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A BIEN newsflash people. Every month, it's awesome. Scored the book and reading it. Awesome. I hate that word and the book isn't awesome it's just a book, leaning toward the boring side as all this stuff is becoming! But let's not be negative everyone...so here's a little article about the exciting new book...

Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, Basic Income: A radical proposal for a free society and a sane economy, Harvard University Press, 2017, 384 pp, 0 6740 5228 4, hbk, $29.95

This book revolves around two focal points: freedom, and Basic Income; and it might best be understood as a meditation on the relationship between them.

The introductory first chapter outlines what a Basic Income is and how it would tackle poverty, unemployment, and the quality of employment, and how it would enhance an individual’s freedom: freedom within the household, freedom in the employment market, freedom from bureaucratic intrusion… The relationship between ‘universal’ and ‘unconditional’ needs more work, and a Basic Income that varied across a country would not achieve the kind of redistribution that the authors would like to see achieved across Europe in chapter 8, as it would be conditional and therefore not a Basic Income, and would pose considerable practical difficulties: but otherwise this chapter offers a reliable discussion. Persistence with the significant amount of detail will reward the reader.

Chapter 2 discusses such alternatives as Negative Income Tax, Earned Income Tax Credits, and wage subsidies, all of which fare badly in a variety of respects when compared to Basic Income. Basic Income is preferred to a Basic Endowment because it protects our lifelong freedom against freedom badly exercised in our youth; and a reduced working week is criticised on the grounds that it would control the number of hours of paid employment that we were permitted to work, whereas a Basic Income would enhance our freedom at the same time as offering the possibility of a shorter working week. A Participation Income ought to have been tackled here as an undesirable alternative to Basic Income rather than later in the book as a feasible step on the way to Basic Income.

The following two chapters contain some of the relevant history: chapter 3 the history of social insurance and means-tested benefits, and chapter 4 the history of the Basic Income debate. Then chapter 5 argues that a Basic Income would be both ethical and just, with both of those criteria focused on the notion of individual freedom, and in particular on the freedom not to seek paid employment. Among the dialogue partners are John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Amartya Sen, Brian Barry, and Karl Marx. This is a chapter that the ‘philosophically inclined’ (p.113) reader will greatly enjoy, although whether the unphilosphically inclined will find that it satisfactorily answers the objections to Basic Income listed at the beginning of the chapter is an interesting question. Rather more likely to do that would be the fact that the lower marginal deduction rates that a Basic Income would deliver would make it more likely that someone would seek paid employment, not less. More practical considerations are permitted to intrude when a land value tax is found to be impractical; and the reader is plausibly counselled to seek a more just society rather than a happier one.

In chapter 6, on funding, experiments, and transitions, there is a usefully detailed discussion of the different marginal deduction rates that would be experienced by individuals at different points on the earnings spectrum if income tax rates were raised to pay for a Basic Income. The discussion suggests that such increases need to be kept to a minimum. A variety of natural and constructed experiments are discussed, and the difficulty of employing their results in debate on Basic Income is well argued. There is an equally useful discussion on the difficulty of transferring labour market models and empirical results from contexts within current tax and benefits systems to the context of the Basic Income debate. A number of taxation options are discussed: taxes on capital, on land, on other natural resources, on financial transactions, and on consumption. When the authors turn to implementation options, they correctly recognise that a ‘partial Basic Income’ (which ought in relation to their original definition of Basic Income to have been called a ‘small Basic Income’) would need to be the first step. They then consider options for how such a Basic Income might be implemented, and suggest that implementing it first for a single age cohort would create unfairness between cohorts (p.160). However, if the Basic Income replaced income tax personal allowances and other benefits then members of the relevant cohort would not necessarily receive any immediate financial advantage, and any perceived unfairness relating to a Basic Income’s various advantages over existing benefits systems would result in pressure to extend the Basic Income to neighbouring cohorts. This implementation method has more to be said for it than the authors realise.

Chapter 7 tackles political achievability. A survey of opinion poll results finds the public broadly in favour, except for Swiss, most of whom voted against the referendum resolution on Basic Income because they were not convinced that it would be possible to pay for the high Basic Income recommended by the campaigners. The chapter goes on to find growing understanding of the advantages of Basic Income among trades unionists ( – the UK’s Unite receives an honourable mention). The complexity of feminist, socialist and Green Basic Income debates is well understood. Somewhat incongruously the UK’s Liberal Democrats and Charles Murray are located together in a section titled ‘Liberals’. Separate sections on ‘Liberals’ and ‘Neoliberals’ would have made more sense. Similarly, the section entitled ‘Christians’ should have been two sections: ‘Christian Democrats’ and ‘Christians’. Social movements such as Occupy and the movement that promoted the European Citizens’ Initiative on Basic Income are correctly seen as significant locations for future debate on Basic Income.

The latter half of chapter 7 evaluates social policies that the authors believe would be useful steps on the way to a Basic Income. They recognise that a Participation Income (an income conditional on the recipient’s ‘participation’ in society) would face administrative challenges, and believe that these would result in the participation condition being phased out. They would not. The participation-testing of the entire population would be so unpopular that the Participation Income would soon be abolished along with any thought of it becoming a Basic Income. A Negative Income Tax, which the authors also believe could be a step towards a Basic Income, could suffer the same fate. As the authors recognise at the end of the chapter, the only viable first step on the way to a Basic Income would be a Basic Income paid at an easily fundable level to a single or multiple cohorts. Unfortunately, the last line returns to the possibility of ‘participation’ conditions. The temptation to suggest this should be resisted.

