Income Security for All Tue, 26 Oct 2010 01:16:06 +0000 en hourly 1 Cash transfers in other countries Tue, 26 Oct 2010 01:16:06 +0000 Steven Shafarman Here’s a Newsweek story about cash transfer programs in Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico. A mostly favorable story, too.

Of course there’s no mention of the idea’s history in the United States, nor of the Basic Income Earth Network.

Steven Shafarman

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David Brooks on taxes, deficits, and morality Fri, 02 Apr 2010 15:07:07 +0000 Steven Shafarman David Brooks writes about taxes, deficits, and morality in his column today in the New York Times, and his ideas suggest some good reasons to support income security for all. Brooks does not go so far, of course. Perhaps one day he will.

Here’s a key section:

Debt reduction has to be about renewal and prosperity, not pain and sacrifice.

That means deficit reduction has to be embedded in policies that produce growth. Michael Graetz of Columbia University has proposed replacing the current awful tax code with a value-added tax of 14 percent, cuts in the corporate tax rate, and a fair income tax with two simple brackets kicking in over $100,000. Many people have ideas to streamline the welfare state. The message has to be: we can afford to have a thick safety net, if it is more efficient.

The tax ideas are clearly compatible with a basic income, and could thereby be made even simpler. More relevant is “Many people have ideas to streamline the welfare state.” The most efficient “thick” safety net would be a basic income.

Set some amount, enough for a frugal person to manage food and shelter, at least, and give that to everyone, the homeless, middle class readers of this blog, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. No means testing. Minimal bureaucracy. Integrated with the tax code. Direct deposit into bank accounts. The ultimate social safety net and the ultimate in simplicity and efficiency.

Here is Brooks complete column. Also worth reading, and considering seriously, is his link in the excerpt above to more specifics about taxes.

As you can see, the main focus of Brooks’ column is deficit reduction — he is an avowed conservative, after all — and the concluding section focuses specifically on the challenge of gaining political cover for his ideas. Here, too, basic income provides an answer.

Income security for all is a plan that can attract support from across the political spectrum, from “tea party patriots” to those the tea partiers denounce as socialists to those who really are socialists.

It’ll be exciting when these ideas are more widely debated. That could happen this year, and would if I had a platform as broad and sturdy as Brooks. In addition to his semi-weekly columns in the New York Times, he’s a regular guest on NPR, PBS, and other mainstream media. All I have is this blog. Even so, I expect a real, massive, effective, and ultimately successful campaign within the next five years.

I discuss these ideas in more detail in Peaceful, Positive Revolution: Economic Security for Every American.

Please help spread the word.

Steven Shafarman

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Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom Tue, 16 Mar 2010 14:32:59 +0000 Steven Shafarman When Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics last year, the common response in the media was “Who’s that?” Not surprising, because Ostrom is a political scientist, primarily, not an economist, and had devoted her life to studying the way local communities organize to preserve common property resources.

The current issue of Yes! magazine features an interview with Ostrom, conducted by editor Fran Korten, who states in the introduction that they are old friends. Here’s the link.

I first learned about Ostrom’s work in the ’90s, when I read her book Governing the Commons. That was when I was first developing my ideas about the basic income guarantee, and I wrote about her work in my first book on Citizen Dividends.

When everyone has a basic income for food and shelter, guaranteed, it will be easier for everyone to participate as citizens in making good decisions to protect common properties. This is just one of many ways that Citizen Dividends will, at the same time, liberate and empower individuals, and protect and enrich our environment. Individual liberty and free markets, serving social and environmental goals. A synthesis of left and right.

So I was delighted to hear about Ostrom winning the Nobel.

Steven Shafarman

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The Tea Party and the Coffee Party Sun, 28 Feb 2010 14:42:53 +0000 Steven Shafarman The anger Tea Party activists are expressing is real, and must be respected. Our government is wasteful, inefficient, unaccountable, oppressive, dysfunctional. That’s what they’re telling us. It’s hard to disagree.

I attended the big rally they organized on the mall in Washington DC last September. I listened to the speakers and talked with attendees. I was and continue to be disappointed by the absence of specific policy proposals. Anger is not enough to build a movement that makes a real positive contribution.

Anger, moreover, is easily manipulated to serve special interests. Big special interests that are clearly seeking to exploit Tea Party anger include the Republican Party, several DC-based nonprofit organizations, and Fox news. Other special interests are more obscured, and perhaps more likely to profit. They include Wall Street, the insurance industry, weapons contractors, and the other big corporations and industries that are profiting from government paralysis.

For Tea Party activists who want to make history in a positive, meaningful way, I’ll offer some ideas toward the end of this blog post.

The Coffee Party is something I first learned about two days ago, Friday February 26, when I read a story in the Washington Post. It started with an idea from a filmmaker who lives in Silver Spring MD, who posted something on her Facebook page and made a short video which she posted on You Tube. The idea is simple: We have to get beyond the anger and engage in civil discourse about how to make our government more effective, efficient, and accountable.

