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We are delighted to share with your the recent video podcast recording of our conversation with Prof Guy Standing. Eminent Economist and long time campaiger for Universal Basic Income. Guy has written many books, see a link to his library below, but we were delighted to talk with him about his most recent publication, The Blue Commons. A must read but disturbing research into our misuse and distruction of our blue commons, the oceans, 71% of the Earth’s surface.We need to do better! We also discuss his passion and work on Basic Income and how there seems to be some momentum gathering. At last! Find more info on Guy’s publications, including The Blue Commons – https://www.guystanding.com/books  

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Youtube video –  Episode 8 – Prof Guy Standing – The Importance of The Blue Commons and Basic Income (click to watch)

Podcast – Episode 8 – Prof Guy Standing – The Importance of The Blue Commons and Basic Income (click to listen)

Transcript –  scroll to see text below

TRANSCRIPT – Episode 8 – Prof Guy Standing – The Importance of The Blue Commons and Basic Income

00:00:19:29 – 00:00:31:08

Annabelle

Hello. So welcome to this next edition of the Value Exchange video podcast. I’m here with my usual co-host Rob Pye.  Hello Rob .

00:00:31:28 – 00:00:36:00

Rob Pye

Oh, hello. I’m not going to introduce myself because I’m not allowed to anymore. Thank you, Annabelle..

00:00:36:23 – 00:01:02:12

Annabelle

As we said last time, we’ve bored everybody with our intro and you’ve done it at least twice. Everybody’s bored. But absolutely. It’s such a great pleasure to introduce today Professor Guy Standing who’s come to join us. And we met a Guy as we were doing a little inquiry into the Welsh Government’s basic income pilot. Discovered his name sought him out and met him about nine, ten months ago.

00:01:03:20 – 00:01:30:22

Annabelle

And I know Rob in particular has been sort of an avid reader, as has just shared of of many of your works that as many as he could digest the latest of which being The Blue Commons and we will come to that but really, if you wouldn’t mind, just to give us quite a short intro, who you are and what motivates you, etc., then Rob’s got a breathtaking number of questions that we’d like to pose to you.

00:01:31:25 – 00:02:04:04

Guy Standing

Well, thank you very much, Rob and Annabelle. It’s a pleasure to be joining you this afternoon. My background is that I’m an Economist with a PhD from University of Cambridge, and for many years I worked in the United Nations at quite senior level, and then I became a Professor of Economics at several universities. And my great passion in terms of my non-academic work has been the promotion of basic income.

00:02:04:05 – 00:02:36:13

Guy Standing

And we co-founded,BIEN, as it’s called, the Basic Income Earth Network as far back as 1986. And we’ve just had our 22nd International Congress. We have thousands of members and probably come back to talk about some of the experiments that I’ve been fortunate enough to be directing on basic income around the world, including advising the Welsh government, as you just mentioned, on a basic income pilot.

00:02:36:24 – 00:03:07:20

Guy Standing

And I’m on the technical advisory committee of that. We’re having a meeting next week and I’m pleased to say that it’s going very well. It’s got started and hundreds  of the young care leavers are receiving the basic income. Also advising the Catalonian government on a big basic income pilot and in the other extreme, in Nepal, a basic income pilot where extreme poverty is is the major issue.

00:03:08:03 – 00:03:49:17

Guy Standing

And I’ve done pilots in India, in Africa and in Latin America. So those things have taken up a lot of my time. But as Rob has had to suffer in trying to read my books, I’ve also turned in the last 20 years in particular, bringing a lot of my experience of having worked all over the world on many of the issues that I’ve been able to write about it since the beginning of this century, and in particular my book, The Precariat The New Dangerous Class, which was published in 2011.

00:03:49:17 – 00:04:16:24

Guy Standing

And that book has sort of transformed my life as much as anything in the sense that it’s been translated into 24 languages. And I’ve literally been asked to give presentations and talks, over 500 talks in 40 countries. Now, that doesn’t happen to a boring economist like myself.

00:04:16:24 – 00:04:18:06

Rob Pye

So he.

00:04:18:24 – 00:04:49:15

Guy Standing

You must be kidding, and how did that happen? But I can tell you that every single day, without exception I think, I receive emails from people around the world saying they belong to the Precariat or they feel they could belong to the Precariat. All their sons and daughters are in the Precariat. And this I get. I mean I’m just about to give a lecture in China.

00:04:49:22 – 00:05:01:21

Guy Standing

Same in the Middle East. And it’s all over the world. So that really is a bit of a lot of background material. But I’m happy to answer your question, your specific questions.

00:05:02:12 – 00:05:24:04

Rob Pye

And allow a tiny little bit of moving experience during the pandemic when so many young people were displaced from the labor market and found themselves with no income and found themselves in, as you say, this Precariat, you know, this displaced disenfranchised group. That’s Annabelle’s dog. 

00:05:24:14 – 00:05:27:11

Annabelle

Yeah, it’s just typical. Typical of the dog to do that.

