Home / Sezioni / globi / A republican call for a basic income

facebook-link twitter-link


Registrati alla newsletter di sbilanciamoci.info


Ultimi link in questa sezione

Turni di 12 ore e dormitori, l’Europa di Foxconn sembra la Cina
La vera tragedia europea è la Germania
Redistributing Work Hours
Institutions and Policies
A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy?
I dannati di Calais
Are creditors pushing Greece deliberately into default?

A republican call for a basic income


Republicanism offers a persuasive guide to the political shaping of markets. A basic income could be the foundation of a democratic republican economy that frees all citizens from the commodification of labour.

There is no such thing as “the market economy”. Markets come in many varieties and their character is a matter of political choice. Saying that a market is politically shaped is simply to state the obvious, namely that any economic market is first political and then economic. A politics-free market does not exist in the real world outside of standard economics text-books or, paradoxically perhaps, in the prevarication of politicians who deny its political component precisely for political reasons.

So, if markets are irreducibly political, we need to ask what values should guide their political construction. The Democratic Wealth series has given much attention to ‘republicanism’ as a philosophical tradition which might serve as a source of guidance (see, for example, these contributions from Alex Gourevitch, José Luis Martí and Philip Pettit).

But which republicanism?

Republicanism is often spoken of as if it were a homogenous tradition of political philosophy and thought. In fact, we would identify three kinds of republicanism:

- historical democratic republicanism

- historical oligarchic republicanism

- academic neorepublicanism.[1]

In the Greek and Roman traditions, the names of Ephialtes, Pericles,Protagoras and Democritus are associated with the democratic-plebeian strand, while the anti-democratic or oligarchic version is headed by Aristotleand Cicero. These variants also appear in the modern world. The democratic form aspires to the universalisation of republican freedom which, true to the etymological roots of “republic” in res publica, the public (from Old Latinpoplicus, pertaining to the people) interest automatically entails the inclusion of all the people. The antidemocratic type, just as it has always done in one form or another, effectively excludes propertyless people from civil and political life, leaving the monopoly of power in the hands of an ever-shrinking circle of rich owners. In their different ways, Marsiglio de Padua, Machiavelli, John Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Adam Smith, Jefferson, Madison and Marx are all names associated with the modern republican renaissance.

The democratic republican tradition goes back to Athens after 461 BCE with the triumph of a revolutionary democratic programme led by the poor (free men) of the polis. This programme can be summed up in three main points:

1) land redistribution

2) suppression of debt slavery

3) universal suffrage as well as sufficient remuneration (misthon) for those holding public office.

For a time, this Greek democracy also conceded equal freedom of speech in the agora to women and slaves. Democracy, demokratia, meant government by the demos, the common people.

read more