What is a Guaranteed Livable Income?
by C. A. L'Hirondelle 2009

Definition: A Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) would be an unconditional and universal income administered by federal governments and granted to individuals to ensure that no person's income falls below what is necessary for Health, Life and Dignity.

Amount: Determinations of what a Livable amount of income would be, first necessitates that we all have an understanding of money. For now, many Canadian advocates simply state that it should be high enough that no person's income falls below Stats Canada's Low Income Cut-Off. The need for cash income is also related to other public services. For example, if it is found more effective to have free public transit to reduce damage to the environment, and if it it is found more effective to have widely available healthy social housing and organic vegetables to prevent health and social problems, then the amount of livable income needed would vary accordingly.

Concept & Name: In the past this concept was called Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) and was advocated by many including Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Theobald, Buckminster Fuller, Canada's 1972 Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1972, and even Pierre Berton. More recently, interest in various forms of guaranteed income has been shown by groups as diverse as the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres to Toronto Dominion Bank economists, and conservative Senator Hugh Segal.

There are over 25 countries in the world with active guaranteed/basic income groups including in Europe, Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S and Canada. Many of these groups are part of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). See the News and Links sections for further information.

The term 'Livable' was choosen in the late 1990's by grassroots groups on both the east and west coast of Canada. In discussions on the west coast, 'livable' was seen as having more vision and dignity than 'basic' or 'adequate.' It also solved the problem that an "annual" income technically could be a penny a year (a guaranteed starving income). It was strongly felt that 'Livable' emphasized what we need to stay alive, that health and happiness would be possible, whereas 'basic' and 'adequate' did not have this connotation.

Rationale in a Nutshell: The negative impacts of poverty are staggeringly high --including major health and social problems. It is increasingly evident that jobs do not provide livable incomes, and pursuing economic growth has a devasting cost to people and the planet. In contrast, a Guaranteed Livable Income would create a peaceful, practical, effective way to address human needs for health, and the ability to provide care for Self, Family, Community and our natural Environment.

A GLI creates a way to make a Transition to a Livable Economy that respects natural resource limits. Since there is currently no differentiation between beneficial or destructive jobs, using "jobs" as the method of income distribution has very high costs to health, community and the environment. Many destructive activities are counted as "productive" because they add to "economic growth," yet beneficial things, like unpaid care of family members, are not counted as being economically "productive." (Marilyn Waring, Counting for Nothing.)


Why (the facts and evidence)

How (which answers the now funny question "but where would the money come from?")