00:05:27:28 – 00:05:29:12

Rob Pye

But we recruited..

00:05:29:12 – 00:05:30:02

Guy Standing

The dog will join the Precariat.

00:05:31:21 – 00:06:11:11

Rob Pye

And employed 65 people without any work specifically to give them, but created meaningful engagements if they wanted to do that. And we paid them a basic income. So it was kind of, it wasn’t a universal basic income in any stretch of the imagination. But for the two years of the pandemic, it transformed in our minds what an absence of opportunity negatively can do and positively how a basic income can close that.

00:06:11:11 – 00:06:58:12

Rob Pye

If you are able to then let people do what they want to do if you kind of remove that bottom layer of Maslow’s hierarchy, but about you, it would be a travesty to not start this conversation with some reasonably substantive conversation about your most recent book called The Blue Commons. And I have to say it’s an absolute must read for anybody who’s got any interest in water or the oceans or the natural environment of this incredible resource.

00:06:58:23 – 00:07:27:08

Rob Pye

And at times I was kind of almost moved to tears because of some of the just awful facts that the book just reels off paragraph after paragraph. It is quite a difficult read because there’s so much in it. In a moment, I’m going to ask you just for a brief summary. So that’s very cruel because how could you but, you know, if you’re watching this, just go by and read the book.

00:07:27:27 – 00:07:44:01

Rob Pye

I couldn’t endorse it strongly enough. As Annabel said, I’m an avid reader, But what why did you write the book and then give us a quick summary? First question, why did you write the book then? Can you give us a summary? 

00:07:44:27 – 00:08:48:14

Guy Standing

Well, I wrote the book because it fits into the sequence of my work. My work began back in the 1980s when I was convinced that the Thatcherite Reagan reforms, what we call neo liberalism, was ushering in a period in which inequalities would grow, insecurities would grow. And I argued in a book called The Corruption of Capitalism that what that period did was produce a global economic system that I call Rentier Capitalism now, rentier capitalism is dominated by global finance, and it means that more and more of the income that’s generated in Britain or in the world goes to the owners of property, physical property, financial property and intellectual property.

00:08:49:05 – 00:09:26:03

Guy Standing

As it crystallized in the passage of TRIPS, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property in 1994 which globalized the US intellectual property rights system. Now, what that meant was that a new global class structure was emerging, which would come back to perhaps in which there was a Plutocracy, a Salariat and dying Proletariat, and a growing Precariat of people in insecure positions, feeling that losing the rights of citizenship and so on.

00:09:26:03 – 00:10:06:02

Guy Standing

And I came to the realization that one of the things that created society historically was the commons. If you go back to ancient Britain, you get to the point of Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, which was sealed on November the sixth, 1217. And I said to my friend John McDonnell in early 2017, I was an adviser to him, an economic adviser to him when he was Shadow Chancellor.

00:10:06:10 – 00:10:31:09

Guy Standing

I said, we’re about to come up to the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, the Magna Carta, because the Magna cobbler, contrary to what you’re taught at school, didn’t come in 1215, It was 1217. Okay. When it became Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest was the most long lasting piece of legislation in Britain and in the world.

00:10:32:17 – 00:11:30:27

Guy Standing

It became law in 1217 and was only repealed by Conservative government in 1971. Incredible. Okay. And I said we should be celebrating the Charter of the Forest because it established the right of all Englishmen at the time. But all people who subscribe to Magna Carta and the charter to the right of the Commons, and this goes back to ancient Rome, when the Emperor Justinian got the Justinian Codex made where he divided property into private property, state property, nobody’s property and the commons, common property, which belongs to everybody in the community, the commons belong to everybody, and they don’t belong to any of us individually or any interest.

00:11:30:28 – 00:11:59:06

Guy Standing

I can’t do anything with the Commons unless we all agree. The Commons is something for which the government and the monarchy historically have meant to be the stewards. That is preserving the value, preserving the commons. And under the Justinian Codex, as I say in the first chapter of the book, when I ask the question, who owns the oceans, Who owns the oceans?

00:11:59:29 – 00:12:26:26

Guy Standing

Well, ever since the Justinian Codex, the sea, the seabed, the seashores and all that’s under the sea and in the sea, a part of the commons. And I wrote a book called Plunder of the Commons, which showed how the privatization and the commodification and the enclosure of all our commons, not just our land, but social amenities. The NHS is part of our commons.

00:12:27:03 – 00:12:55:03

Guy Standing

It was created in 1948 as a commons belonging to all of us, and it became a commons by tradition, after 20 years of being accepted as a commons. That’s the rule. And when I wrote the Plunder of the Commons, I looked at all the different aspects of how the Commons had been privatized, commodified, neglected, etc. and I drew up a manifesto for restoring the Commons.

00:12:55:12 – 00:13:09:05

Guy Standing

But I realized that there was one big hole in the story, mentioned briefly in that book, and that is the blue commons. So I didn’t and I thought I would write a small book.I’m sorry Rob

00:13:10:00 – 00:13:12:07

Rob Pye

I’m sorry if.

