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Symposium on Universal Basic Income (UBI)

13 Sep

Appearing in the Boston Review, discussion took place back in 2000. Philippe Van Parijs makes the opening statement and then replies to comments on it. Here’s the first few paragraphs of that statement:

Entering the new millennium, I submit for discussion a proposal for the improvement of the human condition: namely, that everyone should be paid a universal basic income (UBI), at a level sufficient for subsistence.

In a world in which a child under five dies of malnutrition every two seconds, and close to a third of the planet’s population lives in a state of “extreme poverty” that often proves fatal, the global enactment of such a basic income proposal may seem wildly utopian. Readers may suspect it to be impossible even in the wealthiest of OECD nations.

Yet, in those nations, productivity, wealth, and national incomes have advanced sufficiently far to support an adequate UBI. And if enacted, a basic income would serve as a powerful instrument of social justice: it would promote real freedom for all by providing the material resources that people need to pursue their aims. At the same time, it would help to solve the policy dilemmas of poverty and unemployment, and serve ideals associated with both the feminist and green movements. So I will argue.

I am convinced, along with many others in Europe, that–far from being utopian–a UBI makes common sense in the current context of the European Union.

Responses by: Herbert A. Simon, Emma Rothschild, Brian Barry, Anne L. Alstott, Fred Block, Katherine McFate, Gar Alperovitz, William A. Galston, Wade Rathke, Edmund S. Phelps, Elizabeth Anderson, Ronald Dore, Robert E. Goodin, Peter Edelman, Claus Offe.

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What Really Ails Detroit – NYTimes.com

16 Aug

American manufacturing has been in trouble even since its heyday, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the United States was the global economic powerhouse and American assembly-line workers earned very decent middle-class wages.

That era of prosperity was not, as is so often claimed, the manifestation of the American dream. Rather, it was, or should have been, a warning sign that America was riding a fleeting wave of progress. Almost nobody was looking hard enough to the future and asking what it would take to sustain success.

The reason so many manufacturing-sector workers in the United States received such high pay at that time was not that they had exceptional skills or had received superior training; it was that the corporations for which they worked were unsurpassed in their dominance and generated huge revenues.

But that dominance was, to a considerable degree, a momentary quirk of history: the absence, in the wake of World War II, of any real competition from other nations.

via What Really Ails Detroit – NYTimes.com.

Worker Ownership For the 21st Century? | The Nation

28 Mar

It may not be the revolution’s dawn, but it’s certainly a glint in the darkness. On Monday, this country’s largest industrial labor union [United Steel Workers] teamed up with the world’s largest worker-cooperative to present a plan that would put people to work in labor-driven enterprises that build worker power and communities, too.

Titled “Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Communities: The Union Co-op Model,” the organizational proposal released at a press conference on March 26 in Pittsburgh, draws on the fifty-five year experience of the Basque-based Mondragon worker cooperatives. To quote the document:

“In contrast to a Machiavellian economic system in which the ends justify any means, the union co-op model embraces the idea that both the ends and means are equally important, meaning that treating workers well and with dignity and sustaining communities are just as important as business growth and profitability.”

There’s ‘boots on the ground’ history behind the project:

It’s been a few years since the USW first became curious about the Mondragon cooperatives after they had a good experience working with GAMESA, a co-op friendly Spanish wind turbine outfit that opened up three plants in Pennsylvania. In 2009, with their Spanish colleagues’ help, Gerard sent a delegation to the Basque region of Spain to investigate Mondragon, now a $24 billion global operation. Since then, the USW has worked slowly with Mondragon and the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) a university based coop-outreach center founded by one of the organizers of the Youngstown initiative, to fine tune the US version presented Monday.

For the details of the proposal, check out the model for yourself. The full text of the union co-op model is available at www.usw.coop or www.union.coop.

via Worker Ownership For the 21st Century? | The Nation.

Work Less, Help Economy And Environment

26 Feb

Today, the typical employee in the Netherlands works fewer than 35 hours per week, often spread from Monday to Thursday.

In the U.S., a trial program begun in Utah in 2008 compressed the 40-hour work week for state employees to four days. Without the need to commute or turn on the lights, elevators and computers on Fridays, employees helped cut the state’s energy bills and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10,000 metric tons — the equivalent of removing about 1,700 gasoline cars from U.S. roads. The workers also appeared to like the lifestyle change: 82 percent wanted to stay on the new schedule. Nevertheless, the program ended in September 2011.

Meanwhile, Germany and France are among nations following the Dutch lead.

via Work Less, Help Economy And Environment.

Towards a 21-hour working week? — Crooked Timber

15 Jan

An interesting discussion or the idea that a shorter workweek is an important component of a more sustainable world. We need more time for play, in the deepest sense of that word.

