A previous post from Mats Höglund, swedish member of UBIE Network about the realisation of the European basic income pilot project gave me few ideas so I completed the conception with one or two of my thoughts. I’ve published the following article in Hungary, but may acceptable by UBIE Network. Don’t forget, although I support unconditional basic income with 100%, I never stop thinking about alternatives, which may not fit the original concept of basic income. Please forgive me for that. After a short introduction, I may find appreciative ears.
One or two weeks have passed since then and we have been discussing renewable energy and maintainability with our hungarian friend who lives in the UK. He is interested in the use of solar energy like we are interested in organising communities. To sum it up we agreed that we find it extremely important to organise such communities that are able to break away from the system partly by providing for their own energy. For this we have complete business plans adjusted to each community, we are soon starting a relevant communication campaign.
This is, of course, a project that has a conception on several levels. Because what kind of community is the one that can „only” provide its own energy from renewable sources but does not rely on open source technologies that have become rather ordinary in the 21st century?.
What are we talking about here? The Open Source Ecology (OSE) economical term may sound familiar to those who follow the events in the techworld. This is an economy, which optimalizes production and purchase and at the same time it provides equal benefits to all of its participants and its procedures do not harm nature. Its core is made up of the collective development and free access to the economically important information via internet (not patented but authorised technical plans, techniques curricula). This form of economical productivity has a direct effect on the well-being of the community. Global cooperation and free transformation, redesigning of the products gives an opportunity to adjust the result to a certain geographical region or a given condition. This conception is just the opposite of the presently dominant paradigm which suggests that only a few multinational companies define the direction and the trends to follow. The open economical development is capable of bringing quality solutions and product on the market, which can become a significant competition to the undistinguished mass products of poor quality.
This is a kind of “do it yourself” movement, which is being completed by producing your own food, organic farming and it is spreading like a virus. Why? Because it is cheap, available to anyone, and, at the same time it requires creativity and cooperation at a high level by the members of the community. In addition to the renewable sources the keystone of the self supporting communities This phenomenon, by the way, is considered as a premonitory sign of a third industrial revolution..
More information about this:
How is all this connected to basic income? Basic income is, if we take a close look at the notion, according to Philippe Van Parijs, it is not any longer the result of our fellow beings’ hard work. We can, rather, be grateful for it to nature, the previous generations, development of technology and the accumulated knowledge. Only a snatch of everything we call our own as a result of our own efforts is presented in our standard or living or in the income. This accumulated property needs to be redistributed in a more rightful way and made available to everybody. This is represented in the theory of basic income. And the theory becomes a practice with the redistribution of money.
It may be immeasurable in money but the distribution of the accumulated knowledge is the basic fundamental assumption of the above mentioned Open Source Ecology together with the sharing of resources and means of production. In the context we may underline developing technology as a joint „property” to be redistributed, it is very fashionable to blame it for all our trouble anyway nowadays.
Well, technology is a virtual whip-saw, because during its development creates wealth and comfort, on the other hand, e.g. due to automatization it takes our bread overnight. Is it a problem? It is, if we are not prepared for this, we are not innovative, do not educate ourselves or do not change our professions in time. This is the situation today, that is what we consider basic income a remedy for. But we are also in big trouble if we can imagine to survive only within the frames of the present property conditions and monetary system because the positive increments of technological development will be enjoyed by only a narrow, wealthy elite that expropriates it with its spending power in the long run. How can we, after all, turn the advantages coming from technological developement for the benefit of the majority? This is also a precondition of introducing the basic income, although it is temporarily converted into money. Let’s see if it works .
It is well known that in the name of conversion to the renewable sources present electric power suppliers are obliged to charge the client with the energy produced by the renewables – following the so called intake. This, in some cases, reduces the monthly bill but more and more often the clients have energy surplus which, from this point, makes them producers of energy. Not only they obtain household energy via renewable power sources, but at this point they do not pay for it, and beyond that it produces takings for them. As I know, a special circle of investments was created in the UK, in which you do not even have to use electric or thermal power produced by the renewables, it is perfectly enough to partly finance the renewable environmental investment, and you can absolutely rely on receiving takings from the intake. Where is the benefit for the traditional power suppliers? They obtain electric power at a lower price than that at the market, and they only need to store it before it is purchased, instead of buying it produced from fossil sources and transported from great distances or if the same energy came from nuclear power stations. Fossil energy is running out anyway, so its price is skyrocketing, and parallel to that the production of nuclear power is being reduced. With the exception of some countries such as Hungary, our land……
I would not have great, irrational, expectations regarding the renewable power sources in 2014 but we can ask how much are thoe takings? In the UK, where the average number of sunny days is less than half of that in Hungary, solar cell parks make 6-8%. It may not considered to be a great number, but it still more beneficial than the interest we receive from our money parking on a bank account, which obviously does not come from supporting green projects. And this is only the takings for ordinary investors, let us not forget about those who are already using renewables with 0 % emission and thus live a completely maintainable life.
