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.

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)

 

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.

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.

02 August 2022: “Permissionless Innovation, Freedom, and Basic Income” by Dr. Otto Lehto

On Tuesday, 02 August 2022, the Basic Income Workshop Series continues with a contribution of Philosopher & former FRIBIS visiting scholar Dr. Otto Lehto: „Permissionless Innovation, Freedom, and Basic Income. He is going to present his input and subsequently have a discussion with the audience, Prof. Dr. Karl Widerquist & Prof. Dr. Bernhard Neumärker.

Time: 4pm – 5pm (CEST)

YouTube-Livestream: https://youtu.be/89QqLIbQ2kg

Do you wish to participate in the Zoom-Meeting directly? Send an E-Mail with your request to eventmanagement@fribis.uni-freiburg.de.

Basic income has been tied to real freedom for all (Van Parijs), capitalism and freedom(Friedman), freedom as the power to say no (Widerquist), and many other conceptions of freedom. All of these theories of freedom, despite their differences, involve an institutional structure of rights that gives people the right (both formal and substantive) to experiment with new things, to deviate from the expectations and demands of other people, and otherwise to innovate in a myriad ways. In my talk, I interrogate the relationship between the notion of freedom inherent in such popular
conceptions of basic income and the theories of innovation proposed in evolutionary political economy. (Schumpeter, Hayek, Hogdson, Beinhocker) I will argue that basic income could be seen as a tool of permissionless innovation, which grants people, especially poor people, the right to innovate without having to ask anybody for permission. I will normatively justify this right, not in terms of justice or equity, but in terms of a utilitarian theory of evolutionary welfare enhancement. I will argue that radical innovation is a compelling justification for a liberal implementation of basic income, and innovation should be encouraged in order to more effectively solve the problems of the poor. Crucially, socioeconomic innovation, in this technical sense, extends beyond the economic realm of goods, services, and technologies, to the cultural realm of habits, ideas, and social norms. However, the innovation perspective only justifies certain models of basic income that a) are tied to an extensive regime of market and civil freedoms and b) pass a comparative cost benefit analysis of institutional alternatives. This consequentialist conception challenges several prominent justifications, models, conceptualizations, and implementations of basic income, especially those that see UBI more as a means of stabilizing, equilibrating, or decelerating modernity.

Establishment of “Basic Income for Nature & Climate”: Interview with the team’s coordinator

The newly founded FRIBIS team Basic Income for Nature and Climate explores the connection between basic income, climate change, and biodiversity conservation. The team’s coordinator, the Indonesian researcher Ni Made Rahayu Maitri, has agreed to be interviewed about her research group.
1. What is your team about and what are you doing?
Our Basic Income for Nature and Climate (BINC) research group is interested to explore and investigate the possibility that a basic income scheme can contribute to addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, and thus can be linked to conservation objectives. If such a scheme is possible, we see that this can be a new and doable approach that can be used to address current social and ecological challenges that are associated with climate change and biodiversity loss. We are focusing our research in Tanah Papua where we propose a basic income scheme for nature and climate whereby the scheme distributes a regular dividend payment to all residing citizens in Tanah Papua via a so called “Forest Carbon Dividend” (FCD). The FCD will be funded from mobilizing financial resources or earnings that are generated from putting a value (price) on the forest carbon stocks that are stored in Tanah Papua’s forest.

2. What motivated you to establish the team?
The initiator of the scientific investigation into the basic income for nature and climate scheme in Tanah Papua which, thus, initiate the establishment of this team is our lead scientist, Sonny Mumbunan. He recognizes that Tanah Papua holds global importance in biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation, so, designing a basic income scheme that is linked to conservation objectives can hold a promising approach to addressing climate change and biodiversity issues. By linking financing sources to carbon stock that are stored in the forest, it could serve as a powerful incentive for the local population to conserve and maintain their forest land to enable a lasting basic income payment. Interested readers can learn more about our proposed scheme from our published report here.

3. What are your goals?
Through our current collaboration with FRIBIS, our immediate goal is to initiate policy dialogue in the local, national and international level. By also doing scientific investigations on the proposed basic income scheme in forest-rich districts, we intend to initiate a policy dialogue and discussion that are based on scientific evidence. In the long term, our goal is that the central government, provincial government and/or the donor community in Indonesia are considering to pilot a multi-year basic income scheme of this kind and undertake a basic income trial in one jurisdiction (district) of Tanah Papua.