Both chapters 6 and 7 contain material on implementation routes. To have brought this material together into a single chapter titled ‘roads to Basic Income’ would have been helpful. As it is, issues relating to implementation look as if they are of secondary significance. They are not. They are where the debate is now going.

Chapter 8 ponders the difficulties that globalisation, immigration and emigration could pose for a Basic Income in a single country, and the authors speculate about the possibility of a global Basic Income. They suggest that a Europe-wide Basic Income funded by a financial transactions tax or a carbon tax would reduce the economic pressures that give rise to migration within Europe, and would therefore reduce levels of migration, and make it more likely that freedom of movement would survive. Such a Basic Income would also help to preserve the Euro’s viability.

This book is a triumph, and will remain the definitive liberal argument for a Basic Income for many years. At its heart is a utopia in which every individual experiences the maximum possible freedom, and Basic Income as a means to that end. ‘Equality’, ‘inequality’ and ‘social cohesion’ are missing from the index, and Basic Income’s promise of a more equal and more cohesive society might have been given a little more attention alongside the ubiquitous emphasis on individual freedom: but readers from a wide variety of ideological commitments will still find this book useful. It is well written, well referenced, and generally well organised, and it tackles many of the issues central to the current debate.

There will be a lot more books on Basic Income, as there should be given the increasingly diverse and widespread debate. Some of those books will be from the same standpoint as this one, others will be from a different ideological standpoint, and some will be from a more pragmatic point of view. Whatever standpoint they come from, they will find it difficult to exceed the intellectual quality of Basic Income: A radical proposal for a free society and a sane economy.

Here's a picture of the book!


Discussion 27 Comments

  • Bat Chainpuller 6th May 2017

    Ah, free and sane.

  • Lambert Meertens 7th May 2017

    This book review is originally from The Citizen’s Income Trust, a UK-based organization for promoting debate on a UBI. Their list of book reviews has over 300 entries. They have also been publishing a regular newsletter since 1998. Awesome!

  • Bat Chainpuller 7th May 2017

    Well, perhaps then it is worth linking this booklet directly, now, here, presently...


    The feeling is growing, in me, that if anything will be done in this world to change things for the better it will be the introduction of a basic income...perhaps because it appears the least offensive idea going around and at least has some history of advocacy among those on the conservative side of the fence. Couple that with the NSP and perhaps this is the most likely direction for change and not he imagined scenario of events described in Albert's latest fictional account, or any other overtly radical proposal. Or perhaps every country just needs a Castro!

  • Bat Chainpuller 9th May 2017

    Jeepers, you get to chapter two, basic income and its cousins and it's a mind fuck. It's like reading the business section of a newspaper. You do feel stupid when it all just goes over your head. This is part about of the problem, for me, with ideas like basic incomes and how it's to be funded, whilst maintaining of course, incentives to work and the very system that creates the problems in the first place, etc.. The differences between negative income tax, tax credits, minimum this and that and a basic income gets caught up in complex arguments monopolised by the economically minded intelligencia leaving people like me running for the hills. It's not really participatory, you kind of just have to defer to the expert in trust.

  • Bat Chainpuller 10th May 2017

    Below I write some more as I trudge through yet another fucking boring book on economics. I write it because they are my thoughts about things I think more important than reading yet another piece on Trump or on the left reflecting or taking stock or needing a mass populist movement or keeping a positive outlook. I write this comment as if talking face to face with some invisible friend unaware of its stupidity, repetitiveness, or if it has any really insightful value...it is just a thought, like woodshedding ideas that I hurl out inder the pretense of participation and learning.

    An interesting bit on reducing the work week and the three dilemmas the authors note. It is also interesting that the dilemmas revolve around maintaining productivity, labour costs and the cagey efforts to get around such things if a compulsory reduction in the work week were introduced. But I still can't help but feel that such dilemmas revolve around maintaining two things, a competitive market economy and hierarchical remuneration. There is never any question about property relations, that is, ownership of the means of production and stuff, in other words, socialism.

    But funnily enough a basic income comes to the rescue...so money does materialise to enable part time work, shared work or casual work or even no work for a while. But of course, shit kicking work that pays shit money is still there for those who wish to take it because it doesn't affect your basic income. So shit work can still be done by those who want to and with a smile heh!

    So what we have is a system that can't handle productivity losses and higher labour costs because the money isn't there to spread around to cover the reduced working week for everyone, but money for a basic income for everyone can be found in order to achieve a not dissimilar set of economic relations and circumstances that caused all the shit in the first place!

    Something in my brain says there is something fishy going on. So a basic income is really not about equality or freedom at all, it's about maintaining an inherently inequitable and anti-social flawed system that allows a few who stand on the tiny peaks of mountains with great views, or the heads of pins, high or extreme remuneration for their efforts, while those populating the cheap seats on the spacious floors way way below, where you one's vision is restricted and possibly fucking horrible, are still paid peanuts.

