Perhaps soon basic income will seem like a worthwhile “thing” in the world, like universal suffrage or the right to divorce.
The basic income proposal has been activated – a public, individual, unconditional and universal monetary allowance. If 30 years ago it was a largely unknown proposal and there was little written material, today it is a subject of public debate. I can testify that when I was writing my doctoral thesis on this proposal, presented in 1998 but started 5 or 6 years earlier, it was an adventure to find a bibliography not in the form of books but of articles. They were scarce in English and French. In Spanish and Catalan, they were anecdotal. Nowadays, what can be found in paper and electronic format and many languages on the most varied topics related to basic income (political philosophy, pilot plans, financing, feminism, youth…) is immense. And a not insignificant part of these works is of high quality. Moreover, as we explain in the book En defensa de la Renta Básica. Why it is fair and how it is financed (Deusto-Planeta, 2023), the UNDP, the IMF, the UN Secretary-General, the ILO, the head of the Vatican State, and even the Financial Times editorial of 3 April 2020, are just some of the voices that have been raised in recent times in favour of basic income or, at the very least, in defence of the need to seriously debate its implementation. And much more importantly for me: feminist and LGBTI groups, social workers, cultural professionals, and mental health groups have spoken out in its defence without the slightest ambiguity. Yes, basic income was a rare thing 25 or 30 years ago, today it is in the public debate.
One of the reasons, by no means the only one, for this increased awareness of basic income lies in the strength of this proposal, both in its philosophical-political and financial aspects. I would add, if anything, the good theoretical and empirical elaboration over the last decades in response to the most common criticisms of this proposal, such as: “nobody would work”, “there would be no incentive to innovate”, “there would be a large call effect”, “it is inflationary”, among the most frequent.
This book addresses in great detail the answers to these two questions about basic income: is it fair and how can it be financed? We deal with other aspects, such as the historical failure of conditional subsidies (like the Spanish government’s Minimum Vital Income or the Guaranteed Income of Citizenship in Catalonia) and the history of the pilot schemes that have been carried out over the last few years in many different countries and geographical areas, including the one in Catalonia, one of the most well-designed in the world and now parked. But the main part is devoted to answering these two questions. In addition, we have provided more than 1,000 tables on the book’s website that Deusto has made available, which for obvious reasons could not be included in the many graphs and tables that are already in the book. They are available to anyone who wishes to consult them.
One of the novelties of this book is the proposal for financing a basic income for the European Union as a whole based on three taxes: income, wealth, and CO2. At all times, the starting point has been the official data of the European Union, and in the case of Spain there is even a chapter that discusses the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the Living Conditions Survey and the Household Panel.
In the book, we reproduce a quote from Louis Brandeis, a United States Supreme Court member from 1916 to 1939: “Most of the worthwhile things in the world have been declared impossible before they were done”. Perhaps we will soon see basic income as a worthwhile “thing” in the world. As will the democratic right to universal suffrage or the right to divorce. This book attempts to provide reasons why basic income should move from an impossibility to a worthwhile reality.