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The Unconditional Basic Income

by Attac Austria Thursday, May. 26, 2005 at 10:38 AM

Alternatives to the work society are necessary. A political movement is only credible today if it positions itself to the changes of the world of work and presents alternatives to the crisis of the work society. Basic income is a first step to freedom.


By Attac Austria

[The global justice group Attac Austria is considering a new demand or vision: the unconditional basic income. This proposal from March 25, 2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]


Basic income must be first defined. A basic income in our eyes is an income paid (1) to all members of a political community, (2) unconditionally without need tests and job placement, (3) on an individual basis and at least at a subsistence level.

Basic income should be paid out to all persons while relieving low and medium incomes and burdening more strongly high incomes, profits and interests through an accompanying change of the tax system. More social justice and a contribution to socially sustainable organization of globalization would be possible through this measure. Thus an unconditional basic income is a concrete social-political vision that can contribute to the just redistribution of wealth.


The social change to globalized high-tech capitalism leads to increased productivity, reduction of labor costs and necessary working hours, an intense increase of the unemployed and radical structural change. The result is a service society in which compensation for rising unemployment is not possible any more. Under these conditions, the age of full employment reaches its end. Paid labor finds itself in a crisis that is a logical result of capitalist development. In many regards, the unequal distribution of wealth between industrialized countries and developing states and in the western countries themselves has increased significantly. The majority of the world population lives and works today in precarious conditions. Transformation into a four-fifth society threatens the capitalist world society.

Thus fundamental changes are necessary to avoid an escalation of global problems. Together with further steps, unconditional basic income is a measure that can contribute to solving these problems.


The central argument for a basic income is briefly: More freedom, self-determination, prosperity and dignity for people are possible and necessary! However there are many more reasons for introducing a basic income including:

· Human right to social security, distributive justice, solidarity, self-respect, individual flexibility and self-determination

· Businesses use collective, unearned resources (knowledge, technical progress, nature, land, workers) free of charge for which they should pay compensation to society

· Compensation for the economic advantages and social problems resulting from automation

· More independence for reproduction

· Personal development is a prerequisite of social production and should be compensated

· Empowerment of dependent employees

· Basic income has immanent economic advantages

· Acknowledgment of the interweaving of work

· Uncoupling of paid work and security of existence

· Combating poverty

· Contributing to peacekeeping, political stability, solving global problems

· Contributing to democratization, strengthening social reflection

· Saving resources, simplifying- and decentralizing administration.


In Austria an unconditional basic income at the level of 1000 Euro monthly is possible. An unconditional basic income is a question of political will, not of financing. It can be financed through stronger taxation of corporations, profits and assets (inheritance tax, property tax, stock transaction tax) and introduction of a value-creation tax. Pensions, unemployment benefits, income support and emergency relief will be replaced by the basic income, not other social benefits.


There are several reasons why ATTAC should urge the introduction of an unconditional basic income in the amount of 1000 Euro:

· Basic income is a contemporary socio-political measure for organizing globalization. It is an idea for concretely improving human life.

· The idea of basic income is still largely unknown in the general public and gives ATTA a media presence.

· Basic income is a concrete demand that can initiate a public discussion on many important themes (changes of the world of work, globalization, information processing, poverty, precarious employment, growth pressure through full employment policy, possibilities of overcoming the market economy etc.).

· The demand for basic income complements the earlier eight ATTAC demands since basic income could be partly financed in third world states through the Tobin tax. Basic income deactivates the location competition (corporate- and property taxation) and can be joined with the demand for debt cancellation (necessary worldwide). It is the basis for worldwide democratization, developing political regulatory mechanisms in the EU (European Union) and social services. Basic income could be connected with increased property- and profit taxation and an ecologizing of the tax system. Unlike past ATTAC demands, the basic income idea reacts to the specific problems of women. It is a first concrete step to realizing feminist desires.

The scholarly discussion shows that there is a crisis of work (Jeremy Rifkin’s “The End of Work,” Andre Gorz’ “At the End of the Work Society,” “Work between Misery and Utopia,” Ralf Dahrendorf’s “When Work Ends in the Work Society,” Ulrich Beck’s “Brave New World of Work,” Kirner/Oberreuter’s “Less Work and More Life”). Whoever urges a return to full employment makes a fool of him- or herself in serious progressive circles. Alternatives to the work society are necessary. A political movement is only convincing today if it positions itself to the changes of the world of work and offers alternatives to the crisis of the work society. Past ATTAC demands did not emphasize this theme. Basic income is a first step to a world of self-determination and freedom, a free activity society in which a minimum of hard work is necessary and a maximum of free development is possible. Everyone according to their abilities and everyone according to their needs could be the leit-motif.

Technological progress and social interweaving make this life possible today. How strange not to reach for the fruits of life when they are so near!

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I'm all for it. Meyer London Thursday, May. 26, 2005 at 2:30 PM

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