Universally guaranteed personal income

RBThis is a low level revision of an  automatic translation of the original page in Catalan. I apologize for any errors it may contain. 

On 30 December 2011, we could read in the Spanish newspapers that the government of Mariano Rajoy, in the second meeting after its constitution, had decided, among other measures, to freeze  the minimum wage, which will remain set to € 641.40 throughout the year 2012 (1, 2, 3).

The fact that we value the contribution of a worker 40 hours per week in €641.40, just €14.4 above the poverty line (€627) (4), reinforces my idea that employement can not be the only nor perhaps the principal solution of the economy, current or future. To put it with the utmost possible force, I think that:
  • There is no employment for everyone
  • There can be no employment for everyone
  • Employment can not generate the income necessary to live with a minimally sufficient level of comfort.
Then what? Well, I would like to comment the universe of proposals on the concept of universal guaranteed personal income for all, with a twist or personal touch. Let's start.

Robley E. George proposes perhaps the more basic and generic definition of universally guaranteed personal income: a minimum amount of personal income or financial support socially guaranteed and democratically determined by all citizens. This income would be unconditional with the only requirement of citizenship (5) (George also proposed the establishment of a maximum level of personal wealth, but that's another topic).

In a more concrete way, linked to an important social and political movement, we can talk about a basic income as a payment made by the state, as a right of citizenship to every full member or resident of a society, even if he or she does not work or is unwilling to accept a job if offered, and irrespective of whether he or she is rich or poor, in other words, irrespective of other possible sources of income and domestic arrangements (6).

There are many variations on this idea and several proposals on how to make a basic income economically viable. I would like to mention the ideas of a Universal Share Ownership (USO) or a citizens dividend. But the study the detailed solutions is for technicians, academics and professionals (eg, 8, 9).

Most constitutions include a right to work and decent pay. For example, the Spanish Constitution states that all Spaniards have the duty to work and the right to work,and to a sufficient remuneration to satisfy their needs and those of their family (10). The Andorran Constitution states that all persons have the right to work, to their promotion through work, and to just income which shall guarantee a living befitting human dignity for themselves and their families (11). The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that Everyone has the right to engage in work (12). The same is estated in paragraph 1 of Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (13).

What I propose is a change in the constitution to include the right to a universally guaranteed personal income for everyone to have a living befitting human dignity.

We need to define the right the problem to find appropriate solutions. To recover employment through economic growth may be more or less possible, but what is needed is to ensure a universally guaranteed personal income. Only if we consider this goal and seek every possible way to achieve it, including the recovery of the employment and innovative ideas such as negative income taxes, citizens dividends or universal share ownership, as well every other that can be formulated and applied, will we have a chance to advance in the right direction will and to solve the real problem: that every single human beig has the resources to live with dignity.

  1. El País, Congelado el salario mínimo, uno de los más bajos de la UE. 30 de desembre de 2010.
  2. El Mundo, El Gobierno congela los sueldos de los funcionarios y el salario mínimo.
  3. Víctor Martínez i Javier González, 30 de desembre de 2011.
  4. La vanguardia, El Gobierno confirma la congelación del salario mínimo en 641 euros, 30 de desembre de 2011.
  5. El 21,8% de los hogares, bajo el umbral de pobreza. El Mundo, 20 d’octubre de 2011.
  6. Robert E. George. Socioeconomic democracy. Praeger Publishers, 2002
  7. Xarxa Renda Bàsica.
  8. Gorka Moreno. Las viabilidades de la renta básica de ciudadanía, 2008.
  9. José Antonio Martínez, El INR (Impuesto Negativo sobre la Renta): Una solución novedosa y eficiente a la pobreza, 2002.
  10. Spanish Constitution, Artículo 35, apartado 1.
  11. Constitution of the Principality of Andorra, Article 29.
  12. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Artículo 15.
  13. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.

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