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A basic income: a route to a degrowth society

June 15, 2016

Though Swiss voters rejected the proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all, this issue is alive and actively considered in several countries.

The French Senate has decided to form a parliamentary commission aiming at investigating the idea. The City Council of Washington D.C. has approved an amendment that “calls on the city’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer to study the possibility of providing a basic income in D.C.” The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), an official body of the Secretariat of the United Nations, has acknowledged the need for its member states to investigate basic income. Read more here.

Jeremy Heighway, who currently lives and works in Leipzig, was an active participant at the degrowth conference in 2014 and attended May’s conference on Universal Basic Income Network in Germany.

UBI logo 16

His abstract: Pathways of thought: common and uncommon ground, aims and direction when it comes to the environment Jeremy 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?

 

 

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