19/01/2014

The right to a decent existence

The Universal Basic Income is a theory, in relation with economic policy, given —although there are numerous precursors: Paine, Fourier, Van Parijs, More, Tobin— and disseminated by Daniel Raventós and Red Basic Income, which amends some of the key structures of contemporary Capitalism as the property in broad meaning, work and freedom of individuals, softening the contemporary Capitalism and makes increasing balance and diminishing social inequality and injustice that we now live on a planetary level.

The Universal Basic Income or UBI as defined by the Basic Income Network ‘is a income paid by state, as a right of citizenship, each full member or resident of society income even if you do not want to work for pay, if you are rich or poor or, no matter what may be the other possible sources of income, and no matter who coexist. It is therefore universal and supersedes any other provision conditional’.

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It is a fixed amount according to economic data for each country and situation, in the case of Spain, it could be around 500 euros —in exact terms, in 2007 was 451,6 euros, today is estimated at 664— for adults and one-fifth for those under 18. This amount is close to the minimum wage and basic conditions of existence and let every citizen above the poverty line, the basic reference for setting the amount.

The UBI can be financed in different ways, but the most accepted and defended by the Income Basic Network —Spain and other associated countries— and more redistributive value of wealth is done through a fiscal reform of income tax, setting a single rate of 57,5% for those above the UBI —any for below incomes—. Basic Income is also funded in this model, through cost savings for all administrative and bureaucratic apparatus requiring conditional grants. ‘With this tax reform, 70% of the population with less income would benefit from the reform, the richest 20% lose —their wealth be redistributed— and 10% in between these two sections, would be indifferent after the reform’, says Raventós.

If we divide the population rather than percentages by deciles, would lose wealth from the richest sixth decile of the population, makes sense and relates with the rawlsian concept of ‘fair inequalities’, which create positive inequity those who are worse off. So all were more equal —indivisibility of freedom and equality, in the philosophy of Kant, for example, are inseparable—.

Which are most benefited after the reform are undoubtedly those without any income. The wealth goes of the richest to the poorest, the opposite direction from today where capital accumulation is distributed through the plundering and dispossession —D. Harvey, ‘Accumulation by dispossession’—, is concentrated in some and escapes to the others.

Basic Income, of course, should be accompanied by some regulation in the legislation concerning the market and the labor market, once implanted. The UBI is necessary but not enough. The social preparation to understand and demand as its own the right to existence, and political viability that would make possible, are some of the key conditions for the its implantation and development. As Robespierre said, the first right which emanate all others is the right to exist, in the current framework this fundamental right is a daily struggle, and in some cases a real obstacle.

The guaranty of material existence, as a path to freedom and real equality of persons, is a concept has been studied and worked for many classic and contemporary philosophers in the republican tradition —Aristotle, Machiavelli, Cicero— but also many others. The idea that a citizen is not free if don’t have the freedom to not need to rely on another to live, even if it sometimes, is old and is full of philosophical foundations around the idea that if one can not depend on itself to live, if you need a third person you are not free, is not sui iuris —in Latin, ‘citizens of the rights itself’—, that is, you must ask permission to live. It is depends of other conditions, and in the current framework of the fluctuations and changes in the labor market and its conditions and not their real needs and choices.

Basic Income is based on the philosophical principle that says ‘to each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’ —Saint Simon, Fourier, Bakunin—, freedom and equality as a philosophical umbrella for a just society of free and equal citizens. Try to solve the philosophical problem about individual freedom, which from the classical has concerned many thinkers. In its contemporary formulation, Philippe Van Parijs, theoretical reformulator including the current Basic Income and author of ‘Real freedom for all’, a truly free society is one that satisfies the following three conditions in this order of priority: 1) Security: there is a structure of rights and well articulated basic freedoms; 2) Self-ownership: structure in that each person owns his life decisions; and 3) Leximin system opportunity: by that structure each person has the greatest possible opportunity to do anything could want to do.

In a truly free society, those with fewer opportunities starting, have the maximum that could have in any other social order that we can perform. Some of the advantages that create de facto implementation of the UBI through a tax reform of personal income tax would be:

1. Redistribution of wealth.

2. Improving the lower strata of society at all levels, always more vulnerable and limited access to employment. Increased opportunities.

3. Increased bargaining power of the worker, eliminating the need for factor, which makes freedom impossible.

4. Increasing the conditions of the most unpleasant jobs.

5. Savings in administrative costs control, receiving the UBI, to find work not lose, probably decrease of illegal work.

6. Redistribution of work among more than one partition or the working days between more than one. No need for eight hours, freedom to choose how much time is allocated to paid work —as required—.

7. Increased balance between the three types of work exist: paid work, housework and volunteer work. Depending on requirements, and choice of each individual. Best social balance.

8. And the most important: increasing equality between people, but especially of freedom.