FRIBIS-Annual-Conference 2022: Impressions and review

The FRIBIS Annual Conference 2022 was entitled “Basic Income and Development” and took place in Freiburg from October 10 to 12 October 2022. In view of the current global crises, the conference posed the question to what extent a basic income could provide viable solutions and generate new perspectives. Would it help to use environmental resources more sustainably, preserve biodiverse habitats and make social communities more resilient? Could it assist people in (post-) conflict regions to establish or secure social peace? Or would it have, as some critics suggest, the opposite effect instead? What are the potentials and risks of a basic income for development practices in the Global South, and how do they relate to concepts of redistribution and justice? These and other questions were addressed at the conference.

Due to the global dimension of the topic, the conference focused on international issues, with the collaboration of scholars and representatives from civil society ensuring a lively exchange.

In addition to three keynote lectures by Sarath Davala, Miram Laker-Oketta and Ugo Gentilini, there were a total of 19 panel sessions in various formats. Thanks to technical support from Meeting Owls, hybrid panels were also offered, allowing participants to discuss the topic with people from all over the world, in Freiburg. Two of the keynotes are now available as films (created by Enno Schmidt) on the FRIBIS-YouTube Channel.

The whole FRIBIS team was very happy with the engagement of the participants and we are already looking forward to the next Annual Conference!

Job Vacancy “Research Assistant” (m/f/d)

The Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS) at the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg is seeking to fill the following position as of 1 March 2023, or by agreement.

PhD research position (m/f/d)

The position will be limited to 2 years initially. You are welcome to apply early and several months before graduating.

Your tasks

  • (joint) publications on empirical questions relating to the effects of an unconditional basic income (labor market incentives, fiscal impact).
  • in this context, the implementation of a PhD project is possible and explicitly desired.
  • support in project administration and science management.
  • collaboration in the corresponding FRIBIS UBILI team.
  • co-supervision of final theses.

Keynote of Sarath Davala (BIEN): Towards a Basic Income Society: what humankind needs to do before we get there

Dr. Sarath Davala from Hyderabad, India, Chaiof the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), brings in his presentation at the FRIBIS Annual Conference 2022 the current crises together with the universal unconditional basic income (UBI). For him, the UBI is the necessary -not utopian -societal basis for overcoming the challenges.

 For his presentation he focuses on the crisis of the concept of work, the equation of work and income with gainful employment, the takeover of jobs by technology, the socio-political crisis, the ethical, moral, cultural crisis and the climate crisis. It also includes the crisis between the state and the people. Do we need a new social contract? The UBI would be this necessary new social contract.

Miriam Laker-Oketta: Basic Income and its role in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss

An exciting and lively talk by Miriam Laker-Oketta, research director of GiveDirectly, the world’s largest basic income project, on the role basic income plays in fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity.

From her rich experiential knowledge, Miriam Laker-Oketta provides real-life, real-world insight into what difference a basic income actually makes to people and their behavior, and how that affects climate change mitigation and biodiversity. GiveDirectly is now active in 11 countries. Miriam Laker-Oketta limits herself to Uganda, with cross-references to Kenya, Rwanda, and Congo.

After a brief introduction to the person by Prof. Sonny Mumbunan of the University of Indonesia and an introduction to the topic by Miriam Laker-Oketta, an impromptu audience poll follows, with half of the audience making suggestions as to why a basic income might be beneficial for climate and biodiversity, and the other half raising concerns of a contrary nature. Ms. Laker-Oketta then presents her solid and astonishing research findings, also exposing double standards and out-of-life claims against African countries. Her delight in research and the far-reaching as well as practical nature of her presentation make the lecture an experience and a gain in knowledge. After the lecture, basic income researchers and activists from various countries have their say with questions in the plenary discussion. Here, too, Laker-Oketta’s answers are illuminating and furthering. She fills mere suppositions with concrete empirical values, elicits the open research questions and elatedly leads to the right questions.

