Interview with Lieselotte Wohlgenannt, Social Scientist at Catholic Social Academy Austria (KSOE), and coAuthor of Den öko-sozialen Umbau beginnen: Grundeinkommen (Start the eco-social reconstruction: Basic Income)
Can you remember your very first encounter with Basic Income?
It was in the early 80s, when our former director of the Catholic Social Academy Austria and my coauthor, P. Dr Herwig Büchele came back from a stay in the USA and brought the idea to Austria. Back then there was an intensive political and economic debate in the United States about a guaranteed minimum income. We decided to take up this idea and make it our topic.
It was also picked up by others, like the Federal Institute for Adult Education in Strobl. In 1983 they hostet a „workshop for workers education“, which covered the topic due to raising unemployment and called for a „Basic Wage for all“. This meeting later (1986) gave cause to a large, international Hearing within the Austrian Social Ministry headed then by Alfred Dallinger, which asked: „Basic Wage / Securing Existence – Guaranteed Basic Income for all?“
In Germany too the first initiatives were born around that time, and in Belgium Philippe van Parijs initiated a research group Basic Income at the Universität LouvainlaNeuve, whose results were published and led to the foundation of BIEN.
Why is International Week important for Basic Income?
The International Week is important to spread the idea of basic income as wide as possible and make it known to many people. It’s joyous that the event has outgrown the germanspeaking area, and caught on in the rest of Europe and even beyond.
Sepp Kusstatscher named „Start the ecosocial reconstruction“ as his first encounter with Basic Income 1989. Which new discoveries did you make til then?
It became clear to me that we need a worldwide Basic Income and that we need to start in Europe.
What is your personal vision for Unconditional Basic Income, in Austria and worldwide?
I think we should introduce a Basic Income in Europe that is the same amount in all countries, just high enough to be enough to live on in the poorest countries. This European base income would be integrated into the tax systems of each country and financed through a fair and solidary redistribution of wealth.
This solidary service by the EU would strengthen the community and support regional growth and initiative in the poorer EU states. It would be easier to finance than some of the current „financial aid“, which first and foremost serves the banks. With that we would have an example and experiences for a worldwide basic income.
Which other question do you wish someone would ask you about Basic Income and what would be your answer?
I wish for an international debate about the question, how worldwide Basic Income could
be financed through dues and taxes for the exploitation and use of natural resources. For
Earth and her goods belong to all people, and all are entitled to live off her. A worldwide
Basic Income could be one possibility to put this right into practice.