Interview with Scott Santens United States and Reddit basicincome activist

scottScott Santens, moderator of the Basic Income community on reddit, 1st American to crowdfund his own basic income, New Orleans

Can you remember you very first encounter with Basic Income?
Mine was an article about Manitoba/Canadathat I read about 2011, when it first came out – I was amazed by it, put it away as another good idea. Then rediscovered Basic Income in 2013 through the accelerating automation conversation.

A book was recommended to me, Marshall Brain’s Manna, a software system that eliminates middle management. It had a new thought, as the normal debate we hear is: the low-paid jobs are being eliminated. Now Manna tells us, that also middle management jobs will go – and it seems on point.

In our last interview, Lieselotte Wohlgenannt tells us that she first heard of Basic Income from the States, in the 80s – what fuelled the debate back then?
Alan Watts  talked about money and the need for Basic Income in the future because of automation, this was late 60s / early 70s, actually the first thing I was passionate about, to the point of transcribing the entire audio recording to text. Alan was informed by Robert Theobald, who asked: „What happens when people’s jobs are taken by machines? Machines don’t have paychecks! You have to give people money to purchase the things that the machines are producing.“

So, we have to sever the connection between work and income and that’s what Basic Income can do.

Scott Santens recent Article about this in the Atlantic stating “that job growth is no longer keeping pace with automation”, seeing “government-provided income as a viable remedy”.

How would you describe the current social and political climate in the US – and how does Basic Income fit into it?
On the one hand I see Basic Income as extremely important to get people from the different political spectrums to talk to each other, because – I said it before – Basic Income is not left or right. It’s forward.

In our culture, the left and right are not talking to each other anymore, they just disagree on things, so Basic Income could be important as a bridge – so people across the divide talk to each other again. And if they can talk about THIS they can also talk about other important issues and get them sorted together.

On the other hand we seem to be going in the opposite direction – towards less freedom, making more conditions and rules.

I observe the same thing in the Netherlands – there it has been going towards adding strings, and out of this the new experiments are starting in Tilburg, in Utrecht…
So going too far into the wrong direction has created this push to try the opposite direction.
Experiments are good, so we can use evidence based schemes in the future. I’d like the US to use evidence based ideas for other issues, too, like health care.

Why is an International Week important for Basic Income?
Basic Income is a global movement – we need that policy in place in every country we can reasonably do it in – which is every country. Every person needs to have their basic needs met UNCONDITIONALLY – they know what their needs are, they don’t need anynone nannying them or telling them what to do with their money – and this is true for all people all over.
I think having a Basic Income in one country will create positive effects, so other countries can see the benefits and that it is possible.
I see myself as part of the global conversation and want to accelerate the process.

US Basic Income Initiatives in Washington DC, New York City, Saint Paul, the Bay Area, and New Orleans are staging events for 8th International Basic Income Week, so watch out for announcements in the calendar.

How does something like Patreon work hand in hand with the idea behind Basic Income?
I think it’s a great fit – I was very happy to find this crowdfunding platform [link] for creatives and immediately thought of Basic Income when I saw it. There are mostly creative types on Patreon: writers, video bloggers, comic artists, musicians… – people who create, because of intrinsic motivation, because they are driven to create – they will do it as long as they have the ability to do so! Next to a 40hour job it is hard to paint on the side, and it is great to see how Patreon allows creatives to be creative! It removes even the stress to have to sell so many pictures – they just know they have a certain income, and can focus on doing what they love and Patreon builds these incomes in a very unconditional basic income way.

It also works hand in hand with telling people what happens when we have a Basic Income – everyone would have their earnings as an additional income – Basic Income is a floor, that anything you make on top is added on. Because that’s a common question – won’t everyone live in poverty, because they ONLY get Basic Income?

When I started my own crowdfunding I got this real feeling of emancipation – even once I had only 400$, not even enough to cover my rent, it was empowering and meant I could build on that. Once you get something, you are able to build on that.

Other ideas, like the German initiative of Micha Bohmeyer, which is spreading to other countries and already set up in the Netherlands, support Basic Income in a similar way, they show what will happen once people have a Basic Income, they make it feasible.

What is your vision for Basic Income, for the US and worldwide?
What I would like to do once I get my own crowdfunded Basic Income to the full amount of $1,111, before fees (at the moment I’m up to $900) – I want to focus on state level local action. In the US we have 24 states that have a similar ability to Switzerland – to collect signatures to get ideas on the ballot and vote on it. I want to focus on those 24 states, because I think ideas can get introduced on state level and from there get taken up US-wide, like we saw recently with the legalisation of marijuana and gay marriages.
There is one state that already pays something like Basic Income, unconditionally – Alaska. They have the Alaskan dividend, paid out to every resident, man, woman and child. I want to get the Alaskan system introduced in those 24 states this way.
by Manja Taylor, 08th Sep 2015