USBIG NEWSLETTER VOL. 4 NO. 23, SEP-OCT 2003

 

This is the Newsletter of USBIG, (http://www.usbig.net) 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: Karl@Widerquist.com.

 

Table of contents:

1 DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS TO USBIG CONGRESS IS NOV. 7

2 BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES CLOSER TO IMPLEMENTING BIG

3 DISCUSSION OF ALASKA-STYLE OIL DIVIDEND FOR IRAQ CONTINUES

4 PROMINENT ECONOMISTS SAY NIGERIA NEEDS AN OIL DIVIDEND

5 REVIEW OF "THE WORLD OWES YOU A LIVING"

6 GERMAN LEFT AND FRENCH RIGHT MOVE TOWARD BIG

7 NEWS FROM CITIZENS' INCOME TRUST IN BRITAIN

8 TENTH CONGRESS OF BIEN, SEPTEMBER 2004

9 WESTERN CANADIAN GROUP PROMOTES BIG FROM THE BOTTOM UP

10 RECENT PUBLICATIONS

11 NEW LINKS

12 VAN PARIJS TO SPEAK IN NEW JERSEY 11-5-03

13 LINKS AND OTHER INFO

 

 

1 DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS TO USBIG CONGRESS IS NOV. 7

 

Scholars, activists, and others are invited to attend, to propose papers, and to organize panel discussions at the next USBIG Congress on February 20-22, 2004, but please remember the deadline is November 7. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network will hold its Third Annual Congress in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Economics Association at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Proposals are welcome on topics relating to the Basic Income Guarantee or to the current state of poverty and inequality. The purpose of the conference is discussion, and all points of view are welcome. Although the meeting is in conjunction with the Eastern Economics Association, the USBIG Congress is entirely autonomous in content and submissions are welcome in any discipline.

 

TO PROPOSE A PAPER, send a proposal including the following information to Karl@Widerquist.com:

1. Name

2. Title (if applicable)

3. Affiliation (if applicable)

4. Address including City, State, Zip Code (Postal Code), and Country

5. Telephone number

6. Email Address

7. Paper Title

8. Abstract (of 50 to 150 words)

 

TO PROPOSE A PANEL DISCUSSION, please send a title (and topic) for the panel and the following information for each participant:

 

1. Name

2. Title (if applicable)

3. Affiliation (if applicable)

4. Address including City, State, Zip Code (Postal Code), and Country

5. Telephone number

6. Email Address

7. Title of remarks (if appropriate)

 

Please indicate whether or not the speakers will be presenting formal papers. If so, please include an abstract for each paper. Given the time constraints, panels with formal paper presentations should usually contain three presentations, although it is possible to squeeze in four, and discussions without formal papers can include more.

 

 

2 BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES CLOSER TO IMPLEMENTING BIG

 

On October 8, 2003, the Fiscal and Finance Committee of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved the Bill of law to institute a Citizens' Basic Income from 2005 on, according to the favorable report of Representative Paulo Bernardo (PT-PR) to the Bill presented by Senator Eduardo Suplicy and already approved by the Brazilian Senate last December 2002. The Bill now will be examined by the justice and Constitution Committee. If approved, it will be considered conclusively approved by the Chamber of Deputies and therefore will be examined by President Lula to be sanctioned or vetoed. According to the bill the Citizen's Income will be instituted gradually, from 2005 on, starting with those most in need. The value of the Citizen's Income will be defined by the executive, taking into account the level of the country's development and the availability of resources.

 

 

3 DISCUSSION OF ALASKA-STYLE OIL DIVIDEND FOR IRAQ CONTINUES

 

Overshadowed by the continuing war, discussion of an oil dividend for Iraq continues in the United States and is getting favorable attention from Iraqis themselves. BIEN reports that a U.S. poll conducted on June 13th found a 59% majority of Americans favored the idea against only 23% opposed (see http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=713). Paul Bremer, the US President's envoy to Iraq, endorsed the Alaska Permanent Fund model as one way of connecting Iraq's oil revenue directly to Iraq's citizens in a speech at a World Economic Forum meeting in Amman, Jordan in June. Most recently, John Tierney wrote a favorable editorial for the New York Times on September 10. Tierney argues that an oil dividend would help to reverse the "resource curse," which gets its name because resource wealth tends to be connected with corruption and poverty. The resource curse is believed to happen because it is easy for the government to misuse revenue than from a large windfall like resource wealth. Often these funds get directed into graft rather than into useful public spending.

