Launch of the World Basic Income Movement!

The (possibly temporary) website is

This is a much needed development, but I have a warning. A conference was held in Manchester on 4th February 2017, and I look forward to reading reports.  BIEN has been in existence since 1984, but the new movement has a different focus. BIEN has been slowly gaining ground  in starting Basic Income movements country by country, but the World Basic Income Movement is closer to my most recent definition of what I want to see: that everyone, everywhere should have sufficient so that they don’t need to do anything.

Actually that isn’t quite right, though that is how I have recently been quoted by one correspondent. What I do advocate is that:

Everyone, everywhere should have sufficient so that they don’t need to do anything to damage the ecosphere.

I agree with every word I hear, well almost, at BIEN conferences, and I have been to at least 15. I expect I would have agreed with almost every word at the Manchester conference. Indeed the basic Income movement is gaining traction in all sorts of places. However, whilst I join the chorus saying “About time too!”, there is one serious omission. After 44 years of advocating the Basic income principle, I still appear to be unique in seeing its prime purpose as enabling humans to live within the ecosphere without harming it. The ecosphere, or biosphere is a thin shell less than 12 miles deep (including the oceans) surrounding a ball only 8,000 miles in diameter. The Earth is the only place in the universe where life is definitely known to exist.

The MIT study Limits to Growth drew attention to over-exploitation as a concern in 1972. Climate change has become the most obvious problem, but there are many others – ocean acidification, loss of habitat (and farmland), atmospheric pollution  . . .

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change in December 2015 was hoped to bring the climate issue under control, but that was by no means assured even before the threats to it by the new USA administration.

It is serious enough that the Basic Income movement is completely disconnected from concern about ecological limits. I thoroughly agree with confiscating some wealth from the filthy rich and giving it to the poor , but if that is all that happens, and it is not linked to a culture and rules which respects ecological limits, then we shall do nothing to slow what MIT forwarned, and ‘Paris’ attempted to prevent.

But there is a much more fundamental, indeed dangerous difficulty. A Basic Income is normally thought of as unconditional. For me (but apparently no one else as yet), there is one condition: Giving everyone, everywhere enough not to need to damage the ecosphere includes not increasing the total population. As the basic income movement is concerned only with fair redistribution, the notion of limits is ignored.

Some may assume that this implies coercive measures. That is certainly not the case, but it does require a culture shift, which will not happen easily in many parts of the world. The new world basic income movement is a necessary step forward, but at the same time as giving everyone, everywhere the option of doing nothing if the only alternative is to damage the environment, the rich nations must also provide the wherewithal for women in hitherto impoverished communities to have the same confidence as in rich countries that their first two children will grow up, and the ability, and cultural approval, to limit family size.

I have been passionately arguing for a Universal Basic Income for 44 years. I still do. But unless the new movement, which I welcome, takes this aspect on board, despite the benefits which the world basic income will bring at first, it will become a time bomb.


The good news is that short term a world basic income is necessary and urgent. The bad news is that long term it needs amending, but here is some more good news:

Can you figure out why a world basic income should figure prominently in the Green Party’s stance on immigration? Unless something more important crops up, I may use this as my next Sunday’s blog.


4 responses to “Launch of the World Basic Income Movement!

  1. When I first became attracted to the idea of universal basic income about a year ago I said at once that it needed to be carried out as part of degrowth policies. (So you are not the only one). I am particularly attracted to what Naomi Kline calls “structured degrowth” in her excellent book “This changes Everything”. More recently I have read “Doughnut Economics” by Kate Raworth which gives an entirely new perspective to economics. A fusion of these two women’s ideas would provide a really sound base for progress towards a sustainable, fair & equal society. Please note I am not talking about “sustainable growth” as that quite simply

    • I do resent buying everybody else’s book when I sell so few of mine, but I guess I shall have to buy the two you mention. I think Klein mentiond Basic income, so presumably she too links it with de-growth. I think your comment got truncated – it trails off in mid sentence.

  2. P.S. In my first comment I forgot to say that I attended the said conference in SALFORD. Be warned Salford is very proud of its own history & heritage – rightly so. Anyone who persists in referring to Salford as Manchester will get short shrift there.

    • I worked in Manchester once, so I am aware of Salford’s sensibilities. However, everybody else has referred to it as the Manchester conference.

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