Last Wednesday I attended an event at LSE (under the auspices of the New Economics Foundation) exploring the idea of working-time reduction with an eventual goal of moving to a normal working week of 21 hours. …

The three speakers were Juliet Schor (author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth), Robert Skidelsky (former Tory spokesman in the Lords, but goodness knows what his party affiliation is today) and Tim Jackson (author of Prosperity Without Growth).

Schor explained that labour-time reduction had been an issue twenty years ago (I guess she was thinking of people like André Gorz) but has slipped out of the policy debate during the boom years. Now, in the post-2008 world, governments are pushing the line that we all need to work harder, for more hours and for more of our lives. But that, argued Schor is exactly wrong. Working-time reduction offers the threefold benefit of few people being unemployed, of less ecological damage and of people having more time to spend on social activities (cue mention of The Big Society). Even if we could grow our way to full employment, we shouldn’t. Rather we should reorient away from overconsumption towards leading better quality lives. More time-stressed households are have more carbon-intensive lifestyles. She held up the Netherlands as a model of how to start moving in this direction. Apparently, the Dutch are the slackers of Europe generally and, some years ago, made new civil service contracts 80%. You have the freedom there to choose to be a five, four, three, two or one-day-a week employee.

via Towards a 21-hour working week? — Crooked Timber.

Crony Capitalism Comes Home – NYTimes.com

27 Oct

…this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists….in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.

via Crony Capitalism Comes Home – NYTimes.com.

Federal Reserve Riddled with Conflicts of Interest

19 Oct

The GAO detailed instance after instance of top executives of corporations and financial institutions using their influence as Federal Reserve directors to financially benefit their firms, and, in at least one instance, themselves. “Clearly it is unacceptable for so few people to wield so much unchecked power,” Sanders said. “Not only do they run the banks, they run the institutions that regulate the banks.”

Sanders said he will work with leading economists to develop legislation to restructure the Fed and bar the banking industry from picking Fed directors. “This is exactly the kind of outrageous behavior by the big banks and Wall Street that is infuriating so many Americans,” Sanders said.

The corporate affiliations of Fed directors from such banking and industry giants as General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers pose “reputational risks” to the Federal Reserve System, the report said. Giving the banking industry the power to both elect and serve as Fed directors creates “an appearance of a conflict of interest,” the report added.

via GAO Finds Serious Conflicts at the Fed – Newsroom: Bernie Sanders – U.S. Senator for Vermont.

Percentiles — Crooked Timber

14 Oct

I’m now much more sympathetic to the ‘99 per cent’ analysis. First, a closer look at income growth figures suggests that, while the 19 per cent have enjoyed rising incomes, they’ve only barely maintained their share of national income. The redistribution of the past three decades has gone from the bottom 80 per cent to the top 1 per cent.

That suggests the possibility of a policy response in which the main redistributive thrust would be to reverse this process. This would almost certainly involve higher tax payments, but this would be offset by the restoration of public services, which are in economic terms a ‘superior good’, valued more as income rises. The top 1 per cent can buy their own services, and are largely unaffected by public sector cutbacks, but that’s not true of the 19 per cent.

Another important factor is the growth of economic insecurity. The myth of the US as a land of opportunity for upward mobility has been replaced by Barbara Ehrenreich’s Fear of Falling (another good source on this is High Wire by Peter Gosselin). Even if people in the top 19 per cent are doing well, they are less secure than at any time since the 1930s, and their children face even more uncertain prospects.

via Percentiles — Crooked Timber.

Obama Jobs Speech Changes Conversation | The Nation

9 Sep

The introduction of the “American Jobs Act” was both a policy and rhetorical shift from the administration, away from the above the fray “most reasonable man in the room” strategy aimed at a narrow sliver of independent voters and toward a more aggressive, feistier Obama, one who is not afraid to run against the do-nothing Congress, take his case directly to the American people and ruffle a few feathers. It’s the Obama, quite frankly, that many of his supporters have been waiting quite some time to see.

Quoted from the speech:

But what we can’t do—what I won’t do—is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.

via Obama Jobs Speech Changes Conversation | The Nation.

The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive

7 Sep

Follow the link to download a free copy of the book. We have.

Conservatives rely on the government all the time, most importantly in structuring the market in ways that ensure that income flows upwards. The framing that conservatives like the market while liberals like the government puts liberals in the position of seeming to want to tax the winners to help the losers.

This “loser liberalism” is bad policy and horrible politics. Progressives would be better off fighting battles over the structure of markets so that they don’t redistribute income upward. This book describes some of the key areas where progressives can focus their efforts in restructuring market so that more income flows to the bulk of the working population rather than just a small elite.

via The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.