(Film, 80 min., Enno Schmidt)

 

Proceedings of the 2021 FRIBIS Annual Conference published: Financial Issues of a Universal Basic Income (UBI)

In 2021, the first FRIBIS annual conference took place in Freiburg, Germany. It was dedicated to the topic “Financial Issues of a Universal Basic Income”. Now the contributions have been published by LIT Verlag Berlin, edited by Bernhard Neumärker and Jessica Schulz.

“The first annual FRIBIS conference in October 2021 aimed to take into account the growing economic interest in financial issues in basic income research. After all, research on Unconditional Basic Income is significantly influenced by this development of monetary policy issues and, in turn, contributes just as influentially to the discussion. In addition to the economically focused main sessions, the two-day conference also included parallel sessions of other FRIBIS teams, in which prominent guests of the basic income discourse presented and discussed together with the interdisciplinary and international teams and members of FRIBIS.”

Bibliographic information:

  • ISBN: 978-3-643-91512-2
  • Pages: 344
  • Binding: Softcover
  • Price (Print): 19,90
  • Price e-book download: 14,90

Click here to go to the publisher’s homepage

About the editors

Bernhard Neumärker is Professor of Economic Policy and Director of the Götz Werner Professorship for Economic Policy and New Ordoliberalism at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. In 2019, he founded the Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS) for interfaculty and interdisciplinary research on Unconditional Basic Income in a network of six institutes of the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg.

Jessica Schulz is a doctoral candidate at FRIBIS in educational science and, as part of the FRIBIS staff responsible for publication management.

Workshop announcement: Universal Basic Income’s Social-Ecology? Theory and Evidence revisited

In face of the growing ecological, social and economic crisis we are witnessing, it is timely to revisit universal basic income theory and evidence on the instrument’s contested social and ecological consequences.

To do this, and as a kick-off event to the UBITrans’s lecture series on this topic (2022/2023), the UBITrans Team has organized a one-day workshop bringing into dialogue experts from the fields of economy, political science, sociology and psychology to critically examine some of the core hypotheses and its underlying assumptions in the debate on basic income’s potential social and ecological consequences.

The workshop will take place at Freiburg University (room R 01 012, Rempartstr. 16, 1st floor), on Tuesday, 25th October 2022, 9:00-16:30.

FRIBIS at the BIEN Congress 2022: Basic Income in Times of Crisis and Transformation

From September 26 to 28, 2022, the 21st Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) will take place in Brisbane (Australia). Numerous members of FRIBIS will participate as speakers at the congress, which will be dedicated to the theme “What can basic income offer in a time of crisis and transformation?”.

The FRIBIS Gender and Universal Basic Income and Gender (UBIG) team will give a dedicated panel session on “Re-envisioning a feminist basic income framework” (27/09/22). Team coordinator Jessica Schulz and team members Toru Yamamori (Doshisha University), Almaz Zelleke (New York University, Shanghai), and Chloe Halpenny (University of Cambridge) will be participating, as well as Clem Davies, who works at the Götz Werner Chair for Economic Policy and Constitutional Economic Theory (GWP).

FRIBIS Director Bernhard Neumärker and Jette Weinel (FRIBIS team Basisgeld) will speak on “The Implications of UBI on Utility Functions and Tax Revenue” (9/27/22). Bernhard Neumärker will also give a talk on “The Net Basic Income: Towards A Resilient Governance and Welfare State Reform during a Crisis” (9/27/22) and participate in the Götz Werner Tribute Panel (9/28/22). The latter panel will also feature talks by FRIBIS Executive Director and GWP staff member Enno Schmidt and GWP Visiting Professor André Presse.

Gudrun Kaufmann, a member of the care team at FRIBIS, will discuss “Narrative Economics as an Approach to Universal Basic Income?” (9/26/22). Simon März, coordinator of the Expedition Basic Income team, will provide “A critical analysis of a proposed extensive UBI pilot study in Germany: is it advisable and how can municipalities finance it” (09/27/22).

