On 11 January 2024, Prof. em. Dr. Thomas Straubhaar, one of the leading UBI proponents in the economic debate within the German-speaking world, came to Freiburg to give an evening lecture at the invitation of FRIBIS. “Die 3-E des Bedingungslosen Grundeinkommens aus ökonomischer Sicht: einfach, effektiv und effizient” (“The 3 E’s of Basic Income from an economist’s point of view (easy, effective and efficient). In his lecture, he gives insights into his relationship with Freiburg as well as the personal experiences and research findings that have made him an advocate of the UBI.

The Freiburg Connection

Prof. Straubhaar began his lecture by emphasising the important role that Freiburg has played throughout his academic career. As a young research assistant he had the opportunity to edit the galley proofs of Alfred Müller-Armack’s works, which were published by the Rombach publishing company in Freiburg. Müller-Armack’s vision of a social market economy that strives for a harmonious balance between market efficiency and social justice had a lasting impact on his economic ideas.

His time, in 1991/92, as a deputy professor at the Freiburg Chair of Economic Policy, known as the Friedrich von Hayek professorship, also left a lasting impression on a very personal level. The experience of having a significant part of his gross salary reduced by deductions for social security made it clear to him how much of a financial burden the existing social security system was. This personal exposure to the costs that employees bear without feeling any direct benefits reinforced his thoughts on alternative forms of social security and strengthened his interest in the concept of a basic income.

The Importance of a UBI

In his lecture, Straubhaar explains why, in his view, a UBI is not only an innovative response to current socio-economic challenges but also the logical consequence of the ordoliberal principles advocated by the so-called Freiburg School of Economics. He argues that a basic income can create the ideal link between individual freedom and social security by providing every citizen with a financial safety net, without hindering the dynamics of the market.