Pope Francis links the basic income to Coronavirus

Coronavirus has sparked quite a chorus of calls for a UBI, but by far the most influential so far is by Pope Francis. I have supported an unconditional basic income (UBI) ever since the 1972 MIT Report Limits to Growth, but just recently I have felt the need to stress that although necessary to save the ecosphere, it is dangerous.

I agree with other advocates that it is fair, but I worry about the probably correct assumption that it would encourage economic growth, which was on course to destroy the ecosphere, a much more serious threat than the virus. It still is.

Like Greta Thunberg, I am Asperger’s (according to an online test), but it seemed obvious to me in 1973 that downsizing was necessary but unthinkable without a lubricant or catalyst. Nobody has suggested a less dangerous catalyst than the UBI

I envisaged a gradual recession (I still do) – a slow contraction of economic activity – which, because it was voluntary could be adjusted, as necessary.

It never caught on. The recession of 2008 was not serious enough to make any government think of a UBI, and life-threatening business as usual was quickly resumed.

Due to the virus, what is now forecast to be a much more severe recession than 2008. Spain intends to implement a UBI. But I am not jumping for joy because although absolutely essential as Coronavirus first aid, it will thereafter hasten the processes which in some places have already started seriously disrupting what passed for normal life. At first Spain will probably benefit from this bounce-back, but the damage will happen in any case due to the massive ‘first aid’ measures many other countries have put in place.

The tragedy is that the UBI, which seems to me to be our only hope, will instead help to tip the world from the frying pan into the climate change fire.

Pope Francis’s Easter message does not expressly address this danger, but looked at in context it does read more like an appeal for using this crisis as the beginning of a long term, fairer vision of society.

The Pope’s message resonates with wider calls for using this forced abrupt change in habits and behaviour to change the whole direction of society. For example this plea by Rupert Read.

Absolutely. but it will not happen without a suitable lubricant.





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