Michel Bauwens:  Basic income has been very much in the news in the last decade, with an increasing number of reports and policy experimentations. Even though it has conquered the support of the majority of progressive voters in Europe, there are voices that see in the basic income a ‘neoliberal plot’, citing the support of Silicon Valley luminaries. But with the basic income, the devil is in the details, and to distinguish a socially progressive version of the basic income, we must be able to judge the proposals with concrete principles in mind. This is exactly what Andrea Fumagalli does here in this short but important text. For your info, I am partial to the basic income as a transitional measure towards the commons society, as it liberates and helps the choice to work on transitional and meaningful projects.

Andrea Fumagalli on the Five Criteria To Distinguish a Progressive Interpretation of the Basic Income

Basic Income presents different and contradictory definitions. That is why the terms can mislead. On my opinion, we can speak of Basic income only when the following five criteria are verified:

1. Individuality criterion: the basic income must be paid at the individual level and not familiar. It can then discuss if children under 18 years will have the right or not.

2. Criterion of residence: the basic income must be paid to all / the people who, residing in a given territory, live, rejoice, suffer and participate in the production and social cooperation regardless of their marital status, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, etc.

3. Criterion of unconditionality: basic income must be provided by minimizing any form of compensation and / obligation as a free individual choice as possible.

4. Access criteria: the basic income is paid in its initial phase of experimentation to all / the people who have an income below a certain threshold. This threshold may, however, be greater than the relative poverty line and converge toward the median level of the personal distribution of existing income. Moreover, this level of income must be expressed in relative terms, not absolute, so that increasing the minimum threshold (as a result of the initial introduction of the measure) the range of beneficiaries will increase continuously until to rise to graded levels of universality.

5. Criteria for funding and transparency: the modalities of financing of basic income must always be set out on the basis of economic viability studies, detailing where resources are obtained based on an estimate of its cost necessary. These resources have to fall on general taxation and not on other assets of origin (such as, for example, social security contributions, sale of public assets, privatization proceeds, etc.). Basic income is complementary to welfare systems and never substitutive. On my opinion, basic income should be a conflict tool not a compatibility tool with respect to the existing contemporary neo-liberalist capitalism. That is why, the criteria of total unconditionality and an enough level (> relative poverty line as minimum) just to say “NO” to halting conditions of work and exploitation without blackmail, are more important than an immediate universality (may be, providing a insignificant amount of money).

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