The Convergences about Basic Income and PR

Well, FVC ginger people;

I have just about forgotten about this e-list. So many things have been going on. But I have some things to tell you that should interest any democratic reform activist, or most other activists. Also, it is now after July and this anti-spam law is in effect. I would love for some idiot to claim I am "spamming" them by sending this message. As Dirty Harry said...


I need to sum up the Montreal Basic Income meeting. Also, my own report back meeting about it. Also, an interesting conversation I had a few days ago with Alan Broadbent of the Maytree foundation. And lately I was at another FVC Toronto branch get together with Dennis Pilon and Dennis Raphael. They also held an event a week previous with Dennis Pilon.

Now, if you want to know all about what went on in Montreal, you can read my blogs about it. Find them at;






Below are the salient points I took away from the congress. I think they are worth repeating here. There is some crossover between the two issues of BI and voting/democratic reform.

1. The smartest person in the congress was Dr. Louise Haag. The BI idea must not be presented in a legalistic, moralistic, or economistic way. It must be presented by institutional arguments, like it is a natural step.

2. The problem with legal and constitutional approaches is that we become dependent on judicial interpretation and judges are very conservative. Besides, if you can't get a policy change, how will you ever get a law or constitutional amendment?

3. Talking moralistically gives people the idea that BI is something very radical. Moral philosophers, take note.

4. Markets cannot exist without state regulation, though there is always a tension between market and state. Markets are not freedom, they are themselves a regulatory system. Market regulation can benefit the state, citizens, or private corporations. The trick, obviously, is to get it to benefit citizens.

5. Talking about BI as a tool for growth is a loser. Growth does not mean better quality of life. Growth can mean more environmental depletion.

6. There is no way to measure needs exactly, so a blanket approach is needed. We have to be careful to define terms like "welfare state" and "democracy". There are many kinds of each.

7. Big debate about selling democracy or equality. Everyone supports democracy. But can't have popular democracy without equality. It is kind of a "chicken or egg" thing. A participatory democracy requires that people have the leisure to participate.

8. Pilot projects are not a good idea. Who sets them up in order to show what? What happens when they end? They can be used as a delaying tactic.

9. Incremental approaches to social programs generally do not work. They are resisted, they lose momentum, their flaws are not corrected but used to attack them.

BI Toronto initiatives

Now, here is the blogback of my meeting on September 15, just to mark international Basic Income week. The BICN folks had wanted me to hold off anything until poverty week. They were going to do some things then but September was too soon for them. They were still too busy.

It does not look like they will be getting anything together for poverty week in early October either. However the poverty industry and labor types have quite a bit going on. I have just printed up some leaflets and I am going to be going to these events. I have no choice but to be the lone crank talking about this BI thing because nobody else is. And there is no way you would hold a successful event in the face of all this focus on labor market and institutional solutions for poverty.

By the way, my bloggings about my event are found here;



Now, what should the next meeting I organize be about? I would love to find some way to draw these FVC people into it. What is the link between voting reform and a Basic Income? Well, as I mentioned to the two Dennisses, especially Raphael, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

If getting a serious reform like a Basic Income requires such a mass movement, how are people supposed to have the freedom to participate in this mighty challenge to power? On the other hand, if PR could be achieved, would it then be easier to get a BI?

Pilon is pessimistic that we can get a BI. He points out that the main reason there was this wave of shifts to PR early in the century was that conservative establishments saw it as a way to keep left oppositions divided. Initially, that is what PR usually did. The effects of allowing center left government to take power happened later and unintentionally. Pilon claims that there have been few voting reform revolutions in recent times.

Last week, I took him up about that. We have not had many until lately because PR has come to be accepted as the standard in the non British heritage world. As new countries develop democracies they just start out as PR systems. However, the English speaking world has missed this until recently.

Now, the tactic of the establishments has been to propose phony reforms like Ranked ballots. Nonetheless, once a serious public awareness develops in a country, the establishments seem to gradually give in. They got it in New Zealand. The Scots did it as part of their devolutions.

But I have a caveat about PR. All these European countries have PR. But lately the elites have learned how to wire the process to get neoliberal policies against the wishes of the great majority. Thus, PR by itself is not going to solve everything. It is only a small part of the process of deepening democracy. This involves more subsidiarization of powers to local and community government, more participatory governance, and more direct democracy, done correctly with the issue prepared for referendum.

One very big thing about equality and democracy; they entail people having far more free time than they do now, to be able to participate in the governance of society. Also, that they have some money and that there be some freed up resources in the community to be able to run basic organizations.

chat with Alan Broadbent, IMFG idea.

I also ran into Alan Broadbent from the Maytree foundation, at one of his events. I was not expecting to find him there. So I wandered up to him and asked how his foundation is able to get away with funding Meslin and his abusive activities. There followed a short, intense and very interesting exchange.

I got three impressions. One was that Broadbent had already caught some flack about the April event and had become very sensitive to the fact that his foundation could not fund political activity. I also read that the Meslin thing about a Ranked Ballot somehow snuck in there as part of a forum about increasing participation. I also sensed that he knew more about me than he let on; knew that I was talking about the event last spring, described above, and where I almost got thrown out for trying to get a chance to rebut Meslin's crap.

I asked if simply having a discussion about the options for city government would be possible. He thought that might be possible for a group like IMFG (Institute for Municipal Finance and Governance ) I was under the impression that he funded most of that as well, but maybe not. The city and provincial government seem to have a lot into it, which could be a problem.

So, I said, should I go to IMFG and ask them to put such an event together? Or even put out one of those nice pamphlets, that they do, about it? And tell them you sent me?

"Oh, no, but you can say you talked to me."

So, here is a project for Fair Vote Toronto, if it is not still too chickened out by Meslin. FVT is now talking about creating links to groups to help them buy into the the PR concept. Why not get together with IMFG to get all those people who go to their events curious about; ...options for municipal voting reform.

If they are not going to get at it, I guess I will have to try it myself sometime next year.

However, as I said, right now I would like to spend some time getting FVT involved with Basic Income Canada Network, on the relation between a Basic Income and PR. Will it also be easier to get a BI if we have PR? Lets see.

first, know what you are talking about

One more thing to say about BICN and FVC. The former could learn a lot from the latter about what not to do. I have been describing this to the BICN people. So far they have not been listening and are going ahead with most of the same mistakes. Mistake number one is to start trying to expand into a mass movement before you have worked out exactly what it is you are calling for.

If FVC had done this at the start it would have solved an awful lot of trouble. Get the Basic Principles sorted out from expedient details. Keep your core group small and by invitation only. Do not allow anyone outside the group to claim to speak for it.

I could elaborate on this, but now is not the time. I am going to be writing it up in detail for BICN and it would be worth a read for FVC people as well.