The most commonly asked question...
When hearing about global basic income, a question that often arises is 'Why include people and countries that are well-off?'. Some advocates of cash transfers prefer 'targeted' rather than 'universal' approaches, as theoretically people living on low incomes can then be given more money. However, there are several reasons why it might be better to provide a basic income to every person, rich or poor.
Wealthy people will more than pay for their own basic incomes anyway
In the proposed global basic income system, wealthy people are likely to pay considerably more in international taxes and charges (for instance wealth taxes and carbon charges) than they receive in basic income. They therefore would not really be 'receiving' global basic income at all, in a net sense. It is just easier, in both practical and political terms, to apply targeting in this system to the money collection side rather than the money distribution side. The system then feels like it gives the same to everyone, and it does still provide unconditional income security to all, but in fact its impacts are highly targeted and progressively stacked in favour of those on the lowest incomes.
Why assume that the funding for global basic income must be meagre?
At Equal Right we propose that global basic income should be funded by tapping into wealth streams that have not previously been accessed for public benefit. These streams of wealth are immense, and they are controlled primarily by the very rich. Social movements should demand that meaningful amounts of this wealth are shared out among the world's people. It is our world, and, in many very real ways, our wealth. Why not demand a fairer system to share it?
Justice and human rights, not charity.
Global basic income is not aid, nor is it charity. It is a global form of redistribution, which shares out global wealth over and over again, scraping it off the top of the world economy and pumping it back in at the grassroots. Although if feels like the monthly amount could be higher if it were paid only to people on lower incomes (or people living in countries with low incomes), this is likely to make it much harder to get global basic income in place as better off people and nations would see it as 'not their fight', so are unlikely to push hard for it. Targeting payments only to people or countries with low incomes may also change the way we see global basic income in the long run. The longest-lasting and best defended public goods tend to be those that are available to everyone, as people consider access to them to be their right. Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is a key example: every UK resident uses the health service for free, even if they are rich enough to pay for private health insurance. This helps people in Britain to consider free healthcare to be a human right, and they defend the NHS very strongly in political arenas. We want a global basic income that is fought for and defended with equal strength. This is much more likely if peoplesee it as an universal human right, that is provided to all of us as our fair share from the global commons.
Poverty exists everywhere
High- and middle-income countries still have some poverty, including a shocking amount of people who are utterly destitute. Being poor in a well-off country can be miserable, and the complicated and conditional social security systems that exist in most countries allow vulnerable people to slip through the cracks. If these people are excluded from receiving global basic income because of their nationality or country of residence, the whole system may be considered discriminatory or unfair. Rather than creating unity between the people of the world, it could sow division. This is a huge risk, and one that we can easily avoid by providing global basic income to people as a fundamental human right.
Simple is beautiful
As soon as you draw boundaries between who can and cannot receive basic income, bureaucratic systems must be built up to police them. If access to global basic income were decided on a country-of-residence basis, rules would be needed to decide whether immigrants and emigrants still qualified, and even during wars or mass migrations, border police would need to collaborate closely with the global basic income authorities to ensure non-residents were not benefitting. If basic income was instead targeted by income level rather than country, armies of civil servants would be needed to assess each individual's income level and reassess it every time their circumstances changed. Courts, clerks and bailiffs would be needed to impose penalties if people failed to report changes or falsified information. And just as with existing social security systems, large amounts of money would be lost in administration and enforcement costs, while many of the most vulnerable people would miss out entirely because of difficulties in providing documents and navigating the system. The safety net would be, once again, full of holes.
Global basic income - for everyone, everywhere, no matter what
To achieve a global basic income that is non-bureaucratic, easy to access for the most vulnerable, and well-defended in the world political arena, we believe that it should be available to everyone, regardless of income, nationality or country of residence. Although the road towards this may contain a number of non-universal schemes, for instance large-scale pilot experiments, or phased implementations, we see these as steps along the way. The ultimate goal - the goal we will continue fighting for, until it is achieved - is a truly universal basic income, that supports us all, no matter who we are or where we live, to secure our human right to life.