10 reasons why we need
a Guaranteed Livable Income*
by C.A. L'Hirondelle & J.S. Larochelle 2004, updated 2011
1. Nature: A guaranteed livable income would prevent the destruction of the environment due to the attempt to grow the world's economy to create full employment. The loss of clean air, clean water, forests, aerable soil, all forms of "wild" life cannot be measured. Trying to create full employment to meet people's needs is stunningly costly, vastly wasteful and destructive to both the humans, nature and all living things.
GLI is the quickest way to say "no" to environmentally harmful and wasteful practices and to put an end to over-consumption. A GLI means and end to the 'jobs vs. environment' war. In a post-GLI world, there would be no need for massive waste of resources just to have massive make-work job creation. The environmental benefits of a guaranteed income are impossible to quantify because you cannot put a price on clean air, clean water and fertile soil. (See environment quotes)
POPULATION EQUILIBRIUM: A Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) is not pro-natalist or anti-natalist. It would create population equilibrium because it removes the need for population growth that an economic growth model requires (See Part I and II of GLI and Population)
2. People: A guaranteed livable income would prevent people from having their lives shortened and made miserable from poverty and poverty-related ill health. There is a well-documented connection between income and health. The direct and indirect costs of poverty are so high as to be incalculable. It is also impossible to quantify human misery and lost years of life. It is also impossible to quantify the health benefits that would accrue from the peace of mind of having stable economic security. Or the benefits from people having more time for things like growing and preparing healthy foods and other health-promoting, disease-preventing activities. (See health quotes)
3. Peace: Millions of jobs depend on war. Without a Guaranteed Livable Income we could be choosing a trajectory to a permanent war economy. An economy reliant on contrived scarcity and massive waste is an economy that creates desperation, fear and conflict. Historically, when people lose jobs and income and they demand their governments do anything, including build their military, to give them jobs. (See war quotes) Only with a guaranteed income could we afford to end the war industries.
4. Redefining Work and Productive Choice: With a guaranteed livable income, people will no longer be forced to 'make a living' regardless of the harm to themselves, others, or the environment. It also creates a way to for people to do beneficial (and essential) activities that are currently financially penalized for being 'unproductive.' For example: work done by volunteers and unpaid carers: people who take care of other people; who take care of their own health (for some that is a full time task); or who take care of their neighborhood, community or environment. Right now many mothers and other unpaid family caregivers are denied the right to look after their children and family members because they cannot afford to. Caregiving is not considered economically 'productive' work (See Mothernomics). Those who do this unpaid work are financially penalized. A GLI allows for the productive choice of providing care to family and community members and the natural world.
"[With a guaranteed income] No longer would there be such a thing as 'unpaid labor.'" --Robley E. George, SocioEconomic Democracy, 2004. Currently anyone engaging in unpaid work is losing income due to the 'opportunity cost': time used on unpaid 'non-market' work is not available for doing paid, 'market' work. As people are forced to spend more time in market work, it is more and more difficult to do non-market work even though this is the glue that keeps families and communities together. It seems bizarre to have to point out the importance of creating a society than can incorporate care of the young as a central priority, since how well we do this job portends humanity's future. A GLI is a way we can create the time and mental energy needed to create a nurturing society for optimal human health and well being. (See care quotes and The Manly Mythology of Work Part I and II)
5. Freedom: Only with a guaranteed livable income can people get "free" time to be free of having to perform jobs that are unnecessary or wasteful and/or which are harmful or degrading to the human mind, spirit and body. Only with an economic security can people be free of exploitation, degradation and being under the control of those who have the power to take away their means of living.
In addition there is the factor of Free Will: "With the exception of water, food and other life-giving necessities, there is no reason to consume non-essentials just to create jobs for other people." —J.S. Larochelle
6. Dignity: People should not have to feel they are failures and be huminlated by having to beg for charity or welfare because they are not 'productive'. In addition, babies, children, elders, people with different abilities, people with illnesses are some of the people who society allows to live in poverty because they are "unproductive." This is shameful. A GLI would allow for dignity in our communities.
7. Democracy: Democracy is a cruel joke if people are guaranteed the right to vote but not to eat. Secondly, democracy is also a joke if people lack the time, energy, and means to participate in the political process. For example, low income single parents or people with disabilities face dispproportionate barriers to having their voices heard in any political process. (see Carole Pateman's work on Basic Income and Democracy)
8. Health: As long as millions of jobs depend on the consumption of health destroying products and on the proliferation of pharmacueticals and the medical industry, we cannot afford to have a fully healthy population.
9. Justice: "We have enough for need, we don't have enough for greed" MG.There are more than enough natural resources in the world that everyone should be able to have a healthy and happy life. However vast quantities of resources are being squandered(or polluted and destroyed) on unnecessary and/or harmful economic activity.
10. Transition to a Life-Cycle economy: There are hundreds of good ideas that people have to make society better. Relearning subsistence skills, community building, bartering, learning about healthful eating, storytelling, mentoring, playing and dreaming are all really good ideas, however, with so much time, energy and resources being squandered on harmful or wasteful economic activities, people have little energy left except to be a zombie and get their dose of junk TV, junk music, junk food, junk entertainment and other forms of escape. A GLI would allow us to create a bridge to a life-affirming economic system.
Right now cities are growing and the countryside is emptying as people look for places to live where they hope to find a job. A guaranteed livable income would mean people could reduce their living costs by moving out of the city. For some people this would also mean healthier living. One could imagine the development of a 'hobbit' economy where there is more small scale production, more time off, more barter, more artisans, more music and more people available to share in family care work.
CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY: Yes, humans like to be clever and invent things. The idea is to have more time for fun, for play, for naps and for dreaming --the very things that spark innovation and invention in the first place. Why are we not benefiting from tools invented to take over human tasks that are difficult or repetitive? With a GLI we could celebrate every time a new invention that frees up human time and effort instead of worrying about how many jobs are going to be lost. A pathetic situation to say the least. (see technology quotes)
A GLI would help encourage an 'open source' society where people would be drawn into innovation, collaboration, experimentation and problem-solving. It would be possible for more, not fewer, people to participate in these activities.
PROBLEM-SOLVING: Obviously a GLI won't solve all problems (and again, neither will any other scheme current or future). However one hidden benefit of a guaranteed income is how it would allow more time and resources to address problems as they arise. There are already people and communities with organizing experience such as those in the popular education movements and others (see the book Sitting in the Fire). Fast response community organizing would be an important way to create highly livable communities in a post-GLI world.
ART/CULTURE/TRADITIONAL SKILLS: Current economic imperatives are eroding rare cultural skills. A guaranteed income means that resources currently squandered on mass junk culture, could be used instead for small-scale local and diverse art and culture.
* also known as guaranteed annual income or basic income guarantee