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Boston Basic Income

Boston Basic Income

By Alex Howlett
A weekly discussion that explores basic income (UBI) as it relates to different topics. Co-sponsored by the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) and Project Greshm.
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116 — Power to Say No

Boston Basic Income

119 — Basic Income's Prospects
It's International Basic Income Week 2020 and we're living in the future.  But how close are we to making basic income a reality?  How far have we come and how far do we still have to go?  Does the world even agree on how to think about, or talk about basic income?  What will it take to get basic income supporters and skeptics on the same page? To help us sort out these and other questions, we're bringing in featured guest Jason Burke Murphy.  Jason is a philosophy professor and political organizer who has been writing about basic income for over a decade.  He also serves on the board of directors for the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). For optional reading, we have a 2016 article by Jason entitled "Basic Income as Proposal, as Project, and as Idea." Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included: "Skepticism of the Idea," "Basic Income vs. Job Guarantee," and "A World Without Basic Income" Photo by Stefan Bohrer (
September 18, 2020
118 — Social Safety Net
Why does our society have a safety net of welfare programs and government assistance?  What conditions have made these things necessary?  Is it normal for the economy to leave some people behind in such a way that they need a safety net?  Does it make sense to think of basic income as part of the safety net, or as something else entirely? For optional reading this week we have a June 2020 article from the Brookings Institute "Up Front" blog by Henry J. Aaron entitled "The social safety net: The gaps that COVID-19 spotlights" Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included: "The Nature of Poverty," "Meritocracy and Entitlement," "Basic Income vs. Job Guarantee," "A World Without Basic Income," "Minimum Wage," and "Bolsa Família." Photo by Linnaea Mallette on Public Domain Pictures (
September 10, 2020
117 — Sovereign Money
The cash in your wallet constitutes money that's issued directly by the government.  We think of bank deposits as money too, but the deposits in your bank account are merely promises to pay you government-issued money.  Some critics of our current financial system argue that our economy would benefit from directly allowing the government to issue more of its own "sovereign money" rather than going through the banks. Many sovereign money proponents want to establish total public control over money creation and feel that private money should be banned outright.  Others simply see an opportunity for the government to take a more active role in managing the economy's monetary system.  In his 2020 book, "Basic Income and Sovereign Money: The Alternative to Economic Crisis and Austerity Policy," economist Geoff Crocker makes the case for issuing a basic income in the form of "debt-free" sovereign money.  The idea is that the government can pay out a basic income without collecting any taxes or taking on any debt. To what extent is this possible?  How can the concept of "debt-free" or "non-debt" money help us understand the economy?  How does a sovereign-money basic income compare to the Consumer Monetary Theory (CMT) perspective that we've previously discussed? We have two optional readings this week.  The first is a 2014 World Economics Association Newsletter article by Mark Joób entitled "The Sovereign Money Initiative in Switzerland." The second is a 2014 article by Geoff Crocker published by the Centre for Welfare Reform, entitled "The Economic Necessity of Basic Income." Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included "The Nature of Money", "National Debt", "Consumer Monetary Theory vs Modern Monetary Theory", "Social Credit", "Natural Rate of UBI", and "Quantity Theory of Money" Photo courtesy of the National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History. (
September 4, 2020
116 — Power to Say No
Some basic income skeptics worry that it will cause people to stop working.  Meanwhile, some basic income proponents say that the power to say no to a job is is a feature, not a bug.  To what extent does basic income cause people to leave the labor market?  Why does it matter? This week's session brings in seven featured guests to discuss these questions. Michael Lewis is a professor of social work at Hunter College.  He has published widely on the topic of basic income and he was a co-founder the US Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG) in 1999. Kate McFarland is the associate director of the Center for Ethics and Human Values at The Ohio State University and the former editor of Basic Income News. Diane Pagen is a social worker and long-time basic income activist.  She organized last year's Basic Income March in New York City, which inspired marches in 29 other cities. Conrad Shaw is a UBI researcher, writer, and creator of the UBI calculator.  He is also co-producer on his wife Deia Schlosberg's forthcoming basic income docu-series, "Bootstraps." Karl Widerquist is a philosophy professor at Georgetown Qatar.  He is a former co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), as well as a co-founder of both the USBIG and Basic Income News. Derek Van Gorder is a filmmaker, YouTuber, and frequent Boston Basic Income participant.  His work explores Consumer Monetary Theory and the philosophy and economics of basic income. Almaz Zelleke is an associate professor of practice in political science at NYU Shanghai.  She has written on topics including feminism, distributive justice, and the ethics of basic income. To help frame our discussion, we have a 2018 article by Kate McFarland entitled "Work and Basic Income: A Decommodification Perspective." Previous related Boston Basic Income topics have included "Human Purpose," "Freedom," "The Labor Market," "Basic Income vs Job Guarantee," Minimum Wage, "Workism," "The Free Rider Problem," "Retirement," "Organized Labor," "Power Dynamics," "Full Employment," and "Idleness and Leisure."
August 27, 2020
Hosted by Alex Howlett, Boston Basic Income is a weekly basic income discussion group.  We've been streaming live on YouTube since May of 2018 and starting in August of 2020, you'll be able to listen to new sessions through your favorite podcast app. To join our live, online discussions, see our Facebook and Meetup groups.
August 23, 2020