cunliffe (University of Central England), Guido Erreygers (University of Antwerp) and Walter Van Trier (University of Leuven) relate Van Parijs's arguments for basic income to those formulated by Joseph Charlier in the 19th century and by Dennis Milner in the early 20th ("Basic income: pedigree and problems"). Peter Vallentyne (Virginia Commonwealth University) criticizes the internal consistency and cogency of the "real libertarian" case for basic income from a rights-based libertarian perspective ("Self-Ownership and Equality: Brute Luck, Gifts, Universal Dominance and Leximin"). So does Brian Barry (Columbia University - and Van Parijs's first supervisor at Oxford in the mid-1970s) from a liberal-egalitarian perspective ("Real Freedom and Basic Income"). Barry's essay is followed by a response by Robert J. van der Veen (University of Amsterdam, and co-author with Van Parijs in the mid-1980s of two widely discussed essays on basic income, "A Capitalist Road to Communism" and "Universal Grants versus Socialism"). Next comes Richard Arneson (University of California), with a criticism of the specific way in which Real Freedom for All attempts to combine concerns for substantive equality, respect for pluralism and individual responsibility ("Should Surfers Be Fed"). Andrew Williams (University of Reading) provides a searching internal critique of the key roles Real Freedom for All ascribes to envy-freeness, equalisation of the value of endowments and undominated diversity ("Resourse Egalitarianism and the Limits to Basic Income"). Stuart White (University of Oxford) reformulates and expands his earlier case against basic income on the basis of a conception of social justice that incorporates reciprocity ("Fair Reciprocity and Basic Income"). Finally, Hillel Steiner (University of Manchester) and Thomas Christiano (University of Arizona) deal with two aspects of Real Freedom for All and Van Parijs's subsequent writings that do not concern specifically basic income but are a crucial part of the background of any discussion of distributive justice: patriotism as a way of increasing the sustainability of redistribution in a globalised economy (Steiner, "Compatriot Priority and Justice among Thieves"), and the designing of collective decision-making institutions aimed at securing the political sustainability of redistribution (Christiano, "Is Democracy Merely a Means to Social Justice?"). In the reply that closes the volume ("Hybrid Justice, Patriotism and Democracy"), Van Parijs restates the fundamental ideas that inspired Real Freedom for All, clarifies in this light some misunderstandings generated by his justification of an unconditional basic income (thus supplementing his extensive "real Freedom, the Market and the Family. A Reply", in Analyse & Kritik 23, 2001) and reasserts and defends both his rehabilitation of patriotism and his instrumental conception of democracy. (From BIEN)





For several months the regular USBIG server was down and USBIG was parked on the server, forcing you to go through to reach the USBIG homepage. This problem has finally been corrected; you can reach USBIG directly by typing into your browser. If any of you have your bookmarks set to, please redirect them to





BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE AUSTRALIA (BIGA) John Tomlinson and Simon Schooneveldt, of the School of Humanities and Human Services at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have set up this new national Basic Income web-site for Australia. The site is attached to the Centre for Social Change Research, within QUT. It includes information on BIG in Australia and links to other groups that promote Basic Income. BIGA takes over from OASIS Australia, which promoted BIG in Australia for 15 years. You can find BIGA on the web at:


UNIVERSAL INCOME TRUST is a New Zealand registered educational charity providing research, resources, presentations and general information on the social, environmental and economic benefits of universal income systems, which it defines as those economic systems that comply with the International Bill of Human Rights. In other words it is more specific than BIG in that it aligns the concept with current international human rights laws. The Trust has published a book entitled Universal Income for a Sustainable Future, written by Patrick Danahey. It has a website at, and can be contacted via .


SOCIAL CREDIT: There are several sites on the web promoting “Social Credit,” which is a comprehensive economic proposal that has its origins in Alberta in the 1920s. Social Credit includes a basic income under the name of the National Dividend. Three sites on social credit include:

Social Credit Resources:

Social Credit School of Studies

Social Credit in the UK:

There is also a list serve discussing Social Credit on For information contact:







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.