Basic Income - future of our welfare system?

Hey guys,

I thought I’ll give an off topic thread a chance. So here we go:

Have you heard of the concept of basic income to replace our current welfare systems?
My interest in this topic began with own experiences, which brought me to question the power money and people with money has over our lives.

Here is a great article in the dutch e-journal de correspondent (english) which I really recommend to read.

The concept of a basic income granted by the state isn’t all that new. It can at least be dated back to the early 16 th century (see Thomas Morus: Utopia).
It’s idea is that everyone receives unconditianally receives at least a minimum grant, which allows him to cover his basic needs + everything he needs to be able to participate in the society (public transport, access to libraries,…) but no luxuries per se.

Over time there have been multiple ideas of how such a basic income can work and why it’s justified - e.g. US funding fathers had the concept of a “Stakeholder Society”. Nowadays there are two large fractions in the BI movement:

  • Unconditianal Basic Income
  • Negative Income Tax

Unconditianal Basic Income is a fixed (monthly) payment for every member of the society. It’s financed e.g. by higher income taxes for high-earners or in other scenarios by a sharp rise of the VAT (50 % and more) while removing all other taxes.
It recently has been tried as a novel approach for development aid in Namibia with reportedly very good results on the local community.

Negative Income Tax is a bit more complicated to understand, I recommend reading the wikipedia article.
What struck me about the NIT is that there have been some strikingly good results, when implemented in small and larger scale studies (see here and especially here). It was even pretty close to beeing introduced in the US in the 70s.

I found it quite interesting, that Switzerland will hold a national referendum concerning the introduction of an unconditianal basic income in the next two or three years (see here) and in Germany there are two crowdfunding projects, which want to grant a basic income for individuals to advertise the idea (both succesful so far - #1 #2).

Personally I especially like the idea, that in our wealthy society, people wouldn’t be forced to work in jobs that in no way contribute to our society just to get enough money to survive from them, but instead could decide where and how they want to spend their time.Our societies in the western world can afford it, if we just redistribute the wealth we have in our system and many jobs that are now filled with low-fare workers can easily replaced by robots. Plus, I hope that this would diminish the idea that someone’s worth for the society correlates with the salery he gets.
I’m also positive, that this would spark many creative and social businesses like the Fairphone projects and that more people would be willing and able to contribute in such projects.

So what do you think? Is the basic income idea the future of our welfare system, or at least a better approach towards our current (and failed) attempt of development aid?


There woud still be some that’d “cheat” the system by pushing its limits…

By basic needs, do you include treatments that are currently totally reimbursed?

I have diabetes and I’d be pretty bummed out if I suddenly had to pay for all that…

On the topic of not doing jobs for the sole aim of getting more money, it makes me think of that idea, dozens of years ago, that mankind wouldn’t need to work anymore because of all the developments in automation and whatnot…

Too bad it was all half-thought. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well actually the basic income that we think about nowadays is partly a solution to the problem, that due to automation there are less and less jobs. A huge amount of the workforce is right now competing with machines over who can produce cars, machines,… for the least money. I’ve worked for a large automobile company here for a while and at some point I got in contact with one engineer. What he told me, was that most of the workers were basically just kept in order to satisfy the public and that they could have been easily replaced with way cheaper machines, but that the public and politicians would oppose that.

Many jobs, that were relocated to third world countries could be aesily performed by machines, but right now it is (still) cheaper to have them performed for very low paid workers.

Yep medical treatments of course wouldn’t affect your basic income. Basic income should guarantee, that you have a liveworthy live in the society.

On first glimpse the idea of a basic income does look good. The principle is that everybody can work.
And there it’s going wrong. It’s said that if you not fit to work you get a little extra on top of the basic income. Being sick is expensive. just think of simple things. Diet, clothes, bed, central heating, special cutlery, transport. And what to think of special care …

In case of diabetes, shouldn’t all that is required to get insuline in the body be included in the “basic” needs? I’m talking of myself because I know of it but I guess it could be the same for different situations…

Hey @Zoidbergforpresident
I agree and most of the authors in favour of the BI propose to combine the BI with a free health care system as well as public transportation.