    Is this why a basic income is less offensive and more likely to be gain acceptance from people, particularly those who are already successful and smart who probablyhink they deserve a little more than those who aren't?

  • Bat Chainpuller 12th May 2017

    Jeepers, the more you read, the more you think, "just print enough money for everyone you turds...say 50,000 a year at least...or more...a million...what's the bloody difference between doing that or tying money to some arbitrary value added or labour, garnered via a bunch of arbitrary institutions set up to maintain the right for some to really enjoy life while others have to fight tooth and nail just to keep their heads above fucking water. If banks quite literally create money from nothing anyway, just go the whole hog and stop this philosophical psuedo intellectual dreary elongated discussion around economic concern and minutiae and shit, that is, it seems, only there to create entertainment for those who did well at school or think they have somehow transcended ordinary existence, where one can in fact still find the infinite in tha banal without a fucking passport, that in turn, drives people away from the idea of social change for the better rather than attract them to it, for fear of sounding like an idiot, or in the process of trying to understand it all, realising they have a personal defect that needs sorting out, thereby setting them back yet again, further from that destination of happiness and with a bunch of bills from their therapist. Now that's a sentence.

  • Bat Chainpuller 15th May 2017

    These articles are pretty interesting in that they point to the need for institutional changes above the 'floor' that a UBI provides.



  • Bat Chainpuller 16th May 2017

    "All the responses presented above accept, for the sake of argument, that it is “unfair for able-bodied people to live off the labor of others” and, underlying this indictment of free riding, embrace some conception of justice as reciprocity. Such a conception is compelling as a conception of cooperative justice—that is, as a characterization of the fair allocation of benefits and burdens of cooperation between participants in some cooperative venture. But it is not compelling as a conception of distributive justice—that is, as a characterization of the just distribution of entitlements to resources among the members of a society. It is only against the background of such a distribution that people can enter fair cooperative arrangements for mutual benefit, with the cooperative surplus distributed according to some criterion of cooperative justice. And it is to a conception of distributive justice, not of cooperative justice, that one must appeal in order to best defend the fairness of an unconditional basic income." 18

    Then, consider providing a basic income of no less than six figures a year, printed and not tied to anything at all. Just print 100,000 or 1000,000 for everyone and discuss the ramifications of it. If we really want equality for all, to get beyond the ideological brainwashing of the Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grid that creates doubt in citizens about egalitarianism, then put it out there...what would happen if everyone was given a basic income that said no one had to work...ever? What would hapoen when you couldn't go on a holiday because your car couldn't be fixed because your mechanic was no longer working, or the airport was closed because no one was working and you couldn't get milk from the local store because the sign on the door said, closed due to a basic income and televisions and radios were not working because there were no disc jockeys and they couldn't get a signal out anyway because the people who make sure all that stuff continued to operate had retired due to a basic income.

    Why all this pussyfooting around about the amount and how to do it? Really, what's the reason? Is it "we" don't really want material equality and freedom and just a kind of moral equality will do?

  • Bat Chainpuller 17th May 2017

    I know I'm harping on here while I trudge through this exciting book, but I may as well put my thoughts out there. I know I should be keeping my thoughts to myself or doing this face to face as an aside to organising somewhere and not online but that's too hard to do, too time consuming, plus there's no one to do it with.

    "Compared to Barry’s or Sen’s, the advantage of Rawls’s and Dworkin’s conceptions of distributive justice, from our standpoint, is that, in addition to articulating fundamental ethical intuitions we share, they provide definite sets of principles from which the justification of an unconditional basic income can conceivably be derived, if only under some plausible factual assumptions. Once Rawls’s difference principle is interpreted in opportunity-egalitarian fashion and its “productivist” bias corrected through the inclusion of leisure among the social and economic advantages, it can be viewed, in conjunction with the principle of fair equality of opportunity, as an alternative interpretation of our “real freedom for all.” And so can Dworkin’s equality of resources, once the “pro-Crazy” bias is corrected in what he believes should follow from his hypothetical insurance scheme. Why do their theories nonetheless lead to conclusions about basic income different from ours? Essentially because they are being spelled out against the background of different stylized pictures of our societies and of the inequalities that prevail within them."

    I remember reading Van Parijs regarding a basic income many years ago and being bamboozled by philosophical stuff and it's happening again here. I still haven't read Rawls and was even bamboozled by Hahnel mentioning him in one of his books. Maybe I'm not bright enough to get it all and I know I will have to go over this whole section where the 'liberal-egalitarians' take over the discussion with complicated philosophical arguments but really, this whole section is just pissing me off.

    Maybe smart people do this sort of thing on purpose to keep the riff raff out by default. "Hey, I can't help it people don't understand what I'm saying. My points are really quite simple but if they don't want to be part of the discussion then that's their problem."

    Oh well, I bought the book so may as well kerp trudging through it.

  • Bat Chainpuller 18th May 2017

    Jesus, I've just left the philosophical chapter where liberal-egalitarians, left-libertarians, market-communists and real-libertarians were duking it out around various philosophical texts on justice and the like only to be dumped head first into the chapter on how to fund it...economics...aarrrgggghhhhh!

