Table of Contents
(This section is exerpted from the book Universal Income For a Sustainable Future by Patrick Danahey)
Almost throughout the entire corpus of western literature that forms the backbone to university liberal arts programmes one can find this constant cyclical struggle between humanity alternating as the sovereign governing body of its institutions versus it being enslaved to its institutions via some minority ruling power:
It is not so much the physical structure or the labels used to describe it that determines where the power lies within a society (i.e. just because the majority of people label their government a democracy doesn't mean that it is. Or if a government was a democracy two years ago it doesn't mean that it still is today even though everyone is still performing the same rituals.); but rather, it is revealed in the daily operations, perceptions, priorities, and values of intrinsic worth of the people within that society. James Frazer in his monumental cultural anthropological work of the 12 volume series the Golden Bough documents at length, from around the world, various stages of the sacred kingship. In them we find that designated or representative kings comprised, in many cases, the lowest status attainable within those societies to the point where no one wanted to be king. Quite frequently kings had to be imported from other tribes. To take two examples:
The concept of sovereignty has played a central role to all of our major religions. Whether it be the feminine Shekhinah of the Jewish faith, the flaith na Erinne of the early Irish or Celtic religions, the Den of the Magi, the sacred queen/king of the early matriarchal cultures, or the enlightenment of Buddhism, Hinduism, and early Christianity. The Maori are also rediscovering this meaning in their Tino Rangatiratanga.
Traditionally, all cultures can trace a common religious link to their inherited sovereignty via variations of the cult of the "Cosmic Centre" (e.g. the tree cult). People would, at their various sacred festivals, all wear crowns of leaves demonstrating their shared sovereignty and their oneness with the "Cosmic Tree". Remnants of this practice can be found throughout the indigenous cultures of the South Pacific, North/South American Indian, African, and Australasian cultures as well as the traditional literature and arts of the European and Asiatic cultures. Many people still put up Christmas trees as their ancestors did long ago. A key principle to this system, which can still be found in the early sacred texts, was the idea that we are all connected to the great Cosmic Tree, which is the central hub of the universe. All the changing forms and names that we experience in our world, within and without us, are the changing leaves of the Tree or our different institutional roles. All that animates the changing aspects of our world is the eternal aspect of the Tree: the sovereignty. For example an artist may see a stone from a design perspective and a mason may see the stone from a utilitarian perspective, yet the stone in itself transcends all perspectives. The task then, as it is now, albeit in a slightly different form, is to maintain our true identity with our sovereignty (as opposed to our institutional roles) to effect a healthy sustainable relationship with our institutions as it relates to our environment and ourselves.
One need not think that we must go back to our traditional cultural roots in order to embrace a Universal Income or to understand our place in the role of shared sovereignty. A study of our past can certainly help us better understand who we are today, allow us to learn from mistakes, assimilate accrued wisdom, and appreciate the similarities and differences that we share with all the people of the world. It will also help us be more adaptable, understanding and accommodating of new ideas, cultures, people and individual differences. Today many people are capable of seeing that all people and cultures are equals in status and importance while appreciating that everyone brings unique gifts to this world that defines their important differences as well. The adoption and acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights across the planet as a standard proves this common link between the major religions, cultural groups, races, countries, political persuasions, individuals and so forth.
Universal Income Systems find their basis from the principle of common stewardship of the land as derived from the early land laws. This was basic to almost all indigenous societies. Everyone had unconditional rights to the land and its resources relative to their individual needs. Some samples include, the idea of land rotation being practised up until the late 1800s in Argyllshire Scotland. This was the early practice of regularly redistributing the land to everyone so that everyone had enough land on which to live. It was the basis of equal sovereignty and one's individual power as well. This system probably finds its origins in the early matriarchal phratry structure. The jubilee year in the traditional judaic system (every 50 years) also included regular land redistribution and the clearing of all debts. No one would be continually allowed to stay in debt.
The God of the Old Testament recognised by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam states as follows:
God of the Old Testament also says:
The New Testament like the vast array of many other
traditional belief systems recognised that Divinity lives as well with the most
oppressed. For among many other reasons, it is a way of testing the integrity
and development of the more advantaged.
Plato; Laws 5.v.
The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu (P. 119; Par. 77.2; 32) states that...
Many Native American tribes from the Northwest of the continent still celebrate remnants of an ancient redistribution festival referred to as the Potlatch festival. Wealth and status was measured by how much one gives rather than how much one has.
In the Pacific Islands many of the indigenous cultures held deeply imprinted values of sharing the wealth with the rest of society as well as valuing liberality over meanness.
