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Basic Income on the Agenda

Basic Income on the Agenda: Policy Objectives and Political Chances

Robert van der Veen
Loek Groot
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Basic Income on the Agenda
    Book Description:

    Persisting unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, labour market flexibility, job insecurity and higher wage inequality, changing patterns of work and family life are among the factors that exert pressure on welfare states in Europe. This book explores the potential of an unconditional basic income, without means test or work requirement, to meet the challenges posed by the new social question, compared to policies of subsidized insertion in work. It also assesses the political chances of basic income in various European countries. These themes are highly relevant to policy-makers in the field of labour markets and social security, economists, political philosophers, and a social science audience in general.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0502-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
    Osmo Soininvaara
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 11-12)
    The Editors
  5. How Attractive is a Basic Income for European Welfare States?
    (pp. 13-38)
    Loek Groot and Robert van der Veen

    A basic income is an income granted unconditionally to all on an individual basis, without a means test or work requirement. It is a type of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various European countries. Considered in its pure form, a basic income is paid (1) to individuals rather than households; (2) irrespective of wealth or any income from other sources; and (3) without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered. Its relevance to the problems of contemporary welfare states has long been recognized. From the 1970s...

  6. Part One Policy Objectives

    • In Search of the Double-Edged Sword
      (pp. 41-52)
      Paul de Beer

      As is well-known, the United States and continental Europe have shown a remarkable divergence in socio-economic development the last 15 to 20 years (e.g. OECD, 1994c; Nickell, 1997). On the one hand, unemployment rates in the United States have remained quite low, at about the same level as in the 1960s and 1970s, while income disparities have risen sharply and poverty has increased. On the other hand, in most continental European countries unemployment levels mounted in the first half of the 1980s during a deep economic recession, fell only slightly in the second half of the 1980s and rose again...

    • Basic Income and its Cognates: Partial Basic Income versus Earned Income Tax Credit and Reductions of Social Security Contributions as Alternative Ways of Addressing the ‘New Social Question’
      (pp. 53-84)
      Philippe Van Parijs, Laurence Jacquet and Claudio Caesar Salinas

      At least three types of transfer policies have been advocated as ways of fighting unemployment without worsening poverty: reductions of social security contributions, the earned income tax credit, and an unconditional basic income (possibly in the form of a negative income tax). Many proponents of some of these are passionate opponents of some of the others. Yet, in the institutional context of much of today’s Western Europe and within some broad limits, each of them can, in principle, be so calibrated as to generate exactly the same profile of tax rates and the same pattern of disposable incomes as the...

    • Activation and the Burden of Working: On Instrument Choice by a Responsibility-Sensitive Egalitarian Government
      (pp. 85-106)
      Frank Vandenbroucke and Tom Van Puyenbroeck

      With regard to employment policy and welfare reform, there is a large degree of consensus among policymakers and scholars that taxes and benefits must not lead to a situation in which poor individuals (or their families) face very high marginal tax rates when they take up a job or when their hours of work increase. Benefit systems that are too selective are beset by inactivity traps: they discourage the labour market participation of low-skilled workers.

      In academic research, various proposals, related to basic income or negative income taxation, are put forward to remedy such inactivity traps. Obviously, other approaches to...

    • Arguing for a Negative Income Tax in Germany
      (pp. 107-120)
      Joachim Mitschke

      At the 1998 Amsterdam Congress of BIEN, three alternatives of providing basic security consistently with raising employment were discussed:

      1. a tax-financed, institutionally independent and unconditionally granted basic income,

      2. a negative income tax and

      3. a permanent wage subsidy.

      As I shall argue, I am in favour of a negative income tax (henceforth NIT). However, my arguments are not meant to claim comprehensive validity independently of national or historical conditions. My position is more modest. It is based upon the contemporary institutions of the tax and transfer system in Germany, which is marked by a historic dualism of tax-financed...

