The communications team spoke with Guy Standing, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a founder and co-President of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), an NGO promoting basic income as a right.
You favor an unconditional basic income. Why have this today better chances for realization?
Guy Standing: The main reasons for supporting a basic income, as far as I'm concerned are ethical, not economic. I'm an economist, but I see them as ethical.
The first is that a basic income is a matter of social justice. The wealth and income of all of us has far more to do with the efforts of our ancestors and many generations than anything you or I do for ourselves. If we allow private inheritance of wealth and influence and status and so on, we should also have social inheritance. In a sense a basic income would be a sort of social dividend.
Now, it's a very important social dividend because the second and third reasons for supporting a basic income are, first, that it would enhance freedom. If I have basic income security, I have more freedom. The freedom to say no to an oppressive or abusive relationship or an exploitive employer. The freedom to go forth in society as an equal. That's very important.
The second reason is that the basic income would give people a sense of basic security. We know from many sources that basic security improves your IQ. It improves your mental stability. It improves your capacity to make long term strategic decisions and to act in a dignified way in which you are giving forth values and attitudes that stem from having security. So people who have security are more altruistic. They're more tolerant of others. They don't support political extremism. They tend to see themselves as citizens. I think that's a very important thing.
Then finally the other reason, as an economist, is at the moment the level of inequality is rising so fast and will not come down through the traditional ways of raising wages. We will not see real wages on average rising much in OECD countries, in Germany, the United States, France, Britain, Japan. They've been stagnating for years and years, and they will continue to stagnate as long as globalization continues and as long as the technological revolution continues.
So we must realize that our income distribution system is collapsing and the basic income would be a way of building a new distribution system. It's not a panacea. It's not by itself. It's one of a number of policies, but for me the number of factors that have come together have now gotten an additional one or two. The additional one is, of course, the robots, the feeling that automation and robots are going to displace millions and millions of people. I think it's disruptive but I think there's going to be plenty of work but that work is not paying good incomes. And a basic income could be seen as a preparation for the disruptive effects of robots and automation.
The final thing, the final factor in this perfect storm is what I would call a political imperative. If we do not have a new system that gives people, ordinary people in the precariat basic income security, we're going see more and more Donald Trumps; and I, for one, dread that.