Universal Basic Income
COVID-19 forces us to show solidarity. The European Union is coerced into financially supporting its members, out of solidarity, in order to painlessly bridge the unprecedented two-month worldly economic halt and the quarantine of its citizens. The question is: why, just like the countries that get help without predefined conditions, could not their citizens be likewise universally and financially supported without having to give something in return? The following article is led by a clear bias, the bias towards unconditional, universal, basic income (UBI). I establish the bias at the outset so that our ideological position does not make us blind to criticism of this concept that could be useful for its successful implementation. On the other hand, the bias is a boundary signifying that with which we do not comply: the primacy of market legality over the value of each individual to be realized as a free and responsible person, which is the principal argument in favour of the UBI. At the same time, one should not accept political decision-making that treats the capital/market as if it were, all of a sudden, the subject of social processes. In my understanding, a subject is only a person, while the market is a means for the wellbeing of every individual and the advancement of their specific everyday life. With this article, I would like to show that the ethical arguments in favour of the UBI are clear and unambiguous. The resistance towards implementing the UBI testifies to the weakness of the political will, and not to the objective reasons for its dismissal. But political will is a complex notion: it consists not only of the decision makers’ degree of awareness but also of members of the entire society. It is a result of worldviews, but also of education, the art of forging new concepts and expanding and changing one’s own attitudes, as well as circumstances of stress and lack of leisure time in political action, an environment of opportunistic adaptation, and lack of civil courage.
What is universal basic income? Definitions
Dorothee Spannagel introduces the universal basic income as an income “to which every person has the right to, regardless of their financial or labour market situation – they just have the right through their being members of a society which is, as a rule, organised within the framework of the national state.”1Spannagel, Dorothy. “Trotz Aufschwung: Einkommensungleichheit geht nicht zurück – WSI- Verteilungsbericht.” WSI-Mitteilungen, no. 26, Aug. 2015, pp. 622 – 629, www.boeckler.de/pdf/p_wsi_report_24_2015.pdf. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020. According to Spannagel, there are two relevant definitions of the UBI: the first is offered by authors Vanderborght and Van Parijs who define it as “an income that the political community disburses on an individual basis to all of their members, without reviewing its necessity and without coercion to accept another job.”2Vanderborght, Yannik, and Philippe Van Parijs. Ein Grundeinkommen für alle? Geschichte und Zukunft eines radikalen Vorschlags. Campus-Verlag, 2005. The second definition is offered by the German network “Netzwerk Grundeinkommen,”3Netzwerk Grundeinkommen is a member of the international “Basic Income Earth Netzwork” (BIEN). In 2015, the network consisted of 4.000 individuals and 100 organisations. For more information see www.grundeinkommen.de. according to which the universal basic income is “an income that the political community ensures unconditionally for each member. It should secure basic living needs and enable participation in social welfare, it should be a guaranteed individual right, given without reviewing its necessity and without labour coercion or some other returning favour.”4Wagner, Björn. “Das Grundeinkommen in der deutschen Debatte: Leitbilder, Motive und Interessen.” Diskussionspapier im Auftrag des Gespraächskreises Sozialpolitik der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, March 2009, library.fes.de/pdf-files/wiso/06194.pdf. Accessed 15 Sep. 2020. Spannagel emphasizes that the German network definition includes providing a minimum standard of living through the universal basic income. Unlike the existing means of social support, according to Spannagel, who draws on the opinion of Ingmar Kumpmann, the UBI is “a radically reformed form of existing basic provisions, because it means enabling universal and encompassing rights of every citizen.”5Kumpmann qtd. in Spannagel.; Spannagel, Dorothy „Das bedingungslose Grundeinkommen: Chancen und Risiken einer Entkoppelung von Einkomme und Arbeit.” WSI Report, 24 May 2015, www.boeckler.de/pdf/p_wsi_report_24_2015.pdf. Accessed 15 Sep. 2020.
