Philippe van Parijs, a leading advocate of the Basic, Citizens’ Income says it could help in the Greek crisis.

The Basic income embodies a new vision of how to organise relations, not just between individuals, but between nations – sufficient to survive with dignity, with an incentive to improve your material circumstances, the only condition being that you do nothing to damage the ecosphere. Too many get bogged down in the minutiae of how it would work for individuals in practice. That will be necessary, but it can come later, once people have grasped the new concept.

Both sides in the Greek dispute are right. The powers that be hope no one notices that Argentina and Iceland have stood up to the bullies in the past, but the Greeks, or at least some Greeks, have been extremely irresponsible and selfish. And even if they were no more to blame than say, Portugal, to give them the same leniency as was extended to post war Germany after their rather more appalling behaviour, would risk economic collapse. The system may be indefensible, but one can understand why it will be defended

I keep stressing that the Basic Income is not a panacea, but there are many situations where it will facilitate possibilities which are improbable without it. If every Greek is given a Basic income, then regardless of past behaviour, the consequences of cutting them adrift, whatever that would mean in practice, will be considerably less drastic. It will cost the better off nations something (Greece cannot afford it unaided), but would leave them still better off, exactly as the Basic income would affect individuals.

We live in a competitive world, which does not know how to stop destroying the environment, and it oppresses victims, innocent or guilty, in the process. The Basic Income can start the culture shift to a world where the rich can remain almost as rich without treating everybody else as prey. But in the present global expansionist, and therefore competitive culture those in power (not the ‘democratic’ governments) are subject to an imperative to be ruthless, or join the losers. There are clues that some of them are beginning to realize that another way would be in their long term interests. They could start in Greece.


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