 

According to Tierney, "Essentially the same idea (is) in vogue among liberal foreign aid experts, conservative economists and a diverse group of political leaders in America and Iraq. The notion of diverting oil wealth directly to citizens, perhaps through annual payments like Alaska's, has become that political rarity: a wonky idea with mass appeal, from the laborers in Tayeran Square to Iraq's leaders... The concept is also popular with some Kurdish politicians in the north and Shiite Muslim politicians in the south, who have complained for decades of being shortchanged by politicians in Baghdad."

 

The openness of a public oil fund that gives every Iraqi a cash benefit would make it extremely difficult for officials to divert funds into corrupt uses, and would do a lot to relieve the most pressing problem for many Iraqis today-poverty. Still the idea faces significant obstacles. Despite proponents' fears that anything but cash payments will reopen the dangers of the resource curse, some believe the money (at least in the short run) would be better spent on infrastructure improvements. Although the Bush administration has been favorable toward the idea of an Alaska-style fund, the continuing cost of the war has increased the president's desire to make Iraqis pay for their own occupation. Tierney cites estimates that a rebuilt Iraqi oil industry (which could be years away) could generate 15 to 20 billion dollars a year for such a fund. With the cost of the American occupation now running at more than 87 billion dollars a year, even a small relatively small Iraqi contribution could easily swamp the available oil revenues.

 

For further arguments and information, see

Article by Steve Clemons in The New York Times, 9 April 2003

http://www.steveclemons.com/A-AlaskaFundIraq.htm

Article by Joshua Marshall in The Hill, 2 July 2003

http://www.thehill.com/marshall/070203.aspx

Article by John Tierney in The New York Times, 10 September 2003

http://www.progress.org/2003/oil08.htm

or contact: "Steve Clemons" Clemons@newamerica.net, Executive Vice President of the New America Foundation (Washington, DC).

 

 

4 PROMINENT ECONOMISTS SAY NIGERIA NEEDS AN OIL DIVIDEND

 

David Chance reporting for Reuters on August 1 writes: Oil-rich Nigeria would be better off if it distributed its mineral wealth directly to the people rather than continue with a system which has seen poverty double in the last 20 years, according to a paper published by the IMF. The working paper, which does not represent official International Monetary Fund policy but is aimed at stimulating debate, said each Nigerian adult would be better off by about $760, the country's economy could be rejuvenated and debt relief would be possible as opportunities for corruption were reduced. "We propose a solution for addressing this resource curse which involves distributing the oil revenues to the public," said Columbia University economics professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin and IMF research department advisor Arvind Subramanian. "Even with all the difficulties that will no doubt plague its actual implementation, our proposal will, at least, be vastly superior to the status quo," the authors wrote.

For the full text of David Chance's article go to:

http://www.forbes.com/work/newswire/2003/08/01/rtr1046043.html

http://www.earthrights.net/nigeria/news/oilmoney-imf.html

 

 

5 REVIEW OF "THE WORLD OWES YOU A LIVING"

 

A few years ago on April 1, a New York public radio station did an interview with a woman who wrote books entirely by downloading bits and pieces of other people's writing from the internet. That interview was an April Fool's Day joke, but as any post-modern artist or Hip Hop DJ can tell you, it is quite possible to do something that's new and creative by piecing together bits of already existing material. And that is exactly what Vancouver audio-author Matt Fair has done with his new audio production, "The World Owes You a Living." The audacious title is a reference to a Brian Mulroney speech complaining some "Canadians, and there are a lot of them, who believe the world owes them a living." Matt Fair spent years collecting audio clips, mostly from the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and splicing them together in a way to make Mulroney's lecturing of the poor look ridiculous.

 

This work does not pretend to be an academic inquiry and does not contain a single line of argumentation from premise to conclusion; ideas come and go, and most of the quotes are unattributed. It is instead a strong artistic statement in favor of the basic income guarantee. It slides from topic to topic, juxtaposing for example, society's desire to punish criminals with the market's ability to punish nonconformists. Statistics of the growing prison population, come up next to an employment consultant saying, "You'd better be prepared to take any job that's available or the market will punish you." Although the author claims no direct influence from Rap music, he uses sampling techniques common to Hip Hop as the consultant returns saying, "punish you, punish you, punish you," between statistics on poverty or homelessness.