Other English and American authors define the UBI differently, but they all highlight its three main characteristics: individuality, universality, and unconditionality. Timo Reuter6Reuter, Timo. Das bedingungslose Grundeinkommen als liberaler Entwuf. Springer Fachmedien, 2016. elaborates the criteria and singles out the following features: a) it is a regular, usually monthly income, b) it is disbursed by a political community, usually the state, c) there is no means-testing or returning favours in the form of work or even work preparedness, d) it is disbursed to each member of the society, e) each person has the right to the disbursement of basic income and f) the amount is identical for everyone. Nevertheless, Wolfgang Engler believes it important that the UBI amount covers living expenses: “UBI makes sense only if it enables decent living – that is social, cultural, and political participation.”7Bischof, Joachim. Allgeimeines Grundeinkommen: Fundament fuer soziale Sicherheit? VSA Verlag, 2007. The amount is a matter of agreement, so each person could live and develop with the help of those means.8Werner, Götz. Einkommen für alle. Bastei Lübbe, 2007.
Michael Opielka, one of the protagonists of this concept in Germany, specifies that there has been a growing interest in the universal basic income in the academic circles since the 1980s. This concept, as a programme of basic social rights, is advocated by both left-wing political options in the discussion on labour rights and the welfare state, as well as by people such as the founder of the dm-drogerie markt drugstore chain, Götz Werner, so those closer to right-wing political options.9Bischoff, Joachim. Ibid. The concept evolves within a very broad social spectrum, Joachim Bischof believes, citing Danijel Kreuz who concludes that the matter is “a colourful spectrum of different notions, theoretical foundation as well as politically interested and philosophical orientations.”10Ibid.
Historically, the vision of the UBI dates back to the early 16th century with Thomas More and his work Utopia. More lucidly noticed that “thieves are sentenced to harsh and gruesome punishments, while it is much more important to worry about whether they have enough to live, so no one should be exposed to the scary necessity of stealing before dying.”11More, Thomas. Utopia. Translated by Gerhard Ritter, Tredition Verlag, 2011, p. 21. More had a vision of a regional state in which governance rests on faith in reason and purpose of the community. Some authors believe the true founder of the idea of the UBI to be More’s contemporary, Spanish humanist and philosopher Juan Luis Vives. Vives developed the concept and delivered it as a proposition to the mayor of Bruges under the title “De Subventione Pauperum.” This is how he explains his request that the state should help the poor: “Even those who wasted their fortune with an unruly style of life – gambling, fornication, and excessive luxury – should be given food, because no man should die of hunger.”12Tobriner, Alice, and Juan Luis Vives. On the Assistance to the Poor. University of Toronto Press, 1998. Although Vives does not draft the support as unconditional, his concept assumes that the state is obligated to ensure each of its citizens the means to survive. Indeed, for him, that is the main role of authority.13Birnbaum, Simone, and Jurgen De Wispelaere. “A short history of the Basic Income Idea.” Basic Income Earth Network, 2019, basicincome.org/basic-income/history/. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.
Even in the following centuries, there were philosophers who pondered on the idea of the universal basic income – namely, Tomasso Campanella (Civitas solis/The City of the Sun, 1623) and Francis Bacon (New Atlantis, 1638) in the 17th century. Thus, according to Bacon, citizens have the right to have their basic living necessities ensured precisely because they are members of society. In any case, the idea did not take root as an emancipation virtue until the 19th century.14Ibid. However, it is interesting that none of the revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries mentioned the UBI as their demand, nor did the idea take root in Marxism, that is, in the labour movement.
In the 19th century, the idea of the UBI was promoted by French socialists. Joseph Charlier came up with the concept of territorial dividend, which is believed to be the origin of the UBI, according to scientific research. His contemporary, John Stuart Mill, suggests implementing the UBI, which would be financed through land taxes. Other influential individuals of that time also advocated the implementation of the UBI – Abraham Lincoln managed to carry out the Homestead Act, thus granting 160 acres to every “head of the family” provided they cultivate the land at least every five years. Around 720.000 farms were established this way.15Marić, Iva. Univerzalni temeljni dohodak [Universal Basic Income]. 2019. The University of Zagreb, Faculty of Economics and Business, Master’s Thesis. Repozitorij radova Ekonomskog fakulteta Zagreb, repozitorij.efzg.unizg.hr/islandora/object/efzg:3972. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020.