  • Bat Chainpuller 19th May 2017

    "From an early stage, several proponents of a basic income advocated its funding through printing fresh currency." (At last, I was starting to think I was the only one...so there are other idiots out there!)

    "This idea has usually been dismissed as relying on simplistic economics [kind of guy I am] and as overlooking the deleterious effect of the inflationary pressures its implementation would generate [if by helping people live well, with a smile, causes deleterious effects then maybe the system is fucked]. However, there are two sound rationales for funding either a very modest or a temporary basic income through money creation. 43 The first one, articulated most systematically by Joseph Huber, supposes that central banks can regain, at the expense of private banks, the monopoly of money creation. They can then issue drawing rights to all residents. If these match the annual growth of the real economy, they will not cause inflation. If they exceed it, they will, but a moderate, non-accelerating inflation rate is arguably a good thing to “grease” cyclical fluctuations and structural change."

    "Yet, this argument makes room for a sensible monetary funding at a level that would need to fluctuate and could not exceed by much the rate of real growth. 44"

    "The second rationale requires a far less radical reform of the banking system. It received fresh attention as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and the prolonged stagnation that followed in Europe, despite extremely low, sometimes even negative rates of interest. “Quantitative easing for the people,” a direct lump-sum payment to all residents of the Eurozone, has been proposed by mainstream economists as a way of stimulating the economy by boosting consumer demand that could work more quickly and more effectively than the usual technique operating through interest rates and private banks. 45 As a tool for kickstarting the economy, however, this egalitarian “helicopter money” can only be of limited duration. Once the injection of purchasing power—in one go or in a short sequence of payments—has done its job, it should be discontinued. 46"

    See, it's always about how much money there is to go around...money that is generated by the economy that causes the bullshit in the first place because it, the economic system, is inadequate, in fact institutionally incapable, to provide for everyone equally....while the notion of printing money, or public creation of it rather than private, coming from outside the system, highlights our inadequacy as human beings to provide for everyone equally as concern is not for such things like their well being, but the well being of the existing market capitalist economy through which the well being of humans is meant to evolve. This is the absurdity of the system and subsequent reformist ideas that merely tweak it in order to provide moments, and they are merely moments, of reprieve for most of society's citizens. It highlights how the market capitalist system is cared for like a small child that always grows or has grown into an insidious monster terrorising the very people it serves while looking after a very small few who continue to clothe it, feed it and nurse it in bad times, due to the extraordinary and exhorbitant benefits they receive in doing so [see among these, liberal egalitarian Nobel prize winning economists].

    Most on the right advocate a basic income, not because they really care about people, or of lowering or ridding the world of barriers of entry into pretty much most things that provide real enjoyable creative and interesting activity for more people, but to kick start an ailing economy that has never done a good job, and never will, in the first place for providing equally for all...BECAUSE THAT WAS NEVER ITS INTENTION.

    • Bat Chainpuller 19th May 2017

      Not that an economy can have an 'intention'. Which begs the question...

  • Bat Chainpuller 26th May 2017

    "In any event, we very much doubt that a generous unconditional basic income will ever be introduced anywhere as a result of a big triumphal revolution. It is more likely to enter through the back door. 157 Certainly it will start with a modest level, and perhaps with some participation condition. Perhaps it will also make its way to reality via a negative income tax, so as to reduce the impact on political feasibility of two powerful yet illusory impressions created by a basic income paid upfront. As described in chapters 1 and 2 , these are the impression that the tax burden imposed by the state on the citizens is massively increased, and the impression that tax money is wasted on the rich. 158 On the other hand, once in place, the very universality of a basic-income scheme may contribute to its political resilience. 159 Whether aiming for the front gate or for the back door, the endeavor to institute a basic income needs a vision: not just a dream but an attractive social model, duly scrutinized as regards both its fairness and its sustainability. This model must be articulated and subjected to debate in the public space of our liberal democracies. Serious hope for a fairer society is permitted only if power relations are tamed by the operation of a sufficiently effective deliberative democracy. But more is needed than the vision of a sustainable social model that can be accepted by free and equal persons.

    In addition to visionaries, activists are needed—ass-kickers, indignados, people who are outraged by the status quo or by new reforms or plans that target the poor more narrowly, watch them more closely, and further reduce the real freedom of those with least of it. There have been and will be plenty of such plans, several of which have become or will become reality. 160 Activists are indispensable to denounce them, to resist them, to push them back. Their fight is likely to be more effective if it is not driven, or not exclusively driven, by self-interest, but also animated by a sense of justice, and if it is not purely defensive but guided by a credible conception of a desirable future, by a coherent set of proposals that are not just the preservation of the status quo or a return to an idealized past, by a realistic utopia. The activists’ protests and struggles are being strengthened by the availability of a compelling vision of this sort, but the vision would have no chance of becoming reality if not for them.