00:13:13:09 – 00:13:15:03

Guy Standing

I wrote a small book..

00:13:15:03 – 00:13:16:20

Annabelle

It’s a large ocean.

00:13:18:28 – 00:13:52:29

Guy Standing

Because my son is also working on sea issues and he’s doing fantastic work in Africa, and I dedicate the book to him because of his great work. And I wanted to bring the Commons, the Blue Commons, to life because they are incredibly neglected in Britain and around the world. The sea occupies 71% of the Earth’s surface, and yet it receives hardly any attention in our politics in our political discussions.

00:13:52:29 – 00:14:37:10

Guy Standing

We have a Green Party. We have green politics but we don’t have blue, right? I’ve been teasing Caroline Lucas, whom I greatly admire. I said, Caroline, you’ve got to have it blue as well as green. And the point about the blue commons is that, as I show in the book, I hope, what has happened is the economic activities is in the seas of the world have become so important that if you just took the sea as a country, it would already be the sixth largest economy in the world, bigger than Britain, actually, and it’s expected to double by the end of this decade.

00:14:38:11 – 00:15:29:16

Guy Standing

It’s not just fishing, it’s mining, it’s transport, it’s cruise liners, it’s ports. It’s all the activities that take place in the sea. And of course, it’s a horror story in what’s happened, as I think you’ve touched on, because not only is much of the sea being polluted and subject to global warming effects and losing its capacity to be a carbon store. We’re also seeing huge dangers in deep sea mining, which is about to start in July this year, unless we have a movement to stop it, and we see 11 million tonnes of plastic going into the sea each year.

00:15:30:08 – 00:16:05:08

Guy Standing

Right? You have a situation where 50 billion tonnes of sea sand are excavated each year. It’s not appreciated enough that sea sand is what’s used in concrete and buildings. You can’t use sand from the desert. It’s too fine. It has to be from the sea. And what has been happening is seashores around the world have been eroding because these big trawlers have been going along, taking vast amounts of sand.

00:16:05:24 – 00:16:40:16

Guy Standing

Then we have our horrors, things like noise in the sea, noise created by these huge vessels. There are now nearly 100,000 vessels of over a hundred tons each. And the noise in the sea has doubled each decade since the 1950s, and noise travels thousands of miles and disrupts the migratory patterns, the breeding patterns of mammals and sea creatures of all types it has terrible effects.

00:16:41:06 – 00:17:17:05

Guy Standing

And we’re now about to see deep sea mining, which is even worse because this will disrupt and create plumes and create all sorts of disruptions to ecosystems that are incredibly fragile. But of course, part of the story is about fishing. And I’ve just written a little email to a Guardian journalist who’s got a piece in The Guardian today, and she tells the familiar story that the problem is illegal fishing.

00:17:17:05 – 00:17:36:21

Guy Standing

No, it isn’t. No, it isn’t. The problem is legal fishing. The problem is the systems that governments have allowed to exist, which use crazy concepts to systematically destroy fish populations.

00:17:36:21 – 00:17:45:29

Rob Pye

Before we go any further on that one Guy, I want to,  I mean, you haven’t you haven’t even started yet in terms of..

00:17:46:02 – 00:17:47:11

Guy Standing

I should shut up?

00:17:48:03 – 00:18:23:22

Rob Pye

Before you go mainstream. So we know about bottles. We know about, you know, there’s a lot of increasing public consciousness on pollution waste. That’s one of the things you talk about in the book that was remarkable, shocking and horrific to read about was the role of the seabed as a carbon sink and the role of trawlers and bottom dredging and I probably summarized this fact very poorly.

00:18:23:22 – 00:19:10:05

Rob Pye

But the damage to releasing carbon for trawling is greater than all of our air travel every year. The amount of carbon that’s released and you cited some reports on that. And I found that with when now getting on to fishing, legal legal fishing, massive trawlers, massive industrial scale fishing and how perhaps it’s not the little minority, what mums and dads fishing in developing countries, but these industrial scale trawlers and super fishing vessels that are causing so much damage and that was quite jaw dropping to me.

00:19:11:17 – 00:19:13:14

Rob Pye

Do you want to just talk a tiny bit about that?

00:19:13:16 – 00:19:51:22

Guy Standing

Yeah, I mean, what is what you described there, Rob, is absolutely right. I mean, there are thousands of these industrial scale fishing trawlers and they’re scraping the bottom in bottom, trawling and literally destroying the capacity of the seabed to be breeding grounds for fish, as well as taking in a lot of what’s called bycatch. Huge numbers of things that have no commercial value are caught and destroyed.

00:19:52:17 – 00:20:28:27

Guy Standing

It’s terrible. And what is really shocking in the case of Britain, but not only Britain, is that we have so called marine protected areas. And Boris Johnson, with his characteristic respect for truth, said in a speech in 2020 at a United Nations Summit conference. He boasted that Britain has 26% of its sea in marine protected areas and we are world leading, he said.