 

The audio production is about seven hours long and is sold in a six CD set. It would make an excellent radio program, but if you're interested in the CD's they are available on the web at:

http://www.theworldowesyoualiving.org/

http://www.theworldowesyoualiving.org/PAGES/brochurepage.htm

 

 

6 GERMAN LEFT AND FRENCH RIGHT MOVE TOWARD BIG

 

BIEN reports, "It has been one of the recurrent paradoxes - and curses ? - of basic income that it is advocated by people situated on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. Yet another, quite spectacular instance of this contrast is provided by the coincidence of two very recent events. On the 28th of September, Christine Boutin, leader of a small, particularly conservative component of Chirac's right-wing coalition (in France), presents a report advocating a 'universal dividend'. At about exactly the same time, the German PDS, heir of the East German communist party, sets up a web site and organises a first public debate on the idea of an unconditional basic income."

 

The German debate was called RIGHT TO INCOME VERSUS RIGHT TO WORK and was held in Dresden on 10 October 2003: Participants will include Katja Kipping (acting chair of the party who endorsed a BIG of 1000DM at a recent party convention), sociologist Wolfgang Engler (author of the book Die Ostdeutschen als Avantgarde, which argues that the East German's task is not to copy ready-made models but to invent new forms of social and personal life) and Ronald Blaschke (active in the unemployed movement and Saxony's poverty conference). For further information: http://www.linxxnet.de/aktuell/1000-fuer-alle.htm and Michael.Leutert@pds-sachsen.de.

 

On 17 April 2003, France's Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin asked Christine Boutin, a member of the pro-government majority in the National Assembly, to write a report on the causes of social exclusion in France. This report was presented to the Prime Minister on 29 September 2003. To the general surprise, it advocates, under the label "dividende universel", the idea of an unconditional basic income of Euro 300, granted to all without means test or work requirement. In a vigorous plea, Boutin said that her proposal was justified by the fact that "we are all heirs of the know-how of past generations' and we owe this capital to future generations". She regards this particular proposal as the beacon of her plan, and it was emphasized accordingly in the media. In a first reaction, French officials told the press that "the Prime Minister realizes how generous this proposal is, and is going to ask experts for an analysis of the economical, social, and financial impact of the idea".

(From BIEN)

 

 

7 NEWS FROM CITIZENS' INCOME TRUST IN BRITAIN

 

The board of the Citizens' Income Trust (which has been promoting discussion of BIG in Britain for 20 years) met in London to discuss future strategies and to introduce three new board members-Ruth Lister (Loughborough University), Jurgen Di Wespalaere (University College Dublin), and Karl Widerquist (Oxford University). CIT has closed its budget gap and is now showing a small surplus. Its newest strategy is to promote discussion of basic income within the major political parties in Britain. A nonpartisan organization, CIT is building contacts with MPs from all the major parties and is considering hosting events at future party conferences. The third issue of the 2003 Citizen's Income Newsletter is now available. It contains a major report on "Citizenship and a Citizen's Income," book reviews, and articles on the Irish situation and on pensions. It can be found on the web at:

http://www.citizensincome.org/resources/newsletter%20issue%203%202003.shtml

 

 

8 TENTH CONGRESS OF BIEN, SEPTEMBER 2004

 

BIEN's 10th congress will take place in Barcelona on 18-21 September 2004 as part of a set of five events on "emerging rights" organised by the Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya (www.idhc.net) within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures (www.barcelona2004.org). The coordinator of the local organising committee is David Casassas <casassas@eco.ub.es>. Detailed information about the congress and its context appeared in NewsFlash 21 and is available on http://www.basicincome.org.

BIEN's Executive Committee is meeting in Barcelona on Saturday 25 October 2003 in order to start giving our programme a precise shape. Those wishing to propose a panel, i.e. a pre-organised workshop, must contact urgently (if not already done) Josť Noguera jose.noguera@uab.es, chairman of the scientific committee. Please provide the proposed 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.

 

 

9 WESTERN CANADIAN IAN GROUP PROMOTES BIG FROM THE BOTTOM UP

 

Cindy L'Hirondelle and others recently formed the Livable Income For Everyone (LIFE) group in Victoria, British Columbia to push for a government guarantee of a livable income. Proponents say it would eliminate the stigma of the welfare system and allow B.C. to make a transition to a more environmentally sustainable economy. According to L'Hirondell, "There's never been a push from below for a guaranteed income, and that's what we're trying to do." To be a full, voting member of LIFE, a person has to have been on income assistance for at least a year of her or his life, she says. "We feel the people most affected by poverty can speak with the most honesty about the situation." You can reach the group by email at: gli2020@shaw.ca. An article on the group appeared in Monday Magazine Issue 28 Vol 29, July 10 - 16, 2003

http://www.mondaymag.com/monday/editorial/28_2003/news.htm

 

