Comments and suggestions welcome. Edit on gDocs: https://tinyurl.com/VoluntaryBasicIncome
Last updated from proposal: 15 June 2017
Is this free money?
No. This is voluntary basic income, a form of voluntary income redistribution. There is no such thing as free money, unless you’re the government, see seignorage. Think of benefits and contributions as a reciprocal right and duty; one does not exist without the other. A net benefit to one member is a net contribution from another member.
The organisation will fail because of <x>.
Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong. Your feedback is definitely welcome though, so let's identify your specific <x> concern and maybe redress them. If it’s really not for you, then don’t become a member. You’re welcome to join in the future if you change your mind.
Privacy & Security
Is my information private and secure?
Privacy is serious business. Your information would not be disclosed without your express consent. I suspect researchers would be interested in the project, so there would likely be a mechanism to allow members to opt-in to research studies.
Will the member list be made publically available?
No; however, members are free to voluntary disclose their membership. Officers of the organisation, e.g. board members of lodges and the national organisation, would be publicly associated via endorsements of official documents, etc.
Can I purge my information?
Insofar as possible, but probably not entirely. The organisation would need to keep some records of former members for re-enrollments and compliance.
Will the organisation share or sell my information?
No. We will not sell information. Information would not be shared researchers without your express written consent, likely via a research opt-in.
What’s in the member agreement?
Legally binding document that outlines your rights and responsibilities as a member, including recourse for accepting benefits without contributing your 10% pledge. Exact language is pending lawyering.
Entity-type: Benefits society 501(c)(8)
What is a lodge?
All members belong to a local lodge, a community of like-minded citizens who put their money where their mouth is when it comes to basic income. Like the Elks Grand Lodge, but for basic income. All lodges would be chartered by the national organisation.
Do benefits and contributions differ by lodge?
No. All lodges have identical benefits and contributions, redistributed among the entire national organisation membership.
Why not a 501(c)(3)?
Most folks are familiar with the 501(c)(3) entity; but, because a basic income would probably be classed as an inurement, I suspect that the organisation wouldn’t be 501(c)(3) eligible.
Are <x> eligible for membership?
Yes, so long as they met the member requirements.
<x> = Immigrants...do they meet the member requirements?
<x> = Undocumented immigrants...do they meet the member requirements?
<x> = Unemployed persons...do they meet the member requirements?
<x> = Imprisoned persons...do they meet the member requirements?
<x> = Homeless persons...do they meet the member requirements?
<x> = Corporate executives...do they meet the member requirements?
Why would net contributors (folks above about the 60th percentile) become members?
Because they like the idea of a voluntary basic income. I suspect that voluntary basic income supporters come from all financial backgrounds, all political alignments, and all walks of life. What motivates each individual will be different; but, all members are united by the actualization of basic income now, not when/if the government gets around to it. As a voluntary association, any member is free to leave at anytime, without penalty or ill-will. For example, members that identify as libertarian or anarchist may be against governmental basic income on philosophical grounds, but happy to support a voluntary association of members.
Why is membership restricted to the US; isn’t basic income global?
Basic income is a global phenomenon; however, there are practical considerations in starting an organisation at such large scale. Setting this all up is going to be hard. Restricting scope to the US to make it more manageable to setup and operate. The goal would be to start a few lodges in the US, and see what happens. I’m unfamiliar with previous attempts at a voluntary basic income, and would like to maximize the chances of success. Additionally, everything will be freely available, if folks want to setup something similar in their own communities/countries.
What if a prospective member doesn’t have a bank account?
The local lodge would help them setup an account at a local credit union or cooperative bank; preferably, one that doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees, something common at many larger institutions.
Why is there a 3 month waiting period, contributing but not receiving benefits?
To disincentivize free riding by joining/leaving based on monthly income. Members should have a commitment to basic income. 3 months seems reasonable.
Can one person in a married couple join?
Yes. If married filing-jointly, contributions are based on 1/2 the joint-income. If married filing separately, their individual income.
Why are tax returns required?
Income verification, which is routinely required for other financial tasks such as mortgage applications. Commercial products are available, returns can be sent directly, or the member can authorise the IRS to send a summary transcript including gross income (F4506-T, F4506-T-EZ).
Membership: Founding/original members
Would original/founding members be subject to the 3-month probationary period?
Yes. “Founding member” is an honorary distinction.
If everyone has to first contribute for three months before receiving a benefit, then what happens to the first 3 months of contributions?