    • Hush Money or Emancipation Fee? A Gender Analysis of Basic Income
      (pp. 121-136)
      Ingrid Robeyns

      One of the major attractions of the basic income debate is its genuine interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional character. This diversity of the discussion is reflected in the publications on basic income. These include philosophical theories (e.g. Van Parijs, 1995), economic studies providing a theoretical analysis of implementation proposals and labour market effects (e.g. Atkinson, 1995), microsimulation models predicting labour market effects and testing budgetary feasibility (Atkinson, 1995; Gilain and Van Parijs, 1995; Nelissen and Polk, 1996) and socio-economic analyses studying a basic income in the context of welfare state reforms (e.g. Schokkaert, Van der Linden and Van Parijs, 1997;Van Parijs, 1990;Walter,...

    • Prospects for Basic Income in an Age of Inactivity?
      (pp. 137-154)
      Anton Hemerijck

      One of the paradoxes of contemporary European welfare states is that while today practically every adult male and female seeks gainful employment, jobs are hard to come by. There is a growing number of (economically) inactive citizens, people of working age who are structurally dependent on social policy for their livelihood. The predicament of inactivity is concentrated among the low-skilled, ethnic minorities and the long-term unemployed. A comparison of ten countries, considering unemployment, sickness, occupational disability, maternity, general need and early retirement, in the age group between 15 years and the retirement age, reveals that levels of inactivity have dramatically...

    • Basic Income and Social Europe
      (pp. 155-160)
      Fritz W. Scharpf

      Before I turn to my assigned topic, let me say that I have great sympathy for the Basic Income European Network that presented itself so impressively at its Seventh Congress in Amsterdam. However, being an empirically oriented political scientist, rather than a moral philosopher, I should also confess that I am doubtful of the political viability of the proposed right to a basic income without means-testing and without a concomitant obligation to do work that is useful to, and appreciated by, other members of one’s society. In political discourses, it will not be enough to persuade potential recipients of the...

    • Basic Income at the Heart of Social Europe? Reply to Fritz Scharpf
      (pp. 161-169)
      Philippe Van Parijs

      No nonsense. This is the tone of Fritz Scharpf’s contribution. This is the language which basic income supporters must be able to grasp – and willing to hear – at least if they are not to degenerate into a motley assembly of soft-minded do-gooders; if they are not to be ruthlessly driven into the margins by a harsh, uncompromising reality, but instead to help shape the future in accordance with their visions of freedom and equality. Not through relentless, repetitive preaching, but by means of the resolute and astute action which they must aim to inspire and guide, but will never successfully...

    • European Basic Income or the Race to the Bottom: Why Politicians Might Come to Think the Unthinkable
      (pp. 170-185)
      Steve Quilley

      Over the last fifteen years the debate around basic income has been organized around abstract blueprints for wholesale reform of the fiscal-welfare system. This is reflected in the radical-utopian discourse of the post-industrial and post-Keynesian left (e.g. Fitzpatrick, 1996). But it is also evident in the self-consciously ‘feasible’ scenarios modelled by liberal economists (e.g. Parker, 1989). The latter work has involved close scrutiny of the possible impact of institutional and administrative details of such models on incentives, labour participation rates, redistributive effects and the various poverty traps associated with existing welfare regimes.‘Feasible’ here refers to technical-institutional changes centring on the...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 186-194)
  8. Part Two Political Chances

    • Clues and Leads in the Debate on Basic Income in the Netherlands
      (pp. 197-223)
      Loek Groot and Robert van der Veen

      This is an account of the political significance of twenty years’ worth of discussions around the theme of unconditional basic income in the Netherlands. In the Introduction, the question was raised of whether basic income has ever been on the ‘political agenda’, and what the chances are of its eventual introduction. We start out by briefly summarizing our findings. Basic income entered the arena of public debate as an ethically inspired reform proposal, to make available the social minimum income unconditionally to all Dutch citizens, for emancipatory reasons in a climate of relative abundance. Political interest in the idea, however,...

