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A Magazine for Sheffield

Basic Income: The new normal?

Anne van Dalen is a Dutch artist currently living in Zwijndrecht, a village in The Netherlands. For the past year, Anne has been the recipient of a crowdfunded 'basic income' experiment set up by the Society for Innovations in Economics and Community (MIES). Universal basic income is a proposal that would rearrange taxation and benefits so that everyone received a basic income, regardless of whether they were in work or not. I spoke to Anne about the experiment. Where did you first hear about the idea of a universal basic income? I honestly can’t remember. It is a subject that has popped up over the years and I have always thought it a sensible idea. None of us can survive without food and shelter, so it is only natural for a society to put its resources to the best possible use, i.e. to provide its members with their basic needs. Taking care of our basic needs by having a basic income allows us all to spend the most time on the best part of our existence: enjoying life. What position were you in before you went onto a basic income? I was living in a council house with my then-husband, working a part-time job to fund my artistic practice. A situation all too common, not only for artists but for most people. Spending time and energy on earning money only to discover there's no time and energy left to spend on living. The necessity for money to pay the bills prevented me working as an artist. It had me stuck and I was feeling quite desperate. Then one day I received a message saying I was the lucky winner of the basic income crowdfunding experiment. What is the Basic Income crowdfunding experiment? It is initiated by MIES, a socio-economic think tank. To gain knowledge on the effect (if any) basic income would have on the real lives of real people, MIES decided to put basic income theory into practice by way of crowdfunding it as an experiment. I somehow stumbled upon their website and, thinking it an excellent idea, decided to donate €5 toward their goal of €12,000 for the first ever basic income in The Netherlands. I soon decided to support the second run, but this time as well as donating I also put my name down on the list of potential beneficiaries, not thinking anything would come of it. How much of a wrench did you find it going from normal life, the part-time job, to being on a basic income? No wrench at all. Living on a basic income is normal. I mean, this is what living a normal life feels like. Not having to worry over money for food and rent and health care is an enormous relief, not having to sell myself for money... Come to think of it, the normality of it is weird. It makes me feel human. When you were working part-time you said that stopped you doing the art. Why was that? We've all got limited time and energy, and trading time for money is like comparing apples with pears. It doesn't add up. The creative energy I needed for the process of art got drained by worries over whether I'd still be in a job the next day, whether I'd have enough money to pay the bills. One of the arguments against a universal basic income is that if everyone wanted to be an artist then it wouldn’t work, because who’s going to produce the food or take out the rubbish? Put like that of course it wouldn't. It's a ludicrous argument. Not everyone wants to be an artist. Some people are happy rearing cattle. Some love tending tomatoes. There are as many people as there are things to do. Basic income allows you to do what you like best and for those who love their current jobs basic income will be just that: more money for them. As for doing the so-called dirty jobs... just because you or I can't imagine enjoying them, doesn't mean there aren't those who do. People can find the idea scary. Are there ways to support people through that? Yes, change will always be scary for some whilst others will welcome it. Providing information, discussing the pros and cons, allowing people to express their anxiety as well as their enthusiasm is all in aid of helping people get used to the idea of basic income. However, nothing is more powerful a persuader than personal experience, which is why I advocate real-life experiments. Imagine a village, a town, a city with all its citizens on basic income. Such a social experiment would generate an enormous amount of information and knowledge. It would also be the coolest thing ever. There is a group exploring the potential for a basic income pilot in Sheffield and encouraging discussion about the issue. )

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