Universal Basic Income

Date of publication
10.6. 2021.
Translated by
Lucija Radin-Mačukat
, , , ,


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.

Leave a Reply