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A basic income is a proposed system of social security, that periodically provides each citizen with a sum of money that is sufficient to live on. Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it.
A basic income is often proposed in the form of a citizen's dividend (a transfer) or a negative income tax (a guarantee). A basic income less than the social minimum is referred to as a partial basic income. A worldwide basic income, typically including income redistribution between nations, is known as a global basic income.
The proposal is a specific form of guaranteed minimum income, which is normally conditional and subject to a means test.
One of the arguments for a basic income was articulated by the French Economist and Philosopher André Gorz:
The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact...
From the point where it takes only 1,000 hours per year or 20,000 to 30,000 hours per lifetime to create an amount of wealth equal to or greater than the amount we create at the present time in 1,600 hours per year or 40,000 to 50,000 hours in a working life, we must all be able to obtain a real income equal to or higher than our current salaries in exchange for a greatly reduced quantity of work...
Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: 'the micro-chip revolution'. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and workbased society is thrown into crisis (André Gorz, Critique of economic Reason, Gallile, 1989).
The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) describes one of the benefits of a basic income as having a lower overall cost than that of the current means-tested social welfare benefits. However critics have pointed out the potential work disincentives created by such a program, and have cast doubts over its implementability. In later years, Basic Income Studies: How it could be organised, Different Suggestions, have made a lot fully financed proposals.
Examples of implementation
The U.S. State of Alaska has a system which provides each citizen with a share of the state's oil revenues, although this amount is not necessarily enough to live on. The U.S. also has an Earned income tax credit for low-income taxpayers. In 2006 a bill written by members of the advocacy organization USBIG to transform the credit into a partial basic income was introduced in the US congress but did not pass.
The city of Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada took part in an experimental basic income program ("Mincome") between 1974 and 1979.
In 2008, a pilot project with a basic income grant was started in the Namibian village of Otjivero by the Namibian Basic Income Grant Coalition. After six months the project has been found to significantly reduce child malnutrition and increase school attendance. It was also found to increase the community's income significantly above the actual amount from the grants as it allowed citizens to partake in more productive economic activities.
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