Thu. Oct 17th, 2019

"We must assume that wages will not be as before"

He is considered the academic father of the universal basic income. Guy standing was this week in Barcelona to give a conference at the Palau Macaya de La Caixa, in an act of Ernest Lluch Foundation. His latest book, pending translation, is titled Looting of the common good: a manifesto to share public wealth.

Extreme right

"Trump does not have a movement behind and luckily his instinct is self-destructive"

Four years ago he told this newspaper that the precarious crisis would favor the extreme right.

Since then Trump, Salvini, Boris Johnson have arrived. They are undermining the foundations of civilized discourse. They exceed the limits of decency. It's protofascism: they excite violence, deliberately lying and creating an atmosphere of extremism.

Doesn't it seem a bit exaggerated?

I was the other day with a US Nobel Prize in Physics, I will not say his name. He pointed out that Trump does not have a movement behind, unlike Hitler or Mussolini. If I were also intelligent, I would worry. But fortunately he has a self-destructive instinct.

And how is the precarious today?

Divided. There are three groups. There are activists, not very educated, of the old working class, with low income. Without status. They are angry and listen to populism, which promises them to go back in history. They participate a lot in public life, vote in block, give money to related parties and organizations. It is the most numerous category, but has reached its peak. Then we have the nostalgic. They are migrants, minorities, they don't feel anywhere, they just vote. They are non-citizens. They are victims, but they do not support populism. Finally, there are the progressives. They were told that if they studied they would have a future. They look for a policy that inspires them but the old social democracy and Christian Democrats turn their backs on them. They hate Brexit, the extreme right, trumpism.

But with Donald Trump the stock market is at highs and unemployment at lows.

At the beginning of the last century the money ended up in the elite, the working class was the loser. One hundred years later, the same: today capitalism guarantees incomes to some plutocrats, while wages go down and Trump lifts protectionism like Europe in the thirties. In the medium term, the public deficit will skyrocket, the manufacturing industry will decrease. As for unemployment, it is an artificial fact. Because today the United States creates less employment than 20 years ago. And it is increasingly precarious, poorly paid, part-time. Inequality increases and the public is a mess. Infrastructures are in a painful state.

Private and public wealth are not compatible?

It is the paradox of Lauderdale. In 1804 he wrote that if private wealth increases, public wealth declines. And as soon as neoliberalism has increased, the rich have bought land, property and created shortages. Thus the prices of these goods rise: houses, food, water … And this hits the precarious. Their standard of living decreases much more than wages, because they lose status and cannot access a series of resources. We have to recover the common good.

And the left?

You have to understand that the distribution of income as it happened in the twentieth century has been broken forever and there is no point in going back. We can no longer expect a society based on good real wages. Instead of taxing work, taxes have to be directed to those who use the common and benefit from it. You need ecological taxation and redistribute that income into a basic income. Macron was wrong with the yellow vests, because he did not want to raise this tax refund.

Why doesn't universal basic income take off?

We have had pilot tests in Finland, Canada, USA, India. In Barcelona they also designed a system, but too small, and too complicated to access. I am an advisor to the Minister of Economy of the Government in the shadow of the United Kingdom and I can already tell you that if the Labor win the elections, pilot tests will be conducted throughout the country. They no longer attack me, I think that universal income begins to have some legitimacy. Even the youngest unions begin to understand.

The next battle?

The ecological crisis Young people ask us for a strategy towards decreasing. Not everything can be reduced to maximize GDP. And you have to dismantle intellectual property rights, because most of the income of multinationals comes from there. The patent blocks innovation, it does not stimulate it. Create a wall because it discourages others to innovate. In the US, 1% of companies have more than half of the patents, often the result of prior public funding. So you and I are financing income. The result is that the five largest companies on the planet in five years have acquired 500 patents. And extend their domain.

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