The most commonly asked question...
When hearing about the proposed world basic income, a question that often arises is 'Why include people and countries that are well-off?'. Some advocates of cash transfers prefer 'targeted' rather than 'universal' approaches, as theoretically people living on low incomes can then be given more money. However, there are several reasons why it might be better to provide a world basic income to every person, rich or poor.
Justice and human rights, not charity.
World basic income is not aid, nor is it charity. It is a form of global redistribution, sharing out wealth in a way that we believe is fair, reasonable and civilised. There might be good arguments that the very poorest people have evidently had the worst deal from the global economy, and therefore are the most deserving of transfers. However, providing transfers only to poor people or countries is likely to change the way we see world basic income in the long run. The longest-lasting and best defended public goods tend to be those that are available to everyone, as people then see it as their right to access them. Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is a prime example. Every UK resident can use the full health service for free, even if they are rich enough to pay for private health insurance. This helps British people to consider free healthcare to be a human right, and they defend the NHS very strongly in political arenas, to the extent that even the most right-wing politicians don't dare to attack it. We want a world basic income that lasts, and this requires people to see it as an essential human right, and to defend it as such.
Poverty exists everywhere
All rich and middle-income countries contain some poor people, including a shocking amount of people who are utterly destitute. Being poor in a well-off country can be just as bad or even worse than sharing the same very low income bracket as your friends and neighbours in a low-income country. The complicated and conditional social security systems that exist in most countries allow vulnerable people to slip through the cracks. Even at the very low starting level of £7 per person per month that World Basic Income is suggesting, people in the worst of circumstances are likely to feel the benefit, wherever they live. If in doubt, ask a struggling single parent with four children in a well-off country whether an extra £35 per month would make a difference to them. You may find few that would say no.
Why assume that the funding for WBI must be meagre?
At World Basic Income, we propose that the scheme should be funded by tapping into global wealth streams that have not previously been accessed for public benefit. These streams of wealth are immense, and they belong primarily to the very rich. The funds that we tap from these sources may be meagre at first, but they need not stay that way. Social movements may, in time, be able to demand that meaningful amounts of this wealth are shared out among the world's people. It is our world, and, in many ways, our wealth. Why not demand a fairer system to share it?
The well-off will more than pay for their own basic incomes anyway
Most well-off people are likely to have some stake in global wealth flows, for example by benefitting from world currency trading and shareholding through their pension. Very well-off people are likely to have a large stake, by holding shares in global businesses, offshore bank accounts and so on. Every form of redistribution has winners and losers, and in the proposed world basic income scheme, these individuals are likely to lose rather more than their £7 a month through new forms of global taxation and fees. Therefore they need not feel guilty about receiving their monthly basic income. And if anyone thoroughly objects to receiving it, they can of course fail to register for the scheme, leaving the money in the pot for distribution to others.
Simple is beautiful
As soon as you draw boundaries between who can and cannot receive a benefit, bureaucratic systems must be built up to police them. Armies of world civil servants would be needed to assess each individual's income level and reassess it every time their circumstances changed. Or if access to world basic income were decided on a country by country basis, rules would be needed to decide whether immigrants and emigrants still qualified, and even during wars or mass migrations, border police would need to collaborate closely with the world basic income authorities to ensure non-residents were not benefitting. Courts, clerks and bailiffs would be needed to impose penalties if people failed to report changes or falsified information. And just as with existing social security systems, large amounts of money would be lost in administration and enforcement costs, while many of the most vulnerable people are likely to miss out entirely. The safety net would be, once again, full of holes.
World basic income - for everyone, everywhere, no matter what
To achieve a world basic income that is non-bureaucratic, easy to access for the most vulnerable, and well-defended in the world political arena, we believe that it should be available to everyone, regardless of income, nationality or country of residence. Although the road towards this may contain a number of non-universal schemes, for instance large-scale pilot experiments, or phased implementations, we see these as steps along the way. The ultimate goal - the goal we will continue fighting for, until it is achieved - is a true world basic income, that supports us all to secure our human right to life.