00:20:30:05 – 00:21:03:01

Guy Standing

The only problem is that all the research that I checked and cited in the book shows that there is more industrial trawling in our so-called marine protected zones than outside. Right. And they are destroying the resources there because those areas were meant to be breeding grounds and the rest of it particularly well suited and therefore should be protected.

00:21:03:16 – 00:21:33:14

Guy Standing

Now when in 2020 there was the fishery bill being discussed in the House of Commons, one MP proposed an amendment to the bill and he said we should have a ban on industrial fish trawling in marine protected areas. Now if it’s protected areas, that should be an obvious one, right? The Government vetoed it, they vetoed that.

00:21:34:10 – 00:22:13:24

Guy Standing

It is a ridiculous situation because we’re not protecting. And meanwhile the destruction of the seabed is so terrible. And there was a little bit of comic relief almost to the situation a couple of years ago. Greenpeace went out with a boat and threw a couple of boulders, big boulders, into one of these marine protected areas to stop, to make it harder for these nets to be dragged along the ground.

00:22:13:28 – 00:22:44:02

Guy Standing

But don’t forget, these boats are over 100 meters long. I think we’re not talking as you say, not talking about dinghies and just sort of anyhow, they threw the couple of boulders and the government sued them and took them to court for disturbing the sea. Now, I can’t make this up. It’s in the book. I can’t make it up.

00:22:44:12 – 00:22:50:12

Guy Standing

And the judge, I don’t usually praise judges. I mean, it’s not my tendency.

00:22:51:23 – 00:23:26:27

Guy Standing

The judge had good sense to throw the case out and say it’s absurd. Now we have a situation where so many of these things are happening in the sea and we’re not aware enough and we’re not active enough. I’m very pleased that I’ve been invited to give a presentation in the House of Commons of the book, end March 27th in the Wilson Room at the House of Commons, and I will probably get attacked by some of these MPs, but that’s life.

00:23:27:15 – 00:23:57:07

Guy Standing

And the thing is we need much greater awareness. That’s the first thing about our loss, about commons. They belong to all of us. And there’s another section which, which you may have read, Rob, but it’s about auctioning off our seabed. Now, the seabed of Britain belongs to us, belongs to you and me and everybody listening. It’s part of our commons, it’s part of our heritage.

00:23:58:06 – 00:24:10:06

Guy Standing

And yet the queen found out that she could possibly make a lot of money for the Crown Estate by auctioning off thousands of square miles.

00:24:11:09 – 00:24:12:04

Rob Pye

Of our seabed.

00:24:13:02 – 00:24:43:06

Guy Standing

To multinational corporations. German, Dutch, Canadian, etc.. And they have got billions of guaranteed income, four rounds of auctions. Now, of course, King Charles has just announced that he wants to return some of that income that’s flowing from auctioning off the seabed to the public. And he’s asking, what would you like to do with the money? How generous of him, because it shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.

00:24:44:07 – 00:25:33:08

Guy Standing

And I won’t be happy about that until we have a rule saying no more selling of our seabed, full stop. So you know that that is a typical aspect of it. But I believe and I’m reasonably confident that the agenda spelt out in the latter two chapters of the book represent a feasible way of recovering our commons, the blue commons in particular, and redistributing the benefits and having an ecological effect of pushing back pollution, penalizing those that are taking, penalizing more effectively.

00:25:33:10 – 00:25:57:17

Guy Standing

We should make, we should make illegal taking of fish, the breaking of quota systems make it a crime. It’s not realized it’s not a crime. Today they can be fined, but it’s not a criminal offense. It’s just a civil event. So they continue to be able to do it. And I give examples where it pays to break the law.

00:25:57:27 – 00:26:15:22

Guy Standing

It pays those big industrial fisheries to break the law. So we need a campaign to recover the commons and redistribute the benefits of the blue economy before it gets to a disastrous stage. And it’s pretty close to that now.

00:26:16:28 – 00:26:57:18

Rob Pye

So I want to take you to the final couple of chapters of the Blue Commons and also I think you’ve kind of joined the dots on a lot of your previous work. But lest people that watch this kind of dismiss you and your fantastic work as,  here’s an economist that wants to deconstruct utterly global capitalism and neo liberalism and everything that kind of is dominating, as you would say, the plunder of the commons.

00:26:58:08 – 00:27:37:23

Rob Pye

I think in the,  you make in your work in various stages a lot of very practical suggestions that I believe are quite integrated in terms of current capital economics and how we might look at policies and governance and fiduciary duties that trustees might have. And one of the striking examples that you’ve talked through, I think it’s really important to maybe counter narrative, well, this should all be the world should all be a public good.

00:27:37:23 – 00:28:10:24

Rob Pye

Let’s take it to the extreme. We don’t have corporations and extractive mindsets, but you’re in that in the final chapter you talk to about one of the largest, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world that looked at modern balancing out some of the damaging effects of extracting oil in Norway. And part of what I believe you talked of there in policy terms and in previous books.

00:28:10:24 – 00:28:55:13

Rob Pye

And that was almost the coexistence of, you know, shareholder organizations, of people that are going to do shareholder value extraction for profit and how they might exist with government, how they might exist to leave future generations with a world that is at least as good as the world, you know, we have now. So maybe to talk a little bit about Norway and Statoil and some of the stuff without getting too complicated in words I can understand, but just, you know, to moderate the extremes of everything should be a public good.

00:28:55:13 – 00:29:08:12

Rob Pye

How can we coexist with things like oil extraction, you know, capital economics of vast profits that come? And the example in Norway was fantastic. I thought, really moving.

00:29:09:27 – 00:29:14:22

Guy Standing

Well, first of all, I’m an economist and I.

00:29:16:19 – 00:29:55:26

Guy Standing

I believe that a good market economy is desirable. I believe that you must have a role for entrepreneurship, for investment, for sensible profit making. And I hate being characterized as somebody who thinks everything should be made a public good. That’s rubbish. I mean, it’s just that’s infantile, right? The essence, and I was asked to give a talk in the city of London and in the Bank of England before COVID and I was very pleased.

00:29:55:27 – 00:30:32:06

Guy Standing

They very quickly realized that I’m talking about a place for the commons. The commons has always been part of a good society. We always had respect for the Commons and you need you need the commons to give you your sense of solidarity, your sense of balance, your sense of informal protection and the poor in particular and the Precariat need the commons in which to be able to, you know, subsist our great traditions of Robin Hood.

00:30:32:19 – 00:31:03:29

Guy Standing

Robin Hood was part of, lived in the commons and we know he was fictitious, but the whole thing about the Commons having a place in a good society and we we have things like allotments and think so, there should be respect for the commons.  Now we get to the Norway example. When North Sea oil was discovered in the 1960s, Britain had part, Norway had part.

00:31:04:15 – 00:31:38:28

Guy Standing

Britain had more. But Britain dissipated the profits with privatization, windfall tax cuts for the wealthy and paying for the unemployment benefits because of deindustrialization and the 90 day etc. etc. What Norway did with its smaller amount was take the royalties from the oil production, from the North Sea oil, and put it into a capital fund, what some would call a sovereign wealth fund.

00:31:38:28 – 00:32:31:25

Guy Standing

Right. The oil fund, it’s now called the Pension Fund. And you put that into the fund and retain the ownership of the oil. The oil is part of the commons of Norway, Right. The oil was part of our commons, but we dissipated it and it ends up being owned by Chinese state capital.It’s ridiculous. By Communists you know, if you really want to be sarcastic about what they’ve allowed. Whereas the Norwegians invested. Now  what they did next was close to what I’m recommending in my book, because they said, look, the commons that is oil, the value has to be retained and passed on to the next generation and the generation after that.

00:32:32:15 – 00:33:12:13

Guy Standing

So the capital value of your common resource must be retained because the principle of the commons is a principle of intergenerational equity. It’s not for windfall gains by us. We’ve got to pass it on. We are stewards, we’re collective stewards of our commons. Our common resources, our minerals, whatever. And the rule of the Norwegian fund was they could only recycle, pay out the net returns on the investments of the money that they were putting into the fund.

00:33:13:06 – 00:33:50:20

Guy Standing

Now the net investments have been about  7.5% on average over a five year period. They did badly last year, but over a five year period in the period they built up and they’ve built up from practically nothing to the point where today Norway is the most affluent and most equal market economy, right, in the world. And every quintile of income in the income distribution below the top has a higher standard of living than any other country.

00:33:51:00 – 00:34:28:11

Guy Standing

There is an incredible fact, right. But the idea is that you recycle. Now, what I’m proposing is a variant of the Norwegian fund, where you say that it’s not just oil that is part of the commonsIt’s all our assets. And if people are making profit from taking or being given part of our commons, then they owe the commoners compensation and therefore we should have levies, or taxes, if you like.

00:34:28:11 – 00:35:12:22

Guy Standing

But levies I call them levies for  one reason, the levy, it belongs to everybody. So the levy should be on wealth, land and other minerals. But also you’ve got to talk about negative actions against the Commons. If you have a situation where greenhouse gas emissions are huge as they are and are caused predominantly by the wealthy, they’re the ones who are taking frequent fliers, they are the ones going on cruise liners, etc. They are the ones who are mainly causing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

00:35:12:22 – 00:35:42:00

Guy Standing

They are penalizing the commoners. The poor actually pay through worse health, cancers and things like that. Therefore, we need a carbon tax, a carbon levy. But you should interpret that as a levy on the Commons. It’s a levy on the deduction from our commons. The air is part of our commons, right. And that should go into the fund.

00:35:42:07 – 00:36:07:04

Guy Standing

And the reason why it should go into the fund and not be given in other forms is because the Commons belong to all of us, equal, equally. But I don’t know who’s made a bigger or lesser contribution throughout history. Your ancestors, My ancestors or anybody else’s ancestors. So the only way to do it is to make sure that everybody benefits equally.

