CBINS volunteer Andrew Moran shares his thoughts on finding out about – and becoming an advocate of – Basic Income, and how the work of blogger and writer Scott Santens has played a major part in this process for him.
Andrew Moran, CBINS Volunteer
Here in Scotland, as we are moving towards the possibility of holding Basic Income trials, I am delighted to have joined Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland, to help further this cause.
As the Network continues to grow and newly interested people enquire about what a Basic Income is, how it can be funded, what the implications are for people receiving it, etc, I find myself being able to answer those questions either directly, or by knowing where to find the answer to such. This is largely due to one man: Scott Santens.
I first came across the concept of a Basic Income about five years ago, when reading a Huffington Post article about a Canadian city that eliminated poverty. Reading the article, the things that really struck me were the possibilities of having a Basic Income, as well as how challenging the idea that it is bad or wrong to just give people money up-front could lead to something that actually tackled poverty – by largely preventing it in the first place.
Scotland had just gone through its 2014 independence referendum. There had been talk at the time about how an independent Scotland could move forwards, diverging from Westminster, and I was fairly sure that the concept of a Basic Income had been floated during the campaign (it had). I was therefore receptive to what the Huffington Post article was telling me. But I needed to learn more. So, I started searching around the internet for more sources of information. It didn’t take me long before I came across the name Scott Santens.
Scott resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. He was (and still is) the moderator of the Basic Income group on Reddit and he has been researching Basic Income since 2013. He was therefore way ahead of the game in terms of knowledge and experience, compared to most people around at the time – and this remains the case. Indeed, his experience of advocating for the subject had already led to his starting to build up an archive of articles that not only supported a basic income but rebutted arguments that were being made against it.
On his Medium blog site (now used as an archive, as he blogs on his own site at scottsantens.com), one of the earlier articles of his that I recall reading was ‘Why Should We Support the Idea of an Unconditional Basic Income?‘ Another useful one, in an argument that I now regard as an old chestnut, is ‘Wouldn’t Unconditional Basic Income Just Cause Massive Inflation?‘ The short answer, is no, probably not:
‘The money for a Basic Income guarantee would be already existing money circulated through the economic system. It would not be new money, just money shifted from one location to another. This means that the value of each dollar has not changed. The dollar itself has only changed hands.’ (Scott Santens, ‘Wouldn’t Unconditional Basic Income Just Cause Massive Inflation?‘, 2014)
As a consequence of his blogs and articles, he has become the go-to man for both the basic income movement and the media. He has become one of the world’s leading advocates for a basic income. When I recently met with CBINS and other advocates for the first time, I name-checked Santens and quoted his articles several times during the course of the meeting, to the point where, afterwards, others then asked about him, in order to seek out his articles and resources for themselves – information which I happily provided.
But aside from the incredible archive of material he has amassed and written, Santens has one other exceptional thing going for him. Thanks to a Patreon crowdfunding effort, Santens is effectively the recipient of a Basic Income. He can therefore speak directly about his own experience of what it is like to be the recipient of such. And the thing that he says stands out for him, is the security that this income gives him:
‘I learned that this is about security. It’s a word you don’t really understand until you feel it. Like I had no idea what security felt like until I had it. So when people think about Basic Income, it’s not mainly about the money, it’s about the unconditionality of the money. It’s that you know that every month you will start with this amount, that you can plan on, and you know it’s gonna be there, and that feeling of security is just life changing.‘ (Scott Santens speaking at the Worldwide Basic Income March, NYC, 10 October 2019 (see video below.))
Whilst other significant and important advocates for a basic income exist, who themselves provide useful reference materials, Scott Santens provides a comprehensive, free archive of material that is easily navigable via clear titles – titles that are generally arrived at by virtue of the argument made against a Basic Income. This in particular is what makes his archive such an invaluable resource for other Basic Income advocates, as well as for others just starting to research the subject.
Also, like me, he grew-up watching Sci-Fi and Star Trek, subjects which have influenced his world view and how us Earthlings should be utilising technology, and our time. As Captain Jean-Luc Picard said, in Star Trek: First Contact… ‘The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.’
This is where we should be heading. A Basic Income will be a huge step in that direction.