Why Basic Income?

Posted on Sunday, 8 May 2011

Does Basic Income make sense as a worldwide project? - Philippe Van Parijs- This paper was presented by ;Philippe Van Parijs to the closing session of the 9th BIEN Congress in the ILO office in Geneva on September 14, 2002

Does basic income make sense as a worldwide project? You would be disappointed if I said no. Sending people back home with bad news from a meeting like this one would not only be bad tactics. I would also be bad manners.

Be reassured: my answer will be yes. But not because it is good tactics. Even less because it is good 

manners. Simply because I have come to believe it, to my own amazement, incomparably more than I 

did when we founded BIEN nine congresses ago.

To explain this, I first need to distinguish two senses in which one might think of turning basic income 

from a national, or at most a European, into a worldwide project. There is the swelling and there is the 

spreading. Swelling the project?

Swelling the basic income project into a worldwide one consists in imagining that it can be organised in a 

truly universal way, administered and funded at a global level.

I have great respect for the moral commitment of those who have been mobilising around that idea, 

most forcefully perhaps the Dutch artist Pieter Kooistra and his Foundation "UNO basisinkomen voor 

alle mensen" (www.uno-inkomen.org). Yet, this is pure speculation for our generations. But pure 

speculation need not be useless speculation. And in this case it is of a sort with which it is definitely not 

too early to start seriously, as ever stronger worldwide interdependencies make progress in this 

direction both more feasible and more necessary