After all - concerning medical treatments - these are already covered in most European countries. Either by a state funded system like the NHS or a public funded insurance system as in Germany.

So our societies already take care of those in medical needs.

Hi @madde, this is a very interesting topic for me. I’m currently writing an essay about the UK Co-operative movement for my studies, so I’ve been reading a lot about the ‘Utopian Socialists’ like Robert Owen.

One of my favourite ‘Owenite’ concepts so far is that capitalists shouldn’t be allowed to chase unending heaps of capital, it should be limited - and surplus should be put back into the business for the benefit of the workers. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? I’m glad this was something that Fairphone picked up on with their Worker Welfare Fund.

In the UK the labour movements are campaigning for a ‘living wage’ which is meant to provide a wage sufficient to provide everything you need from food to child care and also funding continuation of education. According to the Living Wage Foundation, there is a large difference between our current minimum wage (£6.31 per hour) and the living wage (£7.65 outside of London or £8.80 for Londoners).

I’d certainly support higher taxation of your top earners would support the right kind of welfare system that we need - free education & free health care. There does need to be a system to support those that can’t work, or find themselves out of work - this is where a lot of the arguments creep in and the proclamations of ‘cheats’ are headlined in the media.

Anyway, I could go on forever on this subject…but I’ve only taken a short break from my essay, so best get back to it :wink:

What’s stopping people from buying a new LCD TV from their basic income rather than spending it on, say, clothing or healthier foods?

Other way round: Why should they be stopped from buying a TV in the first place? Seems to me that a TV is part of what most people need to take part in our society.
The idea of the BI is not to educate people to live a life that our society views it at lifeworth, but to eredicate poverty.

If your question is focussed on the aspect of people laying down their jobs to live from the BI. First of all: Would you stop working if you would receive a BI every month. Plus I think most people have needs surpassing just the basic needs like a good TV with some extras instead of a basic model, so they will continue to work in order to cover these needs as well.
That actually is covered by the findings of the larger studies performed in the US and Canada in the 60s and 90s. The only groups where it was observed that people completely stopped working were young people, who instead of working continued higher education and young mothers who cared for their child instead of returning to work immediately after giving birth. (See Evelyn L Forget: The town with no poverty)


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Oh OK, I missed that, thanks.

Oh and a Television set is definitely not a “basic” need, same as for a smartphone, however fair it is. I have a television set but no cable or bouquet or what not. I have absolutely no need for it.

Here are basic needs:
Balanced diet, water, shelter, heating, sleep, health. In no particular order of course.

Basic is meant, to me, to be anything you cannot live decently without. You can survive while in bad health or living on the streets, but not decently. Anything else, I think, would be luxury.

Hi everyone,

One issue that I find crucial is the way (western) society deals with people who do not work. The whole pressure of having a “respectable” job, the social status attached to (not) having a job, the stress related to job performance and the fear of losing a job, it sounds like we are not humans anymore, but job-oriented drones. A job (and, consequently, income/money) is the ranking heuristic of a person’s worth. (I suspect this is also the reason why in western countries the elderly are less and less viewed as respectable people with valuable experience and are increasingly being abandoned and mistreated by their families and the society in general.)

If, for whatever reason, you don’t have a job and are living on welfare, you are seen as a parasite stealing other people’s taxes. Why do we stigmatize people who do not have a “normal” job? Why are stay-at-home mothers or fathers regarded with disdain? Why is laziness evil (and a sin!!) and working oneself to sickness met with admiration? Why do we measure someone’s right to live with dignity by arbitrary moral standards such as “is willing to work”, “is willing to work AND does not have a drug addiction”, or even “has the ability to work”?

And why do some jobs receive more respect than others? Why is the rich businessman admired and respected, and why do the minimum wage workers that he fired and exploited on his path to fortune receive no recognition from the society? How fair is that?

Also, why should unemployed people be submitted to degrading procedures, such as:

  • meeting a quota of job applications sent per week,
  • taking courses in (and apply to) areas that they are not even remotely interested in (“a useless job you hate is better than no job at all”),
  • moving to a distant city, even leaving family behind
  • and queuing up regularly in front of the job agency or social insurance office

in order to get some money to survive the next few months?

