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Commentary :: Human Rights
23 Theses on the Unconditional Basic Income
04 Feb 2008
Without vision the people perish. Basic unconditional income like community centers could restore public spirit and interdependence. The anti-social or capital offensive leaves people mere consumers or cogs in the machine and represses our gifts, talents and health.

By Theophil Wonneberger

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

1. Productivity has continuously increased since the beginning of industrialization in the 19th century. Successes in automation accelerated this process and will accelerate it further in the future. For the first time in human history, considerable portions of the population are not needed any more to produce the necessary goods.

2. Full employment was the exception even before industrialization. The hope that full employment will ever be realized in the future is all the more absurd. However an unconditional basic income (UBI) would be sensible even with full employment since it creates freedom from work coercion for all workers.

3. For a long time, substantial parts of the population have not been integrated in the labor process. They are also excluded from income. Today considerable parts of the population are either supported directly by social benefits or indirectly by subsidized economic branches at great financial expense. The solution can only be uncoupling income from work since the creation of new jobs succeeds less and less.

4. Much of the labor performed today is meaningless and benefits no one as for example large parts of bureaucracies or is injurious as for example the arms industry and animal experiments. This kind of labor maintains the existing economic order that cannot function without permanent growth and wearing out nature. We cannot forego them without worsening our lives.

5. Every activity that only serves to earn money is unworthy of humankind. Work only leads to contentment when it is meaningful, fun and done for its own sake.

6. When people receive an unconditional basic income, they cannot be forced to work any more. Unpopular and hollow work is no longer accepted or must be paid better. No one has to do immoral work only because of the need for money.

7. The liberation of people from existential anxiety would create possibilities evoking creativity leading to new ideas and products and at the end even benefiting the whole economy. Everyone could realize him- or herself as much as desired.

8. The enormous economic output allows paying everyone a substantial basic income today. Instead of immobilizing people through meaningless work and with expensive measures, the money could be paid out better directly and without conditions.

9. Politicians and economists persuade us that money is scarce and therefore must be saved everywhere. But there is enough for everyone! All basic needs could be easily satisfied if the wealth were better distributed

10. Automatic income as for example capital earnings, rental revenue and monopoly profits should be mobilized to finance an unconditional basic income. Enough money would be collected. This would be the most just solution.

11. Financing from a resource tax is another sensible possibility with many advantages. This would be the most elegant way of simultaneously establishing social justice and protecting the atmosphere. Environmental pollution and resource consumption decline when they are taxed. If the tax revenues were distributed evenly to everyone, excessive consumers would be automatically penalized and environmentally-conscious behavior rewarded. Such an eco-tax would be accepted by the people.

12. An unconditional basic income accepted by the population and anchored as a basic right would bring genuine freedom and security for everyone. A policy based on fear and coercion would not be possible any longer. No one would have to knuckle under to his boss out of fear of losing his job. Everyone could freely express their political opinion without having to expect material privations. Genuine democracy is only possible this way.

13. An unconditional basic income reached in a democratic way liberates from welfare state tutelage. This is a model for come-of-age citizens who know best what is good for them.

14. The unconditional basic income liberates people from economic dependency on one another and among one another. For example, life partners who cannot agree any more need not live together any longer. Children could become independent to further their development. In the future, people will live together when they want to live together, not because they must.

15. When everyone receives an unconditional basic income, their working hours could be voluntarily reduced without endangering their existence. When everyone works less, work would also be distributed better. A minimum wage would not be needed because no one would accept poorly paid work any more.

16. An unconditional basic income must be granted unconditionally. Essential basic provision is a human right. Human rights are always unconditional.

17. Reasons for an unconditional basic income can also be found in the Christian religion. The biblical command of charity is the central message of the New Testament and includes material needs. Genuine love is only conceivable unconditionally.

18. The payment of a minimum life-sustaining amount is part of unconditionalness. If the basic income is too low and cannot sustain life, there would actually be work coercion and not real freedom. Not all basic income concepts are unconditional and keep people from poverty.

19. Unconditionalness also includes the right to laziness or idleness. What work one should do or whether one has to work may not be prescribed. There is only real freedom when the possibility of saying no exists.

20. So-called idlers are also socially important. They are living proof that people cannot be forced to work any more and that basic income is truly unconditional. The possibility of exodus substantially strengthens the position of workers over against their employers. The main goal of unions would be reached at last.

21. That the basic income should be paid out without return favor is often criticized. Whoever is against automatic income should take offense at the capital incomes that are also without return favor. While the unconditional basic income is democratically resolved, distributed evenly to everyone and covers existential needs, capital incomes are undemocratic, distributed extremely unequally and grow ever more quickly.

22. The unconditional basic income can be introduced regionally if there is a political will. But its true meaning is first fulfilled when it is implemented worldwide as a global social right. Then it assures the survival of all people and no one would be excluded any more.

23. Introducing an unconditional basic income certainly does not mean the end of all exploitation. However it can be the foundation on which people can free themselves from coercions and create possibilities for the further development of the whole society.

Contact author: mail (at)
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