00:36:07:29 – 00:36:38:23

Guy Standing

You see what I’m doing? Because basically, you can build up a fund, a capital fund along the lines of the Norwegian one, but distribute the dividends as equal payments to all your usual resident citizens. It’s useful when you’re talking to financiers or people in the political right to talk about it as a common property right.

00:36:40:02 – 00:36:41:23

Guy Standing

Because they like property rights.

00:36:42:26 – 00:37:17:08

Rob Pye

There’s a lovely example in Scotland where they,  that’s not the one you’re thinking of that you wrote about, but one that is more amusing. Is amusing. There’s a trust in Scotland called the Robertson Trust, which actually owns Scottish whiskey, and therefore its objects, the trustees of that fund are about youth work and looking after future generations.

00:37:17:17 – 00:37:57:09

Rob Pye

And it has a capital fund, a piece of equity that’s very, very significant, that sustains, if you like, benefit for young people. So this is looking at one of our national treasures of malt whiskey, as a commons, and actually it’s helping out young people. And, you know, those links between public and private and that’s the role of trustees and having a duty, fiduciary duty to look after our and I guess the closing chapter maybe brings us to a little bit more on basic income.

00:37:57:09 – 00:38:24:12

Rob Pye

So if we sort of now kind of your passion for that and looking at projects around the world and the enormous network, so you know, you’ve definitely a legacy there with the blue commons. But in terms of looking after future generations and basic income, how do you see that progressing? Do you think that is green shoots finally emerging?

00:38:24:21 – 00:38:55:23

Rob Pye

No pun on the Green Party, but where we’re starting to experiment a little bit more purposefully, is it gaining traction? We’re getting a public awareness across all your works that we do need some form of massive intervention to narrow these gaps. It’s not necessarily a political ideology or just playing on economics or playing on governance, but these are wicked problems, right?

00:38:55:23 – 00:39:01:29

Rob Pye

And, you know, are there any green shoots that we’re making any progress on this?

00:39:02:18 – 00:39:28:15

Guy Standing

Well, I believe we are. And I give you, start with an anecdote. In the early phase of COVID, after a few months, when COVID had struck, I received an email and a telephone call asking me would I make a video with Massive Attack? I thought it was a joke of a friend

00:39:29:29 – 00:39:31:10

Guy Standing

Pulling my leg or something.

00:39:32:23 – 00:39:54:08

Guy Standing

What do you mean me make a video with Massive Attack? Yeah, we would like to make a video with you. I said, Are you sure? And I didn’t take it very seriously, so I consulted some of my friends in the arts world in London, and I said, Look, I’ve been approached by people who say they are Massive Attack and they want to make a video.

00:39:54:08 – 00:40:35:07

Guy Standing

And they said, Guy , you’re doing it! You do it. You ses. So I ended up by writing for this video and speaking through the video where the music and the imagery was put. And it argued that we have entered a phase where we are suffering from an economy, an economic system characterized by chronic uncertainty, where millions and millions of people are living in insecurity, but characterized by being out of control in every respect.

00:40:35:07 – 00:41:11:17

Guy Standing

Uncertainty for an economist is a particular concept. It’s something which you cannot predict and you cannot predict the consequences. Whereas if you take a risk, you can do, you can predict actuarially, probabilities, etc. With uncertainty, people are just out of control. And what we lack today is robustness. That’s immunity to shocks. You know, immunity, not just against diseases and pandemics, but immunity to all sorts of shocks.

00:41:12:00 – 00:41:58:27

Guy Standing

And we lack resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover from shocks, to deal with shocks and be able to handle them. And the theme of the video and the theme of some of my work has been that we need to restore resilience. And a basic income is a mechanism for doing something like that. And I’ve argued over many years that the fundamental justification for moving to having a basic income is ethical, it’s philosophical, it’s moral. First, it’s a matter of justice, common justice.

00:41:59:16 – 00:42:28:24

Guy Standing

If we allow private inheritance of private wealth, then we should think that we have common wealth which has been handed down to us by previous generations, and we should have a common dividend on commonwealth And we don’t know who created more or less. And I was very pleased that shortly after we did this video, the Massive Attack video didn’t have the effect of doing it, but the Vatican had contacted me.

00:42:29:01 – 00:43:08:07

Guy Standing

The Pope, Francis, came out in favour, basically. I’m a Catholic and confess I’m not a Catholic. I’m not, I’m not religious at all. But I was very pleased by his statement because it was an ethical justification for basic income.  Now we need a basic income because it will give people a sense of basic security. And we know the psychologists have taught us, unless you’re as dumb as some people are, if you are insecure, you lose your mental capacity to be rational, you lose the capacity to make decisions correctly.

00:43:08:07 – 00:43:32:03

Guy Standing

And it is unfair of the state or any of us to expect people who are chronically insecure to be behaving in the way you and I would like them to behave. It’s not fair. Only if we have basic security, basic not total security. That’s not what we’re talking about, but so that you can wake up in the morning and you know you’re going to have enough to live on.

