UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME FOR ALL
Interview with Ralph Boes
[This interview published in the Leipzig Internet Zeitung (newspaper), 4/15/2009 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, link to www.l-iz.de]
[With his disputants, Ralph Boes, co-author of the Unconditional Basic Income citizen initiative, is concerned about the right dynamite. Berlin was the epicenter up to yesterday but the waves are expanding... 1,000 euro for everyone has increasing popularity.]
Doesn't unconditional basic income or citizen money sound like laziness at the expense of everyone? Why do you urge this well-known concept so vigorously?
Laziness at everyone's expense is the argument brought by opponents of the basic income because they have not understood the cause. In truth, not working will be hard after the unconditional basic income is introduced. What one earns will not be deducted from the 1000 euro or soured through thousands of other harassments.
People's livelihoods will improve. The unconditional basic income is like moonlighting with which some Hartz IV recipients (German welfare reform combing unemployment benefits with income support and radically reducing the duration of benefits) stocked up. Only this will not be a crime any more. Working protects the poorer sectors of the population who people like to describe as "lazybones." In truth, they are only paralyzed by the legislation. Unconditional basic income is a genuine increase materially, mentally and intellectually.
In truth, the current legislation shows the ruling parties long understood this. If those who are "provided" today through Hartz IV do not work and do not want to earn additional money, why are there harsh controls on illicit work and moonlighting?
Is the time ripe to raise the demand for such a regulation?
Yes, despite the economic crisis! The time is over-ripe!... Today's social system is a "therapy" for a sickness that has not existed for a long time.
In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, whenever a person was permanently unemployed the "cause" of his unemployment was in himself, not by and large in the social environment. That was true at least in the West. "Promoting and demanding" (instead of blind exclusion in a stable income support system at that time) was the right therapy. When one is unemployed today, the cause is not in oneself but in the social environment. The production conditions surrounding him make his labor unnecessary.
If one applies "promote and demand" to people today as would have been appropriate 30, 40 or 50 years ago, that is like treating a person for lung sickness - while in truth he lacks air to breath.
When jobs are rationalized and fall away everywhere, people must not be "promoted" and enslaved in nonsense-work but should do something clever or sensible with their increased freedom.
Only positive things can be said for the maltreated state moneybag. A therapy that is false is always more expensive than one that is true.
Do you fear people will be overstrained with their "increased freedom"?
Whoever is healthy and yet is not creative enough to independently make himself and others happy with meaningful work will be called to work in the age of basic income. Employers need employees. Do you think "Ferdinand Porsche" and others will build and sell their cars themselves? The difference to today is only that employees must be courted because they will have no pressure to work any more.
The work incentive will change. One will not work any more to cover one's basic needs but only to increase quality of life - and for the meaning of work itself!
The world itself and its immense plight call people to work in a thousand ways, not only "employers." Think only of the environment, the distresses in social life, families, art and culture. We need income that makes possible new work. We do not need to be treated like children.
The whole idea is filled with refreshing civil disobedience. How long do you think you can hold out?
We - as an association - do not need to "hold out"! The idea is out as well as the petition. It is now up to the rest of the world to make something of this. Let us promote the German Labor Office and its policy with new ideas and encourage vital steps.
Whoever believes the idea of basic income is a mere unworkable fiction should be told this idea in all its shadings has been thought through, scientifically researched and economically checked and has the warmest advocates in the highest positions of the economy and the parties?
We are a team of people who form for campaigns like this. My share was starting up the group and a meditative relation with ideals forming the intellectual-spiritual atmosphere. Cooperation can occur in this atmosphere.
The idea was so fresh, so innocent and convincing that we simply had to act... The works were done by others more than by me.
How interwoven is the Berlin Citizens' initiative in Germany?
We are members in the Basic Income network (Netzwerk Grundeinkommen) who have joined for mutual support. When we are not carrying out common campaigns as for example the "Basic Income Week" or have a congress, we are thinking and hoping in all actions of the other members as far as they are known to us.