Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"Curbing advertising, taxing carbon, a basic income, and a shorter work week" can be part of a strategy of "planned de-growth." (Photo: Generation Grundeinkommen/flickr/cc)

"Curbing advertising, taxing carbon, a basic income, and a shorter work week" can be part of a strategy of "planned de-growth." (Photo: Generation Grundeinkommen/flickr/cc)

Universal Basic Income Needed to Break 'Addiction to Economic Growth Killing Us'

Anthropologist Jason Hickel presents basic income as part of strategy of "planned de-growth," which will "increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint."

Andrea Germanos

As some tech giants throw their weight behind the idea of a universal basic income, one anthropologist says it's a key component of a strategy to break the "addiction to economic growth [that] is killing us" and the planet.

Offering his views this week on BBC's "Viewsnight," Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and author of books including The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions, says "we can't have infinite growth on a finite planet."

That argument—which others have made as well—should be clear by evidence of the "climate change, deforestation, and rapid rates of extinction" taking hold, he says.

The primary blame, according to Hickel, rests with "over-consumption in rich countries," and addressing that entails "planned de-growth," which will put the reins on "our plunder of the earth."

Hickel stresses that he's not referring to austerity, as the goal of "de-growth" is to "increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint."

A blueprint to achieve that goal, he says, includes "curbing advertising, taxing carbon, a basic income, and a shorter work week."

"We need an economic model that promotes human flourishing in harmony with the planet on which we depend," he says.

The idea of a universal basic income is gaining attention in the U.S. thanks to a recent resolution put forth in Hawaii, and Philip Alston, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said earlier this summer that a basic income is "a bold and imaginative solution" amidst growing economic insecurity.  

Laura Williams of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now recently asked, "Has the time for universal basic income come?"

According to Hickel, it may be more necessary than ever given the era of President Donald Trump. Hickel wrote in an-op ed at the Guardian this year that

a basic income might defeat the scarcity mindset that has seeped so deep into our culture, freeing us from the imperatives of competition and allowing us to be more open and generous people. If extended universally, across borders, it might help instill a sense of solidarity—that we're all in this together, and all have an equal right to the planet. It might ease the anxieties that gave us Brexit and Trump, and take the wind out of the fascist tendencies rising elsewhere in nativism that is spreading across much of the world.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'We Will Fight! We Will Win!': Nearly 200 Abortion Rights Defenders Arrested in DC

"If people don't see the rage," said one woman at the protest, "nothing changes."

Jon Queally ·


Federal Abortion Ban Desired by GOP Would Increase Maternal Deaths by 24%: Study

"Pregnancy shouldn't kill people—in fact, in other rich countries it very rarely does," said the lead author of the new analysis.

Jake Johnson ·


Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo