Citizens Income

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

The State of Alaska has been sending a check annually to every Alaskan resident. They don’t have to do anything but live there, no strings attached. Similarly some economists have called for either a Basic Income, Universal Guaranteed Income or sometimes what  is called a Citizens Income. Even Richard Nixon once proposed an across the board income for families with children that he called his Family Assistance Plan.


The idea of granting, unconditionally, income seems an anathema to most folks who have been raised to think that income must be related to work or labor (although people with wealth make sizable income just from their income). As we deal with growing inequality not just here in the good old USA, but in many nations, the Basic Income idea is getting more serious consideration. Before you pooh-pooh the idea consider these advantages to using a Basic Income to replace all the various welfare programs that could be retired with a Basic Income in place.

  • It would provide them with a financial platform from which they could choose the life they want to lead.
  • It would give them the independence to seek decent wages and conditions.
  • People would be able to leave a job that is unsatisfying, making way for others who want it instead.
  • People could avoid work that harms the environment.
  • Small-scale farmers and marginally viable businesses and cultural organizations could better survive.
  • Local shops within a community would become more visible.
  • The centralization of economic activity would be reversed, making it possible to curb the excesses of corporations.
  • Small-scale employers, and larger employers during the recession, would only need to top up the Citizen’s Income and could therefore employ more staff.
  • There would be no need to produce unnecessary or short-lived products just in order to generate employment.
  • People would no longer need to adjust their behavior to maintain eligibility for the benefits; intrusive means testing would end; many perverse consequences of the current benefits and welfare system would end as people  realised their lives were in their own hands, not the dependency-creating nanny state.
  • People would feel more secure, not needing to amass excessive wealth for their old age or even to pass it on to their children. 

                                            (James Bruges, cited in Martin Large, Common Wealth: For  Free, Equal, Mutual and Sustainable Society, Stroud: Hawthorn Press, 2010 p.178)

For much more on the idea see Basic Income Earth Network or

the U.S. Basic Guaranteed Income Network

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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