Translator: Michele Gianella
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney All of us should have dreams. And I want to begin by saying
something that is very famous, that it’s from the impossible,
the dreamers of the impossible, rather than the slaves of the possible, that social evolution
draws its creative force. My dream is that every one of us,
in every community, should have a basic income as a right. An individual basic income
given as a right, without conditions, and paid individually. For a long time such an idea
would have been regarded as a dream. An impossible dream. But in the last couple of years
a remarkable number of people, including Nobel Prize winners
and people like yourselves, have come to realize that it is not only possible,
but feasible, desirable, affordable. So a remarkable change. And we have established
a network called BIEN, Basic Income Earth Network, and I just hope at least
one of you listening will join us in the struggle. Because it is going to be a struggle, and it will only come about
if we collectively demand it. And that is possible and desirable. Now, what is the context? The context is that we are undergoing
a global transformation, in which a global
market system is developing, but the insecurities and the inequalities
are multiplying all over the world. And in that process,
a new class structure is taking shape. And the biggest mass class
is the precariat: people who are being forced
to accept a life of unstable labor without an occupational identity, relying on low stagnant money wages, without rights. They’re supplicants,
having to ask for favors. Beggars, really. It’s a process that’s
affecting millions of people, and many of them,
since my books were published, have been writing to me
telling me their stories. But there’s a danger in this. The danger is that the winners
are getting scared, because people like us are getting angry. And so they’re beginning to listen
to debates about a basic income. Now what is the justification
for a basic income? First, and really, very importantly, a basic income is a matter
of social justice. Justice means that we should recognize – all of us, individually – that the wealth and income of anybody is far more to do
with the efforts of our ancestors than anything you or I do for ourselves. But why should we have
private inheritance of wealth, and not social inheritance? So you can see a basic income
as a sort of social dividend on the collective wealth
produced by our ancestors. It’s a fundamental demand associated
with Thomas Paine for social justice. The second justification
for a basic income is that it would improve and enhance
our sense of freedom. Republican freedom,
as the philosophers call it. This freedom means the freedom not to be dominated
by figures of authority. Be abusive husbands, bureaucrats,
government officials, or whatever. This sense of freedom has been lost
in the last 30 years of globalization for millions and millions of people. And the third justification
is that we need basic security. Without basic security,
all of us become irrational. We are unable to control ourselves,
control our time, deal with the stresses of life. But if you have basic security, as the psychologists
and economists have taught us, you not only deal better with stress but you are more tolerant towards others, you are more altruistic,
you’re more productive in what you do. And believe me, as we have found, if you have basic security
you work more, not less. And when you work, you’re more productive
and more cooperative, not less. It’s a lie to say that if we had basic income security
we would become lazy. On the contrary, it will release
the energies and the dynamism inside ourselves
and inside our communities. But we need basic security
for a more fundamental reason, which is, why elites and the rich
are suddenly listening to this debate. If we don’t have basic security,
part of the precariat the less educated part,
not you in this room, but many people, will listen to the sirens of populism, of neo-fascist intolerance. Today their hero is Donald Trump. I hope we all laugh
a little louder than that. (Laughter) Donald Trump. You have your own
charismatic equivalent in Austria, so don’t let’s be too smug. We in Britain have our own equivalents. In France, Marine Le Pen will be striding the theaters
in the next few months. But unless we have basic security
for the ordinary person in the precariat, more and more people
will be tempted to support that type. And that’s dangerous for all of us, right? A basic income would also have
instrumental advantages in the economy, boosting development and growth. And would be ecologically sustainable, because it would encourage more people to spend more time
doing work that is not labor. Labor uses up resources
in jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. The work we do in our communities, caring for our relatives,
caring for things around us, is more ecologically sustainable. We need a slow time movement
to go with the slow food movement. It’s realistic possibilities,
it means changing our concept of growth. Now I want to end my talk by reflecting on something that has been
a dream I never expected to realize. For a long time, people said
that a basic income is impossible. For a long time people said,
“Only in very rich countries.” And then I was working with the SEWA, Self-Employed Women’s
Association of India. I gave them a talk about basic income, and one young woman stood up and said, why don’t we try it here? From that point it took three years
for us to design and raise the money, and we provided 6,000 men,
women, and children, in nine areas, with a basic income for 18 months. And we compared what happened to them with a similar number
of people in other areas who were not receiving the basic income. So it was a randomized controlled trial. And what happened was this:
First of all, the welfare improved. The nutrition of people improved, the sanitation,
the schooling of the children, the health of people improved. We have a book that’s just out,
with a woman on the front. Disabled: she had no legs. At the beginning of the pilot, she was so impoverished
she had no clothes to wear in public. By the end of the pilot,
she has a beautiful sari, she has a sewing machine, and she’d become the seamstress,
the dressmaker of the village. With dignity, doing work. In addition to the welfare effects,
there were equity effects. If you have a basic income
that’s equal for everybody, the relatively poor,
the relatively disadvantaged benefit more than the rich. But it’s a right, so everybody
should have it, OK? It’s affordable, as I’ve shown in this other book
that’s just come out. Now, in addition to the equity effects,
there is also an economic effect. Contrary to all those prejudiced people, who said that if you give
people a basic income they will sit back and drink, indulge in things you shouldn’t be doing, blah blah blah. Sonia Gandhi told us that. She said, this is a waste
of money! Waste of money So we were very interested to see. As it turned out,
in every area work went up! In every area, women in particular were able to do better types of work, had access to resources. The only group for which
work went down were children! This is a terrible thing, we have to get
really worried about this. The reason was, of course,
is they were going to school. That’s a real setback. I hope none of you believe that. Now, in addition, people
were more entrepreneurial, in their small ways, like this woman buying her sewing machine
with the help of her family. And also we saw people
who had been in debt for generations, in debt bondage. And they used their little basic income and their relatives
contributed some of theirs, and they were able to buy their freedom. And that leads to the fourth effect. The fourth effect is emancipation. The emancipatory value of a basic income
is greater than the money value. We only gave a small amount,
but it meant people had liquidity. It meant people had
a certain status in their community. It meant people had control and put aside on loans and dealing with debts
and dealing with this sort of thing. And the emancipation
we’ve seen in our pilots in India has also been shown
in our pilots in Africa, and will be shown in the pilots now being undertaken
in Finland, in the Netherlands, in Canada, and in California,
where I’ve just been invited. It will show that
the emancipation matters. And I want to end my talk
by giving you two anecdotes. I went to one of the villages,
the Indian villages at the beginning. And we had to get everybody
to sign a card in order for them to get
the basic income each month. But all the young women
in that particular village wore veils so we couldn’t take their photographs. They had to go into a hut, and have their photographs
taken in private. I went back to that village
six months later, while the pilot was still going and I said to an Indian
colleague of mine, “Have you noticed
a change in this village?” And he said, “No.” I said, “All the women
are not wearing veils, Why is that?” And we called some of the women across. and we asked them, and they were
reluctant to say anything, as people are to strangers. And then one of them said,
“I will tell you. Before we had to do
what the elders told us to do. Now we have a little money
in our pockets, we can decide ourselves.” That is emancipation. In the African pilots which we did, I went at the end
and I asked some people, “What was the best thing
about having a basic income?” And I called some young women across. I asked this question, and they giggled.
They didn’t want to answer. And then one plucked the courage
and said, “I’ll tell you, for us. Before, when the men
came down from the fields, at the end of the month,
with their money in their pockets, we had to say, ‘yes.’ Now, we say, ‘no.'” That is emancipation. Thank you very much. (Applause)