Something to ruminate on:
“Adrienne Goehler exhorted conference attendees to support a “basic income grant” as a universal right. She put it succinctly: the current system forces overproduction in all realms, even art. The current system of grants for artists, inadequate in so many other ways, operates almost exclusively on a project basis, forcing artists who seek support to think in terms of novelty and output rather than allowing adequate time for work to evolve and emerge organically. As Adrienne said, sustainability needs deceleration. All of us need the leisure to rest, ruminate, imagine ways to throw off the chain of overproduction and overconsumption and rediscover a way of living in balance with each other and the life this planet supports.
“Guaranteed annual income,” “basic income grant,” and “guaranteed minimum income” (or six other ways of saying the same thing) describes a stipend available without a means test or other conditions to any and every person. There’s an international coalition–Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), which holds its 15th annual congress in Montreal this summer–organized around three simple principles defining a basic income:
it is being paid to individuals rather than households;
it is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
it is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.
The phrase “basic income grant” struck me with a powerful resonance–two, in fact. First, since the problem with so much arts advocacy is that it is perceived as special pleading by a class of citizens for their own support–a hot potato–a basic income grant would help to cool things down. When everyone has the same entitlement, the whole conversation changes. We have a glimmer of this in the use that performing arts groups sometimes make of unemployment insurance, with companies paying in during the season when artists and other workers are employed in mounting plays and concerts, and members of the company collecting unemployment to tide them over during the off-season. I’ve heard it said more than once that unemployment benefits are the largest single source of subsidy for U.S. performing arts. I haven’t done the math to verify that, but the basic point stands regardless.”