The conference is not open to the public, but only to registered conference participants.

Philippe Van Parijs about BIEN: The precarious beginnings of a worldwide network

Image: BIEN founding conference, Louvain-la-Neuve, September 1986. Facing the lecture room, from left to right: Bill Jordan, Claus Offe, Philippe Van Parijs, Nic Douben, Annie Miller, Greetje Lubbi, Riccardo Petrella

Basic Income Earth Network has made a crucial contribution to the worldwide awareness of the idea of an unconditional basic income. For this to happen, perseverance was key. But also technology.

Philosopher Philippe Van Parijs reflects on current events and debates in Brussels, Belgium and Europe

A striking — and moving — initiative was taken last month by the executive committee of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). They wanted to meet BIEN’s founders, or at least those of them who were still alive and who they could trace. The first question that came up was how the founders managed to find one another. Good question. In pre-internet times, this was not a straightforward matter. Nor was the running of an international network.

The idea of a universal, unconditional income had occurred to me in December 1982, as a clever way of addressing the problem of structural unemployment without relying on endless growth. I called it “allocation universelle”. The idea was so clever, I thought, that it must have occurred to others before me. How can I find them? Long before Google search, tips from colleagues were the best bet.

It did not take long for a friend at the OECD to send me a working paper published in 1979 at the University of Aston (UK) under the title “Can a social wage solve unemployment?”. The name was different, but the idea was the same and the argument similar. I immediately wrote to the author, a certain Stephen L. Cook. Alas, the letter came back. The addressee had just died, and his paper did not contain a single reference. Later tips proved more fruitful. They led to a Dutch trade union leader, a Capri-based Swedish aristocrat, the editor of a French magazine defending a “social income” since the 1930s and a handful of others.

I sent them all a personal letter inviting them to “the first international conference on basic income”, which was held in Louvain-la-Neuve in September 1986. Most of the participants did not know of one another beforehand, but their convergence and enthusiasm far exceeded what was needed for the wish to create an association to emerge. The Basic Income European Network was born, with an irresistible acronym: BIEN.

But then the real work had to start. A network cannot exist without a newsletter. In English only, we decided, but with the firm resolve to minimize the under-representation of what was written or happening in other languages: not an easy job. Three times per year, the newsletter had to be printed, stapled, slipped into an envelope on which a stamp had to be stuck before the pile of newsletters was taken to a post box. To cover the cost, an annual membership fee had to be collected, often in cash and by post so as to avoid prohibitive (pre-euro) bank charges.

A network cannot thrive without personal meetings. Every two years, BIEN organized a conference. Announcement, programme and registrations were sent by (quite often unreliable) post. In most cases, if you wanted copies of your paper to be available to other participants, you had to print them yourself and bring them along in your suitcase. And before the rise of low-cost flights, traveling to the conference could take a long time.

Despite all these logistic hurdles, BIEN reached the 21st century with more and more newsletter subscribers and conference participants coming from outside Europe. They soon started a campaign for turning BIEN into a global network. Forget it, was my first reaction. Operating on a European scale was already overstretching our modest human resources. Moreover, it seemed to me that an unconditional basic income could only make sense in countries with a developed welfare state. On both counts, I was proved wrong.

Firstly, the rapid spread of internet made it possible to reach a fast-growing number of BIEN members very cheaply by e-mail, to send them the newsletter electronically and to set up a website. The idea of a viable global network was no longer ludicrous. Secondly, in January 2004, Senator Eduardo Suplicy, chief campaigner for the globalization of BIEN, managed to convince president Lula to sign a law that committed Brazil to the gradual introduction of a universal basic income. I attended the ceremony — and capitulated.

