Global Basic Income — Cash, crypto and citizenship

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The idea of universal basic income is enjoying more popularity than ever. For example, UBI proposal is even being presented in the USA by the presidential candidate nominee Andrew Yang. Attached to the Democratic Party, Yang is promising what he calls “Freedom Dividend” — 1000 USD (dollars) being paid by the US federal government to every citizen who is 18+. Yang’s proposal is manifesting the core idea of UBI — an individual should have enough money to pay for basic needs as accommodation, food and transport.

At the same time, Yang’s proposal is objectively seen still not meant in a universal sense. As historian Yuval Harari argues in his latest book “21 lessons for 21st century”, what UBI often means is “national basic income”. Harari is emphasising on the importance to implement a UBI system in a universal and global meaning. A UBI that could in principle cover all humans on our planet.

Harari sees the UBI as a necessity to tackle problems and challenges that he predicts will occur with further development of disruptive technological processes due to AI, robots, automatization, decentralisation, info- and biotech. According to Harari, a global postindustrial development could result in a “meaningless class” of humans who lack not only jobs but also higher levels of meaningfulness and existential feelings in life. At the same time, Harari argues that if one believes that people in the USA will pay taxes for a UBI that also goes to people in Africa, one can as well believe in the existence of Santa-Claus.

Similar understandings and thoughts regarding welfare, global development and institutions were formulated by sociologist Ulrich Beck who termed “cosmopolitan realism”, “global risk society” and “methodological nationalism”. According to Beck, it is common that the nation-state is seen as a “natural” or given area for conducting politics and democracy. Therefore, when people speak about equality, freedom and fairness, one often makes direct or indirect references to the state, country or a nation. Welfare is still a very state-centric term, and UBI is often perceived as a system to be implemented on a national level.

In the view of both Harari and Beck, despite global problems and challenges, there is no broader sense of universal or cosmopolitan solidarity nor institutions similarly at it exists in welfare states and political nations as in Europe and America. The case is also that even the existing welfare systems as in Europe are facing problems regarding resources, payments and bureaucracy. For example, according to a 2015 government inquiry in Sweden, the current public welfare system is unsustainable regardless of higher taxes or lower levels of humanitarian immigration.

Both Beck and Harari also share similar thoughts and approaches in their reasoning regarding global development and social organisation:

· Problems: Global risks as hunger and poverty, disruptive technological trends as via AI and robotisation

· Solutions: Global safety net (UBI), global harmony without uniformity, cosmopolitan governance and citizens, transforming “national interests” into universal ones

So how could a UBI or a global basic income (GBI) be implemented in the future? In this article, the following examples and ideas are presented:

· Give Direct (aid) / Unconditional Cash Transfers

· Cryptocurrency based UBI

· Tax-funded UBI

· Global citizenship, constitutionalism and democracy

1. Give Direct and UCT:s

In 2018, the amount of all the humanitarian assistance being provided by public institutions around the world was around 23,7 billion USD, and the amount of private donations was around 6,5 billion USD. The general statistics as from 2017 provide that the total ODA (official development assistance) including different public aid policies and spending were about 163 billion USD.

However, much of the donated money goes to public institutions when it comes to spending, organising and supervising different projects, programs and processes. One more efficient way when it comes to poverty reduction is to conduct give direct aid and unconditional cash transfers to individuals. This is done, for example by Give Directly organisation which provides basic income schemes and experiments with UCT:s. Since 2009, Give Directly has provided around 140 million USD in cash to around 130 000 families.

There is a lot of research showing that programs based on UCT:s approaches are resulting in poverty reduction and increased wealth, improved quality of life regarding health-care and psychological wellbeing, positive impact on real economy and entrepreneurship. UCT-programs have also become more popular among public institutions as regarding US-government and European Commission. Among other benefits are reduced risks form corruption and increased chances that all or most of that donated money will reach the individuals in need as in refugee camps.

2. Cryptocurrency based UBI

Another example of providing UCT:s and also UBI are private driven cryptocurrency initiatives. One such example is Mannabase, also known as Manna coin. Manna started as the first initiative in the world with the aims of developing a system for basic income in its universal meaning. According to the action, basic income is seen as a human right that every person in the world is eligible to receive for free.

