If you are searching the internet for ‘basic income’, ‘basic income guarantee’ or related subjects or you are a regular visitor to the various internet-based social networks like Facebook it would hardly have escaped your attention that quite a few of your hits will point to websites or blogs discussing topics like the Equal Money System and recently also Basic Income Guaranteed (previously ‘Grant’), with the acronym B.I.G. (or BIG), but not to be confused with the Basic Income Guarantee (without ‘d’) of organisations such as USBIG that are affiliated to BIEN. Even more recently, the name was changed again, this time to Living Income Guaranteed (LIG). The terms are here used interchangeably. All those sites can ultimately be traced back to an organization called Desteni which is based in South Africa and its offspring, an online community of groups in more than 20 countries, called Equal Life Foundation.
According to the Equal Life Foundation, the LIG is considered part of and the first stage in the development of the overall philosophy of the Equal Money System and a human right, an intrinsic part of citizenship. It is to be financed in part by equal access to resources such as ‘mining resources and water resources, electricity, cellphones, telephones’ of which all citizens become ‘shareholders’. Those resources, some of which are already owned by ‘capitalists’, are to be nationalized, the reason being that the shareholders, that is the citizens, ‘should have owned them in the first place’. It is considered a human right that profit from such corporations be shared equally among all citizens as social dividends in the form of a Basic Income because, in the final analysis, natural resources belong to no one but the earth. ‘This way the corporation = becomes government, the shareholder = the citizen, the profit = the Basic Income Guaranteed’. Occasionally, owning property beyond what is reasonable is even referred to as ‘theft’ or ‘treason’.The ‘capitalists’, however, will also profit from a transition to LIG as more people will be able to spend money on products and this will, in turn, boost the general economy.
In addition to the nationalization of resources, financing the LIG may take place through tax on goods and services, that is, sales tax, value added tax or important duty. The philosophy behind is that the value of labor should be directly reflected in the prices of the goods and services: ‘part of the price is another person’s livelihood, and that as you give = you will receive’. Toll tax on roads is also suggested as another form of tax on consumption. All income and corporate taxes are to be abolished and so will play no part in financing the LIG, as this would allegedly amount to ‘charity, where the rich give to the poor’.
How does the LIG compare with the Basic Income advocated by BIEN and its affiliated organizations? Following one of BIEN’s prevalent definitions, four conditions are to be met for a proposal to qualify as a genuine Basic Income: It must be universal, individual, unconditional and high enough for a decent standard of living.
LIG reportedly complies with the first condition in that it is paid to individuals rather than families or households.
LIG is universal in the sense that everyone including children, in principle, is entitled to receive it. The exceptions to this fall under the category of conditionality, a subject that I will return to next. In a transitional period, children may receive a lower grant, a ‘basic child grant’, but the goal is a full LIG for all and will not be dependent on the parents’ income.
LIG is not unconditional or at least only to some extent. First of all, there are certain limitations (‘Certain Rules‘) to what recipients of a LIG can own. If you are able to sustain yourself through investments or savings or if you have a job, you are not entitled to receive a Basic Income. In other words, prospective recipients are means-tested. From this perspective, LIG is sometimes referred to as a form of insurance in that it is paid out if you are unable to provide for yourself the basic needs. ‘Basic income is a means to an end and not an end in itself’ and ‘there is no point in giving to people who don’t need it because their human rights are already secured’. It is, however, to my knowledge not discussed how to deal with people who are not willing to work even if one is available, but from my own correspondence with members of ELF and this reply it would seem that there are no strings attached to their proposal besides means-testing. If you are willing to live very modestly, with few possessions, you may live exclusively on your LIG and will not be forced to take a job.
LIG seems to comply with the condition of being ‘high enough: ‘The basic income should be ‘sufficient for a person or a family to live a decent life, one worthy of their birthright as a citizen’. However, in order to keep an incentive to work, ELF suggests a fixed minimum wage at ‘double the Basic Income’. For people working part-time, this will only pay off if they work enough hours and/or if they are sufficiently educated or skilled to receive a higher pay than the minimum wage. Otherwise, they might just as well live off their LIG and do voluntary work. However, this part of the proposal does not appear to be fully worked out.
In addition to the LIG, a ‘Subsidy for Homes‘, that is, for building one’s own house, will be provided, to the benefit of both the recipients and the industry.
The system as a whole is characterized as a mixture between capitalism and socialism, in other words, while the proposal is meant to restore justice through equality, it is not directly opposed to capitalism: ‘The Basic Income Guaranteed will function as the medium through which a state is able to remediate the most direct negative effects of a capitalistic system, while still being able to maintain some of the perks that such a system represents and embodies.’ This version of the Equal Money System – actually an intermediary stage before the full implementation of EMS – is also sometimes referred to as ‘Equal Money Capitalism‘, a system that is further characterized by equal wages and joint ownership to corporations. What this means is that workers are to be shareholders in the companies and the profit generated by them will be paid out equally to all workers once the basic costs of running them are covered. Also production will not take place according to a ‘supply and demand’ principle, but only according to what is needed and ecologically sustainable.
Some, or maybe in due course all, welfare benefits such as pensions will be phased out, at least gradually, as it is suggested that the LIG recipients invest part of their grant in private companies and the revenue from this will eventually make them ‘self-sufficient’. This type of investment appears to be on a voluntary basis however.
One peculiarity of the proposal is that teachers at all levels will be receiving an LIG, meaning they will not get paid, the reason being that teaching is a ‘calling’ and teachers are not supposed to be in it for the money. The educational system as a whole should be entirely free.
In order to prevent corruption, it is stressed that the distribution of the Basic Income is to take place electronically with as few people involved as possible.
In due course, LIG is to be distributed globally.
Basic Income Guaranteed
Equal Life Foundation
Equal access to resources
Natural resources belong to the earth
Basic Income can save Capitalism
Basic Income Guaranteed and Taxation
Basic Income Guaranteed with Labor as Interest
Abolishment of personal Tax
BIEN’s Criteria for an Unconditional Basic Income
Universality of LIG
Individuality of LIG
Basic Income Guaranteed and Conditions
No Obligation to Work
How BIG will stabilize your Economy
Working part-time in a LIG economy
Subsidy for Homes
Equal Money Capitalism
Equal Wages and joint Ownership
Phase-out of Pensions
Teachers on Basic Income Guaranteed
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karsten Lieberkind is Board member of BIEN Denmark and Danish coordinator for the European Citizens' Initiative for an Unconditional Basic Income. A writer, translator and pianist he also holds a PhD in Indology and a BA in philosophy from the University of Copenhagen. When not in front of the computer, Karsten is a dedicated hiker and cyclist.