In September 2004, at its 10th congress held in Barcelona, BIEN became the Basic Income Earth Network. Since then, it has done far more than just survive. It now has affiliate networks in 30 countries, runs a website with tens of thousands of visitors and has switched to organizing a congress every year rather than every two years. The next one, for the first time in hybrid format, will be held in Brisbane, Australia.

All this is due in the first place to a wonderful succession of executive committees made up of committed and competent volunteers, not least to the committee currently in charge, which the founders had the pleasure to meet last month. But technology also play an important part in the story. Just one final example.

Where did I attend last month’s meeting? In a car driven by my wife on a French motorway, with one of my grandsons taking part in his own way from the back seat. I could not only hear, but also see on a screen I held in my hands both my fellow founders and our successors, the latter in places as far apart as India, California and Japan. Totally unimaginable when we founders first met 36 years ago. Mind-boggling.

(This text was originally published in The Brussels Times, Wednesday, 17th August 2022. We share it here with kind permission by the author Philippe Van Parijs.)

NetFi team coordinator Teodoro Criscione co-authored two papers on community currencies

Both papers are available online:

E. S. Mattsson, T. Criscione and W.O. Ruddick, Sarafu Community Inclusion Currency, 2020-2021. Scientific Data 9:426, Nature Publishing Group, 2022. Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-022-01539-4

We describe a dataset of account information and detailed transaction records for a digital complementary currency in Kenya. This “Sarafu system” initially encompassed several local, physical community currencies, which began transitioning to a feature-phone mobile interface in 2017. One unit of “Sarafu” is roughly equivalent in value to a Kenyan shilling. The published data includes anonymized account information for around 55,000 users and records of all Sarafu transactions conducted from January 25, 2020 to June 15, 2021. Transactions totaling around 300 million Sarafu capture various economic and financial activities such as purchases, transfers, and participation in savings and lending groups. So-called “chamas” are key to the operation of the Sarafu system and many such groups are labeled in the data. Describing this data contributes to research on the operation of community currencies, monetary systems, and economic networks in marginalized, food insecure areas. The observation period includes the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and several documented pilot projects and interventions.

E. S. Mattsson, T. Criscione and F.W. Takes, Circulation of a Digital Community CurrencyarXiv preprint2207.08941, 2022. Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2207.08941 (in review!!!)

Circulation is the characteristic feature of successful currency systems, from community currencies to cryptocurrencies to national currencies. In this paper, we propose a network analysis methodology for studying circulation given a system’s digital transaction records. This is applied to Sarafu, a digital community currency active in Kenya over a period that saw considerable economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representing Sarafu as a network of monetary flow among the 40,000 users reveals meaningful patterns at multiple scales. Circulation was highly modular, geographically localized, and occurring among users with diverse livelihoods. Network centrality highlights women’s participation, early adopters, and the especially prominent role of community-based financial institutions. These findings have concrete implications for humanitarian and development policy, helping articulate when community currencies might best support interventions in marginalized areas. Overall, networks of monetary flow allow for studying circulation within digital currency systems at a striking level of detail.

Basic Income and Sustainability: Perspectives from Constitutional Economics and Cultural Studies (Tandem Lecture)

On July 6, 2022, Bernhard Neumärker, Director of the Götz Werner Chair for Economic Policy and Constitutional Theory and head of FRIBIS, and Sebastian Kaufmann, Research Center “Nietzsche Commentary” of the Heidelberg Academy Of Sciences and Humanities and member of the FRIBIS team “Participation and UBI“, gave an interdisciplinary tandem lecture on the connection between UBI and sustainability.

In the first part of the lecture, Bernhard Neumärker discussed the connection between Basic Income and social sustainability from an economic perspective. In the second part, Sebastian Kaufmann explored from a cultural studies perspective the interconnections between the narratives surrounding UBI and ecological sustainability. The lecture was given as part of the event series “Alles im Blick? Interdisziplinäre Vortragsreihe Nachhaltigkeit“, in which sustainability is discussed as a shared topic between different disciplines (in German).

You can find the lecture on our YouTube channel.