Through the end of 2017, over USD 250,000 had been given away as basic income in the form of Manna currency. Another aim of the project is to build a global network of socially conscious businesses, NGO:s and their customers and supporters who are using the Manna currency as a tool to
create a more equitable economy for a better future.

The most fascinating idea of a crypto-based UBI would be the achievement of maximum effect with the lowest cost. Because in principle all humans around the world would be able to receive a basic income without implementation of public funding in terms of taxation and administration. At the same time, the main challenges are regarding trust and infrastructure. How to make it mainstream and accessible for the majority of the world population to use a cryptocurrency and how to enable Internet and other tools for all individuals? One solution would be if every human can own a Self-Sovereign Identity that can be protected by an UN-agency.

3. Tax-funded UBI

Ideas of a “truly” UBI became more popularised and discussed during 1990s and 2000s. Such as with proposals as world-wide income, UN income, global basic income, often connected to ideas and arguments around climate change, climate justice, climate transformation, carbon taxation, views on Earths resources etc. One of the main advocated of such system professor Philippe Van Parijs, also famous for promoting a European basic income (Eurodividend), pointed out that CO2 tax funding would also mean that certain regions as America and Europe would be net contributors regarding correlations between population numbers and CO2 emissions in global perspective. According to van Parijs and many others, since climate change is a worldwide problem demanding comprehensive solutions the way to legitimise solutions and climate transformation would be to provide guaranteed income to people globally.

In the following cases, basic income proposals are based on the latest global CO2 levels and population trends. According to different research on emissions, forecasts and estimations, the global CO2 emissions during 2018 were between 36–39 Gigatons (or billions). Now, let us imagine that there is a global CO2 tax rate of 20 USD per CO2 ton. How would the following scenarios look like 35 Gigatons were taxed and provided as an annual dividend or basic monthly income to humans?

— Result: 35 Gigatons multiplied with 20 USD divided with X population = 700 billion USD / X population

— The current world population is around 7,7 billion humans

Scenarios

a) UBI to adults only (18+)

· Around 120 USD per year or 10 USD per month

b) UBI to both children and adults

· Around 100 USD per adult and 20 USD per child per year or 10 USD per adult and 2 USD per child per month

By looking on the two scenarios, a UBI based on global CO2 would from different standpoints mean a very low basic income. Based on the current quality of life conditions around the world, it would mean considerable differences and impacts. In America and Europe, 10 USD can in principle be earned by an individual in one hour while in larger parts of Africa the same amount of money can take more or less earned during a whole working day between 8–10 hours.

At the same time, the scenarios show that a global basic income is not an impossible idea. However, to fund a higher, more ambitious or “livable” UBI, there will be needs for several other global taxes. Also, CO2 as a tax source is descending and has an end date before 2050s if it would be taxed. But the main question that remains is how would be responsible for collecting and distributing on the global level when it comes to legitimacy and agreements? One solution would be the creation of a democratically elected World Parliament.

4. UBI — what is it good for?

When discussing UBI, it is typical to focus on economic aspects. A truly UBI, or GBI, could make several socioeconomic improvements such as to reduce poverty, increase quality of life, stimulate the real economy on local levels, facilitate green tac-switching and reduction of income taxation, complement global economic integration and trade flows. There are of course several other essential and non-economic arguments and positions.

· As a human right or a “global civic right.”

· As a global social contract and democratic condition

· Remove bureaucracy regarding different UN-programs

· Facilitate “climate justice” and climate transformation

· Facilitate global solidarity and affections for humanity

· Make it easier to perform non-paid work as family care, community activism, volunteer work

· Make it easier for humans to have more time for co-creative processes, social interactions and meaningful self-development.

Summary

Universal Basic Income is globally seen a more popular and highlighted idea today than compared to 20 years ago. However, in politics, the concrete proposal for some kind of UBI still remain connected to the national levels. Proposals for a “global basic income” or GBI are existing and provide possible scenarios. Achieving a “real” tax-funded UBI in global sense is today impossible to lack of solidarity, resources and institutional framework at the global level but could become a possible idea in the future in the pace with globalisation of democracy and due the decentralisation trend as with block-chain and self-sovereign identity.

I am active as a social and policy entrepreneur. SEEDS ambassador. Motto: I have no identity, I have only identities.