Vol.1 No.13, 07 October 2001

Basic Income in Europe, USA & Brazil

In recent months the idea of providing a basic income grant has been promoted in South Africa by a range of NGOs and spearheaded by COSATU.

The issue of a basic (or citizen's) income has been actively debated and researched in recent years in many countries. The Basic Income European Network (BIEN) issues a regular newsletter and also arranges annual conferences. In its most recent newsletter (BIEN Newsflash No.11 an announcement is made of the first congress of the United States Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) to take place in March 2002 in New York.

The purpose of the conference is to bring together a wide group of academics, policy analysts, students, activists, and others interested in exploring the merits of BIG. It will consist of a series of panels, discussion groups, and speakers and it will include an organisational meeting for USBIG.

The organisers invite proposals for papers and panels on topics related to the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG), including but not limited to the following:

  1. The movement for a Negative Income Tax or a Guaranteed Income in the United States
  2. The ethics of BIG
  3. The politics of BIG
  4. The Alaskan dividend: the existing BIG
  5. The impact of a BIG on civil society
  6. The efficiency-equity trade-off and the BIG
  7. The BIG and the family: Effects on marital status, domestic violence, and child poverty
  8. The BIG outside the United States
  9. The labour market effects of BIG
  10. Funding a BIG
  11. Substitutes or complements? The relationship between BIG, guaranteed employment, wage subsidies, and the living wage movement
  12. The problem at hand: recent trends in poverty and child poverty in the U.S. and possibility of increased employment insecurity in the next recession

A useful background to this timely initiative is provided by Professor James Tobin, one of the first and most prestigious North American advocates of a "basic income guarantee" in the September issue of the BIEN Newsletter.

James Tobin is a Yale economist, Nobel laureate and father of the "Tobin tax" proposal, He was among the very first academics to publish technical papers on the negative income tax in the late sixties. He himself favoured a non-means-tested variant of the negative income tax, which he called demogrant.

In the BIEN newsletter Tobin is interviewed by Senator Matarazzo Suplicy, a US-trained economist and prominent member of Brazil's main left-wing party (PT), In 1991, he presented a bill which, if passed, would have established a guaranteed income for all Brazilian in the form of a negative income tax. Many modest guaranteed income schemes have since been experimented at a more local level throughout Brazil, and have now been granted some federal backing.

Senator Suplicy is now preparing a new book ("The Exit is Through the Door. Towards a Citizen's Income").

More information about BIEN can be obtained from:
http://www.basicincome.org [email protected]

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