It is therefore not surprising that past basic income experiments show that the overall health and well-being of the population increases: “Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.” (source:

By the way, the BIEN lists some interesting work here:



I think it has to do with being able to take care of one-self in a society that is individualizing at a rapid pace. If you for whatever reason can’t take care of yourself (e.g. by working and earning money to support yourself) then you have to fall back to something like welfare. Then you are making use of money paid by other people who do work for a living. It’s the non-working people that are taking a cut out of the pie of the working people.

Combine that way of reasoning with an individualized society, where people are increasingly egocentric and you can understand where the disdain comes from. After all, if an unemployed person would work, he wouldn’t have to make use of my money that I earned through hard work.

People aren’t as willing to make selfless offers and help others as they used to anymore. Individualization of society (egocentric thinking) is a reason for this, but I think that this in itself is also the result of an increased chance of getting scammed or treated in a dishonest manner. Governments are no longer seen as institutions to take care of us, large corporations are no longer (just) a great positive source of jobs (they do “evil” now), even banks are no longer a safe haven to store your money. I think a general fear of losing out because of the actions of some large company, financial institution or government is increased (and probably rightly so). This leads to people being more protective of what they have and less inclined to give in a selfless manner.

This is all kind of speculative on my side, but I’m convinced there’s truth in this analysis.

Hey @megfault,

thanks for your posting. I totally agree with you and I just wanted to add one thing:
It’s not only fathers and mothers that care for their child or family members caring for the elderly, that would benefit from the BI. Look at all the people that are doing important work for the society entirely for free (which I think also demonstrates, that we live in a different society than the one @Jerry describes (no offense! :wink: )).

I’m talking about all the voluntary workers, working in soup kitchens that feed the poor and homeless, in animal shelters, in sportsclubs, as voluntary streetworkers, as voluntary fire fighters or first responders,… All of them are investing many hours per week without expecting payment, although their work is extremely vital for our society.
BI would be one way to recognize their importance for our society and would enable them to concentrate on the work they do, even if they would decide to do this “full time”.


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People doing voluntary social work are a tiny tiny minority though. I’m not saying everyone is completely egocentric, in fact, I think most people are willing to voluntarily help others when asked. But when it’s about a structural commitment most people are protective of what they have before helping others, especially if it costs them more than just their spare time.

@Jerry “tiny tiny minority”?

Figures from the EU show that around 23 % of the population regularily contribute to the society by doing voluntary work. In some countries like the UK, the quota is far above 40 %. This means, that there are around 100 000 000 voluntary workers just in the EU.
Source: (pp 7)


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23% ? Well colour me surprised then :slight_smile:

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Haha! Is this the colour @jerry :blush: [quote=“Jerry, post:16, topic:194, full:true”]
23% ? Well colour me surprised then :slight_smile:

I am actually surprised it is only 23% across the EU and not more, the UK is doing well though I see.

I once attended a talk of a sociologist that described how families changed during the industrial revolution. I do not recall all the details, and I would love to find scientific work that supports that, but what he said was something along the lines of:

  1. large families used to live together under the same roof, sharing tasks and resources, and mostly growing their own food
  2. with the industrial revolution, workers moved to the cities and lived in small houses
  3. consequently, the family size decreased and the family was solely dependent on the income of the factory worker(s) - usually the man - to survive
  4. the ability to provide decent food and shelter determined the value of a man
  5. hence the men (and people in general) became more competitive instead of cooperative

If any of you has some documents explaining this, please let me know. I am quite interested in the topic.

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Interestingly enough, there seems to be a growing public interest for the topic of basic income in the US.
Two recent articles:
The Conservative Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income
Giving everyone a basic income would work for the same reasons Social Security does


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Really nice discussion.

I have been interested in this subject for quite a while now and see so many possibilities with the Basic Income.
As research has shown it helps people to develop themselves much easier. And eventually it would be so much less administration on a government level.
And the nice thing is that is slowly moving into the agenda’s of more and more politicians. Now still the progressive left, but eventually I am sure that also the progressive right will see this is a good thing.

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