English-speaking sources see the 20th century as the century of the UBI popularisation, and the loudest advocates in the USA belong to the American political left. In 1934, the senator of Louisiana at the time, Huey Long, suggested the implementation of a minimal income amounting between $2.000 and $2.500, and in 1953 political economist G.D.H. Cole first used the term “basic income.”16Ibid.
What Values do the UBI Advocates Endorse?
Some of them are led by the vision of the welfare state, mostly inspired by neoliberal right-wing options. Others follow left-wing political tendencies and see the UBI as an instrument for the successful overcoming of capitalism. On the other hand, Joachim Bischoff believes that the wide range of ideologically different positions that support the UBI is the result of seeking answers to ineradicable unemployment.
The emancipation virtue of the UBI is recognised by authors such as Ronald Blaschke, who believes that the UBI will influence labour reassignment, that is, the reassignment of all necessary activities, especially in connection with a radical working time reduction. Blaschke and Bischoff expect the successful UBI strategy to achieve its goal of ensuring that every single person has control over his/her life. They see this resistance towards neoliberal and conservative politics as a foundation for social security, which opens space for individual freedom.
The neoliberal UBI model, advocated by the before mentioned Götz Werner, aims at achieving the self-realisation of each citizen. With the UBI, the citizens are no longer forced to do jobs that they do not want just to earn enough money for life – now they can develop creatively. So Spannagel cites Götz Werner: “you will receive the universal basic income, and then you will release your talents to unfold.”17Wagner, Björn. Ibid. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020, p. 9. The model of joint civil money by Dieter Althaus is also based on neoliberal values. Apart from the solidarity value, this model wants to simplify the tax system, so it seeks the efficacy of the governing/managing authorities.18Ibid., p. 6. While Werner puts emphasis on the people and their personal growth, Althaus stresses economic relations. Still, both models remain in neoliberal discourse because both authors assume that the existing concepts of capitalist labour and market can be improved. In his model, Althaus even proposes market flexibilization and deregulation. In short, the features of neoliberal models are efforts towards bigger market deregulation and the UBI as a substitute for existing social support.
Given the values it represents, the emancipation concept of the UBI is the complete opposition of neoliberal models. The main difference between them is that the concept of existential money aims for labour liberation, paid labour reassignment, and hitherto unpaid carer/nursing labour. Emancipation refers to individual liberation from labour market predominance. Usually, emancipation concepts originated in socialist traditions with the aim of “reducing capitalist exploitation of employees and changing the practice in which workforce equals goods.”19Ibid. It is interesting that the struggle against poverty plays a small role in this emancipation concept. Here, the UBI always covers living expenses, and the social support system is not abolished but reformed. Emancipation models share values of democratization of production conditions and the achievement of equal wages for men and women. Therefore, the emancipation approach differs from the neoliberal one in that it seeks to liberate labour and not just to simplify the state tax system or the self-realisation of the individual. Moreover, as opposed to the neoliberal approach, the emancipation concept does not abolish social support.
Labour, Human Value and Dignity According to Religious and Humanistic Criteria
Although both the neoliberal and the emancipation concepts of the UBI take into account human rights as values that the UBI advocates, the emancipation concept is still much more devoted to the defence of dignity and human values. Therefore, Ronald Blaschke emphasizes the UBI as a formal/material basis for achieving human rights to liberty, equality, and solidarity/fraternity; the values which have inspired all liberation processes in societies since the French Revolution.20Blaschke, Ronald. “Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen – Würde und Wert des Menschen. Menschenbild und Modelle.” Zeitschrift für Sozialökonomie, vol. 154, 2007, pp. 17 – 26, www.archiv-grundeinkommen.de/blaschke/wuerde-und-wert.pdf. Accessed 24 Aug. 2020. According to Blaschke, the right to freedom refers not only to the freedom of conscience but also to that of action. He connects freedom with every person’s self-determination and taking responsibility for themselves; “Human dignity is unimaginable without individual freedom.”21Ibid.
