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Last Month in Basic Income... A Summary of April 2016

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
5 min read

Continuing my pledge to monthly summarize the growth of the basic income movement worldwide (that’s the bipartisan call to change your monthly starting point from $0 to somewhere above the poverty line instead), it’s time again to look back at the previous month. You can read last month’s here.

As I write this, it feels like basic income has officially exploded in just the past couple days let alone the past month. I’ve seen more articles and blogs published in one day about basic income this week, than I ever have before. And this is not because of one singular event in the news, like it usually would be to see basic income all over, but instead, on its own, basic income is seemingly everywhere.

The call for basic income is taking to the streets… demand the future!

BIG News

The biggest news of all was the cash-transfer specializing charity GiveDirectly’s BIG announcement to do an unprecedented experiment with unconditional basic income in East Africa. With the intention of both full universality and a duration of 10–15 years for an estimated 6,000 people at a cost of at least $30 million, they are undoubtedly going to play a major role in the history books looking back at how basic income came to finally be in the world. They’re also going to need our help, so please consider donating to their universal basic income fund.

Not to be left out of the experiment arena, a city in Switzerland, Lausanne, decided they want to experiment with basic income in a similar way to more than twenty cities in the Netherlands, regardless of how the rest of Switzerland votes on the June 5th basic income referendum. Also, a very large poll came out that showed 40% of Swiss voters in favor and 57% against, which happens to be an almost doubling in support since the start of the year.

In even more experimental news, a small 2-year project will take place in Uganda where a village will be given basic income as the basis for a documentary.

BIG Media

It was big news to see both a thoroughly researched article about basic income published by Five Thirty Eight, as well as an episode of the Freakonomics podcast entirely devoted to the idea.

I think the most widely read/shared basic income article of the month was Colin Holtz’s piece in the Guardian about how the Panama Papers prove we can definitely afford it. John Harris too had a very widely read article in the Guardian. Basic income also appeared in the The Telegraph, the New York Times, Mother Jones, The World Bank, New Statesman, The Verge, The Independent, Tech Insider, The Huffington Post, and Quartz.

Rutger Bregman’s new book resulted in article after article after article and review after review after review about it, and Collision 2016, America’s fastest growing tech conference with over 7,500 attendees from more than 50 countries, invited me to their Center stage to talk basic income with Jack Smith IV of

BIG Activism

In activism news, basic income took to the streets! The No Jobs bloc marched in London, UK to demand a future of automation and basic income, and robots protested on the streets of Switzerland with the demand to let humans work for them.

The second ever basic income Create-A-Thon took place in Los Angeles, and in the Bay Area a Care and Cash event was held that assembled a panel of social service sector workers to discuss basic income. An Oxford style debate about basic income was held in London, Ontario, and a basic income conference was held in Halifax that included the mayor.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland a group successfully crowdfunded a fifth of a million euros in order to make the world’s biggest question — essentially, “What would you do with a basic income?” — into literally the world’s biggest question by printing it out in Guinness Book of World Record size. It’ll be about the size of a soccer stadium and weigh around 7 tons. Additionally, another group in Switzerland successfully crowdfunded a year of basic income for someone, which makes them the fourth country to have done so following Germany, the Netherlands, and the US.

Speaking of the Netherlands, 40,000 signatures were gathered to get their Parliament to discuss basic income, and in Minnesota, a caucus resolution was passed in support of basic income by BIG MN’s Liane Gale, and a new local BIG group formed in Taiwan.

BIG Names

With each passing month, it’s incredible to see the new names coming out in support of basic income. In April, it was economist and former Finance Minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis, former Chief Economist of UBS George Magnus, International VP of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) David Rolf, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, VICE’s Eddie Huang, Founder and CEO of Nationbuilder Jim Gilliam, Founder and CEO of Stocktwits Howard Lindzon, world record-setting ocean biker Ebrahim Hemmatnia, and just this week, even though I should wait till next month but I can’t because it’s so huge, multi-billionaire Bill Gross of Janus Capital.

BIG Left and Right Support

From the right, it was asked if basic income could save free market economies, the Adam Smith Institute made the neoliberal case for basic income, CATO wrote about ending welfare as we know it with basic income, and Ordinary Times posted a great piece by the editor of Cate Unbound about how basic income would improve Hayekian price signaling.

From the left, the Weekly Worker argued that basic income is urgently needed, Irish Socialist Economic explained why the left should support basic income, and Feminist Current showed how basic income is feasible and feminist.

There was even a great piece on the Student Christian Movement blog arguing that it’s time for Christians to embrace basic income.

BIG Reminders

The North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress 2016 is taking place May 12–15 in Winnipeg, Canada at the University of Manitoba. You can still register and also look at the schedule of speakers over here. On May 13 the UNRISD will discuss UBI, on May 17 RSA Scotland will discuss it, and on May 23 it will be discussed in the House of Commons.

BIG Thanks

Well, those are the highlights for April. My apologies if I missed anything and please feel free to send me news you feel absolutely needs to make the next newsletter. I don’t want to leave anything out, and I’m trying hard not to.

Thank you for helping to grow the movement for basic income, and I will update you again next month!

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Did you enjoy reading this? Please click the subscribe button and also consider making a monthly pledge in support of my daily advocacy of basic income for all.

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Scott Santens Twitter

Unconditional/Universal Basic Income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Founder and President of ITSA Foundation, Author of Let There Be Money; Editor of

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