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Top 10 Basic Income Articles of 2017

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
6 min read
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As a moderator of the /r/BasicIncome subreddit, I read a lot of links every year about the idea of unconditional basic income, hundreds actually. Once again, as I did last year, I've compiled a list of the ten articles/papers/reports I consider the most important to read out of everything published this year. Please bookmark, read,and share away!

######10) "The Indestructible Idea of the Basic Income" by Jesse Walker for Reason

Every year there are multiple introductory summaries of basic income written for a variety of publications that are meant to catch people up on the history of the idea who are new to it. This one by Jesse Walker for the libertarian publication Reason wins my vote for being the best historical summary of 2017. If you're looking for a link to use to introduce your right-leaning friend or family member to UBI, consider using this one.

######9) "Modeling the Macroeconomic Effects of a Universal Basic Income" by Michalis Nikiforos, Marshall Steinbaum, Gennaro Zezza + "No Strings Attached: The Behavioral Effects of U.S. Unconditional Cash Transfer Programs" by Ioana Marinescu

Yes, these are two links, but both were published by the Roosevelt Institute this year, and both are must-reads for anyone interested in deep analysis of UBI. First, Marinescu tackles the evidence side of the discussion with a review of the existing experimental data in regards to the impact of UBI on work, and then Nikiforos, Steinbaum, and Zezza incorporate this as part of their model of the macroeconomic impact of UBI in the US. Together, they are a one-two punch for seeing how positively transformative UBI will be for the economy.

######8) "Basic Income: A Psychological Impact Assessment" by Psychologists for Social Change

Psychologists for Social Change is "a network of applied psychologists, academics, therapists, psychology graduates and others who are interested in applying psychology to policy and political action." In this report, they cover the many psychological effects of UBI and conclude by recommending more UBI trials that specifically look at a range of important measures of mental and emotional well-being that tend to go overlooked in experimental designs.

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######7) "The Free Banquet" by George Scialabba for Commonweal

This article is a wonderful review of the book Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy written by economist and co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Philippe van Parijs and political scientist Yannick Vanderborght. There are plenty of reviews out there of this book, but this particular one is told from a religious faith perspective, which in my opinion is a perspective we need a lot more of in order to reach a great many more otherwise unreachable people. Also, read the book!

######6) "Mothers And Basic Income: The Case For An Urgent Intervention" by Petra Bueskens for New Matilda

Articles and blog posts written about UBI from a female perspective are another perspective I think we need much more of, and this piece by Petra Bueskens was my favorite of the year. She effectively asks the question, "Is it acceptable that we as a society free-load on the unpaid care work without which society would cease to function?" She identifies mothers, most especially single mothers, as a specific socioeconomic and political group in urgent need of basic income.

######5) "My Own Private Basic Income" by Karl Widerquist for openDemocracy

In this article, Karl Widerquist describes how he effectively already has a basic income thanks to income from rental properties, and that he got it "thanks to privilege, nepotism, and two big lucky breaks." Unlike far too many people, Karl knows full well the amount of luck involved in his success and argues that his stuff is working for him so he doesn't have to, thanks to society rewarding the owning of stuff with more and more stuff. This is the basic income that people with wealth have. As Karl concludes, "the most common objection to basic income is that it’s supposedly wrong to give things to people who don’t work for it, when actually, the economy already gives billions of dollars of unearned income to people who are already wealthy. The problem is we don’t share it." It's time we change that.

######4) "Utopian thinking: the easy way to eradicate poverty" by Rutger Bregman for The Guardian

For those who haven't read Rutger Bregman's book "Utopia for Realists", or seen his TED Talk, this single article captures what in my opinion are the most important points in each. Poverty is not a lack of character, it's a lack of cash, and if we provide everyone with basic income, poverty can be eliminated. As a result, our perspectives will be shifted from ones of scarcity and short-term thinking, to ones of abundance and long-term thinking. We can essentially upgrade the IQ of human civilization, and however utopian you may think that is to suggest, it is entirely realistic with UBI.

######3) "Basic income isn’t just a nice idea. It's a birthright" by Jason Hickel for The Guardian

If you've never heard of the Charter of the Forest, it's even older than the Magna Carta, 800 years old this year to be exact, and it's as powerful a justification for basic income as it is historic. Simply put, it is centered around the right of habitation, "a right that humans nearly everywhere had long just presupposed: that no one should be debarred from the resources necessary for livelihood." The enclosure of the commons resulted in the requirement for people to work for wages in order to live. Jason Hickel here argues that funding UBI with the commons using ideas like a land value tax and the Alaska model of annual dividends would function as a kind of de-enclosure, bringing back the Charter of the Forest and the right of access to the commons, and so the right of habitation with it.

######2) "Atlas Nods: The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income" by Miranda Perry Fleischer and Daniel Hemel

This 58-page paper is my new go-to link for any libertarian under the mistaken belief that UBI is anti-libertarian, and any progressive who thinks UBI is a trap. To the contrary, UBI has strong support on libertarian grounds, not as a "Trojan horse", but as a permanent policy objective in and of itself. As this paper concludes, "Our analysis of the libertarian foundations for a basic income has left us less perplexed by the UBI’s popularity among libertarian thinkers—and more convinced that a UBI can be a libertarian destination rather than a waystation. But for that to happen, and for a UBI to become a reality, many political mountains must be moved. Ultimately, any successful pro-UBI coalition will need to encompass individuals with diverse philosophical commitments. We believe that committed libertarians ought to be part of that coalition, and non-libertarians ought to embrace them with open arms." In other words, the left and the right need to work together to achieve UBI, with the understanding that the support on the other side is a strength, not a trap.

######1) "Basic income and the new universalism" by Roope Mokka and Katariina Rantanen for Sitra

This is actually one of my favorite UBI articles I've ever read. It's very challenging to succinctly open minds to the magnitude of change possible through UBI, but this does it beautifully. Not since the United States set and achieved its goal of landing men on the Moon has an idea been this big. Achieving UBI would be nothing less than one of humanity's greatest achievements, not only in its actual achievement, but in its pursuit. And seeing UBI as a provision of the capacity to produce, instead of just as money, helps reveal just what becomes newly possible with UBI - a true unifying vision for post-industrial humanity.

Bonus Link: If there's one article of my own among those I've written this year that I'd select for such a list, it's probably my plan for going about funding UBI in the US. For those looking for numbers and "where the money comes from", you'll find it all there.

Cheers, and here's to 2018 being an ever bigger year for the basic income movement than 2017!

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Scott Santens Twitter

Unconditional basic income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Author of Let There Be Money; Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward; editor; Fund for Humanity board member