UBI: WMNEG member Jeremy Heighway writes from Leipzig

Conference: Universal Basic Income Network in Hamburg

UBI logo 16

Pathways of thought: common and uncommon ground, aims and direction when it comes to the environmentJeremy Heighway

Looking at the aims of the conference page, it says very clearly: “A basic income is therefore a route to a degrowth society, however, a basic income does not necessarily start the ecological transformation that is so urgently needed,” and continues, “… addressing this … needs to be thoroughly incorporated into any implementation of a basic income and its accompanying measures.”

The tracks appear to go cold right there, however, as a shift is made towards four other areas of discussion, none of which intrinsically address ecological transformation. It is perfectly possible for a supporter of a basic income to ignore ecological transformation; to some extent it is even possible to be in favour of increased consumption.

The degrowth movement is a mindset; the basic income is a mechanism. This provides a possible clash from the outset, based on the question of what you hope to achieve and how.

On the societal side I think there is quite a good overlap and it is a great idea to get the movements working together. But opportunities can be missed if two groups do not also look hard at what is not automatically going to be addressed if you work together.

One huge area is, as stated above, ecological transformation. My proposal looks at eco-taxation and suggests that all increased revenue be returned to everyone evenly in the form of a basic income. However, I do not believe it would be able to help finance the true basic living-cost foundation much. It is certainly much more of an easy attachment to a basic income than a direct source of finance. Strangely, it is almost something which degrowth supporters need to be vigorous about from an environmental benefit perspective and argue for with basic income supporters.

The semi-sideline nature is maybe one reason why basic income supporters have not been very supportive of this idea so far: if it doesn’t do much to actually finance the true basic income, why complicate matters and potentially alienate people along the way with an unpopular taxation device?

Now it’s your time dear degrowth supporters: why do environmental concerns need to be considered again? And, dear basic income supporters, you can actually gain some firm supporters and new friends if you take up this idea – “… addressing this … needs to be thoroughly incorporated into any implementation of a basic income and its accompanying measures”, remember these stated aims of the conference?

Jeremy Heighway currently lives in Leipzig, was an active participant at the degrowth conference in 2014, and took part in the basic income GAP sessions. He also wrote a stirring paper on infrastructures for a parallel GAP. In his day job, Jeremy mostly does translations from German to English in the field of renewable energy.





Posted on June 8, 2016, in Basic income, Jeremy Heighway, Taxes, Uncategorized, West Midlands New Economics Group and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. In a recent FT article by John Kay, he criticises a general lack of mathematical thinking: “Most advocates of basic income prefer to keep the argument at the level of general principle rather than engage in the grubby practicalities of numbers.” He precedes this with: “Either the basic income is impossibly low, or the expenditure on it is impossibly high.”
    He (John Kay) seems to be arguing that the UBI would be far too expensive if paid to everyone at a reasonably high level. That would be wrong, because a lot of the UBI is played out at a zero-sum level – a sort of revolving give-and-take…..

    Jeremy replied:

    Yes, whatever financing mechanisms are used, wealthier people would tend to be paying for their own BI and then some. It is far easier to make it unconditional for all to receive a BI, but fund it in such a way that those who don’t really need it in the first place end up funding “most of/ all of/ more than” their own BI themselves. It is, however, a guarantee that should these people hit hard times, that there is an uncomplicated ‘insurance system’ in place, just as most insurance policies work.


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