Thomas Paine in his Rights of Man (1792) advocated a universal wage that he called the "National Fund". It was land rent based. His argument was that any person, who had private property to the exclusion of others having an unconditional right to their land, had not paid enough. I.e. they stole it!
John Stuart Mill advocated a type of Universal Income in his monumental work The Principles of Political Economy. It is "highly desirable, that the certainty of subsistence should be held out by law to the destitute able-bodied,..."
During his anti-war campaign, the Nobel prize winning philosopher and scientist Bertrand Russell advocated a form of Universal Income System that he referred to as an artisans wage that would be allocated to everyone. (30).
The concept of a national dividend in various forms has been a part of serious election campaign platforms since the Great Depression. Huey Long, whose popularity helped win Roosevelt's election to administer the socialised "New Deal" programme in America, was a great advocate of the Universal Income. Many people at that time thought that they were voting for a Universal Income when they voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt since that was the primary Democratic campaign promoted. In 1972 it reached its most generous culmination with the Nobel laureate economist James Tobin’s "Demogrant" as part of George McGovern’s Democratic election campaign. Unfortunately he lost to Richard Nixon, who also had a limited type of Universal Income platform (although quite meaner in amounts) that lost in the Senate.
Michael Joseph Savage’s Labour government created the social welfare state which led New Zealand out of the great depression of the 1930s. Many of the driving forces for social change at that time were from the social credit movement.
R. Buckminster Fuller, with 47 doctorate degrees, announced to the world that there was enough wealth to turn the four billion people on this planet into billionnaires (Critical Paths P 200-201, p222 31).
In 1968 families were being enrolled in one of the largest studies performed on a universal income as part of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty programme in the USA. Sadly the war in Vietnam overshadowed the programme, its motivation, and results.
On June 4, 1974 , Canada and Manitoba agreed to conduct a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) experiment —subsequently called Mincome. It lasted until 1979.The type of funding model that was used to allocate the universal income was based on a negative income tax. Much of the emphasis on the study was to find out its effects on work incentives. I.e. Would people quit working? On the whole, the research results were encouraging to those who favour a GAI. The reduction in work effort was modest: about one per cent for men, three per cent for wives, and five per cent for unmarried women. Given the small effect on work incentives, the onus of proof has shifted back to those who argue that a GAI would lead to an "excessive" work disincentive response. Even though the experiment was quite successful the attitudes and values of the government of the day was more focussed on issues such as the oil crisis and the idea was simply forgotten.
Richard Nixon's Family Assistance Plan almost became law. Its architect, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, made no bones about the cynicism of its motivation: paying people not to work is cheaper than job creation schemes, and buying off violence is cheaper than suppressing it.
The European Social Charter is a European treaty signed in Turin in 1961 which protects fundamental social and economic rights. The Charter guarantees these rights to the citizens of its Contracting Parties. It is now in force in twenty one European states: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. In addition, the following states have signed but not yet ratified the Charter: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Some mid eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia share all of their wealth amongst their "citizens". All "citizens" in Saudi Arabia are rich by NZ standards. Unfortunately they do not share it with their permanent residents.
Scandinavian countries like Norway that have an unconditional unemployment benefit system, i.e. no compulsory work requirement, have healthier economies, including free education and health with less poverty than most other countries on the planet. See W.I.S.P. studies and the United Nations Human Develpment Reports.
Many regions in New Zealand during the late 1980s, up until the Employment Contracts Act had an undeclared "unconditional unemployment benefit" throughout the majority of the country. The country has a higher unemployment rate now, with compulsory labour, than it did then.
Porto Alegre Brazil in 1990, the Capital of the State of Rio Grande do Sul with a population in excess of a million people, establishes a ground breaking successful participatory democratic structure. It is a system that puts budgetary decisions in the hands of the public. The system is inclusive of the city’s poor. In short, citizens from neighborhoods decide what they need most—like affordable housing, paved roads, sewage, sanitation services, and good schools—then meet with government engineers and municipal officials to see if the project is feasible. A citizens’ council consisting of delegates from the city’s various districts then assigns each project a numerical value based on criteria such as need or population amount, and doles out money accordingly. The council has ultimate decision-making power on budgetary issues. With this system, the city has been able to refocus city council’s traditional preferences to provide money strictly to wealthy roading companies and the like and redistribute the income to the areas of the greatest need of the people. They have been able to install sewer and drainage services to the poor as well as develop schools and enhance the overall infrastructure for the community at large. (See Porto Alegre's 10 year experience with particapatory democracy.)
