The Vereniging Basisinkomen (Basic Income Association) is the Dutch affiliate of the BIEN network. It was founded in 1991 as the successor of a working group that had existed since 1987, the Workplace basic income. Members of Left-wing political parties, union organizations, collectives of unemployed individuals have been at the basis of the initiative.
Just like the BIEN network that it forms part of, the VBI has been established to promote societal discussion on the basic income, and to have it implemented. It aims for a drastic replacement of social security institutions by an unconditional income that is provided to all citizens individually, at a level that is sufficient for subsistence. This would allow individuals to participate in and contribute to society according to their own ideals and capacities. It would create new social-economic relations: the divide between unemployed and employed, the relations between breadwinners and other household members, the relation between employers and employed, and the relation between wage-earning jobs and voluntary/caring tasks.
Such universal (nation-wide) implementation of a basic income arrangement can only be achieved through governmental reforms. The activities of the VBI are therefore typically forms of evangelizing and lobbying. ICT tools are important for communicating and spreading their alternative knowings and framings. Academic organizations and individuals are central actors in VBI and especially the BIEN network. It is a somewhat counter-intuitive idea to give 'money for free'. Following a long tradition of thinking since Thomas More's 'Utopia', economists, sociologists and political philosophers have developed strong arguments in favour of the basic income however. The basic income is supported by argumentations of fairness, reduction of bureaucracy and efficiency, removal of the 'poverty trap', sustainable development, work-life balance, and notably by the continuous mechanization of labour and the associated lack of paid jobs.
The VBI has stimulated the Dutch basic income discussion, but generally it has been a relative bystander to the so crucial debate of politicians over possible implementation. The basic income has been described as a 'peat fire': Never becoming a big fire with high impacts, at times near-invisible in political debate, but never dying out. The timeline displays a certain repetition-of-moves pattern. Arguments pro and contra are often recurring, and there is also a rising and decreasing political relevance that strongly depends on the level of unemployment. The higher it is, the more the basic income asserts itself as a transformative response to it.
In 1985, the Dutch governmental Scientific Advisory Council (WRR) published an influential report in which the Basic Income was included as one of the policy options for a future restructuring of the Dutch welfare state. It placed Basic Income on the agenda.
In October 1987 the Workplace Basic Income was established. Several basic income proponents from different affiliations decided to bundle forces, and set up a politically neutral platform for the promotion of and stimulation of debate on the basic income.
On December 17th 1994, two Dutch ministers publicly spoke out in favour of the basic income. The endorsement by politicians in power suggested that basic income became a serious policy option. The apparent breakthrough soon proved deceptive, however.
In March 2006 the Dutch Central Planning Bureau published a study on the future of the welfare state. It featured the basic income, underlining its economic inadequacy however. Evoking little public discussion, it marked a standstill in the BI debate (2000-2013).
The CTP is about the publication of the article ‘Why we should give free money to everybody’ by the Dutch critical author Rutger Bregman. Evoking a media storm, the publication re-invigorated a Basic Income debate that had come to a (near) standstill.
In March 2015 a network was established of Basic Income activists, researchers and representatives from various Dutch municipalities who decided to coordinate their plans and lobby for basic income-inspired experiments. Experiments are due to start in 2017.
Stay informed. Subscribe for project updates by e-mail.