 

10 RECENT PUBLICATIONS

 

GETTING PAID IN OUR JOBLESS FUTURE

James Hugh's column about BIG appeared on betterhumans.com in September. In it, he argues that only a guaranteed basic income can ensure economic growth, technological innovation and social welfare. To reach the full article you need to get this entire URL into one line of your web browser.

http://www.betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Change_Surfing/column.aspx?articleID=2003-09-22-1

 

GUARANTEED INCOME FADES WITH KING'S DREAM, by Al Sheahan, USA Today, September 4, 2003. The tragedy of America is that 35 years after the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. millions of Americans still live below the poverty level. In his 1967 book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?," the civil rights leader wrote, "I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. "A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from wide-spread economic security." The concept of a guaranteed income is not discussed much anymore, but it remains, according to economist Milton Friedman, the most practical and sensible way to end poverty in America.

(Reprinted in full)

 

GREENSTUART, Malcolm. Cosmic Accounting. The Economic System for the New Millenium. Pigtale Publishing (Yanakee, Victoria, Australia), 136p., ISBN 0 9579573 19. (Author's address: Malcolm Green Malcolm.Green@unisa.edu.au)

The world is heading toward ecological breakdown. Billions of people live in dire poverty while trillions of dollars are spent elsewhere uselessly maintaining positions of competitive advantage. The radical new economic regime advocated by electrical engineer Malcolm Greenstuart would put an end to all this. Its core consists in making energy the basic currency. The cost of goods would be the amount of energy it has taken to make them, and everyone would receive a free electricity income derived from solar energy every day. (From BIEN)

 

PATEMAN Carole. "The Equivalent of the Right to Land, Life, and Liberty? Democracy and the Idea of a Basic Income", available at http://www.oid.ucla.edu/Webcast/FRL/Pateman/ (Lecturer's address: pateman@ucla.edu)

This is a 50-minute lecture available as a Web Broadcast in both streaming audio and streaming video. Carole Pateman is a professor of Political Science at the University of California Los Angeles, reputed feminist writer and a long-time advocate of basic income. In an accessible language, it says what a basic income is, what its main advantages are and what criticisms it raises. She emphasizes the problem of democratic participation and "self-governance" when people do not have the ability to be independent and economically self-sustaining, and discussed how a basic income would affect the division of labor and gender equity. (from BIEN)

 

 

11 NEW LINKS:

 

HOW WOULD YOUR LIFE CHANGE IF YOU RECEIVED $25,000 PER YEAR SIMPLY FOR BEING A UNITED STATES CITIZEN? Noted author, Marshall Brain (The Way Stuff Works) has endorsed a basic income guarantee of $25,000 a year on the grounds of the need for economic security in an age where more and more of our output is produced with robotic rather than human labor. You can find it on the web at:

http://marshallbrain.com/25000.htm

 

KARL WIDERQUIST'S INTERVIEW WITH CHANGE SURFER RADIO is on the web at:

http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=7190. Dr J. Hughes interviewed Dr. Widerquist for 40 minutes about his proposal for all citizens to receive a guaranteed income from the government.

 

 

12 VAN PARIJS TO SPEAK IN NEW JERSEY 11-05-03

 

Philippe Van Parijs, noted philosopher and secretary of the Basic Income European Network, will speak on the Subject of "Cultural Diversity Against Economic Solidarity?"

Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Time: 4:30 P.M.

Place: Rutgers University

Brower Commons, Rooms A,B,C (walking distance from train station)

145 College Avenue

New Brunswick, New Jersey

For More Information Contact: Rutgers U. Center for the Critical

Analysis of Contemporary Culture at (732) 932-8426

 

 

13 LINKS AND OTHER INFO

 

FOR LINKS TO DOZENS OF BIG WEBSITES AROUND THE WORLD, go to http://www.usbig.net, and click on "links." These links are to any website with information about BIG, but USBIG does not necessarily endorse their programs.

 

Thanks to Jeff Smith, Eduardo Suplicy, Malcolm Tory, Steve Shafarman, and the editorial staff at BIEN and the USBIG Committee for help with this newsletter.

 

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: http://www.usbig.net. 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.com.

 

As always your comments on this newsletter are gladly welcomed.

 

Thanks,

-Karl Widerquist, coordinator, USBIG.