    It would also have no chance of becoming reality if not for a third category of actors: all the tinkerers, opportunists, piecemeal engineers, and people who have enough of a vision to know in which direction one needs to go. These are people with enough of a feeling for social realities to know what can trigger effective activist energy, but who also have an eye for the cracks in the present system—for the crises that create windows of opportunity, for the conjunctures that are bad enough to feed a widespread desire for change (but not so bad that short-term emergency measures are all that is possible). Good tinkerers are keenly aware of administrative manageability, but also of political palatability; they accurately sense what political actors will dare to do and what they will be proud of having done. They do not recoil at the thought of unholy alliances. 161 They are constantly on the lookout for fruitful compromises, for ways of turning apparent regressions into springboards for further progress, and for steps that can be achieved but not sustained, because they generate new problems that can be solved only through further steps in the desired direction.

    The opportunities to be seized are crucially dependent on the specific problems encountered by each country’s tax-and-transfer systems, on the vagaries of its political game, and on the tenor of its public discourse. There is therefore no general answer to the question of the best back-door strategy, no answer that can claim validity for all national contexts. For the economic reasons outlined in chapter 6 , however, our guess is that it will often involve the cautious introduction of a strictly individual but partial basic income, keeping some parts of existing public assistance system as conditional top-ups. And for political reasons explained in this chapter, our guess is that it may also have to involve, if only for window-dressing purposes, some sort of participation condition."

    The above sounds like there needs to be some sort of large coherent movement with cogent arguments for change. Basic income with vision attached or something.

    It's all a bit vague really, the above that is, but it doesn't sound revolutionary. But it appears that even getting a basic income would be a massive struggle. Even getting the "left" to agree to it in some basic form.

    I'm no longer sure whether this book has given me more hope or discouraged me even more. IOPS was a disaster, but its basic vision wasn't too bad, if not perhaps a little utopian for people like Van Parjis. But it seems normal that something like IOPS's bision would be harder to get support for than a basic income, yet a basic income s pretty hard to get universal support for!

    I just don't know anymore. The "left" it seems is best at shooting itself in the foot perpetually. A speech made by Howard Zinn at some school he returned to and published recently at some sites talked of not being discouraged. Well, I am. I suppose I shouldn't be but why not? I see nothing on the horizon that would even remotely suggest that the sort of thing outlined in the quote above is close to happening or some left "we" is getting itself together.

    A "left we" working together with optimism? Look what happened here at IOPS. Folded pretty quick. Did Occupy create a strong coherent "we"? I don't see it. The Arab Spring seemed to just retreat into the usual state of affairs. Or perhaps I just don't read or pay attention enough. A book by Mark Bray, I think, showed that even Occupy participants weren't particularly unified or sure about what kind of future they wanted regarding an economy or whether they were even anti-capitalist or markets or capitalism were bad things.

    Vision is just not the sort of thing that unites people. Even a basic income can't do it and it doesn't often say much about what kind of economy it is holding up and allowing to continue in its merry ways.

    The NSP is trying to be well mannered in its approach to system change, gathering every idea under the sun they can, it seems preferring to promote the ones that appear less radical or controversial. In a chapter in a recent publication of theirs they talk of planning in an economy and while Albert and Hahnel get a mention as further reading, they get absolutely no mention at all in the actual chapter. That I find absolutely ridiculous considering what there economy is and what it offers in terms of possibilities and for debate and dialogue that could be fruitful.

    I also find it a bit strange that Z for instance doesn't publish everything the NSP puts out re vision in solidarity with it, regardless of whether it agrees with it. At least that would promote system change more, rather than readers being inundated with articles focusing on very specific issues like Syria and others that seem designed more to illustrate a writers knowledge on a topic rather than much else, usually sparking comments reflecting readings leanings and knowledge regarding the matter, but leaving many like me unsure what or who to believe.

    But if people really want to promote shared programs or coherent ideas re a unified left movement, a real "we" that can grow towards "revolution" or even change via the back door, then, shouldn't more be written and promoted that helps grow that kind of thinking. I do not see it. But then, I've stopped looking for it. Much like everyone here has also stopped. Just stopped. Stopped. Nothing again.

    I mean, I read this book and do not get a feeling that anything much is going to change soon. Nor does this book or even the NSP make me feel that citizen participation on a grand scale, about how things change, will take place. I get the feeling that real change, slow and reformist, will continue to be the domain of a certain intellectual class, much like the way everything works now and will happen just as a matter of historical course, with radical revolutionary ideas/visions, whether good or bad, just shoved aside or binned as quickly as they are brought up.

    When the NSP or Van Parjis talk of participation or ordinary citizens being part of deliberative democracy, I don't get a real sense that involvement will really be widespread nor really paid attention to. Not only because there really isn't a mechanism through which most of the public can participate or be listened to but there is not even one whereby they can access all the new and diverse ideas that people are putting out, re system change, that enable them to really get to understand them with help from those who do know about them. The NSP website does not provide participation and their teach ins are really not enough, obviously US centric and occur only here and there. Logistics of face to face organisation is incredibly limiting.

    Just organising something makes no sense to me. Just joining some group or org makes no sense to me. Just ringing up talk back radio seems pointless to me. Listening to Joe Toscano every Wednesday seems pointless to me. Reading everything on Z seems pointless. Moving around left marginal websites seems pointless to me. Going on some random even if well organised and big protest or march seems pointless to me. Reading this book about a basic income has been informative but seems pointless in the end without anyfuckingone to really discuss it at length with. Posting these comments seems pointless to me. Starting a blog or posting blogs here seems pointless to me.