00:43:33:12 – 00:44:00:20

Guy Standing

Dammit, we can do that, can’t we? Now, in addition, a basic income would enhance freedom. That’s why so many women support basic income. A basic income would support libertarian freedom. The freedom to choose the freedom to say no. It would support liberal freedom, the freedom to be moral. You can’t be moral if you’re chronically insecure. You just have to do what you have to do to survive.

00:44:01:15 – 00:44:36:18

Guy Standing

Okay? And it also helps what I call and others call Republican freedom. Republican freedom means that you are free of arbitrary intervention by people in positions of unaccountable power. You are not free if you’re a woman and you have to ask a husband, Can I do X and Y? Even if she knows that in 99% of the time the husband will say, Yes dear. A woman is only free if she can make that decision herself, whatever.

00:44:37:24 – 00:45:01:02

Guy Standing

And that is really the justification for a basic income. But in addition, we are now in a type of society, globally where we’re going to have more and more pandemics, more and more ecological disasters, more and more economic shocks. What we need to make people a stabilizer. Now, I come back to your question, Rob. I get there eventually.

00:45:01:13 – 00:45:35:15

Guy Standing

The question, do I feel we’re making progress now? For many years, I was attacked by a lot of people, insulted in many, many ways. I mean, ridiculous, backstabbing, all sorts of things. But in recent times, huge numbers of people have come around and we’ve done pilots. And if I go into those Indian villages, we gave thousands of people in many villages basic income over two years.

00:45:35:23 – 00:46:05:24

Guy Standing

I saw the lives transformed, I saw nutrition improved. I saw children weighing better, growing better. I saw people going to school more regularly and learning better at school. I saw women’s status improving. I saw the economic activity increasing and the sense of social cohesion increasing. If you go to places like that and you don’t cry, you’re not human, you’re not human.

00:46:06:22 – 00:46:34:26

Guy Standing

And I’ve seen it in Africa too, where we’ve done pilots in Namibia and Kenya and so on and everywhere, including in rich countries, there are now over a hundred pilots going on. I seem to be contacted to give advice to numerous pilots all over the place and I’m really excited, as you can probably tell. So we may have more setbacks.

00:46:35:22 – 00:47:08:05

Guy Standing

But if you see opinion polls around Europe and the other countries? Majority now supports basic income. You know, in Spain, 68% of people in a YouGov opinion poll came out in favor of basic income. The same in France, the same in Italy and and in Germany. So we’re going into a point today where I get calls from people who say, why can’t we have it?

00:47:09:06 – 00:47:34:02

Guy Standing

Why can’t we have it? What’s obvious? We need it. I was in Norway last week giving a talk to hundreds of people and literally some of the young people came up and said, why can’t we have it? It’s ridiculous. We must have it. And it’s the politicians who are blocking it. Funnily enough, trade unionists have often been against it.

00:47:35:03 – 00:48:04:06

Guy Standing

I was asked to give a talk to a summer school of trade unionists around Europe and when I got to talking about basic income, I said, why is it trade union leaders are often the most vehement against basic income? And on that point, the chair of the session, an elderly senior trade union man, he said, We’ll stop now and have a coffee break now.

00:48:04:06 – 00:48:34:19

Guy Standing

Before Anybody could answer my rhetorical question. So we went for the coffee break and when we came back I said, okay, we’ll now move on to the next session. And an Italian trade union leader at the back of the room said, Hey, wait, wait. We haven’t answered Guy’s question. Why trade union leaders against basic income? And he said, I think it is because if people had a basic income, they wouldn’t join trade unions.

00:48:34:19 – 00:49:04:25

Guy Standing

And I looked at him and I said, If you think about that for one second, you will realize that’s an immoral statement because you want people to be insecure. That’s what you’re saying. And second, it’s wrong. People who are chronically frightened and insecure do not join collective bodies to fight for their rights. They just have to survive. They keep their head down and except in exceptional circumstances when the whole system is broken down.

00:49:04:29 – 00:49:33:10

Guy Standing

Okay. But if people have basic security, they fight for the next thing they join. They want to have better, better communities. Better  this than the other. And I believe that young trade unionists who often come to my talks, they don’t take that attitude, particularly young women in trade unions. They’re ones who say we’ve got to have a basic income and we can afford it.

00:49:33:17 – 00:50:02:12

Guy Standing

There’s no question about that. The evidence is very strong that if people have a basic income, they work more, not less, contrary to what a lot of critics say, and they’re more productive and more collaborative when they work. The evidence is there. It’s a matter of whether people want to know about it. And I’m reasonably confident that we’re seeing a huge change.

00:50:03:07 – 00:50:36:15

Guy Standing

I mean, when someone like me gives a talk and 500 people are there, what the hell’s going on? That’s I mean, yeah, I’m not a big politician or anything like that. And for me it’s something that is in the water now, over a million people have viewed that Massive Attack video. Over a million. All right. And I get a huge number of emails from people saying, Now I know I understand it, I’m with you.

00:50:36:22 – 00:50:42:23

Guy Standing

It’s quite a journey. But I believe we’re making big progress.

