Pope Francis supports universal basic income, rethinking of our economic system

La Croix, Nov 24, 2020 https://international.la-croix.com/news/religion/the-popes-plea-for-a-universal-income/13385

Pope Francis has given enthusiastic support to the controversial idea for a universal income in a soon-to-be-released book, Let Us Dream.

The book, which will be released on December 1, is written in collaboration with Austen Ivereigh, the British journalist who has already produced two biographical works on the current pope.

In Let Us Dream, Francis says the institution of a universal income is one of the avenues for getting out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He believes it is also one of the tools that should be adopted in rethinking the economic system in post-pandemic work, which global leaders are currently debating.

The Argentine pope devotes the entire third part of his book to possible actions to change the world. He advocates for “an unconditional lump-sum payment to all citizens, which could be paid through the tax system”.

“Universal basic income could reshape labor market relations by guaranteeing people the dignity to refuse employment conditions that lock them into poverty,” he writes.

Francis has already addressed the issue in the past.

Last April, in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic, he evoked the “universal basic wage” in a letter to popular movements around the world.

“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights,” he wrote.

But in speaking of “income”, Francis is now going one step further.

By using this word, he is not arguing in favor of a fair salary paid to all employees, but for an unconditional universal income paid to all.

In affirming this, is he breaking with the social doctrine that, until now, has been developed by the Church?

In the past, when they have spoken on the subject, the popes have never directly addressed the question of a basic universal income. They have, on the other hand, clearly condemned idleness.

“Work is presented as a moral obligation with respect to one’s neighbor, which in the first place is one’s own family, but also the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter,” the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states.

Francis affirmed this in May 2017 when he addressed representatives of the “world of work” in the northern Italian city of Genoa.

“Do you know the percentage of young people aged 25 and under, unemployed, in Italy?” he asked them.

“These young people grow up without dignity, because they are not ‘united’ by the labor that gives dignity. But the cornerstone of this question is this: a monthly cheque, a monthly allowance that enables you to support a family does not solve the problem,” the pope said.

But the Compendium makes it clear that the obligation to work must also be combined with “the level of equity in the distribution of income”.

In other words, income must be distributed by considering “beyond the objective value of the work rendered, the human dignity of the subjects who perform it”.

It is this balance between human dignity, a decent income and work for all that Francis seems to be seeking here.

He says it is a question of ensuring a “basic security” that guarantees dignity.

By urging society to recognize and therefore compensate other forms of work — that of volunteers or people who care for their loved ones — the pope is arguing, for the first time, in favor of the non-correlation between work and wage-earning.

It is a radical new idea.

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