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Basic income

system of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere

An unconditional basic income or universal basic income is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money.

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  • Basic income grants freedom and security without strings attached. It automatically supplements low wages without bureaucracy or complex wage subsidies.
  • With a basic income, more people can choose for themselves whether to work full-time or part-time, making their own tradeoffs between more money and more leisure.


  • Unless we abandon the work ethic of another era, ... lives may be wasted because of blind insistence that everyone must have a "job" even if the job is useless.
  • 'Suppose there were a man, a slave, a labourer, getting up before you and going to bed after you, willingly doing whatever has to be done, well-mannered, pleasant-spoken, working in your presence. And he might think, ... "I ought to do something meritorious. Suppose I were to shave off my hair and beard, don yellow robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness!" And before long, he does so. And he, having gone forth might dwell, restrained in body, speech and thought, satisfied with the minimum of food and clothing, content, in solitude. And then if people were to announce to you: "Sire, you remember that slave who worked in your presence, and who shaved off his hair and beard and went forth into homelessness?" ... Would you then say: "That man must come back and be a slave and work for me as before?"'

    'No indeed, Lord. For we should pay homage to him, we should rise and invite him and press him to receive from us robes, food, lodging, medicines for sickness and requisites, and make arrangements for his proper protection.'


  • If you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 25, it says people have rights to adequate food, nutrition, health, employment, security and so on. Those are minimal rights. Any society ought to guarantee that. Well, one way to guarantee that would be through a socially-acceptable form of basic income.
  • The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.
    • Arthur C. Clarke, interview with Los Angeles Free Press, p. 42-43, 47 (25 April 1969)


  • I'm always concerned about, more than anything else, the waste of human potential. ... So much intelligence is wasted from poverty. People who simply don't have the time, the space to use their imaginations. They can't be creative, because to be creative requires that, for a little while at least, you let go of the basic concerns of staying alive—you can't really be creative if survival is the primary topic on your mind. And so I've been thinking about that for a long time, thinking how do we utilize the cumulative intelligence and creativity of people? And recently I heard of ... a very simple idea, ... which is: give everyone some money every week. No matter how rich they are, how poor they are, just make sure that there's a basic income level beyond which people don't fall. ... I like the idea that it says we believe that all people are potentially creative and that they should be given the chance to express that.
    • Brian Eno, interviewed by Georgina Godwin for Episode 817 of podcast The Briefing, 18:55 (26 December 2014)


Buckminster Fuller
  • In general, I favor some form of a guaranteed income. I think we're gonna have to move in that direction ultimately, I don't think there's going to be any other choice.
  • One obvious way to help fund a citizen's dividend or guaranteed income would be to levy a carbon tax, and therefore you'd be doing something very positive for the environment. ... I think there's a strong relationship between these two issues. On the one hand we have to take on these environmental challenges, on the other hand we've got this unfolding trend going on which is impacting people's income security and those two are directly related: as long as people perceive that they're not secure economically, they're worrying about paying their rent next month, or they're worried about putting food on the table, they're not gonna be able to focus on longer-term environmental issues. And that's one of the big problems we see with climate change: if you look at surveys of the American people, they acknowledge that climate change is an issue, but it's also absolutely at the bottom of their list of priorities, and the top of their list, of course, is jobs, it's incomes. So I really think that if we want to have meaningful progress on environmental issues like climate change we need to put this whole issue of income security and income inequality first-hand at the top.
  • A guaranteed income ... could for the first time free man from the threat of starvation, and thus make him truly free and independent economically and psychologically. ... People would no longer learn to be afraid, if they did not have to fear for their bread.
  • A guaranteed income would not only establish freedom as a reality rather than a slogan; it would also establish a principle deeply rooted in Western religious and humanist traditions: man has the right to live, regardless! This right to live - to have food, shelter, medical care, education, etc. - is an intrinsic human right that cannot be restricted by any condition, not even the one that the individual must be socially "useful."
  • We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.


  • The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind ... is not done to secure a living. ... It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished.
  • When the production process demands less work and distributes less and less wages, it gradually becomes obvious that the right to an income can no longer be reserved for those who have a job; nor, most importantly, can the level of incomes be made to depend on the quantity of work furnished by each person. Hence the idea of guaranteeing an income to every citizen which is not linked to work, or the quantity of work done.
    • André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason (1988), p. 203


  • If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
  • The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be a wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born.


Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts between husband, wife, and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on a scale of dollars is eliminated.
  • A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and that he has the means to seek self-improvement.
  • I once heard someone defend that belief by declaring that "human nature is to do as little as necessary." This prejudice is refuted not just by a few studies but the entire branch of psychology dealing with motivation. Normally, it's hard to stop happy, satisfied people from trying to learn more about themselves and the world, or from trying to do a job of which they can feel proud.


Thomas More
  • The most skilfully combined, and with the greatest foresight of objections, of all the forms of Socialism, is that commonly known as Fourierism. This system does not contemplate the abolition of private property, nor even of inheritance; on the contrary, it avowedly takes into consideration, as an element in the distribution of the produce, capital as well as labour. ... In the distribution, a certain minimum is ... assigned for the subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable or not of labour.
  • The State owes all its citizens a secure subsistence, food, suitable clothes and a way of life that does not damage their health.
  • This method of dealing with thieves is both unjust and undesirable. As a punishment, it's too severe, and as a deterrent, it's quite ineffective. Petty larceny isn't bad enough to deserve the death penalty. And no penalty on earth will stop people from stealing, if it's their only way of getting food. In this respect, you English, like most other nations, remind me of these incompetent schoolmasters, who prefer caning their pupils to teaching them. Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody's under the frightful necessity of becoming, first a thief, and then a corpse.
  • I want to dismantle all the bureaucracies that dole out income transfers, whether they be public housing benefits or Social Security or corporate welfare, and use the money they spend to provide everyone over the age of 21 with a guaranteed income, deposited electronically every month into a bank account.