    • The History of an Idea: Why did Basic Income Thrill the Finns, but not the Swedes?
      (pp. 224-237)
      Jan-Otto Andersson

      In two of the Scandinavian countries – Denmark and Finland – the idea of an unconditional basic income has received much attention. However, in Sweden and Norway it has been almost a non-issue. The differences can be seen in the intellectual debates as well as in the activities of the political parties. At the BIEN conferences the participation from Denmark and Finland has been regular, whereas Swedish and Norwegian interest has been curiously low. In this book there is an article devoted to the Danish case. Here I shall look at the fate of the idea in Sweden and Finland. Why did...

    • From Concept to Green Paper: Putting Basic Income on the Agenda in Ireland
      (pp. 238-246)
      Sean Healy and Brigid Reynolds

      The Irish social welfare system was designed to operate in a world which is no longer relevant today. This ‘Beveridge’ system can work well when:

      full employment(for men)is the norm

      women’s labour force participation is low

      unemployment, when it occurs, is of short duration

      social welfare payments act simply as a transition mechanism to support people – during short-term illness or unemployment

      employment is usually full-time at relatively good pay rates

      jobs are permanent.

      These were the basic assumptions which underpinned the social welfare system when it was originally designed. The end result is a complex and inadequate system...

    • Short Cuts and Wrong Tracks on the Long March to Basic Income: Debating Social Policy Reform in Germany
      (pp. 247-256)
      Stephan Lessenich

      It has become a – certainly useful – ritual on BIEN’s Congresses to recapitulate publicly, in the form of short country surveys, the path taken in each nation on the long march to basic income. Having myself been involved twice up to now in this procedure, I dare to remark that an uninvolved and somewhat malicious observer of these sessions, listening to the succession of country reports, might well feel as if he or she were attending a – let’s say, Chinese – people’s congress, with its hand-picked speakers unwaveringly presenting somewhat strained success stories concerning the supposedly smooth achievement of official output targets....

    • Ups and Downs of Basic Income in Denmark
      (pp. 257-267)
      Erik Christensen and Jørn Loftager

      Basic income has never seriously been on the Danish agenda of practical politics. On the contrary, in recent years the idea has been outright rejected, and political leaders have been careful to dissociate themselves from it. However, the very fact of the explicit statements against basic income in itself indicates that it has become a recurring issue in the Danish debate concerning social and labour market problems. And this is by no means accidental; for several reasons, basic income is an obvious theme in a Danish context. Both regarding the model to which the Danish welfare state belongs and the...

    • What Reforms are Needed for the Minimum Insertion Income (RMI) in France?
      (pp. 268-275)
      Chantal Euzéby

      France did not wait until 1988, the year the minimum insertion income (‘Revenu Minimum d’Insertion’) law was enacted, to tackle the poverty problem. Numerous actions on the local and national level were carried out long before the enactment of the law. Seven means-tested social minima programs were implemented for specific groups of the population in need: senior citizens, the handicapped, single parents, the widowed, the long-term unemployed, and first time job-seekers (the young and women at home). Several local districts (around thirty) have tried out some sort of a minimum income scheme. On the other hand, numerous emergency plans were...

    • The VIVANT Experiment in Belgium
      (pp. 276-284)
      Yannick Vanderborght

      In the days following the multiple elections of June 13, 1999, Belgian newspapers were unanimous: VIVANT, a two-year-old party entirely unknown until a few months earlier, had achieved more than an honourable result by attracting about 130,000 votes (i.e. about 2 percent) at each of the elections that took place that day.¹ The remarkable fact was that the party platform practically reduced to a single proposal: the introduction of an unconditional basic income. Founded in 1997 by high-tech businessman and member of BIEN Roland Duchâtelet, VIVANT had taken part in elections at any level for the first time. With no...

  9. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 285-286)
  10. Index
    (pp. 287-292)