    Zinn wanted people to not get discouraged, to maintain hope and involvement. Makes simple sense. Sounds reasonable but not realistic. Not realistic at all. People have limits and genetic endowments that make the notion of being positive all the time seem absurd. Even those, in my experience, who talk of being positive all the time, and chastise those who are cynical and negative are often hiding a lot of shit that eventually gets the better of them. No, Zinn speeches just makes me feel guilty about becoming discouraged. But I see nothing about the "left" that constitutes a "we" coherent enough and with a cogent inspiring vision for the future that would attract enough people to it with momentum that would encourage me. And IOPS is depressing. I see no real mechanism through which the public at large could access revolutionary ideas and visions and further participate in debates and discussions, as suggested in the quote above to lift me out of discouragement.

    And if even this site cannot maintain even friendly banter and chatting for any real length of time, any real sense of some kind of even virtual friendship, regardless of the odd argument or emotional outburst from people like me, why the fuck would I be encouraged by anything. Have a look at the participatory publishing effort of Albert's, and see what the site has been reduced to. All those stupid bug type posts or whatever you call them, and they aren't even being removed. I think I was the last to post something and I cannot be bothered reading the bloody book anymore because I find it bloody depressing to read and lonely being on the site.

    Move on I suppose. Start something myself, as Joe T would probably say, as if that's an easy thing to do or that the radical revolutionary environment is a bloody inviting one and encouraging one. We tried that here in Melb with an IOPS chapter!

    But I suppose one should listen to that horrible song by that ex Genesis guy, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and not give up. But why? It's an awful song and so many gave up on this place pretty quick, or didn't even try.

    Maybe I am mouthy and negative and angry and stupidly publicly venting, but why the fuck not...everyone else just seems to be silent. Or is that a kind of maturity about how one should go about things, something I apparently haven't learnt. It would have been nice to be politically astute very early on and active and build one's life around activism and revolution, meeting similar people who become friends and mentors who help one build a mature approach to revolution, but for me that wasn't to be. I have always been a clown or court jester type, eschewing maturity as if its a horrible disease that turns people into predictable boring robots that continually utter banal and inane one liners masquerading as wisdom. A group I just don't want to join, but really know I should for some bloody reason.

    I came into this activist shit very late and it has knocked me around a bit and fucked me over a tad as well. Maybe I'm weak. Weaker than those who remain involved in their small groups or voluntary social commitments or there radical activist careers they have built and continue to try and build or those constantly and courageously fighting for the downtrodden, like the George Lakeys of the world and countless invisible others, but that makes me part of a pretty large group of people then, a large group who the committed and undiscouraged have failed to win over let alone unify.

    I could write something positive and encouraging I suppose (or perhaps I actually can't), but would it really do anything? Really? Perhaps it rubs off on people and being negative does the same. But where is everyone who were once here? Where have they gone? What are they doing? Who are they talking to? What great things are they doing? What changes have they made? What positive stuff is going down out there? What's the Organisation for a Free Society doing nowadays? Is this a place to oet people know? Of course not? Why write or inform anyone about anything here and try and turn this place into a useful virtual space? What a fucking stupid idea that would be. No, I'll go a create a whole stack of other virtual spaces that will whither and die just like this one. That's more fun. Then I will just move on. But never of course becoming discouraged.

    Perhaps I should just join some political party and vote now and then, or just ho simple and feel good about myself.

    Oh, I don't fucking know? Shit, may as well just go to fucking work, look after my dementia riddle mother on my day off and spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning stuff and sitting on the couch wondering whether to continue reading this fucking book or not or what kind of marvellous thing I could organise or group I could join, even though, like many who thought IOPS was a good idea, I don't have much time to contribute to it.

    What's the point? Really?

  • Bat Chainpuller 27th May 2017

    W.E.B. Dubois, ""Begin with art, because art tries to take us outside ourselves. It is a matter of trying to create an atmosphere and context so conversation can flow back and forth and we can be influenced by each other."

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 28th May 2017

    Perfect epitaph to YOPPS mate. ya gotta laugh. Begin with art, end with art. Pull the final bat chain on YOPPS I reckon. No you, no me, no Lamby, no Rod, no YOPPS. Lamby resuscitated the corpse just a little with a lotta effort, and now it's gone back to its usual rigor mortis again, which where it apparently wants to be. Face it folks. Now with an adjudication committee with nothing to adjudicate, a content curating committee with no content to curate, a financial committee with no finances to oversee, perfect. Like the Nobel bard sang: There's no success like failure and failure's no success at all. Said bye bye and thanks at the first YOPPS death in 14, so just a reprise: thankee James, Dave, Lambert, Kristi, Rod and Fred. See ya around.

    • Bat Chainpuller 28th May 2017

      Yeah looks that way Peter. Like the suck I am I will probably continue to post shit re NSP or BIEN when they come in. At least till the site looks like this


      I guess one can always join this,


      or perhaps not. If you're not from the US. At least Yotam Maron, who is/was an IOPS member is there. And his description of OFS could be IOPS...


      And it's got an education section on its website, kind of like this one I guess,


      Or maybe not.