Different worldviews bind human dignity to different foundations: for individuals of a religious worldview, God is the source of dignity for each person, while others believe humans are born with dignity as members of the human race. Dignity should be affirmed in human rights, which are unconditional: “they are not tied to certain obligations precisely because human dignity is unconditional.”22Ibid. Blaschke concludes, referring to Erich Fromm, that the unconditional right to income also pertains to that right. Otherwise, according to Fromm, if conditions are placed on the right to an income, they are also placed on dignity and human value. Blaschke quotes Fromm: “a human being has the right to life under all circumstances. That right to life, food, accommodation, medical care, education is innate to humans, and it must not, under any circumstances, be limited, regardless of whether the person concerned is ‘useful’ or not to the society.”23Fromm, Erich. “The Psychological Aspects of the Guaranteed Income.” The Guaranteed Income: Next Step in Economic Revolution?, edited by Robert Theobald, Doubleday & Co., 1966, pp. 175 – 184.; Fromm, Erich. “Psychologische Aspekte zur Frage eines garantierten Einkommens für alle.” Erich Fromm Gesamtausgabe in zwölf Bände: Bande 5, edited by Rainer Funk, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999, pp. 309 – 316. Archiv Grundeinkommen, www.archiv-grundeinkommen.de/fromm/Fromm-Grundeinkommen.htm. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020. According to Fromm, the UBI creates preconditions by which people free themselves from the two main coercions that restrain them from acting freely. On the one hand, these are the violence of those in charge and the threat of punishment for the disobedient, and, on the other hand, the fear of dying from hunger. Blaschke does not deny the human right to work, but for him, it means the right to a freely chosen and accepted activity, not forced labour.
From the Christian perspective, people were made in the image and likeness of God; their accomplishments lie in activities/work such as cultivation and tending of the garden. In that way, they are responsible for the world and its environment. Religiously interpreted work means participating in God’s creation, which presupposes freedom of choice. It follows that the UBI enables the co-creation of humans adorned with freedom and responsibility. As far as unconditionality is concerned, the theological answer is that God accepts humans unconditionally and lovingly. This is the basic attitude, which is then reflected in people’s behaviour if they, as religious people, “imitate” the Creator, that is, if they live in the image and likeness of God. Blaschke quotes from a sermon that thematizes the UBI: “The unconditional promise of God’s love belongs to the core of the biblical, and especially Jesus’ message.”24Blaschke, Ronald. “Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen” Diözese Linz, https://www.dioezese-linz.at/. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020. The UBI then is not just a material assumption of freedom of action, but it also enables “the dignity of a person as accepted by God who loves unconditionally.”25Ibid. Protestant theologist Anne Reichmann adds that “from a theological point of view, the value of a person precedes their actions/work, it does not depend on labour, and especially not on paid labour.”26Reichmann, Anne. “Muße und Arbeit. Arbeitsmoral und Lebensgenuss.” 15 July 2006, Evangelical Academy, Meissen. Lecture. Archiv Grundeinkommen, www.archiv-grundeinkommen.de/reichmann/Musse-und-Arbeit.pdf. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020. Human dignity is God’s gift, and it cannot be subject to market dictation. In human life, labour has value, but so does rest.
From the enlightened humanistic socialist mental tradition, the argument in favour of the UBI coincides with the religious one. Socialist Charles Fournier called the concept of securing material means of life guarantism. He believed that society was obligated to ensure, that is, guarantee all people the minimum necessary for life. His student, socialist Victor Considerant, also emphasizes that freedom and human dignity are connected inseparably. Labour should be prepossessing, Considerant claims, and productive activity should be led by the principles of freedom and voluntariness. That means that every person “governs the conditions of their existence by themselves, and the first condition of independence . . . is that human life conditions do not depend on other people’s will.”27Blaschke, Ronald. “Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen” Diözese Linz, https://www.dioezese-linz.at/. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020. As part of the reflection on the relationship between freedom, voluntariness, and human dignity, there lies an interesting critical remark from Christoph Spehr. He emphasizes that contemporary members of parliament in European countries claim that the reason for their high salaries is the preservation of their independence, that is, the prevention of blackmail, but “most of the members of parliament do not think it necessary to ensure equal independence and non-blackmail to their voters.”28Spehr, Crhistoph, editor. Gleicher als andere. Eine Grundlegung der freien Kooperation. Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung, 2003, pp. 19 – 106.