  • Men did not make the earth... It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property. ... Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.
  • I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled in the scene.
  • There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.
  • Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.
  • Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chief criterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them; and they politically depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enraging it by desperation.
  • An army of principles will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fall: it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress: it will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.
  • There shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum. ... as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed every person, rich or poor... because it is in lieu of the natural inheritance, which, as a right, belongs to every man, over and above the property he may have created, or inherited from those who did.
  • For me, it is not unacceptable that people should receive an income without conditions attached, because what we receive in this way is not the product of the hard work of other people. It's a fragment of the massive inheritance we owe to nature, to previous generations, to technological progress, to the know-how, and all these gifts which we receive from nature, and the past.


  • No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that after his day's work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.
  • This sort of thing, is the result of regarding the virtue of hard work as an end in itself, rather than as a means to a state of affairs in which it is no longer needed.
  • The butcher who provides you with meat and the baker who provides you with bread are praiseworthy, because they are making money; but when you enjoy the food they have provided, you are merely frivolous, unless you eat only to get strength for your work.
  • Broadly speaking, it is held that getting money is good and spending money is bad. Seeing that they are two sides of one transaction, this is absurd; one might as well maintain that keys are good, but keyholes are bad.


Bernie Sanders
  • So long as you have a Congress dominated by big money, I can guarantee you that the discussion about universal basic income is going to go nowhere in a hurry. But, if we can develop a strong grassroots movement which says that every man, woman and child in this country is entitled to a minimum standard of living—is entitled to health care, is entitled to education, is entitled to housing—then we can succeed. We are living in the richest country in the history of the world, yet we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country and millions of people are struggling to put food on the table. It is my absolute conviction that everyone in this country deserves a minimum standard of living and we've got to go forward in the fight to make that happen.
  • There must be a guarantee that people receive what they need in order to live a dignified life.
  • All the politicians want to talk about jobs. They want to say we need jobs. People don't want a "job". They want the stuff that they get because they have a job. If they can have the stuff and skip the job, most people would do that. That's why people look forward to retirement, because they don't have to work anymore. So we don't want to create jobs, we really want to eliminate jobs and create leisure.
  • If one machine can cut necessary human labor by half, why make half of the workforce redundant, rather than employing the same number for half the time? This would be possible if the gains from automation were not mostly seized by the rich and powerful, but were distributed fairly instead.
  • We advocate a Universal Basic Income, received by all citizens on an unconditional basis: that is, detached from the labor market. This offers a choice between work and leisure. To offer such a choice is both a fruit of an affluent society and a solution to the problem of technological unemployment.
  • There is no evidence whatsoever that a basic income would reduce work and labour. The evidence is strong that it would do the reverse. What we have found in the pilots is that people with basic security work more and work more productively.


  • For perhaps the first time in history, we have the resources, the know-how and the technology to make starvation and dependency relics of the past. But do we have the will?
    • Desmond Tutu, Video address in the closing session of the 11th International Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network (4 November 2006)



Alan Watts
  • Now what happens then when you introduce technology into production? You produce enormous quantities of goods by technological methods but at the same time you put people out of work. You can say, "Oh but it always creates more jobs. There will always be more jobs." Yes, but lots of them will be futile jobs. They will be jobs making every kind of frippery and unnecessary contraption, and one will also at the same time have to beguile the public into feeling that they need and want these completely unnecessary things that aren't even beautiful. And therefore an enormous amount of nonsense employment and busy work, bureaucratic and otherwise, has to be created in order to keep people working, because we believe as good Protestants that the devil finds work for idle hands to do. But the basic principle of the whole thing has been completely overlooked, that the purpose of the machine is to make drudgery unnecessary. And if we don't allow it to achieve its purpose we live in a constant state of self-frustration. So then if a given manufacturer automates his plant and dismisses his labor force and they have to operate on a very much diminished income, (say some sort of dole), the manufacturer suddenly finds that the public does not have the wherewithal to buy his products. And therefore he has invested in this expensive automotive machinery to no purpose. And therefore obviously the public has to be provided with the means of purchasing what the machines produce. People say, "That's not fair. Where's the money going to come from? Who's gonna pay for it?" The answer is the machine. The machine pays for it, because the machine works for the manufacturer and for the community.
  • Theobald points out that every individual should be assured of a minimum income. Now you see that absolutely horrifies most people. “Say all these wastrels, these people who are out of a job because they're really lazy see... ah giving them money?” Yeah, because otherwise the machines can't work. They come to a blockage. This was the situation of the Great Depression when here we were still, in a material sense, a very rich country, with plenty of fields and farms and mines and factories...everything going. But suddenly because of a psychological hang-up, because of a mysterious mumbo-jumbo about the economy, about the banking, we were all miserable and poor - starving in the midst of plenty. Just because of a psychological hang-up. And that hang-up is that money is real, and that people ought to suffer in order to get it. But the whole point of the machine is to relieve you of that suffering. It is ingenuity. You see we are psychologically back in the 17th century and technically in the 20th. And here comes the problem. So what we have to find out how to do is to change the psychological attitude to money and to wealth, and furthermore to pleasure, and furthermore to the nature of work.
  • I don’t think there is, or ever again can be, a cure for unemployment. Unemployment is not a disease, but the natural, healthy functioning of an advanced technological society.

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