Annabel Park’s Facebook friends responded promptly and enthusiastically, and a new movement is being born. The Coffee Party now has a website, with the video on the home page, and people are organizing meetings and events around the country. I attended their first meeting in Washington DC yesterday. About 40 people were there, including Annabel, and we took a picture of the group that should be posted on their web page. Some of the participants volunteered to commit 10 or 20 hours a week to the cause.

Here’s my comment from their Facebook fan page:

“I am a citizen and an active participant in We the People.” The Coffee Party is an opportunity for every American to make such a declaration.
Let’s talk with our neighbors, respectfully, with civility, about what we want for America and from our government. Effective, accountable democratic government is impossible without civil discourse.

It’s not possible to introduce new ideas into the political discourse, or to revive forgotten but still important ideas, when there is no civil discourse, when there is only anger and shouting and talking past one another.

The Coffee Party people are, wisely in my opinion, committed to civil discourse first, and therefore deferring discussions of specific policies. I hope they will eventually see the logic and power of reviving the guaranteed basic income ideas that are the theme of this website and my book, Peaceful, Positive Revolution.

Tea Party activists — those who are sincerely committed to creating a smaller, more accountable government, with lower taxes — also ought to endorse some form of basic income.  Basic income, Citizen Dividends, will make a lot of government programs superfluous, including individual welfare and corporate welfare. Every American will have a guaranteed income for food and shelter, at least, and therefore less reason to expect or demand additional aid from government. Government will be out of the business of trying to create jobs. We the People will be able to demand and get a government that is much smaller  and more accountable.

Steven Shafarman

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A New Direction Sat, 27 Feb 2010 06:05:18 +0000 Steven Shafarman I’ve been posting to this blog for more than a year, sometimes daily for a few weeks, recently going more than a month without anything. The main reason for recent silence is that I’ve been busy seeking some income security for myself.

Over the past few months I’ve realized that the campaign for income security for all is unlikely to gain any traction for a few more years. That might be different, probably would be very different, if I had millions of dollars to put into the campaign. Or if I had a TV network backing me, the way Fox News promotes the Tea Party movement. If you know anyone who has millions of dollars, or even thousands, or a few hundred, or five or ten, or has a TV network, please respond promptly and let’s get to work.

It’s February 26, 2010. Congress is polarized and paralyzed, yesterday was the big health care summit between President Obama and leading members of Congress, the Tea Party movement is brewing up increasing anger at Obama and everything he’s doing, and economic conditions continue to be extremely precarious for most Americans. Even so, I’m predicting that Obama will be reelected in 2012 by a comfortable margin. I base that on the fact that neither the Tea Party movement nor the Republican Party is presenting any concrete, specific policies that can bring about the fundamental changes people desire.

After the 2012 election is when I expect there to be a real opening for these ideas. Over the next few years,  I will continue to post occasionally, perhaps often, though in a different voice than before. As you might already notice, this post is very different than previous pieces. My plan is to make this blog somewhat more personal. Until now, I’ve avoided the word “I,” choosing to stay in the background while maintaining a focus on the issue of income security. My goal and practice, which was quite valuable to me and some other people, was to present ideas that anyone might take up and make his or her own.

Now I intend to be more public. I hope you’ll keep reading. Perhaps the new style, as it evolves, will attract more readers, and more donations, and that’s certainly one way to encourage me to post more. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the strategy for 2014 and 2016, and look forward to sharing those ideas with you.

Steven Shafarman

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2 BIG opportunities Sat, 27 Feb 2010 05:32:24 +0000 Steven Shafarman 1. The U.S. Basic Income Guarantee will be holding a joint meeting April 15-16, 2010, with BIEN Canada. We’ll be in Montreal, the meeting is free, and we welcome anyone who is interested in joining the conversation. I hope to meet you there.

More information is at and at

2. BIEN, the Basic Income Earth Network, will be holding its next Congress in Sao Paulo Brazil July 1-2. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will address the Congress, which is likely to attract a great deal of attention from people around the world.

The theme is Basic Income as an Instrument for Justice and Peace. Perhaps we’ll meet there, as well.

More information is at

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Dr. King, continued Tue, 19 Jan 2010 12:48:55 +0000 Steven Shafarman The day after the MLK holiday, and Bob Herbert of the New York Times has an op-ed on King, concluding that King’s “long campaign for economic justice has been all but forgotten.”

The irony is that Herbert seems to have forgotten King’s emphasis on guaranteed income in addition to jobs. Here are the last few paragraphs.

Speaking about one of his many antipoverty initiatives, Dr. King told Look magazine in 1968: “We called our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we felt that the economic question was the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, were confronting.”