For Karl Marx as well, the abolition of the alienation of labour is a precondition for the realisation of a society in which those who decide on production for themselves are freely united; deciding on whether, what, and how something is going to be produced. Only then will the labour be an expression of necessity, and not alienation. Erich Fromm elaborates on Marx’s thesis of alienated labour, believing that labour is “the modus of human existence (Seinsmodus), but not as an activity in itself, but in human productivity: productivity is human if it is a result of inner participation … Humans make everything come to life with their touch. They give their own abilities life and bestow life upon other people and things.”29Fromm, Erich. Haben oder Sein: Die seelischen Grundlagen einer neuen Gesellschaft. dtv Verlagsgesellschaft, 1976.
Two key arguments in favour of the UBI from a Christian-humanistic point of view are: a) human dignity and value which precede their activity/labour; thus, ensuring fundamental existence and every person’s participation needs to precede their labour, as well; b) freedom, because for people to realise themselves in their dignity they need to act responsibly (or not to act) in freedom.
Behind the attitude of accepting or rejecting the UBI stands a certain idea of a person. To the objection that the UBI concept undermines individual activity, that is, leads to inactivity, Erich Fromm answers that activity is not good in itself and that inactivity can also be good.30As an example, Fromm mentions human activity/intervention regarding the environment. It can be harmful, while inactivity/lack of affection is good. Authors H. Büchele and L. Wohlgennant conclude that the UBI idea is incompatible with anthropological pessimism “according to which people are in principle evil and corrupt, in need of constant control, coercion, and dependence and therefore should be subjected to a rigid system so that they could be disciplined by firm structures.”31Büchele, Herwig, and Lieselotte Wohlgenannt. Grundeinkommen ohne Arbeit. Auf dem Weg zu einer kommunikativen Gesellschaft. ÖGB Verlag, 1985.
André Gorz explains another structural issue: “The necessary need for a safe and high-enough income is one thing, the need to act and work, to compare with others and gain their recognition is another thing. The latter need is not satisfied with the former one, nor is it identical to it.”32Gorz, Andre. Arbeit zwischen Misere und Utopie. Suhrkamp Verlag, 2000. According to Gorz, the conflict between capital and labour happens on a certain level, the one concerned with production decisions, deciding about production purpose and application. According to Gorz, the question is deeply human: how can people recognise their needs and trust their abilities? This process cannot be imposed, but it is invoked, that is, strengthened by education. Gorz claims that the matter has to deal with “the cultural development of people and human society.”33Blaschke, Ronald. “Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen” Diözese Linz, https://www.dioezese-linz.at/. Accessed 25 Aug. 2020. To get there, it is necessary to create new politics in life which would support “the individual’s tendency towards excellence as everyone’s common goal. That is the difference between ‘the society of culture’ . . . and ‘the society of labour.’”34Gorz, Andre. Ibid.
Contribution to the Culture of Peace
If we enumerate the reasons that speak to the UBI’s benefit for the individual and the community, they correspond to the values inherent to the construction of peace within the community. These are: the significance of the UBI for the importance of education and its implementation, healthcare improvement, improvement of children’s living conditions, improvement of women’s position, and the strengthening of labour motivation. These are all factors that fit the concept of long-term construction of sustainable peace in the politics of non-violence. Designing the UBI reform around the values and dignity of people who are always the subjects, whose values do not depend on their activity nor profit, positions this concept in a theoretically valuable proximity to the concept of non-violence. Seeing humans as creatures of freedom, free from violence and fear for their existence, also represents a common ground between the concept of non-violence and the concept of the UBI.
