Interview with Eefke Meijerink, local Social Democratic Party leader Netherlands


International Basic Income Week 2015 has begun early! spoke to one of the hosts of the very first event heralding the 8th International Week: Interview with Eefke Meijerink, local Social Democratic Party leader and member of city council Zwolle, Netherlands

With your „Stadsgesprek Zwolle“ on Wednesday you were the first event for the 8th International Basic Income Week – thank you and Congratulations! We already heard that it was a success. Who was it geared at? Who came? What happened? Tell us all about it!

We hosted a „Stadsgesprek“ – a City Talk with the people in Zwolle about the idea of basic income. It was initiated by three local political parties, the liberals, the social democrats and a christian party, two of which form the local government, in cooperation with local theatre and inhabitants of the town, to insure that it would be a civic event, not a party-political one.

As there are movements in many dutch towns* at present to experiment with Basic Income, the hosts wanted to explore the subject with the local community, before embarking on such an experiment withouth any backing from the population. First we want the population to know what basic income means.

160 people attended (Zwolle is a city of 125,000 inhabitants), all of which had already some interest in the idea of basic income.

The „Stadsgesprek“ was the first of two events** and yesterday’s main question was: „Which societal problems and issues might Basic Income be an answer for?“

At first the Economist Sjir Hoeijmakers, who also crowdfunds his own basic income, gave a keynote. Sjir is part of the evaluation team for the planned pilot models.

Then we showed a short documentary about basic income made by Nordy Visser, a young student.

*other dutch towns considering experiments include: Nijmegen, Tilburg, Eindhoven and Utrecht, of which Tilburg seems to have the most advanced plans, with Nijmegen in „hot pursuit“.

** 2nd event will also be held at Club Cele on october 7th 8.00 pm (Odeon, Zwolle) – follow Club Cele on Facebook for details

What did you like about the event?

During the following discussion with the audience after the input from Sjir and the film everybody was very inspired – the keynote explained in an excellent way the different considerations about experimenting with and financing basic income. So an animated and lively debate followed, which openly considered pros and cons and addressed the uncertainties people feel about this new idea suddenly being experimented with. Most attendees showed commitment to experiment, saying „if you don’t experiment, you can’t discover which parts work and which don’t“. We talked about the doubts about financiability and the effect it might have on unpopular jobs being done, and also about international solidarity. The people who liked the idea of basic income stated that the emancipating function it fullfills, not just for men & women, also for employees & employers was important to them, as was the aspect of free choice and that it seemed to have the potential to solve a lot of the current problems with social security.

Why did your party get involved with International Week?

It was actually a coincidence that our event, which was planned months ago, fitted with the date of International Week so nicely.  Basic income, which has been a long standing topic in the Netherlands – the local Basisinkomen initiative has existed for many years – is a hot subject in the Netherlands at the moment, fuelled by Rutger Bregman book „gratis geld voor iedereen“ (free money for everyone). There is now a young generation of people asking questions about basic income and spreading information in a different way – they don’t consider basic income as a goal, but as a means to a transition into a more complete world. My party on national level doesn’t support basic income as such, but they see the need for experiments – we have to find out, if it’s a good idea that works in practice!

Can you remember you very first encounter with Basic Income?

A long time ago – during my studies in the early 90s – I wrote a paper about basic income. At that time in Holland mainly the (conservative) liberal party was talking about it back then – in a way that didn’t appeal to me – but I could see the idea behind it as something valid. So I researched earlier supporters and found out more about it.

And what are your next steps, personally?

With the local party to first get a majority for the basic income idea in public, then get a majority in the local city council. It is also important to get the local media interested in the subject to inform more people and inspire more discussion, to address fears and hesitations of those who are opposed to the idea still. The pilot experiment would start with a small research group within the population. We also need to look at evidence from other towns and make sure the different pilots work hand in hand.

Do you have any suggestions for activists in other countries who are still planning to participate in International Week?

I think it’s very appealing if people try to get their own basic income by crowdfunding, as inspiring examples of what happens when… Also, humor is important. Yesterday someone at the event said: „tomorrow I will get my basic income, because I bought a lottery ticket!“ He then promised us that if he won a million, he would pay for 3 basic incomes during our next event in October!

We at actually think that this tongue-in-cheek example shows what awesome giving mentality basic income unleashes in people…


by Manja Taylor, 10.09.2015

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