Guaranteed Minimum Income, Universal Basic Income and Universal Basic Dividend
In the midst of the worst global pandemic since the 1918 flu — inappropriately named Spanish flu, since it didn’t originate in Spain— some countries such as the USA are implementing economic emergency measures or, if you like, actions, to prevent millions of citizens from going bankrupt. In a sense, it could be argued that it is similar to a Guaranteed Minimum Income.
Meanwhile, the European Union, to put it mildly, doesn’t cut the mustard and is disappointing everybody once again: uncoordinated, lacking in solidarity, aimless, drifting… In one word: lame.
It is in this context that we should listen to the ones that got it right during the last financial crisis; people like Yanis Varoufakis, an eminent Greek economist, academic, philosopher and politician.
But before going into further details, we should know what we are talking about. First of all, we must distinguish between the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) and the Universal Basic Income (UBI). Afterwards we can tackle the Universal Basic Dividend brought forward by Professor Varoufakis.
Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), also called minimum income, is a system of social welfare provision that guarantees that all citizens or families have an income sufficient to live on, provided they meet certain conditions. Eligibility is typically determined by the following: citizenship, a means test, and either availability for the labor market or a willingness to perform community services. The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is to reduce poverty. If citizenship is the only requirement, the system turns into a universal basic income.
On the other hand, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a model for providing all citizens with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status. The purpose of the UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens.
That said, let’s pay close attention to what Professor Varoufakis has to say:
So, according to the renowned economist, the Universal Basic Income shouldn’t come from taxation, since it might become a source of conflicts within the working class. He points out that nowadays capital is socially produced, so he brings forward the idea of a Universal Basic Dividend where a percentage of shares of all companies should go to a public equity trust that works as a wealth fund for society. The dividends should be distributed to every member of society equally, so the income comes from return of capital, not from taxation.
Contrary to what many may think, Varoufakis is for a global governance. He is not against free trade, but he stresses that it should be accompanied by binding rules in order to avoid social dumping.
One thing is for sure: something must be done, asap. Countries can’t just let their people and SMEs go bankrupt overnight. We might be about to face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and this pandemic and its consequent lockdown could take a while. Util we don’t have a vaccine, what can’t be cured, must be endured, and unprecedented economic measures must be put into effect. A more egalitarian society fits everyone, since it means a more stable, safe, human and prosperous society. For once, let’s be smart. We are in this crisis together and we will come out of it together. There is no other way.