00:50:43:15 – 00:50:44:07

Rob Pye

Fantastic.

00:50:44:12 – 00:51:10:19

Annabelle

Good. That’s good to hear. I’m just conscious of the time also that, you know, I’ve read, I read about these pilots and I sort of read about, oh, it’s not worked. It’s been a failure. And then I was wondering about what the expectations are, because I feel very aligned with what you just said about this is about doing the right thing by people, by making them feel secure, allowing them to be resilient.

00:51:10:24 – 00:51:17:25

Annabelle

And then, as you say, people, you know, are wonderful things. They generally 99.999% do the right thing.

00:51:17:27 – 00:51:18:21

Guy Standing

Okay.

00:51:23:25 – 00:51:51:06

Guy Standing

May I just comment on that because I really want to put that one, that point, to bed. A number of people have claimed that pilots have been failures. Listen to me very carefully. As far as I’m aware, not a single pilot has failed. Not one. Okay. I remember when I was advising the government of Finland on its pilot.

00:51:51:20 – 00:52:12:16

Guy Standing

Okay. Which went on for two years and I was suddenly contacted by The Guardian and the BBC. They said, Oh, the thing you’re supporting has failed. They’ve stopped it. They’ve abandoned it. What? What’s going on? You see, I said, as far as I know, I don’t. I don’t know anything about that. Oh yes. The Guardian had a long story 

00:52:12:24 – 00:52:45:21

Guy Standing

Finnish Basic income pilot fails and the BBC said it fails. So I checked up. It hadn’t stopped at all. It began on January the first, 2017 and ended on December the 31st, 2018, precisely the days it was planned, start and end. And the books that’s been written on the results show that it has been a resounding success. But the newspapers and the BBC say it failed and they didn’t.

00:52:45:21 – 00:53:21:02

Guy Standing

They didn’t then issue a statement saying we were wrong. And so a lot of people thought it’s a failure. And that’s what we have to contend with. But I’ve summarized in my book on basic income the results of other pilots and as far as I’m aware and I’m sure, I’m sure somewhere some things failed. I’m sure it has. But every pilot that I’ve seen and analyzed the data from has been a success

00:53:21:06 – 00:53:53:28

Guy Standing

And the main thing is improvement in health, a reduction in mental ill health. That’s the thing that comes out every single time. It reduces stress. It gives people a sense of control. Not entirely, of course it’s not a panacea. And often we’re talking about very small amounts, but you’re building up rights, economic rights that give people a sense of control.

00:53:53:28 – 00:54:13:21

Guy Standing

My new book that’s coming out later this year is called The Politics of Time. The Politics of Time, because most people feel they don’t have enough control of their time. And if you’re in the Precariat, you have to do this. You have to do that. You have to jump around. You’re not in control. You have to do more of this and more of that.

00:54:13:21 – 00:54:53:21

Guy Standing

And you can’t be rational. A basic income gives people greater control. Greater control. And for me, that’s a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing. So when people insult when all we’re proposing is that people should have basic security, why should we be subject to insult for wanting that. To me, I get angry and I get disappointed, but I’m also enthused by, particularly young, the young people who are agitating today.

00:54:54:21 – 00:55:02:09

Guy Standing

It won’t be about what  people like me say, it’s what they say and do that’s going to be important.

00:55:02:09 – 00:55:03:01

Rob Pye

I think you make,

00:55:05:00 – 00:55:33:27

Rob Pye

You make the point hugely powerful and that ability for, rational thought, more wellbeing, more self-determination, more agency for individuals. We’ve seen that with 65 people we employed, you know, they often came to us in a lot of distress. And over time they had space to think because they were not in chaos.

00:55:34:16 – 00:55:56:15

Annabelle

So talking earlier about sort of space for self reflection as well, how important is to take a moment, you know, that slowing down of like, what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing it? Seeking out a bit more meaning, you know, and it just provides a, you know, a basic platform, as you say, to allow people to be without just the stress.

00:55:56:18 – 00:56:00:27

Annabelle

I think it’s a basic human right really.

00:56:00:27 – 00:56:27:04

Rob Pye

I think basic income, there’s a little segment at the end that is probably a little snippet in its own right, but that’s probably a beautiful place. I feel we’ve got a digital asset that is a part of the commons and a shared Prosperity Fund that we can encourage people to kind of go and then dive into little pieces of your work.

00:56:27:29 – 00:56:37:12

Rob Pye

It’s been a real privilege and a pleasure and I’m going to need to lie down and reflect

00:56:37:12 – 00:56:54:00

Guy Standing

Let me leave you with a comment, Rob. It comes from Cato 2500 years ago. Never is a man more active than when he’s doing nothing.

00:56:54:00 – 00:56:58:06

Rob Pye

Absolutely fantastic. Guys, thank you very much. And get.

00:57:00:08 – 00:57:13:10

Annabelle

Yes. Thank you so much. Thank you, Rob. Thank you, Guy. Thank you. We’ll see you again soon, hopefully.

 

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