Lectures by Prof. Bernhard Neumärker on Basic Income in the Climate Crisis

In May 2022, Bernhard Neumärker gave two lectures addressing the potential of basic income in the climate crisis. His May 19 lecture was at the invitation of Students for Future Freiburg and was entitled “Climate Justice and New Ordoliberalism: The Case for Social Sustainability and Basic Income”. In his lecture, Prof. Neumärker shows how climate bonus systems can be designed as a partial basic climate income. He also demonstrates the extent to which net offset systems between CO₂ tax and basic climate income are ecologically and socially disadvantageous in terms of ecological visibility and incentivization when compared to a gross system with separate tax and transfer design. T, based on a German paper on Carbon Pricing and Social Inequality in Germany, he demonstrated that by having a per capita equal repayment of the CO₂ tax, one not only promotes fair redistribution and inequality reduction, but also achieves a higher socio-environmental target efficiency than with the usual means-tested social transfers. Watch this talk on our YouTube-Kanal.

On May 26, Prof. Neumärker gave a keynote speech at the 40th International Energy Workshop at the Konzerthaus in Freiburg. In his lecture “Decarbonization regulation by a tax-transfer system: The Carbon Tax – Climate Basic Income (CaTaBi) Scheme”, he presented his gross tax-transfer system “CaTaBi”, focusing on his governance approach of the so called “New Ordoliberalism”. Among other things, he showed to what extent only CaTaBi is politically strategy proof, while other uses of tax revenues always lead to the expectation of strategic manipulation of politics by interest groups (rent-seeking). In the ecosocial context of the climate crisis, one has to resort to ex post governance, which offers sufficient protection against unforeseen contingencies of climate development. Bernhard Neumärker, on the other hand, does not believe that tackling the climate crisis with statistical forecasts or scenarios ex ante is expedient. Instead, he argued for viewing the “environment” in terms of conflict economics and game theory as an adversary of “nature,” which would in fact react unfavorably to humans due to man-made climate and environmental damage.

In light of recent developments, Bernhard Neumärker drew a parallel between the climate crisis and the Ukraine war. Both crises would likewise reveal that “climate protection” and “national defense” as (global) public goods would only be taken seriously and sufficient investments would only be made if “protection” or “defense” were no longer only discussed in the abstract, but protection against an adversary/aggressor (be it “nature” or the Putin regime) was actively sought. The fact that Germany was only prepared to spend 100 billion euros on its military defense in a state of immediate threat clearly illustrated the underlying precautionary principle.

 

“Is a Penny a Month a Basic Income?” – Best Paper Award for Toru Yamamori from the FRIBIS Team Universal Basic Income & Gender

Foto: Enno Schmidt

In his new paper:Is a Penny a Month a Basic Income? A Historiography of the Concept of a Threshold in Basic Income, Prof. Toru Yamamori examines the definition of Universal Basic Income under the question of a threshold. Based on its basic pillars: unconditionality, individuality, and universality, he discusses the advantages and disadvantages of a threshold and gives a historical overview of the history and different currents of the demand and definition of a Universal Basic Income. With this paper, he is the winner of the 2021 BIS essay contest in the Journal “Basic Income Studies”.

Without the (re)definition, do we run the risk of calling even one cent a Universal Basic Income when it is paid unconditionally and universally to every individual? What are the reasons and arguments for successively removing this threshold from the definitions? Toru Yamamori discusses why and whether we should reintroduce a threshold into the definition of a Universal Basic Income in this paper, which was awarded the prize for the best paper of 2021 by the journal Basic Income Studies published by De Gruyter Verlag.
The question of the definition of Universal Basic Income is a central theme of the FRIBIS UBI & Gender team, which explores the pillars of definition: universality, unconditionality and individuality from an intersectional feminist perspective. With his historical analysis of the meaning of a threshold, Toru Yamamori has created a starting point for further reflections on the definition of what we call Universal Basic Income from different situations, perspectives and locations, and what this Basic Income means for each of us.

Find the Paper here: https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/bis-2021-0037/html

Jessica Schulz is the team coordinator of the Gender & UBI Team and interviewed Toru with respect to his paper.

How did you come to deal with this question of a threshold in particular?

I’ve known that it was common to define UBI with a threshold in 1980s, and has interpreted the non-threshold definition by BIEN as a result of the difficulty of havin g a consensus on what level the threshold would be. However, by witnessing that some leading advocates condemn the definition with a threshold as ‘flawed’ and deny the existence of what I thought a historical fact, I felt to research this issue seriously.

To what extent is the question of a threshold value related to feminist questions about the unconditional basic income?

In the 1970s and 80s in Europe, there were feminist movements that demanded UBI. All of them defined UBI with a threshold. However, those movements have been almost erased both in UBI communities and feminist academia. There might be a logical connection between the easement of those feminist voices and the denial of (and historical revisionism against) the definition of UBI with a threshold. Also, what I learnt through this historical journey, the concept of UBI is a social construct, and what has been included under the label of UBI is not clear cut. Accepting this plurality of the concept, we could ask the following question: What definition of UBI could feminists embrace?

 
 

Prof. Dr. Toru Yamamori is a Professor of Economics at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan and Senior Academic Research Editor of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network). His research includes the philosophical foundations of feminist economics and the oral history of the working class women’s liberation movement that called for unconditional basic income in Britain in the 1970s.