During the Second Semester of 1999, the Brazilian National Congress set up a Special Commission to Study Social Inequalities and Proposals for Eradicating Poverty. In December 1999, the Commission unanimously approved the following conclusion: "that the Brazilian government should endeavour, in the relevant multilateral forums, to bring about international mechanisms, such as the James Tobin Tax on International Financial Transactions, so as to guarantee, in all nations, the establishment of a basic income as a citizen's right to all inhabitants of the Earth." (The full report was published as Comissão mista especial destinada a estudiar as causas estructurais e conjunturais das desigualdades sociais e apresentar soluçoes legislativas para erradicar a probreza e marginalização e reduzir as desigualdades sociais e regionais, Relatório final, Brasilia: Congresso Nacional, 1999, 130p.)
In September 2002, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) sponsored their first BIEN conference with the theme of linking international human rights laws with the concept of a Basic Income. The Basic Income European Network (BIEN) including 19 member countries links the International Bill of Human Rights with the philosophy of a Basic Income.
In September 2002, the Irish Government released its official Green Paper study on the Irish basic income proposal presented by the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI). The Green Paper shows that a Basic Income system would have a substantial impact on the distribution of income in Ireland in that, compared with the present tax and welfare system it would improve the incomes of 70% of households in the bottom four deciles (i.e. the four tenths of the population with lowest incomes) and raise half of the individuals that would be below the 40% poverty line under 'conventional' options above this poverty line. According to the Green Paper, these impacts would be achieved without any resources additional to those available to 'conventional' options. The Green Paper shows that a Basic Income system is far more effective at tackling poverty than the present tax/welfare system and should form part of a comprehensive strategy to totally eliminate income poverty in the years immediately ahead.
There is an international Green Party network that supports a Universal Income as part of their shared platforms.
Nobel laureates in economics from both left and right-wing perspectives have advocated it. Jan Tinbergen (major developer of modern macro-economic theory), James Mead, Milton Friedman (right-wing monetarist guru), and James Tobin (left-wing economist, author of the "Tobin Tax"--a financial transaction tax aimed at controlling unbridled "speculation"--as well as the "Demogrant"), and Herbert A. Simon.
Presently, Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend distributes a minimum income to all Alaskan residents from the profits of oil reserves. It started for most residents in 1982.
BRAZIL: CITIZEN'S INCOME SIGNED INTO LAW BY PRESIDENT LULA
This is meant to be gradually implemented beginning in 2005. See News Update for more details.
The National Council of Women passed a remit to investigate a basic income, many of which comply as Universal Income Systems.
The Women’s Division of Federated Farmers support the investigation of a type of Universal Income.
The Department of Social Welfare in the 1990s agreed to support an investigation into a basic income.
The South Island Maori Anglican Church Amorangi Hui came to a consensus on a decision that would bring the concept of Universal Income Systems to the national Te Runanganui on the North Island for the consideration towards a formal investigation of its merits. The follow-up to that has been successfully realised. At their national conference in 2002 Te Runanganui o Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa the Maori Anglican resolved the following:
The NZ Council of Trade Unions’ submission to the New Zealand 2001 Tax Review advocated the investigation of a type of Universal Income System:
The formation of Universal Basic Income New Zealand (UBINZ) in the 1990s has led to two national conferences on universal basic income in New Zealand.
In the early 1990s the Unconditional Universal Income (UUI) Action NZ group formed on the South Island of Aotearoa NZ. Its focus was on using human rights laws as minimum standards for the concept of basic income. As a right, the unconditionality meant that the income could not be taken away from people. The use of the legal human rights parameters meant a commitment to recognised standards for both horizontal and vertical equity of the proposals. The works of this group helped to form the basis for the development of the Universal Income Trust.
The formation of the Universal Income Trust in 1998 linked human rights laws and standards to the concept of basic income. It sponsored in Nelson, NZ a festival for the 50th anniversary for the Declaration of Human Rights. It brought in dignitaries from the United Nations, the Waitangi Tribunal, local Iwi and over 200 performers, dances, community stalls and workshops including the late Colin Aikman--the original signatory for Aotearoa NZ of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some of its members also went on a world tour promoting internationally Universal Income Systems: the links between economic rights laws and basic income systems. As a result of the tour and a diverse array of international efforts by other individuals and organisations, the links between human rights and the basic income movement are finally being forged on an international level, as demonstrated by the theme of the last BIEN conference in September 2002 sponsored by the International Labour Organisation
See Events page for more of UIT's historical through current activities and other achievments.
32. The Sacred Books of the East; translated by various Oriental scholars and edited by F. Max Müller; Vol. XXXIX; The Texts of Taoism; Translated by James Legge; The Tâo Teh King (Tâo Te Ching) of Lâo Dze (Lao Tsu) 600 BC