Connecting to this there is a professional study of a Hungarian team of 23 authors, who made a brief of possibly the only normal strategy of the following decades that can be an example for our country as well. They analyse not only the Hungarian situation but give an assumption of the undertakings of several. The title is “This is the way to go ahead”
According to the forecasts of, among others, Ray Kurzweil, the technological director of Google appointed last year, Peter H. Diamandis, supporter of X-PRIZE innovative projects, Elon Musk, owner of Tesla car and solar cell manufacturing company and Space-X private-astronautical company and Jeremy Rifkin world-famous economist, the proportion of the expansion of technologies relying on the renewable energy sources is doubled every two years within the whole energy mix, while its efficiency is also growing exponentially and, at the same time its production and operation costs decrease steeply. This means that the present 4-5 % proportion of the renewables will reach 100 % between 2020 and 2030, from which time we will obtain basically free energy, with an investment cost that equals to peanuts.
More info here (in a broad sense): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity
With this lengthy introduction I wanted to widen the horizon for the supporters who stand up for basic income with referring to basic human rights, goodwill and also professional arguments. Let us think in more than one dimension.
If basic income means the total of money which satisfies the basic needs, we have to assume that a part of this is being spent on financing the use of energy. Renewables’ – at first requiring investments but decreasing gradually over the years – zero cost is a saving that would reduce the sum of the basic income as well, because it simply does not appear as cost. Besides if we have power surplus and it can be purchased with the present market conditions, it is basically a basic income for ourselves and the members of our community. The takings of the technological development itself, the savings received through renewables, plus the guaranteed profit coming out of it make the source side of the basic income. Growing your own food is like printing your money – Let the sales of locally, jointly produced healthy food, the share of means, and the totals coming from the savings made in the system of Open Source Ecology be the origin of basic income.
If all this operates, we are going to see soon that in some time the income in the form of money is only needed to cover personal expenses and in certain cases for new community investments. This way the debt-based money that is the core of the present speculations can also act its original part, as universal measure of value.
It is obvious that the conception above cannot be raised to European or even national level in such a short time. It is not impossible but such things can be realised only by following an exact governmental strategy after a social agreement. I can not see a chance to do this in Hungary at the moment. It may happen that during all this basic income – as a euro dividend – will be introduced in every EU member-country but we can not exclude the indication of more rational, economically and environmentally more maintainable sources than the 20% VAT. Someting might happen in Brussels. We never know but working on it.
It is worth, however, to build from the foundation. In my opinion the whole bunch of ideas could be an excellent kick-off for European pilot projects. Please note, that these projects are not only to prove that basic income is viable or a good motivation to find an activity etc. but to handle several other paralel social and technological changes of paradigms at the same time.
Growing like cells, connected to each other, sharing our experiences new communities can be included in the system, which can provide for energy to each other, can do barters, can try individual systems of financial settlements, so balance each other. In this way the many small pilot projects make one operating system covering large geographical areas. Frontiers do not matter either within the EU, because transit is free, borders are disappearing, only the regulations are different in each country. But there is a rightful question: how are the self supporting communities affected by this, will there be an independent self-regulation above states in the much more democratic system of organized production communities. Even liquid democracy will be accapted sooner, if there is solidarity, and if there is, we will make our interests represented stronger and communication technology better. But let’s hold our horses back a bit.
Pre-financing. Critical point, we can still decide to turn our backs ont he whole thing, but based on our research we have a reason to be hopeful.
We, by all means, have to take into consideration that the currently affordable renewable power sources investments mean a solution for only communities at this point – either in a city subdivision or in the country. Sharing the sources of energy is the basis of operation. But basic income is also a sharing, a divident paid to each member of a community. So if we regard the pilot project as emphasis on maintainability, on being conscious about the environment, just like a green invesment, we have a better opportunity to go for a tender, to obtain support, at least for the technological investments. Projects of such type are handled in the EU as priorities.
It obviously depends on geographical locaton and climate, but we have exact calculations referring to how much money is needed if for example 100 houses (about 4-5 hundred people) need to be supplied with 100 % renewable energy. Part of the business plan is the insurance for the land for the solar cell park. This may even make it possible to use government owned properties for free.
I can imagine, following the UK example, that we offer the whole project as an investment opportunity to private persons or companies This way people who have never heard of basic income before can participate in it. With an amendment that they can not count only on a certain part of the takings from the renewables but also on the commercial income of the products, foods produced by the community. What is basic income in the community will be takings for the conscious investors.
If all this did not cover 100% the expenses of start, I think, the pre-financing supporters of basic income would be those wealthy privates who support the idea of basic income on their own intention, and understand the deeper context, even taking part in it themselves.
In addition to the above I absolutely seriously consider it would be worth using http://kickstarter.com/ or http://indiegogo.com/ community finances project websites. The target groups are mainly young people there, who could be convinced of mainly supporting the Open Source Ecology system, because it is a growing international movement. But we can be smart and include all other elements, too, to obtain support for our conceptions.
To sum it all up, let me tell you, that I met the conception of basic income quite late, unfortunately, 3-4 years ago. I was sceptical at first in terms of realization. But later I had to admit that basic income in this present form according to the conception is only one, but very important step on the road towards project and resource-based economy and society, because we don’t even make it here, if hundreds of millions are in need in the meantime. The introduction of basic income is absolutely a must especially in Europe. If governments have not recognized it „up there” yet, then our leaders are in even bigger trouble than anyone think. Similarly to the great majority of people who cry for help but do not know any alternatives. That’s why we have to start pilot projects.
My earlier experience suggests that where we can meet people who put fellow human beings and communities’ interests ahead of their private interests, happiness and joy are guaranteed and long, fruitful friendships are made. Relationships of this kind are not only on professional level but affect our spiritual development, too. I want as many people as possible to share the joy of cooperation in our neighbourhood and in the world as well.