Minimum guaranteed income

If the current path leads to a Europe where 2/3 of the population belong to the non-geographic core, that is, people who manage to retain a privileged position in the network, then 1/3 of Europeans will be weak cells, part of the increasing periphery inside the traditional core countries. Inhomogeneity is here to stay.

One question is, what to do with the unfortunate 1/3. One possibility is, quite simply, state repression of the excluded underclass. This can become acceptable and be accepted by the majority as an alternative method of social control. ‘Civilised’ zones can coexist with ‘wild’ ones (banlieus, inner cities), where the standards of application of law are different: in the ‘civilised zones”, the state applies the democratic law, while in the ‘wild zones’ it acts in a repressive, predatorial fashion.

This is what we can call “repressive exclusion”, and it is already a reality in many places, particularly in the US with the “zero tolerance” policing that in fact criminalises poverty.

One other alternative stems from a piece of seemingly twisted logic: if jobs for everyone are a thing of the past, and if without a job you don’t have an income once the unemployment benefits have ended, then let’s cut off the link between work and money. So far, to have an income depended on having a job. If jobs are structuraly gone for ever, and people still have to live, then let’s give them money even if they don’t do anything.

This is the main idea behind minimum guaranteed income schemes. It is a revolutionary concept, and the very few countries that did adopt them, like Portugal, were at the forefront of recognising the new world system, and adapting to it.

The pros are clear: minimise the social problems due to the new core-periphery structure, keep social violence and crime within bounds, allow the new excluded to lead a dignified life.

The criticisms all relate to moral hazard, and the worst opposition has come from the people who are on the borderline between inclusion and exclusion: poor enough to struggle, too rich to qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, these schemes have drawn enough public hate, that it is likely that they will remain underfunded.