Initial cash-flow buffer + eventually dispersed as a basic income benefit to members
To ensure the scheme payments aren't as "lumpy", opting for a 1-year moving average of contributions, so those initial funds should be fully dispersed over the course of the first year of benefits. To ensure the scheme doesn't become insolvent, opted for a floating income instead of a fixed basic income. Operationally, this requires a cash-flow buffer to balance timing discrepancies between contributions/distributions. The buffer amount is minimized by spreading contributions/distributions over time.
What happens if a person wants to leave the organisation?
They leave, and hopefully have a nice day. Voluntary association. Any member is free to leave at any time for any reason.
Membership: Minor members (children)
Why are children allowed as members?
Children are people too, are they not? It is my personal hope that starting-off every member child with a modest basic capital will help redress systemic inter-generational income and wealth inequality.
Why don’t child benefits go directly to the parent?
The benefit is for the child, so it makes sense to be dispersed to the child, not the parent. As custodians of the UGMA/UTMA custodial account, parents would be free to choose to expend funds from the child’s account for the benefit of the child, or let the assets grow.
How exactly would contributions/benefits be processed?
Bank transfer. Monthly ACH direct debit to keep costs low.
I’m a large net contributing member; can I opt-out of receiving benefits?
No. Every member contributes. Every member benefits. Irregardless of their financial standing.
Will I receive a larger basic income benefit if I contribute more?
No, but additional contributions are always welcome and will be redistributed to all members.
Can I contribute more than 10% of income?
Yes. Additional contributions are accepted and appreciated.
Why is only income considered in a pledge, and not assets?
Honestly, because it’s much easier to measure. Members are welcome to contribute in excess of their pledge, from either income or assets.
Why is the pledge 10% of income?
Guesstimate at a reasonable trade-off between benefits and contributions. Members are free to contribute more than their 10% pledge [footnoteF].
What happens if I don’t contribute my 10% pledge?
Your membership would be suspended (no member benefits during suspension; contributions still drawn unless you stop them). To unsuspend your membership simply contribute your lapsed pledge. Member benefits will not be made retroactively. Suspended members will be dis-enrolled after two years.
How is my pledge computed?
Self-reported. We understand that incomes fluctuate, so pledges can be changed at anytime. The expectation is that it’ll average out to 10% of income over the course of a year.
Are non-cash contributions accepted?
No. To keep efficiency as high as possible, we request contributions in cash. As contributions aren’t tax deductible in the proposed scheme, there’d be no tax benefit to contributing appreciated assets such as stock or real estate. Contributions from estates in lieu of inheritance would be actively encouraged [footnoteB].
Are contributions allowed from non-members?
Yes. Any contributions would be redistributed to all members following the standard procedure. To keep administration as simple and efficient as possible, the organisation would not accept ‘conditional money’ for specific groups of people or causes. A contribution flows to everyone, or no one.
Are corporations allowed to become members?
No, only natural persons are allowed as members. However, the shareholders of those corporations would be more than welcome to contribute or become members.
How to ensure that members actually contribute their pledge?
Income verification via tax return. 3-years prior at member enrollment. Annually thereafter.
Would you invest funds, e.g. those held in trust for minors?
No. Potential for too many conflicts of interest. US government securities, AKA ‘risk free’ non-investment assets only to KISS for the time being [footnoteE].
How do I know the organization won’t steal and/or be “shiesty”?
As an non-profit corporation with the IRS (probably 501(c)(8) -- Benefit Society), the same financial controls would apply as with any other non-profit. At a minimum, this would include an IRS Form 990, e.g. Give Diirectly. If you’re comfortable contributing to other small non-profits, there should be no reason to withhold support from this organisation.
About the author
Why did you write a proposal for a near-term implementable voluntary basic income?
Because I think it’s the right thing to do. Support for basic income comes from across the political spectrum.
Great platitude, but #forrealizies why?
My personal view is that every individual should have access to a share of the natural endowment. We all have the honour of serving as temporary custodians of the Earth, our shared home. It’s cheesy to quote a TV show, but this pretty much sums it up: “I am a custodian, my dear, not an owner. I must strive to be worthy of the task I have been set.” — Downton Abbey
Would you (the author) be a member?
Of course. I eat my own dogfood. It’s one way to stay ethical.
Do you seriously think people would sign-up to voluntary redistribute income?
Honestly, I don’t know; but, there’s only one way to find out. I would, and I’ve spoken to a handful of basic income supporters who said they would give it a whirl. Basically, I want to see put-up or shut-up from the basic income community, particularly those advocating for government compulsion. Further, the intention is for all software and operating docs to be freely available, should someone want to try something different.