The division of material goods according to one’s needs, and not according to their merit, is tested by many communities founded on the principles of non-violence (e.g., la communaute de l’arche Lanza del Vasta), and it presents another important common characteristic of the two concepts.
The relationship between the UBI and the non-violence concept is evident in the theme of liberation from violence. We recognise a common ground between the concept of non-violence and the idea of the UBI in the critics’ distrust of these concepts. The common denominator is recognised in the fact that suspicion of these concepts stems from critics’ preconception that violence is still necessary and that market competition, as well as labour charging, are imminent for the organisation of society. Thereby the two concepts defy the vision of the empire of freedom appearing in the practice of the UBI, as well as in the practice of non-violence: when we, by experience, meet people who are liberated from within and act in solidarity and creativity because of said freedom. Their inner freedom cannot be managed in the way of control or domination, rule, blackmail, or manipulation as we see today on the labour market and in the concepts of necessary violence.
Like non-violence, the UBI concept has a centuries-old history of advocacy, starting from the individuals or smaller communities up until today. It is up to us to keep following it if that is our path to self-realisation. In doing so, we are conscious of the fact that economic and organisational-logistic questions need to be resolved in order for the UBI system to be sustainable in the long run. But I am of the opinion that the answers will be found in the community, that is, in society, when political will and the mature consciousness of humanity are connected with innovative economic knowledge and creative steps beyond the necessity of the capitalist paradigm.
Trouble and Chance of COVID-19
According to some authors, the UBI polarises the economic community, which, from my standpoint, does not speak against this concept but indicates the weakness of economic systems that evaluate it.35Marić, Iva. Ibid. How else to think about this when we see that examples from worldwide experiments confirm that the UBI affects not only the intrinsic values of the individual, which in itself is no small matter, but also the economic and social wellbeing of the community.36In her Master Thesis, Marić delineates ten experimental introductions of UBI and the results of accompanying research in various countries around the world, which show these conclusions. The fear that steady, unconditional income would decrease individuals’ motivation to work has not been confirmed. On the contrary. Within the scope of philosophy and theology, the UBI is an instrument worth implementing because it meets the key criteria for self-realisation and community creation, and those are freedom and justice. The UBI is an instrument that contributes to the emancipation of a person, that is, an individual, from serving the market. According to Erich Fromm, the UBI is changing the way we think, “from a psychology of scarcity towards that of abundance.” Finally, the UBI strengthens the main factor in the development of society as a community, and that is a person who is much more efficient and creative when given the ability to choose what to do and when to do it, thus achieving self-realisation during that activity. That is why I believe the UBI needs to be financed from the state budget. It is illogical to interpret it as a burden on the state budget because the budget does not belong to someone else, but to the citizens who should relish the implementation of the UBI. Working on achieving individual welfare and eradication of poverty will be beneficial to everyone, resulting in the wellbeing of all in society. If, instead, the implementation of the UBI leads to market disorder due to the individuals not being underpaid at work or working in unsuitable circumstances, if they can say no to being exploited by the employers, that would be a welcome disorder. I explicitly disagree with the “reciprocity objection,” according to which an individual should return to the community that what they are, allegedly, unconditionally given, out of moral obligation.37Fitzpatrick, Tony. Freedom and Security: An Introduction to the Basic Income Debate. Palgrave Macmillan Press, 1999. I do not agree with the notion that the community gives anything to anyone. The sovereign is not a community, but members of the community united in society. Therefore, the problem is not in finances but in understanding which values should be prioritised and whether freedom and justice are at the top or the bottom of the decision-making process. Thus, the key question is whether there is enough political will to consider in-depth issues which would then lead towards finding new operative economic solutions, as is the UBI practice.
The UBI concept should be popularised in Croatia. For Croatia’s future, as well as our planet’s future, the UBI can be an excellent measure in two key areas of activity that need radical support in independent and creative action: the area of green politics and the politics of peace and non-violence. These politics open spaces for the creative self-realisation of individuals who would be supported in the long run by the universal basic income.