That was then. The loudest voices against poverty and economic injustice of all kinds have long since faded. The government, reclining comfortably on a vast cushion of campaign contributions, has allied itself with big business and the big banks against the interests of ordinary Americans. Millions upon millions of families are suffering, but mostly in silence.

We honor Dr. King with a national holiday, but his long campaign for economic justice has been all but forgotten.

Here’s Herbert’s complete piece.

Guaranteed income is necessary. That’s the only way to ensure dignity for all. There will never be enough jobs for everyone because in most situations employers profit by cutting jobs, not creating them. I present that logic in more detail in Peaceful, Positive Revolution: Economic Security for Every American.

Steven Shafarman

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Dr. King and the continuing silence Sat, 16 Jan 2010 20:50:51 +0000 Steven Shafarman Martin Luther King Jr. day, 2010.

Most Americans do not know of Dr. King’s strong endorsement of guaranteed income, and on this day when we commemorate his birth most of the invocations of his life ignore that aspect of his legacy. An internet search on”Martin Luther King” and “guaranteed income” yields a few blog posts and a couple of stories in fairly small publications.

There were several more prominent articles that talked about his campaign to end poverty, though none of them said anything specific about guaranteed income. Here are a two examples by writers who mention his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? and must therefore know about the guaranteed income, though they don’t mention it.

A piece by Dedrick Muhammad in

A piece by Sam Fulwood in the online magazine The Root.

Here’s a piece that has a nice title, “Martin Luther King’s other dream: Economic justice for all.” It’s by John Gehring and is on the Washington Post website, but nothing specific about King’s book or guaranteed income.

Perhaps next year this aspect of King’s legacy will receive more attention.

Steven Shafarman

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Slavoj Zizek on Basic Income Sat, 02 Jan 2010 03:49:46 +0000 Steven Shafarman Though he’s mostly unknown in the United States outside a few elite universities where he’s been a visiting scholar, Slavoj Zizek is considered one of modern Europe’s leading philosophers.

Following is a link to a talk he gave in November 2009 in London. After opening with a somewhat general discussion of modern capitalism, particularly the fact that consuming is now a lifestyle activity, he discusses basic income. That part of the talk is great. Zizek mentions developments in Brazil, South Africa, and Europe, and then discusses the work of Philippe Van Parijs, who’s cited in several places at

This mostly theoretical talk, which is increasingly abstract after the section on basic income, was featured on New Year’s Day on a popular progressive political website, The basic income idea is spreading, even in the United States.

After that section of the talk, Zizek returns to his theme of the contradictions in post-1968 capitalism, using the work of a contemporary German philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk (who I had not previously heard of). Sloterdijk and Zizek seem to believe that the modern social welfare state, with its taxes, infrastructure, rule of law, and so on, must be preserved by the good works of the rich, people such as Bill Gates and George Soros.

Zizek then states that he agrees most with some ideas from Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Modern Man Under Socialism,” specifically the notion that charity degrades and demoralizes and merely prolongs the contradictions and injustices of capitalism.

Thus, asserting that basic income is a form of charity that will leave people envious and demoralized, Zizek concludes that it’s an attractive idea but can’t work. His argument reflects three misconceptions about basic income. First, he seems to think that the basic income is little more than taxing the rich to subsidize the poor, and would therefore prolong or increase envy, greed, and demoralization. He thus ignores the fact that the rich will benefit enormously from basic income, because they will have greater security and a more stable and sustainable society, along with opportunities to become even richer.

Second, the funds don’t have to come from taxing income and labor. Society can charge some rent or fees on what people take from nature and the community. Such takings include oil, land, timber, minerals, electromagnetic spectrum, and so on. The opening section of Zizek’s talk suggests that he ought to be sympathetic to this point. This is the idea of carbon fee and dividend that I’ve posted about a few times in recent weeks, and the idea of Thomas Paine, Henry George, and other people who are discussed elsewhere on this site.

Finally, he seems to view basic income only as a form of charity. It’s not. Instead, it would ensure that everyone can participate as citizens within the economic, social, and political activities of the modern state. It would be transformative in just the ways Zizek and Wilde appear to desire.

I hope Zizek continues to read and think about basic income, and to spread the word. His criticisms, particularly because of their contradictions and blind spots, mostly serve our interests.

The whole tape is 29:24.

Here’s the link:

(I tried to upload the video so you could view it here, but had some trouble with that. Sorry.)

Steven Shafarman

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More news on “fee and dividend” Tue, 15 Dec 2009 01:01:43 +0000 Steven Shafarman The Cantwell-Collins bill for “cap and dividend” is being debated in the environmental magazine Grist, and I’m taking a moment to insert some links to help readers of this blog find those articles.

Here’s a piece by Peter Barnes that a friend sent me:

At the bottom of that one are links to several other articles.

As I’ve written several times, any dividend from oil caps or fees or taxes or royalties can be a real step toward a basic income. It will be interesting to follow this debate as it moves forward.

Steven Shafarman

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