Migration and the World Basic Income

Otjivero, Namibia was transformed by a Basic income equivalent to £2pw in Britain. If there is migration from Namibia to South Africa it must no longer seem as necessary as it did. The Basic Income did not promote idleness. There was little employment anyway. On the contrary, it was the springboard for several entrepreneurial ventures, quite apart from enabling villagers to access health care and education for the first time. Otjivero can now afford what it needs to function as a community.

Meanwhile, Latvia, Lithuania Bulgaria and Romania have all lost a huge proportion of their populations. In the cases of Latvia and Lithuania this started in 1990 as soon as they were no longer subject to the USSR, but free movement with the EU has also been a factor since 2004 and 2007. Many other countries are similarly affected, but not to the same extent.

The historical reasons for this exodus do not alter the fact that the sheer scale should be regarded as abnormal, and a problem to be remedied, if necessary with outside help. This aspect does not figure noticeably in the British debate as to whether, and if so how to keep immigrants out.

At a national scale, I have suggested that a Basic Income should be financed so as to reduce inequality between individuals, but not to be deliberately punitive. Redistribution more in sorrow than in anger as it were. In view of the arrival on the scene of the world Basic Income movement, I think there should be some investigation as to how far the same principle could be applied as between nations. Their website states:

“A new way to share the world’s Wealth, to guarantee every man, woman and child the Means to live.”

I would of course add “without harming the ecosphere”. It would also be consistent with the movement’s aims to include “and without being forced to migrate”

The amounts involved need not be as large as would appear at first sight. Countries which are increasingly under pressure to reduce immigration would only be topping up a basic income in recipient countries. It may well be rather more than the 0.7% of GDP at present thought to be the right amount for developing countries, but as I say, how long are rich nations going to turn a blind eye to poorer nations losing their brightest and best, and mainly young people?

This is of course gross exploitation apart from the migration question, but one needs to bear in mind that as long as growth is taken for granted, the world will be fiercely competitive, and competitors (aka Capitalists) who do not exploit both people and the environment simply lose out in the competition. [Thank you David Flint for your comment]

For developing countries, as shown in Namibia, the amounts of the Basic Income involved will be quite small, again only topping up. Keeping immigrants out is not without cost, and that is likely to rise if economic conditions deteriorate. Some of us think  CO2 will cause: this sooner rather than later.

There is of course a major pragmatic reason why this idea has no hope whatsoever of being realized. The backlash against immigrants in the ‘magnet’ countries has already gone too far down the nationalist, ‘keep them out’ path. The notion of paying migrants to stay away will be lampooned as preposterous.

This is a pity. The outlook is bleak if we are restricted to the options of free access or no access, and no help to enable people not to uproot themselves, especially In the context of ecological foot prints. And I mean bleak. Historical precedents are not encouraging. Some are at pains to make a distinction between safeguarding one’s interests which is legitimate and racism which is evil. Fine, but this is a rational argument. The reality is that humans are governed by emotions which have always been tied to hard wired responses. The strongest emotion is fear, but Trump and Farage are the latest of many who have successfully mobilized hope. Loss aversion is hard wired. If a threat becomes too serious, then racism is a primal response which inevitably kicks in.

It is spilt milk to regret that the Basic Income concept did not gain acceptance when I first suggested it 44 years ago this month, when the economic outlook was better. So much for the benefit of the intervening economic growth. Even more trouble could have been avoided if Thomas Paine had been listened to in 1797, but that too is water under the bridge. I need help. I can see where we could be, indeed where we need to be if the ‘never again’ primal responses which have always  ‘solved’ problems  up to now are not to happen again.

But I can’t see how to get there.

Post Script

Markus Petz has just supplied me with the following information re Mali, the country which also has one of the highest birthrates in the world: net annual emigration rate 2.2 per 1,000 population. It could be an appropriate pilot. It would  of course have to take into account my comments on 12th February, that help would also be needed to ensure that a woman could have the same confidence that a woman in in the developed world has that her first two children will reach adulthood.

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2 responses to “Migration and the World Basic Income

  1. You ask, Clive “how long are rich nations going to turn a blind eye to poorer nations losing their brightest and best, and mainly young people?” You might better ask “How long will rich nations want to benefit from the inflow of people from poor countries?” Rich countries, like the UK benefit from the inflow of skilled people such as doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers. They benefit from the inflow of untrained but hard-working people willing to do work the Brits won’t do,. at least for the pay on offer. And they benefit from the entrepreneurialism of immigrants – which is also greater than that of Brits.
    I think our politicians know this. (Even Farrage, who argued for us to ‘control’ rather than ‘reduce’ immigration.) Our farmers and business managers certainly do and have said so. And none of them feel any obligation to compensate the countries they come from and which often invested in their training.
    Now I believe that this inward flow is not sustainable but that view depends on taking a long view – something that politicians and managers rarely do.

    • It depends on a culture change. Those who castigate businesses for behaving as you say, overlook that in a fiercely competitive world they either behave like that or fail. I keep having to say that the Basic Income is not a panacea, but giving everybody security whatever the state of the economy at least brings that culture shift closer.

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