The COVID-19 pandemic is both trouble and a chance: trouble because it implies a deep economic crisis. On the other hand, it is a chance, a possibility of a profound change with the universal basic income acting as one of its key mechanisms. Stopped by COVID-19, we have the chance to ask the questions: how do we want to create personal income? Can we move from well-deserved means of work to the paradigm of well-deserved means of subsistence? The premise of this change is the awareness that the human right to life requires that every member of society have the necessary means to live that life. Conscious of the number of inequalities permanently “produced” by the market economy on a global level, the pandemic is a chance like never before to stop this market machinery, to break the spiral of structural violence that preys not only on the weak/poor, but also destroys natural resources. Although we were faced with the fact that climate catastrophe is evident and unavoidable even before the pandemic, no one could stop the wheels of the market-comfortable Western life as radically as this virus that managed to enforce a lockdown in Western countries in a matter of two weeks. The moment of halt is a place of chance for a radical change of “capitalism, the system that kills.”38Francis I. Evangelii gaudium – Radost evanđelja. Apostolska pobudnica biskupima, prezbiterima i đa-konima, posvećenim osobama i svim vjernicima laicima o naviještanju evanđelja u današnjem svijetu [The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium]. Translated by Slavko Antunović, Kršćanska sadašnjost, 2013. At the same time, the sudden halt poses a never-before-seen danger to many citizens who are immediately left without any means for life. The global collapse of the economy which kills is like ground, shifting under the feet of billions of people, mostly the poor. For the halt to be liberating, we need an alternative to the existing way of securing the means for life. And this could be the UBI.
As far as I am concerned, the UBI is an appropriate answer to this radical halt because it excludes a destructive race for profit inherent to the capitalist approach to earning money, without destroying the people. It is an alternative to the existing way of awarding labour because it establishes fundamental egalitarianism among all people: and those who today receive pay for their work, those who deserve that pay but do not receive it, as well as those who do not work at all. The UBI is founded on an important criterium, and that is justice according to which every person has means for life secured.
The pandemic seeks to change habits; it isolates us to save people’s health or to save healthcare systems. In isolation, the UBI prevents the stress of uncertainty: if the basic means for life are secured, it is more likely that the individual will be less susceptible to psychological crises, access their time freely, devise their activities creatively, and thus be independent from external restricting influences. The radical solution refers to the affirmation of opposition: egalitarianism instead of competition, division instead of awards, “every person should be free from the fear of hunger/poverty” instead of “everyone should pay for something.” In this sense, the UBI is a successful “figure,” an answer to the cynicism of the market, which is impotent to social justice, and which does not seem to manage to achieve a stable and socially sensitive society.
The European Union’s response that it is ready to ensure large sums to save national economies shows that there are financial resources. The problem is in the political perception that prefers to trust individual governments (even though many of them suffer from chronic corruption) over “ordinary” people.
Since all previous research shows that the UBI significantly affects the quality of life, individual satisfaction, health insurance, and population education, the EU could direct the means it is now donating to some of its members to implement the UBI. Also, it has been shown that the UBI will not make people lazy. On the contrary, most of the population will still be willing to increase the wealth of their social community through labour. An obstacle to accepting this solution is the common belief that the conventional economy is the only realistic arrangement that prevents the decision-makers from opting for UBI on a wider, national, and international level. Still, the halt caused by the pandemic opens space for change in a world that has too much and not enough: too much incorrectly distributed wealth, not enough mechanisms to translate the personal will for solidarity into political action, political decisions. The UBI is one of those measures or mechanisms. Seeing that solidarity is what the pandemic requires, that is, it is the response to its spread, and seeing that the UBI is a solidarity response to global non-solidarity, I believe that an alternative answer to pandemics (health, social, spiritual crises) that we can expect in the future will be open henceforth. Therefore, instead of disavowing it as idealism or utopia, it may be more useful to study its implementation, test, and perfect it.