      There's always this,


      which sounds like a far fetched description of how IOPS could have developed if it was only started at the "right" time and in the"right" way. But I actually think RPS/2044 is a description of an actual dream...and I hate that stuff...when people tell you there dreams. Unless you are Eugene Chadborne, then it's a hoot.

      This little forum here, shows all too well how some ideas go down if they come from Z or Michael Albert, hey,


      ...Must admit, Libcom just sounds like a bunch of fucking whiny over-smart and clever shitheads to me sometimes...really. Probably like how I sound to Miochael Albert and to everyone else! But it's an example, or evidence, at least for little old me, that notions of radical mass movements are pie in the sky calls. The nitty gritty gets in the way always.Particularly if made by experienced activists and organisers not willing themselves to put in the hard yards specifically for the development of such a thing over the long long haul. The inexperienced can't do it. Paul Street, someone who didn't enter the doors of this place, has written yet another tedious essay,


      which at the end calls for the need for a radical mass movement but delivers absolutely nothing as to how the fuck someone or someones might go about creating one. The IOPS experience at least rules out one option, hey?

      There's always What About Classism? too,


      There is a recent interview with John Baker there. Could have been put here too because I think Mark is still a member. He hasn't deactivated quite yet. Options open I guess. John Baker was or is a member of this place too. Wrote some great books on equality. Perhaps I should put them all in the library Lambert started. I'm sure we could all get a library up that looked like the Libcom one if we tried hard...but what would be the point. Libcom's already got one and Libcom sounds like such a fun place to hang out in the forums and shit, especially if you like to get you head kicked for being a dickhead and thinking Parecon may be of some value, or a shared program!

      I liked listening to this today,

      Ben always likes a good mix of music and politics. I like the sound of English accents.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 29th May 2017

      Movement Generation seems quite good too, just transition thinking, albeit US-focused as usual...:


    • Bat Chainpuller 28th May 2017

      "Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth."

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 29th May 2017

      oui, vive l'adorno et la dialectique!

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 28th May 2017

    what's the point...?
    i say that regularly too...but ever the glutton for punishment, i keep reading and i still get a lot out of your posts, bat...even if i'm not contributing myself...
    been going thru some difficult health issues that, unfortunately, will be ongoing, but still checking in here and still reading BW too...keep cleaving...!

    • Bat Chainpuller 28th May 2017

      Appreciated Kristi. One of the few who Peter mentioned. Sorry to hear about the health issues and I hope they are manageable. I feel them coming on myself but lucky so far!

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 29th May 2017

      Sorry to hear about the health issues, Kristi (gotta few myself as I hit 68...). All the best. Peter

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 30th May 2017

    it is what it is, right?
    and so, reading watson led to reading more about the situationists...g.debord...very interesting...especially from my own perspective as an artist...(one of the reasons i can't finish AC&C is becuz he keeps sending me off on tangents!)
    so many perspectives and angles to interpret/explain human social organization...even interpreting dialectics is a challenge...
    unfortunately, recognizing the spectacle all around us and not being able to even discuss/process it with anyone, face to face...makes it all seem so futile...and i'm back to, what's the point...?
    personal satisfaction, i guess...

  • Bat Chainpuller 30th May 2017

    Yeah, it's good to have a place like this to chat to those if like mind. Face to face is very restrictive for that and tome consuming. I prefer talking because you can be misunderstood through this medium. In some sense that's why I write the way I do...it's as close to what I would actually say in person. All the digression, jokes, stupidity,nonsense, emotion and real thoughts...not really a fan of the take ten deep breaths and gather your thoughts then say what you want to say calmly and stick to the topic or else...I actually DO NOT think most people think or talk or behave like that...and I'm not trying to say anything goes or go nuts here...all within certain wider margins of allowance and tolerance...sometimes this place was like being at school...Peter's Earth thread was far freer and comfortable...here sometimes, if you didn't stick to the threads topic you would be told what a distraction it is and to go elsewhere....understandable but really no great problem, and digressions and thrashing shit out, even if it goes off topic,sometimes is a natural way to learn...within reason (another phrase I have troube with), particularly true in the realm of music.

    I mean, why dud all that shit come out just then? Should I have kept it to myself? Been a little more mature about thingsperhaps? I don't know.

    I get distracted all the time from reading stuff...same thing...getting dragged hither and thither. Even this book on a basic income, nearly finished, was hard to get through...the boringness makes distarction attractive! Nearly finished it however, and it's not bad. Reasonably thorough from all aspects, history, types, funding, possibilities...it's funny how something so apparently basic, when explained generally, is easy to comprehend but when the nitty gritty, the details and minutae are looked at it's another story. The philosophical talk and economic speak come out and the experts get going. Even something like this becomes the domain of the academic or intellectual to a point, where I can see many of us more average citizens abstaining or withdrawing from involvement or trying to understand...so the type of basic income, or its form, its funding, the reasoning why x or y can or can't be done, becomes a matter for the intelligencia to a large degree. I guess it has to because it's being developed from within the economic system...just a reform that may have radical consequences but it can often be hard to tell what those consequences would be and radical ones are probably unlikely as those opposing it, or even conservatives advocating it, won't want the system that has privileged them to change that much...just keep going. Because let's face it, market capitalism is the best of all the worst.


    Some of the above was written straight from the top of the dome without much thought, other parts were more considered and breathing may have been involved along with concern for the effects of my thoughts on the welfare of those who may read this and be negatively effected.

  • Bat Chainpuller 1st Jun 2017

    Finally finished this bloody book after being completely distrscted by other things as I got close to the end, not the least a whole stack of Derek Bailey interviews. Not bad really. Apart from my own inability to penetrate thoroughly certain sections, the book covers pretty much everything I guess. It seems clearer now that a push for a basic income, seen as a utopian push by some, makes the push for a completely different economy like a Parecon seem "beyond"...Star Trekkian...like actualising warp speed or beaming Scotty up. It also seems the most feasible in terms of getting large mass support. Far more probable than any mythical radical mass movement, easy to write about but far less easy to achieve. It manouvers around and within the mainstream political corridors and is easier for people to accept and adjust to. It seems to me. Here is the epilogue.


    WE ARGUED IN THIS BOOK FOR THE introduction of a regular cash income, paid on an individual basis, without means test or work test, as a central ingredient of the institutional framework of a free, fair, and sustainable society. We indicated why a basic income is to be preferred to related proposals like a basic endowment, a negative income tax, or a compulsory reduction in the maximum length of the working week. We sketched the history of the other two models of social protection—public assistance and social insurance—and traced, against this background, the slow emergence of the basic income idea long before its sudden recent popularity.

    We considered the ethical objection that challenges the right to an income for those who choose not to work; spelled out the liberal-egalitarian conception of justice that provides a principled answer to this objection; explained why other conceptions of justice lead to different positions; and explored how rival philosophical approaches could arrive at the same position with alternative justifications. We examined the question of whether a substantial basic income is affordable and economically sustainable, and indicated why we believe a partial basic income funded by an income tax and supplemented by public assistance and social insurance top-ups is the best way forward in the context of a developed welfare state. We surveyed the attitudes toward basic income to be found in organized civil society and in political families; indicated what pushed some in the direction of basic income and some away from it; and made suggestions about how to overcome indifference and hostility. Finally, we recognized that globalization, while contributing to the need for a basic income, does not make its implementation any easier—and we explored various strategies for dealing with this unprecedented challenge.

    Is what we have been arguing for utopian? It certainly is, first in the sense that it doesn’t exist and never has existed anywhere at a significant level, giving people good cause to suspect it is impossible. It is also utopian in the sense that it is a vision of a better world. Looking across the histories of our societies’ institutional frameworks, it is clear that many of the elements we take for granted today were utopian in this twofold sense not that long ago. These elements include the abolition of slavery, the taxation of personal income, universal suffrage, free universal education, and the existence of the European Union. There is a feature that the basic income utopia possesses more than any other: that its implementation would facilitate many other utopian changes. It would support the realization of many ideas, both individual and collective, both local and global, that increasingly find themselves crushed under the pressure of market-imposed competitiveness.

    Anyone doubting the power of utopian thinking would be well advised to listen to one of the main intellectual fathers of the “neoliberalism” that has been declared triumphant these days by its friends and even more by its foes. In 1949, long before anyone guessed such triumph was in the offing, Friedrich Hayek wrote: “The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of the socialists is that it was their courage to be Utopian which gained them the support of the intellectuals and thereby an influence on public opinion which is daily making possible what only recently seemed utterly remote.” The lesson Hayek learned from the socialists, we must now learn from him: “We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia.” 1 Correct, Mr. Hayek. But the free-society utopia we need today differs profoundly from yours. It must be a utopia of real freedom for all that frees us from the dictatorship of the market and thereby helps save our planet.

    Creating this utopia of a truly free society, needless to say, cannot be reduced to instituting an unconditional basic income. No less important are universal basic health care and education, lifelong learning, universal access to quality information on the internet, a healthy environment, and smart town planning. All these are vital to enhancing what we can do on our own, but even more important—because what we can individually do will still remain very little—to expanding what each of us can do in collaboration with others, both nearby and far away, including through meaningful democratic participation. But the sturdy floor provided to individuals by an unconditional basic income is key.

    And how shall we reach this utopia? Probably through a series of moves that admit change through the back door more often than through the front gate. Machiavellian thinking will need to play a significant role, in two distinct senses. We will need to think, as Machiavelli did in his Discorsi, about how the design of political institutions affects the political feasibility of our proposals. And we will need to think, as “Machiavellians” are reputed to do, about how best to exploit political opportunities. Rather than hope for one spectacular event of earth-shattering scale, we should bank on thousands of occasions cleverly used for short-term relief accruing to long-term progress. There will be disappointments and regressions, as there were in the fights for universal suffrage and against slavery. Utopian visions do not turn real in a day, but they guide us and strengthen us through the effort. And one day we shall wonder why it took us so long to fit beneath our feet a solid floor on which we can all stand. What used to be regarded as the fantasy of a handful of lunatics will then have become an irreversible and self-evident achievement."

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 2nd Jun 2017

    they make valid points...ironically, a lot of the same reasoning i use to promote/defend parecon...
    but bien may be more palatable/plausible to more people...a stepping stone?
    listened to the late lunch post above...wish more people would read philosophy...and think beyond the spectacles...